Online Store – How To Start An Online Store In 6 Steps
You need more than just a great idea to start an online store; you also need to market it well to reach as many people as you can.
If you do it correctly, the sales will begin to flow. If you make a mistake, all you’ll have left is a time-consuming hobby.
I’ll cover how to set up an online store quickly and how to draw in your first customers in this article.
Top-Rated Ecommerce Website Builders To Create An Online Store
An eCommerce website builder is required if you want to start an online store. Here are your top choices.
- Wix eCommerce — best for opening a store quickly
- BigCommerce — Best website creator for multichannel sales
- Squarespace — top-notch website templates
- Square Online — Best integration with brick-and-mortar
- Shopify — The most flexible e-commerce site builder
- Weebly — for small businesses, the most affordable
- Shift4Shop — Best enterprise-level builder at rock-bottom prices
You can read our full reviews of each eCommerce website builder here.
Steps To Start An Online Store
The sooner you start, the sooner you can pick up on the trends that really matter to your market.
1. Pick Your Marketing Strategy
Ensure your marketing strategy successfully achieves your company’s short- and long-term goals. The success or failure of your online store will depend on how well you choose your marketing strategy, even though it may not seem difficult.
Generally, successful online stores use one of the following three tactics:
- Paid marketing
- Platform marketing
Let’s discuss them in more detail.
SEO For Online Stores
Finding keywords for the goods you want to sell and getting your website to rank in Google are the first two steps in this marketing strategy. In this instance, the organic results for IKEA, Target, and Amazon for the search term “bookcase” (those that appear below the carousel and the ads) are all excellent.
It follows that these websites, where bookcases can be purchased, will be recommended to the daily hundreds of people who conduct bookcase searches online.
You can earn a lot of money with your online store if this strategy is successful for your company.
SEO has a few benefits that are ideal for a business:
- The traffic streams are very dependable, which means dependable revenue for your business.
- Search traffic usually has the highest volume of traffic of any traffic source.
- Even at scale, search traffic can be enormously profitable.
Dependable, high volume, and profitable. It’s everything you want.
One major disadvantage is that SEO takes a lot of time and effort. Even if you’re aiming for a product category with no competitors, it can take three to six months for your website to appear on a keyword’s first or second page of search results.
Traffic volume will be relatively low until you get your page into the top 1-3 rankings for a keyword. If your category is only moderately competitive, it might take years to get there.
If you choose SEO as your online store’s marketing strategy, you’ll concentrate on three things.:
- enhancing the keyword optimization of your product pages.
- Building useful and engaging content for non-product keywords in your category. This helps your product pages rank.
- Making your content so good that people will link to it as a resource.
When playing the SEO game, only two things matter content and links. So that’s where you’ll spend the bulk of your time.
Paid Marketing For Online Stores
Some online stores perform remarkably well with paid marketing. This includes paid search results on Google, Facebook, and Instagram.
As part of paid marketing, you purchase ad placements. But is paid promotion suitable for your business? If your product is the kind that could be displayed in a mall, paid advertising is a great option, in my opinion.
Currently, the two most widely used platforms for paid marketing are Facebook and Instagram. Online shops have gained popularity over the past few years, especially on Instagram. But think about how someone feels as they scroll through their Facebook or Instagram feed.
They take a moment to relax, laughing at a few pictures and sending a few quick messages to some friends. They’re enjoying themselves. like how shoppers behave in malls.
Most shoppers go to the mall for fun, although some look for a specific item. Malls have known this for a while, and stores have modified their layouts to improve the browsing experience.
A paid advertisement on Facebook or Instagram will likely be successful for products that sell well in a mall. These products typically are:
- Consumer products. Business products have a much harder time on these channels.
- Highly visual and eye-catching. This is why apparel companies do so well in malls and have been aggressive on Instagram in the last few years.
- Simple to understand. The offer needs to be understood within 3 seconds. If you have a more complicated sales process requiring more explanation, people will have scrolled past your ad long before you can make the sale.
- An impulse-friendly price point. If the price is too high that people must carefully think through the decision, they’ll skip your ad and quickly forget it.
If your product meets all these criteria, you should consider going the paid marketing route.
Platform Marketing For Online Stores
This is a completely different direction than the two methods above.
Instead of creating your own store and using a type of marketing to acquire traffic, you’ll leverage one of the main ecommerce platforms:
At any of these three, success is undoubtedly possible. I advise most people to target Amazon. Because Amazon has such a large audience, you have more opportunities, and almost every product niche is already covered there.
The main exception is if you run some craft business, like creating your own bookends to sell to customers. Since the audience is more likely to be interested in handcrafted items in that situation, Etsy is a better fit. If you do a lot of buying and selling, eBay remains excellent.
