Selling online used to be a real drag.
Running an eCommerce store on auto-pilot from your bed was simply not an option 10 years ago. Luckily, it is now.
You can get your shop up and running in no time, using world-class website builders that require no coding or design skills.
You can focus on the important things, like running jaw-dropping marketing campaigns and featuring exciting products in your store, without having to sweat over coding, hosting, or SEO.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide on how to start an online store in record time.
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Do you know why all of the eCommerce gurus go on and on about the importance of picking the right niche? Because it’s actually really important if you want to run a successful online store.
You’ll have a really tough time making your online store stand out and grow if you don’t have a clear niche.
With big multinational companies dominating many markets, there is no way to launch a general store and make lots of money. But don’t worry – that’s why effective niches are so helpful.
A niche is basically a fancy way of saying what your particular specialty or focus within a bigger industry is.
Let’s say you are wondering how to set up an online store that sells toys and other kid-related products.
You could try and include every imaginable toy, from baby books to toy soldiers and outdoor paddling pools in your shop, but you’re unlikely to be successful.
Here are a few reasons why it’d quickly become a train-wreck:
So, take our advice and when you think you want to start an online store, start small and be specific.
Going back to our children’s toy store example, perhaps you’d like to focus on baby books? If you make that your niche and really excel at what you do, you can take the big toy stores.
How? It’s simple, really:
Now that you have a clear idea of what niche you will specialize in, you can move onto thinking about trends, clients, and competition.
Consider the following:
Getting answers to these questions will help you understand what customers are interested in right now and why some companies perform better than others.
You should look closely at the top products in your field and what customers say they love about them.
Ideally, you want to sell products that are in demand, not products that you find cool but others have no use for.
Pay attention to what customers are disliking about the product, too. You should sell a better product than your competitors, so learning from others’ mistakes is valuable.
You can also analyze which search keywords and terms people have been using. Knowing what people are looking for will help you fulfill their needs.
Be sure to also think seasonally. It might not be the best idea to sell Christmas decorations in the middle of summer, even if you have the best looking tinsel out there.
It’s a logical next step to profile your ideal customer. In order to understand your target audience, start by asking yourself questions like:
At this stage, it’s okay to make some assumptions, but use product reviews and search trends to get accurate information.
Once you have an idea of what your ideal buyer looks like, get a hold of some real-life representatives of your target audience.
Let’s say you’re starting an online store that sells fishing gear.
Your ideal customer might be a middle-class male, aged 40+, who’s into fishing and works at a job that requires university education. He has a small family and lives in the suburbs, probably has two cars, and a considerable sum of their mortgage left to pay.
Now, you might even know someone who fits the description perfectly. Talk to this person.
If you’re not able to talk to your ideal customer in person, you can run online surveys or a focus group.
Go to hobbyist forums and ask to join a Facebook group or two. The more you know about your buyer, the better you will be able to solve the problems they face with your products.
The last thing to know is who you’re up against in the market.
By having a niche, you should be able to narrow down your competition to a handful of other online stores.
Next, you need to get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors by:
Wait, why are we not building an eCommerce store already?
You’ve got your niche, you know your products, and who you will be selling to. Isn’t marketing something you think about when you’re just about ready to start selling?
No, it’d be too late by then.
Having a clear idea of how you will get your online shop noticed in the world of online selling takes more planning than you might realize.
Remember: your marketing strategy will determine your sale numbers and, ultimately, your bottom line. You definitely want to get marketing right and that takes planning.
Since the next step in starting an online store is to choose a business model, you need to know what marketing channels will be most useful for you.
Building your online shop on a platform that doesn’t support SEO-driven marketing, for example, could render your meticulous keyword research pointless.
Having a clear idea for how you will market your business from the beginning will help you pick the right eCommerce platform too.
To avoid going wrong, let’s go over the two main ways you can promote your business online.
Setting up a search engine marketing optimisation strategy is simple.
First, you find the keywords (the exact words people type into the search field when looking for something on Google) for your products. Then, optimize your pages for those keywords.
This involves having high-quality content on your website, using the right keywords in headings, and making sure that the search intent is answered.
All of this can propel you to the top of the search results, which is a great place to be if you want to drum up new business.
With a good SEO strategy, people who are looking for the products you offer will find you more easily.
Rather than having irrelevant traffic coming to your eCommerce store from all over the internet, you should focus on grabbing the attention of people who are already searching for your products instead.
