With the number of global e-commerce sites almost tripling in the past four years, online stores are really the place to be in 2023. But, do not let the vast competition intimidate you, there is room for everyone to profit in the digital world.
Whether you are thinking of expanding your brick-and-mortar store and offering your products online, or are just contemplating e-commerce as your newest enterprise, there is much to do and many ways to succeed in the realm of digital retail.
In this blog post, we will share with you the best practices and essential considerations of what to check off your list before launching a profitable digital marketplace.
We are laying down the basics of how to start an online store suitable for everyone from a complete beginner to a seasoned entrepreneur to help you thrive in the world of online retail.
Let’s dive right in!
What do you need to start an online store?
Embarking on the journey to establish your online store requires your thoughtful consideration of various crucial components. Some of them include:
- Determining your market niche and target audience,
- Defining what products you will be offering,
- Choosing a business model to clarify your purpose and goals,
- Securing a unique and recognizable business name and domain,
- Selecting a reliable e-commerce platform,
- Setting up the technicalities of your website,
- Creating compelling product listings and visuals,
- Formulating a powerful marketing strategy, and finally
- Launching and monitoring your online store.
All of these elements, and more, collectively form what is known as the business concept for a digital store. Take time to define them and then keep a close eye on performance after your store is live. This will lay a solid ground for a successful e-commerce venture.
Let’s go over each step!
Identify your niche and target audience
In learning how to start an online store in the hyper-diverse and ultra-competitive world of e-commerce, it is crucial to set yourself apart and gain the right attention. Most online sellers do so by focusing on a particular niche. This means that within a larger market, there are many segments catering to specific audiences with unique needs and preferences.
For example, you may want to dive into the health and wellness category and decide on sleep being your niche. So, you sell products that help with getting quality sleep targeting an audience suffering from sleep disorders.
Whether or not you decide on a specific niche or sell products covering an array of categories, you must determine your target audience. This has a direct effect on productive marketing and overall business success. A target audience refers to a specific group of people that a business aims to reach with its products.
There are a few key aspects you must consider when defining the target audience for your online store, including:
- Demographics: This includes characteristics such as age, gender, location, income, and family status. They will help you effectively tailor your marketing strategies and optimize product offerings,
- Interests: Knowing what your potential customers are interested in is important for determining who your products are relevant to and how to market them, and
- Pain points: Identifying the needs and problems of your target audience can help you determine what best solutions to offer.
Another notable action to take to further analyze your target audience is building a buyer persona. This can help you better understand what your buyers desire. As a result, it will assist you in developing effective messaging, design, and overall approach.
Choose the products you want to sell
An additional important challenge in mastering how to start an online store is selecting the right products. If you don’t know where to start when choosing what products to sell, do so by asking the people around you about what they spend their money on or what they would like to be available online. Ask for their opinions on your ideas and their ideal customer experience. You can conduct a casual survey by asking your friends and family or reach a wider audience with an online questionnaire.
Also, it is vital to use SEO to analyze and determine what people are searching for. As we mentioned before, you are not only selling a product, but a solution to a problem. Be up-to-date with the wants and needs of your target audience by closely following online statistics.
When choosing what products to sell you should also bear in mind that some are expensive to manufacture or ship and would not be very profitable. You should opt for products with lower costs and higher profit margins, especially if you are just starting out your first online store.
Moreover, ensure that your product is something that you have the resources for, such as storage space and shipping. Consider dropshipping or print-on-demand as a good starting point for an online store business since it requires little investment.
Take into account if the product can be easily used for cross-selling or upselling. Such characteristics would be a useful asset for additional profits.
You can focus on offering products that can satisfy a deficiency in the market, or you could hop on a trend, put your spin on it, and profit off of something that is already popular.
Choose a Business Model for Your Online Store
Another key part of building a sustainable and stable e-commerce venture is determining your business model. This is essentially an outline of how a digital store operates and makes money. It includes details such as what products it sells, who are its consumers, and how it reaches out to them. It is of great importance to define your online store’s business model since it will clarify your purpose and goals and largely help you with catering to your target audience.
