After the invention of the internet, shopping online has become the easiest thing to do sitting with your legs sprawled across the couch. This has also, in a way, motivated tons of retailers to move their shop online where they can connect to a lot of customers and make a profit. At the same time, they too can reduce their costs of rent and other miscellaneous expenses by operating from a website or app.
Merchants and entrepreneurs all over the world are flocking towards the e-commerce path for all the reasons stated above. As per the Internet retailer, e-commerce sales globally, have increased by 18% in 2018, with consumers spending a whopping $2.86 trillion online. In the United States of America alone, e-commerce sales spiked 15% in 2018, showing 14.3% of total retail sales.
However, it is not just the financial benefits that make e-commerce the next big thing to invest in. Apart from earning an income through sales, there is one other crucial fact that can draw future sellers to starting a business online. It is the flexibility and freedom that a physical store cannot provide. An online store lets you operate from anywhere in the world, you can grow at your own pace, and you get to be your boss.
Even if you already operate a physical brick and mortar store, incorporating e-commerce to this mix can only bring in more benefits to your business. All this will help boom your business since being omnipresent enables you to reach out to a broader audience leading to making your products easily accessible and most importantly, generate more substantial profits.
In the guide below, we’ll discuss the steps that every aspiring e-commerce merchant needs to know to prepare and open a new online store from scratch.
What Do You Need Before Starting Your Online Store?
Before you can begin your journey towards your e-commerce success, there are a few specifics you need to have in place. Let’s start with the technical components:
A Domain Name
Your domain name is more than an internet address that people use to find your store. It is the online identity of your business. Having a domain name automatically transports the status of your business to a more professional standard, which will give you instant credibility with your audience. At the same time, it will work wonders for you if you select a name that matches your brand and is easy for your customers to remember.
Don’t know how to select the right name and register your domain name? Our guidelines can help you point in the right direction.
A Web Host
A web host is a place where your store will be “live” online, acting as a digital workplace for your content like your files and images. There are a lot of domain registrars and store builders available now that offer a variety of hosting services directly, so it is often easy to check this off your to-do-list.
An SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate is short for Secure Sockets Layer that is essentially a security protocol that lets your customers create a safe and encrypted pathway between their browser and your online store. This will be useful when it comes to accepting payments but will not hurt your website. Nowadays, many web hosts can provide the SSL certificate for you.
Now comes the most obvious thing:
Products to Sell
An online store, like any other store, will only work if you have the products to sell. So, before you intend on opening an online store, you need to decide what kind of products you intend to sell there. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into the product to be set up online, and the below questions can help you narrow down the products:
- Do you want to sell your homemade products?
- How much are you willing to spend on them to produce the product?
- At what price will you sell it to the customer?
- How much inventory are you prepared to keep on hand?
- How is your product different from the others already available in the market?
You can also join hands with a third-party manufacturer or wholesaler and focus on drop shopping. Drop shopping is where you don’t have to maintain an inventory of your own. But, when a customer shops for a product from your store, you need to forward that order to the third party who will package and ship the item to the customer on your behalf.
A Store Builder
A store builder is a platform that you can use to design and build out your e-commerce store. There is a variety of different options to choose from now, so you need to pick the right builder which is the right combination of features for your business and also is available at a cost that fits right into your budget.
By the end, we will look at a few questions you can consider as you’re searching for the right online store builder.
STEP 1: Deciding on the Product to Sell Online
If you’ve already decided on what you intend to sell online or if you wish to sell your product be it a line of clothing, a mobile app or anything in between, then that is an excellent start for you. But if you’re still hunting for a great idea to strike you there a few things you need to keep in mind as you keep searching.
Inspiration is Omnipresent
Most of the times the best ideas come to you when you least expect it. You may be standing in line for coffee when a great idea strikes you! Or maybe you see something while commuting that gets your creative juices flowing. Be alert and keep an open mind because inspiration is everywhere. Be prepared to make a note of any ideas that may come to you no matter when or where it happens.
Find Out the Gaps Within the Market
The products that we make use of in our everyday lives is a result of someone’s observation of the gap between the need and unavailability to solve this need in the market. Then the person made sure that this need is fulfilled by providing the requisite product to the customer. Then another came and provided the same solution with a variation. That is how our markets are now overflowing with choices for any need that you name.
As you are progressing about in your day, keep an eye out for common frustrations among people that they may be experiencing. If you think there is a better way to help them out, then there probably is. And you may be the person to discover it.
Think about Current and Upcoming Trends
Many new sellers have found success when they have linked their future trends to the past ones. In fashion, for example, many have created a product that relates to classics and has thus, worked out for them. Brainstorm the kind of products that can help you make profits and are in trend right now. Also, think of ways that the pattern may change so you can be the first one to market when the next big thing arrives.