An SEO marketing strategy is great for eCommerce for these reasons:
But like all good things in life, there are some cons to picking SEO as your main marketing strategy.
So, an SEO marketing strategy is great if you have time, don’t have a big budget, and have lots of patience.
It’s particularly good for niches you can create a lot of related content around.
For example, you’re likely to find plenty of topics to discuss if you have an eCommerce store for arts and crafts supplies. You can write blogs about seasonal crafts to do with children, different techniques, or the newest trends.
You get the idea.
This is one of the most traditional and well-known marketing strategies online, but it’s not free.
In short, you create an ad and buy ad space on websites where you want it to be shown.
The biggest and the most popular websites which offer ad space are social media platforms.
You’ve probably seen plenty of ads on Facebook, on the right-hand side, or slotted in between your friends’ posts as Sponsored content.
You might have also seen social media influencers create content to promote a particular product or a brand.
The popularity of social media advertising stems from the sheer number of people using each platform, the wealth of information the platforms have about their users, and the amount of time users spend on the sites.
Brands and businesses need to be where their audience is and try to target their ads so they’re likely to be seen by potential customers.
This type of marketing works especially well for products and services that are:
With paid ads, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you’re planning to run your campaign successfully.
It can get costly. Running ads isn’t free; you need to be willing to invest some money upfront, without really having a guarantee that you will turn a profit.
Plus, it takes time to create, set up, and optimize your paid ad campaigns. If you’re looking for a quick fix – sorry to disappoint you.
Opting for paid ads as your main marketing strategy generally works well if your product is something you could sell at a shopping mall.
Alternatively, you could combine a paid ad or two with your SEO strategy, if you’re already aiming to rank for particular keywords.
Having an ad showing at the top of the page can be a great way to get a hold of people who are already looking for products that you happen to sell.
You have a clear idea of what the main focus of your online business will be and how you will get the word out about your eCommerce website.
Now, we can move onto thinking about the day-to-day of your business.
Since your shop will be online, one major decision to make has to do with your inventory. There are two main business models that work well with an eCommerce website.
You could either contact manufacturers directly, buy a certain amount of the products you want to sell, and make use of your spare room or rent some storage space to warehouse your stock.
Another popular way to get started with your online business is to partner with a dropshipper. This means that you collect orders from customers and send them to the supplier.
The supplier then ships the order directly to the customer. This way, you don’t have to worry about physical inventory or the management of the supply chain at all.
Both methods have their pros and cons, so let’s look at them both in detail to understand which works best for your online store.
If you’re old school or just love to really see your product ‘in the flesh,’ you might prefer keeping a real inventory and handling the shipping process yourself.
Buying your stock might be good for your business, if you:
There are, however, some drawbacks to keeping your own stock:
So, keeping your own stock might be the right way to go about your online store if you’re obsessed about perfecting your brand and want to have full control over the entire selling process.
Dropshipping has made it easier for people to try their hands at running an eCommerce store.
Those who swear by dropshipping note that it:
Dropshipping has made online entrepreneurship much more accessible to anyone wishing to create an online shop.
Of course, depending on your niche and focus, dropshipping might pose drawbacks like:
So, while dropshipping has leveled the eCommerce playing field and is a great way to get started fast, you have to work really hard to keep your customers happy.
It’s also not the best solution for those wanting to build a big brand.
Right, we’re finally onto the fun and creative stuff. Well, almost.
Because while choosing your business name is fun, it’s also something you shouldn’t gloss over. You don’t want to end up hating the name of your company in a few years’ time.
Good business names can be tricky to come up with. So, using a checklist can help you get a clearer idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Pay attention to these things:
After you’ve come up with a shortlist of 3 to 5 names, it’s time to sleep on them and return to them the next day.
To avoid becoming blind to your own genius, ask for other people’s opinions. Run a poll among your friends and family, and ask why they would choose a particular name.
Once you have your shiny new name picked out, you can get on with the other tasks that come with starting an online store and a business.
For starters, you want to register your domain name and sort out your web hosting.
Look for a web hosting provider that offers high uptime and has solid security features like SSL certificates. You don’t want to scare anyone off from making a purchase on your site that doesn’t have a secure checkout process.
Alternatively, make things easier for yourself and pick an eCommerce platform that takes care of both your domain and your hosting for you, like Zyro.
Now that you’re officially online, the next step is registering your new business with the local authorities as a business entity.