The four most popular business models for online stores are:
- Business to consumer (B2C): This is when businesses sell products or services directly to consumers,
- Business to business (B2B): In this model, products or services are sold to other businesses such as wholesalers, retailers, and business buyers,
- Consumer to consumer (C2C): It involves transactions between individual consumers, such as selling used items on online platforms, and
- Consumer to business (C2B): This model refers to when a consumer sells their products or services to businesses. It is most often used by freelancers and consultants.
Select a Business Name and Domain
While you gain knowledge on how to start an online store, you should be thinking of its name from the very beginning. Your business name is what you will be recognized by, so it is important to invest time and effort into coming up with a new and exciting name that you will also use for your domain. Make sure the name is easy to remember and that your domain is not too complicated.
It would be helpful to mention your product category or niche directly in the name. This will attract attention from people looking to purchase exactly what you are offering. For example, if you are selling footwear include the words “shoes”, “sneakers” or “high heels” in your name.
Aside from this, you also need a recognizable logo. You can do this yourself using a free online design platform, but we advise you to hire a professional who knows the best design practices and can make your idea come to life. There are many available and skilled designers on freelance platforms.
Choose an e-commerce platform
An e-commerce platform is essentially where your online store will live on the Internet. After conducting thorough research, opt for one that has all the necessary tools that allow for a smooth business operation.
Shopify has the best reputation among online store owners. Its most popular and useful features include:
- User-friendly interface with no coding skills required for basic setup,
- Wide range of customizable themes for different industries,
- Mobile responsiveness for a seamless shopping experience across various devices,
- Multiple payment options and high-level security with SSL encryption, and
- The Shopify App Store offers many apps and plugins to better your store’s functionality.
Other notable mentions among e-commerce platforms include:
- WooCommerce: Serving as a WordPress plug-in, this is a good choice for those who prefer WordPress as their content management system,
- Magento: An open-source platform more fitted for larger enterprises, and
- BigCommerce: Cloud-based scalable e-commerce platform with useful built-in features.
Setup your online store
There are many technical steps you need to go over when learning how to start an online store and how to set it up. But, worry not, all of the top e-commerce platforms are extremely user-friendly and easy to manage.
Let’s go over a quick run-through of what you need to do to set up your online store.
As we mentioned before, prior to getting into the technicalities, you should focus on researching the market, analyzing your competitors, and determining your target audience, business model, products, and pricing.
Next, you will select the e-commerce platform best suited for your business needs. Develop an appealing and easy-to-navigate design that will also be mobile-friendly.
Move forward with setting up payment gateways and implementing high-level security for your customer’s transactions. Later, ensure to thoroughly test your website before launch, implement a marketing strategy, and keep a close eye on performance once your store goes live.
These might seem like many steps to take before your store is good to go, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We have compiled the ultimate in-depth checklist for setting up your Shopify store that ensures you won’t miss anything crucial along the way.
Create compelling product listings with high-quality images and detailed descriptions
It is highly likely that your store will offer products that can be found elsewhere on the Internet. You need to devote a lot of time and effort to stand out from the crowd and convince buyers that they need to choose your products over someone else’s. One way to do so is by crafting compelling product listings and eye-catching images accompanied by detailed descriptions.
If you can afford to, hire a professional photographer to capture the quality and features of your products. If not, do your best to create a homemade photography setup equipped with good natural lighting and preferably capture 360-degree photos of your products.
Next, craft persuasive product descriptions that will complement your high-quality images. Your product description should answer all common questions that the customers may have, such as what materials the product is made of, its dimensions, features, and any other relevant details contributing to understanding the product’s value and utility. Also, make sure to include relevant keywords to help potential customers easily find your products.
Check out our guide for how to add products to Shopify for a simplified step-by-step process that will ensure you always have relevant inventory ready to be sold.