However, there is much more potential on Amazon if you consistently produce the same kinds of goods. Any platform you decide to use will serve as your marketing channel.
On that platform, you must first create your store and add all of your products. Second, you’ll do everything you can to optimize your store so that the platform wants to highlight your products.
Optimizing your store usually involves focusing on two areas:
- Targeting your product pages to specific terms searched for within the platform
- Getting as many 5-star reviews on your products as possible
As you improve your search terms and reviews, more people will see your products on that platform, which will produce more sales for you.
How To Choose The Best Type Of Online Store For You
The type of online store you open will be directly tied to your marketing strategy. Those options include:
- SEO — Focusing on content and links, which requires time and patience.
- Paid Marketing — You’re paying for exposure. This strategy requires money upfront, an easy-to-understand product, a friendly price point, and about three to six months of work to pay off.
- Existing platforms like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay — You’ll focus on winning the search terms within that marketplace and stacking up 5-star reviews. Success here requires a commitment to that platform.
I strongly recommend you pick one of these and build your entire business around it. That’s right, just one.
Why can’t you do more than one?
I’ve been guilty of the same error so many times. After ten years of working in online marketing alongside some of the most well-known practitioners, I’ve noticed one overarching pattern: companies that excel at one marketing area tend to struggle in other areas.
Here’s why it’s hard to be good at multiple types of marketing:
- Every marketing channel is completely unique. While some marketing principles apply across all channels, you’ll have to learn all the tactics from the ground up. Constantly trying to learn new channels really slows you down.
- Online marketing channels constantly change. What works today won’t work next year. Even though I’ve spent a decade doing SEO, I still feel like I’m relearning it yearly. If you’re focused on a single marketing channel, you’ll have a much easier time keeping up.
- Online marketing channels are power laws. This means most profits go to a few big players, and everyone else fights for scraps. You won’t be making much if you’re not one of the winners.
You’ll move through the learning curve more quickly if you stick with one marketing channel. You’ll start making real money with your online store sooner, the faster you open up your marketing channel. Don’t skip this important step because it’s important. Making the appropriate decision here will lay the groundwork for your online store.
2. Find The Right Product Niche For Your Online Store
After choosing your marketing strategy, picking your product niche is your most important decision.
One tip: Avoid launching straight into product categories. Yes, having a personal interest in the industry benefits business development. However, it’s also a simple trap.
You might select a market that won’t enable a successful company. No matter how much time and effort you put into it, it won’t matter. The business won’t be successful if there is no demand.
Here are some of the things I look for in a good product category for an online store:
Avoid Picking A Category That’s Too Niche
To stand out from the competition is a common marketing best practice. Furthermore, having this sound advice is a huge advantage. Finding a genuine advantage that the market will pay for is another difficult task. There are countless ways to distinguish a particular product, but only 1-2 are crucial.
Does the best-selling toothbrush holder on Amazon have to be weird and different? In no way. It must be straightforward, user-friendly, dependable, reasonably priced, and have many positive Amazon reviews. I’m done now.
Find a category with competitors who aren’t monopolizing their marketing channel rather than attempting to set yourself apart from every other product in your category.
Do all of the best products’ Amazon reviews have poor ratings? The SEO results are they of poor quality? Are there no businesses supporting a product with significant advertising spending? If the answer is yes, you can use your marketing to outbid them.
A Moderate Price Is Key
Avoid any product categories with excessively low prices.
After all, to survive, you’ll need to sell 100,000 items annually at a profit of just $1 per sale.
You’ll have about $50–$60K per year to live on after taxes and overhead. A lot of work goes into selling 100,000 of anything. It’s awful, right? Possibly not. Could it be improved?
Let’s now assume that you sell something for $80 and make a profit of $40 per sale. You only need to sell 2,500 items for a yearly profit of $100,000. It’s much easier to handle that. But you also don’t want to sell something at a price that is too high. Buyer behaviour adjusts to changing prices. Prospects want more justification.
They might even request a totally different purchasing procedure.
How many people buy vehicles without first giving them a test drive? very few. Before making a big purchase like that, they want to see the car and speak to a real person. Due to their higher price point, cars demand a lot of additional work and sales expertise to be sold successfully.
Finding a product that you can sell for $50 to $100 is what we advise. It is high enough for you to see a quick increase in sales.
However, it’s also low enough that making a purchase will be simple. It’s critical to accurately estimate the costs associated with the product you want to sell in order to determine the appropriate price. A lot of research is necessary to determine the right price for your products.
Calculate the cost of purchasing, storing, and shipping the goods. Look at the competition to see what price points you will be up against. You will need to sell twice as many items to reach the $100,000 per year we mentioned if you forecast making a $40 profit but actually only make $20.