The process differs from country to country, but it usually involves filling out some forms and deciding on the legal makeup of your business.
You can either go for a sole proprietorship, meaning that there’s no real difference between you as an individual and your business.
Tax is usually a lot easier to handle as a sole proprietor, but here’s a word of warning: if your business takes on any debt, you’ll be personally liable.
Alternatively, you can opt for setting up a limited liability company (LLC). This way your personal assets are not affected by a bad business year, since your company is a separate entity from you as a person. You will need to file additional taxes.
Look for a good accountant at this stage too. You can save a lot of money by letting a professional look after your tax declarations and bookkeeping.
Got to here? Great.
You can take out your sketching pad and start brainstorming your newly named business’s look.
While the choices might feel endless, you probably have an idea of what you like already, without even realizing it:
Whether you learned that you’re a sucker for all things green or that you place real value on companies that have a laid-back vibe, you have a solid place to start.
While it’s okay to borrow good ideas, you shouldn’t be touching anything that’s trademarked or has its rights fully reserved. This includes not just visual elements like logos, but also certain words used in trademarked business names.
The next step is to think about the mission your brand will have and what values you want to communicate to the world.
A good mission statement should be able to act as a stand-alone tagline to sum up your business personality.
Your brand values should also be reflected in your design.
If you want to provide an excellent customer experience, but your website is confusing and hard to navigate, or your marketing campaigns make little sense, your brand values will seem like empty promises.
Don’t diminish the trust your customers have in you and which you’re working hard to build.
When thinking about your branding, focus on things like:
A good way to see how your brand actually works in practise is to get your hands on a product sample.
If you handle your own stock, you need to talk to your manufacturers. They are usually happy to send you a sample of your product, but you’ll probably have to pay for it.
Being able to see how the packaging looks and whether there are any faults in the product itself is extremely valuable. It will help you eliminate potential complaints before they happen.
Meanwhile, as a dropshipper, getting hold of a sample product might not be as easy, and it depends on the provider you’ve partnered up with.
While you can’t have much say in the packaging, it’s still worth seeing what your product looks like and how it’s packed.
OK – now we’re really talking. It’s time to set up your digital shop.
There are plenty of different ways to go about setting up your eCommerce store:
We’d recommend going for a website builder, especially for your first online store. But why, we hear you ask? That’s because it’ll save you time and money.
Developing something from scratch takes a lot of time. Plus, if you pay someone to develop a website for you, it will cost you. Depending on the complexity of your web project, you might be looking at four or five-digits.
A website builder also lets you have full control. You don’t want to rely on a third party every time you want to change the product description on your website, do you?
When you’re the one creating the website, you can change your website as often you want.
You want to kick-start your marketing campaigns and have your beautifully branded business visible for all to see, pronto.
After all, you’ve probably been bragging about it to your friends and family ever since you picked the perfect business name.
How to start an online business is just as much about saving precious time and having fun as it is about hard work.
A website builder is a natural choice to make this happen as fast as possible.
Here are a few major things you should find in a high-quality website builder:
Your shop should also support major payment methods, from credit cards to PayPal.
With a top builder, like Zyro, the process is simple: you pick a template, customize it to your liking, add your products, and click to Publish.
Your eCommerce shop relies on good product photography to sell your products, so don’t cut any corners when it comes to your product pages.
If you’re dropshipping, use mockup generators to give people an idea of how your products look like ‘in the flesh.’
If you’re managing your own inventory or have ordered samples of your products, set up your own DIY photography studio. With a bit of research on lighting and photography angles, you can deliver surprisingly good looking results.
Include clear and SEO-friendly descriptions of your products, and show both studio and action photos of your products. Maybe even do some product photo collages to create upselling opportunities: choose an item and build a collection of items around it.
It could be a dress that one can match up with some accessories, a hat, and shoes. Or pick a gardening tool and create a full-blown gardening scene around it, including some plant pots and a watering can in the image too.
Drum roll, please: it’s time to celebrate your shop’s official launch.
Take the night off, put your feet up, and relax. You’ve taken the first step and figured out how to build an online store from scratch.
Keep up the momentum and put your marketing strategy into action.
Start producing outstanding content for your blog and email marketing campaigns. Make sure to track how your most important keywords are ranking. Ask your friends and family, and their friends, to share the word of your eCommerce store.
And, before you know it, you’ll start hearing about your eCommerce store in conversations, both online and offline.
Why not set yourself up for a successful future – today?