How to Create an Online Store: Step-by-Step Guide
Have you ever wanted to open an eCommerce site? Here is a step-by-step guide to creating your own online store!
There are a lot of different online tools and resources that you can use to create your own online business. And while creating an online store can be a fairly simple process, generating sales is much more difficult. It’s not enough to create an online store and expect it to just do its thing.
There are some things to keep in mind if you already operate a physical store and are looking to transition or expand online. Or, maybe you’re just starting out and are looking for help deciding which way to go. Whatever it might be, opening an eCommerce store can help you increase leads and grow revenue.
Online eCommerce platforms make it incredibly easy to open your own store. Sites like Shopify and WordPress have all the tools to integrate a sales strategy and accept different payment methods. And opening an online store has never been easier or more user-friendly.
It’s worth keeping in mind that it’s your strategy and business model that matter the most. Some platforms and strategies that might work for other businesses may not work for you. If you’re ready to get going with your online store or still need to weigh some choices, here is everything you need to know to get started.
Here’s What We’ll Cover:
Different Ways You Can Open an Online Store
There are a couple of different ways for you to open your online store depending on your needs and overall objectives. It’s one thing to increase traffic and sell more products, but how do you know if you’re getting the most out of each sale? Finding the right way to optimize your business can be a challenge.
One route you could go is to use an eCommerce website builder to help assist with each step of the process. Websites like Wix and Shopify provide all of the tools and resources that you would need. You can then figure out which plan works best, get a domain name and start moving forward with other customizable areas of your site.
Another option is to use a site like WordPress with a web hosting service like Bluehost or WooCommerce. It works in a similar way compared to Shopify or Wix. However, there is a lot more responsibility with this choice. If you choose to open your online store this way, think about what exactly it is you want from your site and how you want to get it.
There are pros and cons to using a website builder or hosting service. It all depends on the goals you have for your business and how comfortable you are with running each and every aspect of your online store.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Online Store
There is a lot that goes into running an online store. Where do you start? How do you know which platform will work best for you? What if you get going and figure out you don’t have the technical expertise?
Those are all things that you will have to consider. But the good news is there are tons of tools and resources to help make it as easy as possible. Whether you have been in business for years or you’re just starting your sales journey, here is everything you need to know for creating an online store.
Decide What Type of Product You Are Going to Sell
If you’re already selling a product in your physical store then you might be all set. But what if you’re new to selling? How do you decide which type of product you want to sell?
The product or niche market you choose to enter can impact several different areas of your business. Your sales numbers and overall customer satisfaction can all get impacted.
Once you decide on a type of product, one of the best things you can do to help move forward is to do a SWOT analysis. This is a great way for you to know your strengths and weaknesses but also identify any opportunities or threats in the future.
Take a look at things like the overall demand and interest for your type of product. You can also explore any potential partnership opportunities or any licenses or restrictions.
When you can analyze your customers and find gaps within the industry, you can uncover untapped possibilities to engage them. And when you can find those possibilities, you can then develop a more informed business model. This will allow you to efficiently forecast sales and different trends.
Choose a Domain Name
What’s the name of your business? Do you already have a website? What if the name of your business isn’t available as a domain name? It’s not the end of the world if the custom domain name you want has already been taken.
Or if you are just starting your business you may not have put much thought into a domain name. Either way, even if your domain name doesn’t match exactly with your business name, the domain you do choose can affect brand recognition.
Try and keep your domain name as short as possible if you can. It can be your exact business name if it’s available or it can be completely unique. But keeping it relatively simple and short will help you build brand awareness.
If you have social media channels, keeping your domain name shorter can help brand messaging stay consistent. Try to get creative but also try to avoid using things like compound words, numbers or hyphens.
Decide Where Your Ecommerce Website Will Live
Different eCommerce platforms come with different sets of features, tools and add-ons. To help you figure this out, you can create a list of your requirements based on priority. This would include everything from what’s most crucial to your needs to things you might like to have but don’t necessarily require.
It can sometimes be tempting to go with the cheapest service to save as much money as you can. But since you are planning on selling a product or service through your online store, reliability should be a major factor. Cheaper isn’t always better.
Put some thought into whether or not the eCommerce platform you are looking at will help your business grow. Does it give you all of the critical features you require to run smoothly? Are you going to have to purchase an additional extension for more functionality? Take a look into everything like standard features, overall security and mobile optimization.
Here are a few eCommerce sites you can choose from:
Offers a competitive selection of different features for small and large businesses. Offers secure shopping cart functionality and a proprietary payment processor. It has a nice mix of native features and additional apps you’re able to integrate with the platform.