Find a Product of your Passion
Your online store will demand for a lot of your time and attention, and you may find yourself amidst them all of your working days. Therefore, it will work in your benefit if you choose a product that you are comfortable and excited to be around. If it is also something that you are knowledgeable about it will work wonders for your business since you will be able to sell it to your customers that much more quickly. Having a product that you are excited to market will keep you on your toes to run the store.
Learn what People are Searching for Online
Google and Bing have become equivalent to oxygen and help millions of people around the world to search the internet for absolutely anything they desire. Some tools like Answer The Public comes handy here. It accumulates all of the search queries that are received by the search engines and makes it easy to identify the most popular searches surrounding any keyword. This is a great way to be connected to the internet and to find out product ideas that might generate plenty of organic traffic.
STEP 2: Choose an Online Store Builder
Once you’ve decided what you plan on selling, it is time to find a place online to start selling it. As stated earlier, even if you already have a brick-and-mortar store where you sell your stuff, it is essential to have an online presence so you can reach your customers no matter where they might be.
There are several online store builders available in the market now like WooCommerce, Big Commerce and PrestaShop, to name a few of them. Each of these offers a variety of sophistication with its unique set of features. It doesn’t matter if you are someone who is the tech-savvy type who wants to customize everything or someone who is just looking for an easy-to-use option that lets you build an online store as quickly as possible. Before choosing the right one for you, conduct in-depth research on which one would suit you the best and would make the most sense for your business.
Queries You Must Resolve before selecting an Online Store Builder
Whether you are someone who is into technical stuff or into what type of things you are planning to sell, there are a bunch of questions that every would-be seller should be asking before selecting an online store builder for their business
1. Does it encompass both domain and hosting?
For any online store having a domain name and hosting is very crucial to their business, which is why store builders now come with these services to attract potential businesses. If you have one that provides you with these services, then you are right on track. Whereas if you don’t have these already, it is time you think and selects the best online store builder that comes with these both since it is a real time saver.
2. Will it connect to marketplaces like Amazon or eBay?
At times, some merchants and manufacturers already have an established brand identity. In which case, they want their products to reach across all marketing channels. If you aim to reach out to your customers beyond a single branded online storefront, select a store builder that offers this level of reachability.
3. How will it look after inventory management and shopping?
If you are into selling a physical product, you will need help in keeping track of your inventory and ship them out to customers promptly. Some store builders come with inbuilt solutions to help you address these concerns others may require that you find and install plugins.
4. Will it connect to social media?
Social media has crossed the reason for being a place only to connect and communicate and moved on to be a great place to market your products. Facebook and Instagram, in particular, have become critical marketing tools for online sellers. You must choose a store builder that connects you to these mediums to maximize your marketplace reach. Being related to social media will make it easy for you to promote and share your products across all of these platforms. Apart from these, it is also helpful to reach new audiences, build brand awareness for your product and drive sales.
5. What other marketing tools does it provide you access to?
Your relationship with your customer should be beyond just buying and selling something from your online store. As and when your business starts growing, you will need a few tools that will remind your customers from time to time about the products they have added to their cart but haven ordered yet. This can be done through notification emails and confirmation messages. The confirmation messages can help the shopper keep track of their package by letting them know that it has been processed and is on its way.
6. Will, the store builder, let you integrate with other apps or services that provide the features as mentioned in question 4 and 5 if it does not incorporate the above features?
The online builder you choose may not provide you with all the features you are looking out for, and that’s perfectly okay! If you don’t come across an all-in-one solution that makes sense for your business, other services on the market integrate with store builders. They also provide you with a host of services that will help you get the word out regarding your business and drive traffic to your online store.
STEP 3: CREATING YOUR ONLINE STORE
Now that you are done picking the right store builder for you, it is time to start designing a virtual storefront that resembles you and your uniqueness.
1. Choosing the right Domain Name
A valid domain name will make it easy for your existing customers to search for your store online. It will help them recognize the brand online and define what your brand stands for, in case of new customers. It also needs to be something that people can type, spell and remember easily but at the same time, it shouldn’t be connected to trend or slang to tie the name back to that place or time.
2. Finalizing a Template
Most of the store builders you will find will be ones that come with readymade templates so that you can pick one and start with your store right away. Go through the templates given to you like choices and choose the best one that will suit your store and your brand accordingly. Think about how you would want to design your store, what elements would you like to include within the store, and how would you want your customers to navigate through the store.
