The Ultimate Guide To Start An Online Store

Start an Online Store

Are you ready to start an online store? If so, you are in the right place. Hundreds and thousands of online stores are created each year and with the rising number rises the competition. 

With too many online stores are coming on board each year, it is no surprise that a lot of people tend to buy things online. And that is possibly one of the best reasons why creating an online store of your own may sound like a good plan.

Start an Online Store

How to Open an Online Store Step by Step

Step 1: Choose a Profitable Niche and Develop a Plan

Starting an online store is definitely a good idea with lots of promising opportunities. It’s all about creating a new life of abundance and freedom for yourself. And it may bring you one step ahead to financial independence.

But the ever-changing world makes the process of creating an online store a bit more complicated. And without a clear-cut business plan, all your efforts may waste.

Creating the right digital marketing strategy is really a hard work. It seems like you’re pulling information out of thin air or just spending your time in vain.

But don’t give up your try.

This research can save a lot of time and money in the long-run and preparing you for the challenges of tomorrow.

Here are a few points you need to consider before launching your eCommerce store.

Choose a Perfect Niche Product

Some first-time entrepreneurs don’t put a great deal of thought into the niche. It is the biggest mistake online retailers make. You should decide what niche to attack and study it from the starting.

Google is the first option for many people when searching for anything to buy.

While a lot of people will simply put “shoes” into Google, those customers are probably interested in any type of socks and will buy whatever’s cheapest. You can’t compete with that, so let’s dig some little deeper.

Many people get real specific about the kind of shoes they want to buy:

  • “comfortable shoes”
  • “Long lasting Sole”
  • “Genuine Leather”
  • “Cheap Leather shoes”

You can take any of such keywords and use them through a tool called Google Keyword Planner(GKP). It will show you how many people search for any given phrase each month. GKP will also suggest other keywords for you to check.

Therefore, your first order of business here is to replace “shoes” with your product names and try drilling down to find some phrases that are in tune with what you want to sell and that are also kind of popular online (1000 searches a month or more).

What to Sell: Trending Niche Products to Sell Online in 2019

Step 2: Choose Between Dropshipping or Stocking Products

There are actually two types of eCommerce business models – stocking products and drop shipping.

Say, you have a brick-and-mortar store and thinking to move your business online. Then, stocking your products inventory will be more preferable for you, as you already have a warehouse.

Yes, you’ll have to invest in both shipping and warehousing. But, as a result, you will get more profit as you can price your products based on your wholesale cost.

Drop shipping means that someone else will handle the back-end of your online business for you and you don’t need to keep products in stock as well as the inventory.

Your focus will be fully on your online store. You’ll have to focus on customer relationship, search engine optimization, marketing, social media, and prices.

Drop shipping is the best choice for those who are just starting off the eCommerce business. But it definitely leaves you with less investment.

Think of starting an multi-vendor marketplace where multiple vendors sell their products and manage their orders themselves? Get useful ideas in our guide to start multi-vendor marketplace. Managing an eCommerce marketplace differs from managing a single-vendor marketplace or online store.

So a quick recap:

  • Dropshipping requires no capital and is the easiest way to get started, but has the lowest profit margin and poor branding.
  • Buying wholesale requires more capital and the need to pack and ship, but gives you a higher profit margin and better branding.
  • Subscription box stores can be either, and they’re just all-around impressive.

Once you’ve chosen a business model to work with, it’s time for the technical part – coming up with your business name and registering a domain!

Step 3: Choose a Business Name and Register Your Domain Name

Your business name isn’t as make-it-or-break-it as the niche you choose, but it’s still most important.

But, if you’re not careful, it could put a halt to start an online store!

It’s important to give your online store website a short, intuitive name that is easy to pronounce. Just think about your customers and do not make them learn it by heart.

Your online store name should instantly jump into your customers minds, be easy to type and most importantly unique.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you pick a name:

✅ DO choose a domain name that’s easy to pronounce.

