How to Start an Online Store?
Merchants and entrepreneurs are rushing towards establishing their own brand on e-commerce due to the sudden ease of creating an online store as well as the drastic increase in online sales over the past few years. It is not just the ease of creating a store within a few hours, but the ability to operate it from anywhere in the world, grow at your own pace and be your own boss which seems to be the reason why so many individuals are creating online businesses. This article will discuss the steps that every aspiring e-commerce merchant needs to take as they prepare to open a new online store from scratch.
Before you Start
Before you start your e-commerce store there are a few essential elements you will need to have in place. The technical components needed include,
- Domain Name – This is going to be the internet address where people can find your store and your online identity. You must select a name that matches your brand and is easy for your customers to remember. There are many free online domain name generators that can be used if you are having trouble creating a name.
- Web Host – This is going to be where your store will be “live” online, acting as a digital landlord for all your content. The majority of domain registrars and store builders will offer hosting services directly, making the entire process really simple.
- SSL Certificate – Short for Secure Sockets Layer is a security protocol that allows customers to establish a safe, encrypted connection between their browser and their store. This is essential for your e-commerce store, otherwise, visitors won’t feel safe entering their credit card information onto your website.
- Something to Sell – Before you start your online store, you need to consider what it is that you plan on selling. You need to ask yourself some of the following questions: Do you want to sell handmade products or something already created? How much will the product cost for you to produce it compared to how much you are going to sell it for? How much inventory are you prepared to keep on hand? What differentiates your product from other similar items that might already exist in the marketplace
- A Store Builder – This is the platform where you will design and build out your new e-commerce store. There are many different options to choose from, some are very easy to use while others require a certain level of understanding of coding. Regardless, there is something for everyone and we will discuss this later on in the article.
Decide what to sell online
Deciding a product to sell is going to be the biggest hurdle when starting an e-commerce store. This is because you have to decide on something that is actually needed in society and that customers are willing to pay. This is also where creativity comes into place because sometimes you can recreate an already existing product and market it differently than your competition and drive sales that way. Sometimes the best ideas come when you least expect it, inspiration is everywhere and all you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open.
Another way to determine a good product to sell is to determine gaps in the marketplace. This means identifying a problem that customers are facing and then creating a solution to that problem. Being aware of current and future trends can really help open your eyes to new products or services that you can provide which is related to current trends, and therefore find a way to capitalize on that.
Trends can also be based on what customers are searching for, a great tool that can be used to find this information is Google Trends. Understanding what people are searching for can allow you to create a product that is catered specifically to them and therefore allowing you to take a step towards the right direction for your e-commerce store.
Choose an Online Store Builder
Once you have determined what you plan on selling, now it is time to determine where you want to sell it. Choosing an online store builder can be difficult when you do not know what you are looking for. There are a vast majority of different online store builders that you can choose from such as WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Shopify and Wix to name a few.
These different platforms also range in different levels of development, such as some may require little to no experience of coding and website development whereas others are heavily based on knowing how to code a website. Choosing an online store builder can be difficult and therefore we created a list of questions to think about when choosing one.
- Does it come with a domain and hosting?
- Does it allow the connection of other marketplaces like Amazon or eBay?
- How does it handle inventory management and shipping?
- What level of coding experience do you need in order to work on a specific platform, or will you need a team of developers?
- Can you connect different social media platforms to it?
Being able to go through and judge the different online store builders against these questions can help narrow down the right store builder that will fit you and your business. If you still cannot find a solution that works for you, you can always reach out to us here at Web4You, to speak to a website developer about which platform would be best for you.
Which is Best for You?
The following is a shortlist of some of the most popular e-commerce platforms:
Simple website builder, drag and drop interface and the best for individuals with no experience in web development. Despite its simplicity, Wix does not offer many customizations and does not offer visually appealing website templates. A lot of Wix users are limited in terms of their website not being able to collect data that other platforms can track.
This is a plugin offered by WordPress, to turn your website/blog into an e-commerce store so you can start selling online. It is free to download and integrate into your store, but it requires multiple different plugins to be installed in order to make it function such as payment gateways.
So despite WooCommerce being free, the use of additional plugins to make it work can drastically increase the price as prices range from $50 – $499/per month for some plugins. This is great for small to medium-sized businesses but there are many security limitations when it comes to businesses that are growing dramatically.
This is the solution for the majority of enterprise businesses or businesses that are expected to grow fast and can no longer function efficiently on plugins such as WooCommerce. This plugin is expensive but it is a one-stop plugin, unlike WooCommerce. There are no additional plugins that are needed to be installed to allow it to function, it has everything in the original function, while also being constantly updated to include additional features.
However, even with this platform there are limitations in the number of sales you can make on this platform and different design limitations which can cause home pages or sales pages to be less visually appealing.
Magento is the one platform that has the most solutions and very few limitations when compared to the previous ones. You can customize the website in any way you want, but the caveat is that this platform does require a high level of experience in website development. Almost 30% of the e-commerce websites on the web are currently being run on Magento, because of its vast ability to be designed into anything you like and its high-security features.
Though a small team of developers will be needed for you to help create and build your online store on this platform, the benefit is that you can have the store created in any way or design you want and this can help differentiate you from everyone else that is using common templates. Along with beautiful design functionality, Magento offers the best customer care service and has the highest level of security which is why some of the most popular websites in the world rely on using Magento as their only online store platform.
Test your Online Store
Testing your online store and whether or not it is functioning the way you want is crucial before launching your store. If there are links that are not working or payments are not being processed, it can cause customers to lose trust in your e-commerce store and potentially lose that customer for life, simply because they do not feel safe. Always remember to test your store in terms of actually going on it and buying a product, in order to make sure there are no problems or hiccups associated with this process.
Also, ensuring that emails are being sent to customers after they subscribe to your mailing list or purchase a product from your store is important. These little things can really become problematic when your store is launched and if they are not working properly, which is why we always recommend having a certain time period allocated just for testing.
Start Marketing your Store
Finally, after choosing a product, your online store, making sure everything works the last and probably the most important step for success in marketing your website. Sure you can have the most beautiful and professional website with the best product that is going to solve everyone’s problem, but if people are not aware that it exists you will not make any sales.
Marketing is the only thing that is going to drive any sales to your website. There are many different avenues for marketing which you can use, some are paid while others are free. Paid ones allow for targeting specific groups of people, either based on gender, location, interests, income, etc. While most free forms of advertising are not targeted and usually do not lead to the best results.
Facebook and Instagram are some of the most popular advertising platforms on the market right now, but to educate oneself on how to use these platforms correctly and efficiently can be a timely manner. There are vast things to learn about marketing on social media platforms such as determining the most eye-catching ads and how to create compelling captions that cause users to click on the ad and visit your website to hopefully purchase a product or service that you are offering.
Either you can spend the time to test and learn about all the different types of advertising that can help your business grow, or you can simply hire a marketing agency to do the hard work for you. Here at Web4you, we have a team of marketers and content creators that have helped a vast majority of different businesses market their products and increase their sales exponentially.