A highly customizable platform that is open source. There are very few customization options and extensions that Magento doesn’t offer. It can be a little more expensive and also requires a higher level of technical monitoring.
Users are responsible for securing, configuring and hosting their website with the use of WooCommerce. It was originally developed as a WordPress plugin but has now evolved to a simple gateway for you to make online sales. The platform is quick and easy to install and has hundreds of extensions to use.
If you are looking for or prepared to see significant growth then BigCommerce could be a great choice for an online store. There are lots of extensions and custom integrations you can choose from. It also has the ability to get integrated with over 55 different payment gateways.
Design Your Store and Add Your Products
There is a wide range of designs and themes to choose from no matter which eCommerce platform you decide you go with. So even if you’re not very technical or aren’t a designer, the websites make it as easy as possible. The only real challenge you will have is to align your online store with your brand.
Choosing between different fonts and text sizes, color schemes and overall page layouts are only a few of the things you will have to decide on. Most website builders have intuitive themes to help configure everything for you.
And once you have decided how you want your online store to look, it’s time to start adding your products. The key to this is to make sure your product or service is as easy to find as possible. Set up different product category pages if you sell multiple products.
You should also include a well-written product description and high-quality product images. Having well-written product descriptions highlights the features and benefits of your product. This helps encourage customers to make a purchase.
Organize Shipping Needs
Once a customer makes a purchase on your online store, how are they going to get their product? Do they have to come and pick it up at a specific time? Or are you going to ship it to them?
Having an effective shipping strategy can be almost as important as your overall sales strategy. The digital world that you live in today means that there is a ton of competition. All it takes is one bad experience for a customer not to return.
Figure out your complete shipping policy to set expectations for your customers. Determine all of the costs, like whether shipping will be free or a flat or variable rate. You will also need to decide which carrier you’re going to ship with and if customers can make purchases internationally.
Compare different shipping rates and consider any factors that can contribute to your decision. You will be able to avoid any bottlenecks and provide the best customer experience.
Start Marketing and Advertising Your Online Store
You’re almost there. You have figured out where your online store will live, you have designed it and all of your products are listed. Now, you need to start driving customers to your eCommerce site to generate sales.
There is no perfect recipe for marketing and advertising your online store. Each business is going to have unique demands, a different customer base and varying demographics. Knowing where your customers are and their buying habits can help formulate a strategy.
Social channels are some of the best places to build a customer base, and they can get started even before your online store is finished. Highlight different products and show a behind-the-scenes look into how your business operates. You can also use social media to effectively promote the launch of your online store.
Paid advertising has been a common and successful way to market a product or service for a long time. And it still works if you do it properly. Targeted ads on your Facebook or Pinterest social media accounts can help build brand recognition.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and an email list can be great strategies depending on who your customer base is. Not every marketing avenue will work for your needs. Compare the different ways that you can go and figure out which will help you reach your business goals.
Time to Launch
You have put in all of the time and effort to build your online store. Everything is in place and looks ready to go. The only thing left to do is actually launch your store and make it live. It’s time to start generating sales.
There are a lot of moving parts to run an online store. Design functionality, how it performs and its navigation ability can all affect the user experience. And a negative user experience can contribute to poor customer satisfaction.
You have most likely gone over every little detail of your site hundreds of times. But here are a few things to double-check before officially launching.
- Review your website homepage and each landing page to make sure all content is accurate
- Confirm your payment processing integrations
- Test the overall navigation of your website
- Double-check that any links or forms you have included work properly
- Confirm that you have the proper product inventory listed in your store
- Test the experience of checking out and purchasing a product
There will be other things to consider and double-check depending on the type of online store you’re running. Use the checklist to help get started and make sure your eCommerce site will launch with an excellent online shopping experience.
It can be overwhelming opening an online store for everyone, even if you’re an experienced seller. How do you know which platform to use and how do you know if they have the right features for you? What happens if you spend all that time and effort building your site and it doesn’t work properly?
If you’re looking to open an online store, you have probably asked yourself those questions already. With so many different choices it can be hard to decide. But, no one knows your business better than you do.
So take some time to figure out exactly what it is that you and your business want from an online store. Determine your strengths and weaknesses and identify any opportunities and threats in the future. The more information you have the easier the choice will be.
And once you do choose an online store builder, you can use this step-by-step guide to help you build your online store. You will engage new potential customers, generate more revenue and increase brand recognition.
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