More and more people are hopping onto the eCommerce train. Online ventures give entrepreneurs an opportunity to start a new business and generate additional income while not sacrificing the security of their day job.
Of course, for many of these small business owners, the dream is to one day be able to operate their online business full time and retire from the 9-5. But, with all businesses, there is an inherent risk, and online stores are no exception.
When you approach the business world with a plan in place, it paves the way for eCommerce success. Below, you’ll find the steps that we recommend that you take, in order to start your online store.
Define your niche
In order to build your eCommerce store, you need to identify what types of products you want to specialize in.
There are several factors that you’ll want to take into consideration when selecting your niche.
- How much competition is out there?
- Are you too specific?
- Is there a demand for your product?
- Do you care about it?
Your niche is something you are going to spend a lot of time with, and something you are going to get to know a lot about. Choose something you care about, so your customers will want to care about it too.
Developing your website
It’s time to create your digital footprint and name your business. Of course, if you already have a business name, you won’t necessarily need to create one from scratch, but you may find that when it comes to choosing your domain name it’s already taken.
Select a domain name that is easy to remember, is limited to alphabetical characters, and one that is easy to read.
The next step is choosing your web hosting and eCommerce platform. If you are new to eCommerce, there is an option that streamlines the process and simplifies eCommerce. These are the ecommerce platforms option. Choosing a hosted platform option allows you to use your own business name, provides regular monthly updates that require little to no effort on your part, the best in security options, and regular backups, so you don’t miss a thing. When it comes to selecting the perfect web hosting for your needs, you can choose from various options such as shared hosting, VPS hosting with cpanel, dedicated server hosting, etc.
Once you’ve selected your web host and eCommerce platform, you get to design your website.
Consider the pages that you use the most when visiting a site for the first time (about us, FAQ, and of course the site’s landing page). Those are the pages you’ll want to include, at a minimum.
Your hosted platform will provide a number of different themes to choose from. The theme you select is the overall design of your site, so be sure to choose one that is compatible with mobile devices.
Select your product
Unless you are manufacturing your own product, finding a supplier is essential to operating your online business. When working with suppliers make sure to communicate, stay away from suppliers that charge exorbitant fees, and sample the products (especially when drop shipping).
Target products that retail for $100 or more. Higher priced products increase your overall payout and require fewer sales to break even.
Once you have set up your site, selected and uploaded your product, and double-checked for errors, it’s time to launch your online store. Be sure to test the different pages, as well as make a trial purchase so that you can anticipate any issues your customers may have. Additionally, you’ll want to double check links to be sure that they direct your customer to where they want to go.
Marketing your online store
Marketing is going to be one of the most important aspects of operating your online business.
In order for potential customers to find your online store, you need to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO needs to be incorporated into every page on your website in order to show up in search engine responses. Three ways that you can use SEO to make your online store a success is to incorporate keywords, quality content, and encourage other sites to link back to your website. The latter can be done by incorporating a blog that has quality content for your user.
Marketing can come in many shapes and forms. You may consider social media marketing, paid advertising, referral marketing, and email marketing. You will find that using one method of marketing alone may not be effective, but when multiple avenues are explored at a given time, results are more visible.
- Social Media Marketing: Facebook, for example, is a powerful tool for a small business. While there are paid advertisements available on this platform, the social media page should be used primarily for communicating with customers. Remember, the more your customers interact with you on social media, the more potential customers are going to see your posts.
- Paid Advertising: Google AdWords means that you can get your business at the top of the search results. Sure, there will be a little “ad” logo next to your result, but it gets your product in front of potential customers – this is vital when you are first starting out.
- Referral Marketing: When you get your customers talking, it means less work for you. Offer your customer a discount for referring a friend to your store. Bonus? The friend gets the same discount. Referral marketing can generate a powerful buzz around your business..
- Email Marketing: With email, you can reach customers that don’t use social media, and may not shop online often. Different emails serve different purposes in the eCommerce world. There are the abandoned cart emails (asking them to come back), newsletters (sharing what’s new), and even autoresponders (which kick in when the customer performs certain tasks).
Online stores aren’t for the faint of heart. They take hard work and dedication, but it pays off in the end. Ecommerce provides people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to own their own business an opportunity to participate in the American dream. Starting an online store can offer you new levels of independence and freedom, to a degree you won’t find in a 9-5 job.
Originally published Jun 01, 2020, updated Sep 10, 2023