When looking for a product with a reasonable price, it is crucial to research your costs thoroughly.
Make Sure There’s Demand.
By conducting some simple research through the marketing channel of your choice, you can determine whether there is a demand. Google Ads has a Keyword Planner that provides information on monthly Google search volume for SEO.
A business cannot likely be founded on a keyword that receives less than 1,000 searches per month for your product. Amazon is the same. It’s probably too small if you have trouble finding items with more than 100 reviews in your category.
Nowadays, I’d much rather choose a field in which I have no experience but which has actual demand. That’s much preferable to later realize that a passion of mine has no market.
3. Pick A Name For Your Brand
Heads up: This is a TOUGH step.
That’s because many of the desirable names have already been taken. You’ll feel you’re running into dead ends left and right because the best names and websites have already been trademarked.
You might be tempted to make a sacrifice. You might even want to go with a less-than-ideal name to get started.
Do not do this.
It’s 100% worth the effort to find a good one. It will pay off.
Here’s the naming checklist I use:
- Easy to spell. I never want any friction when people are trying to find my site.
- 3 words or fewer. I like to keep it as short as possible so it’s easier to remember. One or two words is ideal, three is still good…more than that is too many.
- Pass the bar test. I should be able to say the name in a noisy bar without repeating it. That’s a great sign that it’s easy to understand. This is huge for word-of-mouth marketing later.
- Can get the .com domain. Every online store needs a .com. It’s become too much of a standard. Some folks use weird domains like company.online or company.io. In my opinion, this causes problems later because whoever owns company.com will know how valuable it is once you try to buy it. I either buy the domain early or find one that’s instantly available.
- Relevant to your category. Make sure the name relates to your product category in some way.
- No trademark conflicts. Any corporate law firm can do a quick check for you on this. Since legal time is expensive, find 3–5 name options that check all the above items. Then have an attorney check for the trademarks all at the same time. It’s rare to not have at least one of them work.
Here is a comprehensive guide on choosing and purchasing a domain name. Once you’ve decided on a name, use your domain registrar to secure the domain.
Alternatively, if you’re purchasing a domain from someone else, transfer it to the domain registrar you intend to use in the long run.
4. Open Your Online Store
This is an essential step if you’re pursuing an SEO or paid marketing strategy. Why? Simple: How much of your traffic converts into buyers depends greatly on the quality of your website. We advise using Hostinger to ensure you create the highest-quality site possible.
We really do like Shopify and Bigcommerce; it’s not that we don’t like them. Hostinger makes setting up your online store as simple as possible and offers a great deal on WooCommerce (starting at $3.99 per month). Hostinger provides a truly plug-and-play solution, even if you’ve never built a website before, much less an online store.
Even if you’re new to ecommerce, you can start adding your first products less than an hour after signing up. Here is a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your WooCommerce store with Hostinger. There, the procedure is much more thorough.
You probably want something like Shopify or BigCommerce built to scale if you intend to carry thousands of items or have multiple inventory locations (brick-and-mortar stores, warehouses, etc.). Although those two platforms are better suited for handling larger operations, WooCommerce is still a good option.
However, running WooCommerce on Hostinger is all people need at a much lower cost when opening their first store. Every ecommerce platform I’ve suggested has integrated marketing resources.
Additionally, you can link your online store to marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, as well as social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest. Let’s discuss how to get some online foot traffic into your new store.
5. Do A 60-day Marketing Burst
When your online store first launches, there’s a good chance that you’re starting small. Finding quick victories will help you gain momentum in these early stages, so look for them. You still need your first review, first Google ranking page, and first paid-for advertisement purchase.
Don’t stress about scaling, effectiveness, or optimizing your systems in the initial days. Find simple ways to gain momentum instead, even if it means putting forth a lot of personal outreach and work.
These tactics will give you some quick victories, but they are obviously not long-term viable. Make a list of 50 ideas you could implement independently after researching your marketing channel. Create a 60-day Marketing Bust after giving those ideas a priority.
The goal is to submit as many ideas as possible during those 60 days. Don’t waste too much time or effort on this. You don’t need to work 90-hour weeks and exhaust yourself.
But be prepared to roll up your sleeves and work hard. Your first few sales should be made by the end of this 60-day period. That sales stream should be sufficient to enable you to launch your marketing flywheel.
6. Build Your Marketing Flywheel
Once you’ve gained some traction, it’s time to start creating the marketing flywheel that will expand your company continuously without your direct involvement in every task. Describe a flywheel. It is a large wheel in an engine that aids in generating and storing energy.
We’re applying the same idea to your marketing strategy to generate significant growth. Many of your first product reviews on Amazon will need to be solicited personally initially.
But that cannot continue. Instead, search for marketing strategies to generate Amazon reviews without your involvement.
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