Develop a marketing plan for your online store
After you have learned how to start an online store and defined all key aspects, you need to formulate a robust marketing plan. Your product can be high-quality and useful but if no one knows about it that will not make much of a difference to your business. Invest funds into effective marketing targeting your desired audience to spread the word about your products. These are just a few examples of what you should include in your marketing plan:
- Utilize social media platforms as a free way to promote your products and keep your customers up-to-date with new arrivals,
- Run digital ad campaigns targeted toward your desired audience to get in front of the eyes of those who matter most to your business,
- Attract sales by featuring seasonal discounts around big holidays or offering special discount codes for returning customers,
- Optimize your website to ensure it is easily found using search engines by implementing relevant keywords and enhancing user experience in an effort to drive more traffic to your site,
- Tap into email marketing and consider sending regular newsletters and promotions to your consumers.
Your marketing strategy will be used as a powerful tool to drive customers to your store. All efforts and investments will pay off once you start reaching your target audience and spreading the word about your business.
Launch and Monitor
Once you have learned how to start an online store and it is all prepped and ready, it is time to launch! But the work does not end here, it has only just begun.
Monitor your store’s online statistics using helpful tools and apps. Implement needed changes and adjust products appropriately to what your customers are searching for and need.
Take in feedback and learn how to optimize your store in an effort to drive traffic to it. You can look to social media for direct feedback from your customers. This is also where you can engage in conversations and find out how to better the customer experience resulting in more sales.
Likewise, you should be tracking your sales performances, addressing any technical issues, and conducting regular analysis. Your monitoring efforts will help you stay on top of relevant trends ensuring long-term e-commerce success.
How to start an online store with no money?
Many e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify, offer free trials before committing to a monthly plan. Utilize this helpful feature and try out what is the best fit for you before investing in your online store.
Another helpful tip for starting an online store with no money is to try dropshipping because you do not need to invest in inventory, as well as selling services or digital products.
What to sell in an online store
There are a few things you can do to help you determine what products to sell in your online store:
- Gather opinions and ideas of what people like to spend their money on and what they would like to be available online. You can do this by asking your friends and family or through an online questionnaire,
- Conduct an SEO analysis to find out what people are searching for,
- Bear in mind the price of manufacturing and shipping. Aim for low-cost high-profit margin products.
- Ensure that you have the needed resources for things such as storage space and shipping.
How to find a niche market for your online store
Determine your niche market and target audience by analyzing key aspects such as demographics, interests, and pain points and figuring out to whom you can offer the best solutions and how to do so. Carry out thorough market research and analyze competitors to pinpoint a profitable niche for your online business.
How to get traffic to an online store
Develop a marketing plan targeting your desired audience by utilizing social media platforms and digital ads. Gain attention by offering seasonal discounts or special discount codes for returning customers. Also, you can tap into email marketing and SEO efforts to optimize your website so it can be easily found by the right consumers.
Why are online prices cheaper than in-store
Online prices are often lower than those in-store because online retailers do not have expenses around maintaining a physical store, such as rent and additional staff.
How important is the online store name
Your business name is of great importance since it is what customers will recognize you by. Ensure that it is easy to remember and that your domain is not too complicated.
What is the most important metric to track for your online store
The number one metric you should keep an eye on after launching your online store is your conversion rate. This indicates the number of people who have visited your website and made a purchase. This directly reflects the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and can give you insight into what to alter for better results.
Where to buy products for my online store
There are a few different approaches you can take when acquiring products to sell in your online store, some of them include:
- Selling existing inventory online, for example, if you already have a physical store, you can sell the same products but to a wider audience through your e-commerce website,
- Use dropshipping for a start without any physical inventory,
- Create and ship your own products, such as art and crafts, or
- Engage in business with wholesalers and manufacturers to provide you with needed inventory.
How important is it to have professional photos for online store
Representing your products using high-quality visuals will enhance their appeal, build trust with your audience, and better your brand’s credibility.