Business Centre: The ultimate guide of starting an online store

Starting an online store has various benefits that a physical store doesn’t. With an online business, you can reach millions of customers even if you are just in your home. However, for it to be successful, you need to plan strategically and put a lot of effort into establishing your online store. To start, you need a product, website and marketing plan. Learn how to build an effective and successful online store by reading below:

Product

Decide what your product will be

Before you even buy anything for your online store, you need to think about what you want to sell. Keep in mind that some products will be hard to sell online especially if the customers can’t view them in person. In such cases, you need to make sure that you truly believe in the value of your product. Here are some guide questions to help you analyze if your product in mind can easily establish a connection to your customers:

  1. Does your product need to be shipped or it can be sent through the internet?
  2. Does your product need to have an inventory or not? The former needs to be stocked while the latter is one of a kind such as artwork, collectors or vintage items.
  3. Are you going to sell various types of products or are you going to specialize in a specific product only?
  4. Are you going to make your product or are you going to get it from a manufacturer?
  5. Can your place hold your product or are you going to need a separate warehouse?
  6. How will your product be shipped?

Determine what makes your product unique

After getting an idea about the product you want to sell, you need to figure out what makes it unique from all other similar products both in physical and online stores. After all, why would people buy your newly launched product when they can have many similar online shops to choose from? To avoid this, you need to do extensive research about your competitors and determine what their products don’t have that yours does.

Start by visiting various online marketplaces and check out similar products within them. To make your product more unique, follow the following tips:

  1. Sell an original product that has a general appeal. This can be handmade crafts, customized products or works of art.
  2. Apply your expertise to your product as this can set it apart from the rest. Your passion and expert knowledge can surely make your product better compared to those which are only being sold for profits.
  3. Offer great customer service and a fun shopping experience. Make sure your website or platform where you are going to sell your product is fun and easy to use. Also, offering quality customer service can make those who shop in other stores with bad customer service switch to your product instead.

Set your budget

The cost of starting your online store depends on the products you are going to sell. Create an estimate of how much you need to get the basic materials for your business as well as the general costs you need to add. Some of the things you need to account for are:

  1. Website: Your online store will require a website or any selling platform where you will sell your products. The cost of this will vary depending on which platform you choose or whether you need to hire a designer for the site.
  2. Email marketing service: To advertise your product and let your customers know about the latest deals and offers from your store, getting a great email marketing service is a wise decision.
  3. Material costs: Determine the cost of materials to make your products as well as the equipment you need.

Start selling on a small scale

Before taking a huge step on the online selling platforms, it will be wiser to sell your product on a small scale first such as in flea markets, consignment shops or craft shows. To get an idea of how your product will perform in the actual online market, you need to look out for the following:

  1. Who are your potential customers? 
  2. How much are they willing to pay?
  3. How will they get satisfied with the product?

The things above should all establish a connection to your product. Are your potential customers going to be interested in your product? Is the amount they are willing to pay or their purchasing power more than enough for the value of your product? Will you be able to make your customers happy and satisfied with your product?

Feedback is the key to know where to tweak your product and make it better. To get your initial feedback, try offering gifts or discount coupons to those who will answer brief survey questions. Also, you can let your close friends and family know about your product to see what they think.

Draw up your business plan

Make a detailed business plan that will guide you in making your business successful. Take these facts into account when drawing it up:

  • Production costs
  • Shipping costs
  • Taxes
  • Wages
  • Web domain and hosting service

Register your store

When you are ready to start your online store officially, register it according to the state’s laws. Come up with your business name and fill out the required legal and tax forms to complete your business registration.

Website

Register your domain name

Choose your domain name that is catchy and unique. Make sure to get creative as this will be the forefront of your product and will be the first thing your customers will remember. If ever you will register your website name, the domain registration service can provide similar suggestions if the name you want is already taken.

Choose your web hosting provider

Make sure to find a good web hosting service provider since this will be the backbone of your online business. Though there are free web hosting services out there, some of the features your store needs will require you to pay. Also, to let your website get more space for growth, choose a hosting service provider that will allow you to customize your site or do your own programming.

Hire a web designer

Hire a web designer or design the website yourself to provide your customers with an easy and fun shopping experience. A simple and direct web design approach is better so try to achieve it as much as possible by choosing few colours and readable fonts. Moreover, your website should have space where you can place special offers, ads and reviews.

Consider e-commerce services

If you do not want to create your own website from scratch, many e-commerce services can offer a platform for your online store. You can set it up in just a few hours at a cheaper cost, letting you start to sell your product faster. Moreover, you do not have to worry about coding or hiring a web designer here. However, e-commerce services often take a small cut from your sales.

Create your merchant account

You need to set up your merchant account with a bank or any financial institution so your customers can pay using their cards or digital cash. For small online store owners, PayPal is a cheaper option compared to a bank.

Marketing

Promote your online store

Your product will not be known or reached by your target customers if you don’t promote it online. The best way to market your products online is to make use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Create a page or account dedicated to your online store and start to share it using your personal account. 

Also, you need to regularly update and post content on your store’s page or account. These updates can include details about your product or current deals. You can also offer coupons or incentives for customers who actively promote your store.

Create a blog

Start a blog that pairs well with your product to attract more customers to your site. For instance, start a baking blog if you are selling cookies. This way, your customers will spend more time on your site, increasing web traffic. Also, they will come back to it more often and even use your blog entries as references which can potentially broaden your reach. 

Through blogs, you can also feature other products in return for them featuring yours too. This is a common practice among small online stores. Moreover, you can send samples of your product to bloggers or sites that do product reviews which can make your product known.

Make use of email marketing

You can email your customers about current promotions and send them coupons. Using email programs like MailChimp can let you organize your customer email addresses and send email blasts to inform them about your special offers and deals. Keep in mind that you should not use this excessively to prevent your customers from unsubscribing to your emails.