Spelling is hard for people! So make the name that is easy to pronounce. Otherwise people might go to the wrong web address.

✅DO choose a domain name with some significance.

If it’s related to the niche you chosen, it makes it easier for people to “get” your business. If there’s a deeper and more personal meaning to it, it’ll make a great backstory for media pitching.

✅ DO be as original as possible.

An entrepreneur based in Kentucky, Victor Moseley, opened a lingerie shop and named it “Victor’s Secret”. Victoria’s Secret just filed a lawsuit against them.

✅ DO choose a domain name with an available .com domain.

While .cos and other domain endings are becoming popular, but people will still instinctively type in .com. You have to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find you!

❌ DON’T choose a name that’s too long.

Your business name should be maximum 1-3 words! The shorter and easier a name is to pronounce and type, the more people will remember it.

❌ DON’T choose a business name that’s a combination of words and numbers.

This is a no brainer. That is, unless you’re trying to create dodgy and unprofessional website.

❌ DON’T choose a name that references a specific product or product line.

Where can you register a domain name for your online store?

There are so many domain registrars. Among the most popular are GoDaddy and BlueHost. These services combine web-hosting and domain registration.

Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform to Start an Online Store

If you want to start an online store, you’ll be happy to know that there are more than a dozen viable eCommerce solutions and platforms to choose from.

However! This abundance isn’t always a good thing.

If you want to host your online store on your own, you will have to:

  • research the best web hosting offers,
  • install the eCommerce solution onto your server,
  • take care of the PCI compliance and other security aspects.

It may be rather complicated for a non-technical person, but less expensive in the long run. Plus, you’ll have increased flexibility with your eCommerce store, which can be limited when you’re using a self-hosted eCommerce platform.

In this case, Dokan is the right choice for you, as it is available on premise. If you set up an online store using this eCommerce plugin, you will get the unlimited control over every element.

Another option is to pay monthly for a fully-hosted eCommerce platform, such as Shopify and use it as you go.

eCommerce Web Hosting & SSL

If you want to go with a self-hosted solution, there’s no other alternative but to search for a hosting provider.

eCommerce web hosting is a way more complicated. It has to protect your store’s personal and sensitive data, provide you with daily backups, database support, fast speed and 24/7 customer support.

Step 4: eCommerce Website Design

Your website’s design matters a lot.

People entering your online store experience a subconscious reaction to the design before they have even seen your products and read a line about your products.

This first impression based on the overall look and feel of the eCommerce website affects their decision. So think carefully about website design when you decide to start an online store and selling your products online.

User experience is the second thing that should be taken into consideration. Once you have made that first impression, the attention is just switched to the layout, navigation and even color.

If you clutter your online store homepage with an unlimited number of banners and fields. Or your site navigation is too complex. Or color of button looks extremely distracting. All that means your site design is acting against your website’s purpose. The result – zero conversions and no sales in your state-of-the-art online store.

Finally, SEO. Without SEO, your newly designed website won’t work to its full potential. Adding alternative (alt) text to product or content images is the main principle of web accessibility.

Step 5: Adding Products to Your Online Store

According to the survey by X-Cart top eCommerce experts, product page has the highest impact (51%) on the success of every eCommerce site.

eCommerce Design Most Important Pages

It means that the more attention you will give to the products you sell online, including their images and description, the more successful your online store will be.

Here are the few simple steps every eCommerce beginner should know. You’ll find out the right way to add digital or physical products, shoot vibrant product images, and write attractive descriptions.

Study the Basics of Product Photography for online Stores

People like visualization.

According to a study, people can only recall 20% of the material that they read versus 80% that they see.

So creating an online store with low-quality pictures is lame. Don’t make this mistake.