3. Time to Add your Products and Begin Merchandising
When you begin building your product pages, be sure to add within them the product name, price, colour, dimensions, weight, and any other details that will help customers as they begin scanning through your products to purchase. It will also be helpful to the customer if you add a favourable description that will let them know more about the product. Adding images to this description from various angles will help the customer understand more regarding the product he/she is interested in. It will, in a way, help to bring the item back to life.
4. Deciding which payment methods you’ll accept
Nowadays, there a variety of options made to the customer to make payments for their purchase. Some of them are e-commerce merchants including credit cards (like Visa and MasterCard) and digital payments services like PayTm, Paypal and GooglePay. Before you narrow down which method would you like your customers to use, make it a point to read up on all the types of payment services, how much each payment transaction will cost you per sale and if there are any limitations to where they’re accepted around the world.
5. Order Completion
Once you’ve added the products to sell and decided on how your customer should be making payment for the same, it is time to think how you be completing their order by delivering the product to their customer.
When it comes to products like e-books, art file, white paper or any other digital product that your customer may purchase, you can provide a link to this product to download or email the same to them right after they are buying it. But, when it comes to physical products, you need to pick a shipping service and decide on which countries will you be shipping to, what kind of packaging will you be using and how much will you charge for shipping.
STEP 4: Test run your Online Store
There is only one chance at making an excellent first impression. So, before you make your online store available to for your customers, it is wise to test run your store to pick out glitches, if any. Be sure to check every element right from shopping for a product to the checkout section as a potential customer would.
1. View a preview of your store on all electronic devices
It cannot be said how or when your customer will want to shop on your online store or make a purchase for a product. So, it is only wise to be prepared for anything that might come your way. Before you begin to gather traffic for your store, check out for yourself, how does it work on various browsers and devices. It will help you to confirm that it is working how you had envisioned it to work. This will also help you ensure that the store looks great and is easy to navigate for your audience, whether they are visiting the store from their desktop, tablet or mobile device.
2. Test run by placing an order
Place a test order by following the exact steps your customers would: visiting the store, adding an item to the cart and then complete the purchase by placing the order.
As you are doing this, pay attention to if the product has been priced correctly, that all of your shipping options, fees and any other applicable taxes are clearly stated, and that payments are successfully processed after the order is complete. If you intend to offer any special promotions or discount codes for customers at launch, you should make sure they work correctly as well.
3. Check if you received an order confirmation mail
Once you place an order, head to your inbox to check if you have a confirmation mail for the order placed. Also, make a check if the details mentioned in the mail match with those you had produced while placing the order.
4. Check out the refund process
No matter how much your customer purchases the products you offer them, there are going to be a few, who will want to return the order back or may cancel at some point after placing the order. If you test the refund process before your store is open to the public, you’ll be ensuring that you are in a position to provide refunds quickly and professionally should you need to do so in the future.
STEP 5: Begin marketing your Online Store
Once you gain confidence that your store is now set to be presented to the customers, you can start by thinking about how you would want to advertise your online store to increase awareness and bring in traffic. Here, we will be outlining a few of the marketing tools that can be particularly useful for online sellers.
1. Promotions on Social Media
When you are ready to open the gates of your online store to the customers outside, you can begin by promoting your store on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or anywhere else your friends, fan and other potential customers might be. You can even go a step ahead and create a customized Facebook and Instagram ads to target specific segments of people-like the people who live in a particular location or are within a particular age group, for example. These ads can help highlight your store and increase traffic for your store.
2. Offering discounts to bring in more customers
Discounts are a great way to promote your online store apart from attracting customers. Discounts also bring in excitement among them and will encourage customers to take a step ahead and make a purchase in your store. You can make a promo code available to your initial customers that may provide them with a discount or free shipping the next time they visit the store.
Another way to boost traffic is by starting contests that provide the first 50 customers with the chance to win a one-of-a-kind gift or an exclusive prize pack. So be creative with introducing new things on your store that will help bring in more customers.
3. Build an email list
Email marketing is one of the best ways to build and gain an audience, keep them engaged and gain valuable insights that will help them grow in the future. Decide if you can add a signup form to your website or collecting an email address from customers when they make a purchase from your store, then sending out emails to thank your customers for their support, share updates about the new additions to your store and more. Later, you can review your email reports and learn what type of content leads to more opens, more clicks and more purchases from your store.
4. Create Google remarketing ads
Has it ever happened to you where you visited a website and then started seeing ads for that website as you were surfing the net? If this has happened to you, the chances are that you have already encountered Google remarketing ads. This approach of marketing lets you stay on the top-of-mind of your customers by displaying ads that target people who have visited and navigated away from your store. It is an effective way to bring in traffic and increase sales from your customers no matter where they shop online.