Learn how to shoot photos like a pro to attract new customers and convert the old ones:

  • Learn photography basics, like camera aperture, ISO, shutter speed, exposure, and lighting. You don’t have to buy a super-mega-pricey camera to create awesome photos. The only thing you should have is the basic understanding of some of the camera functions.
  • Set up a home (or office) photo studio. Your setup will depends on what you are shooting. Smaller products can be placed inside the light-box or right on the table with a backdrop.  
  • Shoot lifestyle images. Use people in your shots to show how people can used your product.  
  • Optimize images with tools. Every perfect image can be enhanced with the help of photo-editing software.

Create Product Descriptions That Sell

Written words are very powerful. They inspire us to take action, make us roar with laughter or stay sad half of the day.

But it gets more exciting when it comes to online shopping. When a person is about to purchase any products, he scrutinizes each and every word.

Learn some online marketing techniques and start injecting power into your words:

  • Repeat your idea several times – it will create the ‘illusion of truth’ and make people to believe you.  
  • Understand the needs of your potential customers. Once you will do it, your copy will become much more persuasive.
  • Use benefit-focused copy to promise your potential customers a better version of themselves.  
  • Find out what language your buyers use to find your online store through Google.  
  • Use sensory words to create and describe the feelings.  
  • Use scarcity words to encourage impulse buys.  
  • Let them buy something like small first.  
  • Do not hide the negative features of your any product.  
  • Use power words like you, free, because, imagine, new.  
  • Conduct competitor analysis to improve your online store’s copy.
  • Try DTR method to influence the people.  
  • Use buyers’ words to help the people self-identify.  
  • Create a reward program to build the customer loyalty.  
  • Rhyme — it will make your piece of product description easier to remember and ideas easier to digest.  
  • Describe your item in small detail.  
  • Add reviews to create trust.  
  • Tell mini stories, how people love them.

Step 6: Setting up Payments, Shipping & Inventory for Your Online Store

When starting an online store, you should consider about handling shipping and taxes, accepting payments and managing your inventory.

Let’s go to each point one by one.

Pick a Robust Payment Gateway

There are different ways of accepting online payments. For example, accepting credit cards online via different payment gateway, bank account, cash on delivery, gift certificate, and many other ways.

Also, you should know that most of the countries have their popular local payment methods.

  • Americans prefer PayPal and credit card.
  • Chinese like Alipay eWallet.
  • Germans use Sofort Banking, Giropay, and Paysafecard.

Skrill, Authorize.Net, SagePay, Amazon Payments, 2Checkout are among the top payment gateway companies in the world.

Online businesses that accept card payments face various risks like fraud attacks.

To save your online store from online hackers, you have to monitor the transactions for unusual activity. You can do it by your own, or entrust your transactions to experts, like Kount, Signify or NoFraud.

Select the Best Shipping Carrier for Your Online Store

Shipping can make or break your eCommerce online business.

If you choose the wrong shipping carrier, you may be left with overwhelming shipping costs or your customers may suffer an unpleasant shopping experience.

Just imagine how your buyer would feel if his package arrived all messed up, broken and damaged.

Like that.

The complete dissatisfaction.

Though, you’re selling products online, it’s not an big issue. But if you need to deliver the actual products to your clients, it’s important to pick the right shipping carrier.

Think about different options for different shipping zones. Free in-store pickup is better choice for local businesses. But you still might need an option to deliver your products to other states or overseas.

Give your customers the most accurate shipping rates available with real-time prices. Australia Post, Canada Post, FedEx, UPS, DHL, USPS, Pitney Bowes, Pilibaba, and ShippingCalc are some mention-able carrier to help you.

Or you can set up shipping rates manually, based on shipping zones, weight, cart subtotal, number of items and other parameters in your merchant account.

Inventory Management

Warehouses become a key pillar for online retailers. To keep up with the industry changes and provide customers with viable solutions you have to constantly improve your customer service as well as support:

  • consider to use centralized inventory system, like POS, to store and access all your inventory data at any time;  
  • update the inventory records as soon as any single sale is made;  
  • forecast demand for products, locations and quantities;  
  • regularly analyze the performance of your inventory management process and so on.

On the other hand, drop shipping also allows you to create an online store without any inventory and warehouse at all.

Step 7: Market your new online store!

You’ve reached the last step of this bumper guide on how to start an online store.

You now know how to set up a company, how to set up any website, and how to meet the online business sales tax requirements.

Content marketing and SEO

You probably know this, but Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is amazing for online store or any website.

You may have two online stores selling exactly the same things, but you’ll see phenomenally different results if only one store is search optimized, and the other isn’t.

At the end of the day, selling products online is really a numbers’ game.

You’re trying to maximize the number of visitors who visit your online store.

And maximize your conversion rate and retention rate.

That’s where content marketing and SEO come in. High-quality content helps you rank, drives traffic to your store, and builds trust with your visitors, which increases your sales.

Social media marketing

The golden rule of marketing: you want to have a presence where your customers are hanging out.

So make sure to keep your social media pages updated and active!

You can create and schedule your posts ahead of time and make sure you’ve always got something planned for the major holidays and festives.

If this sounds like a lot, don’t sweat it.

Just choose ONE channel that you want to focus on first, and start with small.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Most first-time entrepreneurs are hesitant to try PPC (because they’re worried they’ll end up busting their budgets).

To someone who isn’t well-familiar with PPC, this might sound like an insane amount of money.

According to the Google’s Economic Impact Report, online businesses make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords.

So even if you’re not a wizard at PPC and your ads are average quality, you can still make a decent profit off them.

Email marketing

We just mentioned that businesses, on average, make $2 for every $1 they spend on Adwords.

Well, with every $1 businesses spend on email marketing, they make an average profit of $44.

Yes…. $44 for $1. Money making machine!

Don’t let anyone to tell you email marketing is old-school, or outdated, or boring strategy.

It’s actually insanely powerful and effective, and one of the most profitable types of marketing strategy that exists.

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing can pay huge dividends, if you do it right way.

There are lots of fake influencers out there who bought their followers. Avoid those at all costs!

Plan your marketing

So we’ve covered a lot of ground in terms of marketing strategies, and it’s understandable if you feel a little overwhelmed at this point.

It’s not all over. All you need is a high-level marketing plan which will allow you to have a birds eye view of everything that’s going on.

Set your financial goals for the year. Then break it down and figure out your monthly revenue.

Based on the estimation, work out how many products you need to sell each month.

Once you know how much you need to sell, then start working on your action plan.

Step 8: How Much Does It Cost to Start an Online Store

If you are planning to launch a huge online store like eBay or Amazon, starting an online business is likely to cost you an arm and a leg.

However, if your dreams are moderate, you won’t need much.

Let’s try to count how much money you are likely to spend if you choose Dokan as an eCommerce platform.

How much does it cost to start a Drop Shipping Online Store/How to start an online store without inventory

The most cheapest and easiest way to start an eCommerce store is drop shipping. You do not have to spend lot of money on building a warehouse or buying products to sell. The only thing you have to do is to find the right supplier. The amount of revenue earned is the selling price minus the cost of products sold and a small drop shipping fee.

Here’s the minimum cost that you need to launch a dropshipped online store:

  • Domain Name + Web hosting: $23 per month (for Blue Host)
  • Premium Theme: $59 +

Here’s what we get: $95.

That’s the sum of money you have to pay to start an online store.

How much does it cost to Start an Online Store with Inventory/How to Start an Online Store with Inventory

Creating an online store the traditional way, with a warehouse and inventory, will cost you nearly as much as starting a dropshipped online store.

You will only need to put aside money for your initial cost of products.

The total sum can vary from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars. It depends on the type of products you choose to sell and the kind of marketing activities you choose to use to grow your online store when it is already set.

A final word to start an online store

Now that you got the idea how to start an online store and how much it costs, it’s high time to muster up your willpower and start selling products.

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