How to Start an Online Store

How to start a online store
How to start a online store

Do you wish to start an online store ? or are you considering the possibility of setting up one ? Well! You are where you are supposed to be .

We will give you a step-by-step guide where we will demonstrate how you can start an online store from scratch .  By the time you finish this guide , you will have an eComerce site that is fully working having products and a shopping cart .

The availability of modern tools make it possible for anyone to launch their individual eCommerce services with having knowledge in coding or design.

Table of contents:

  1. Deciding what you want to sell
  2. Choosing between dropshipping and selling your own products
  3. Choosing the exact products to sell
  4. Coming up with a business name
  5. Building an online store website by yourself
  6. Setting up payment methods
  7. Marketing your online store

 

 

  1. Deciding what you want to sell

The very first step is to select a niche . A niche is a specified piece of the entire market .

Sorry if this sounds confusion ,  Let’s make it simpler by breaking down this process .

  • What do you wish to sell?
  • Who is going to buy from you ?
  • Why will they buy your products or services .

The three questions below would sound obvious but that is far from it .

By clearly defining your desired customer based and knowing what they will buy from you will simplify your job later in the business . The major mistaken done by most individuals is to have business that are broad having in mind that the bigger the targeted market is , the more chances they will have in making sales . This statement is not accurate .

If the targeted market is made up of human beings , then it will be require skill and expertise to position the product in the market , promote it and distinguish it from the rest .

In general , It is a good idea to focus on one niche than setting up a general business model

It is better to select an area where you have personal interest in, passionate about , or expert knowledge . This is because it would be hard for you to venture in a field you have no clue about .

First , begin with your interest , from there navigate and define who will be the potential customers , and what will drive them to buy your products .

A good place to start from is to check your competition within the selected niche .Check how they have positioned their products , check how their customers are . Study them and build upon their experiences .

  1. Choose between Dropshipping and selling your own personal products

We will embark by explaining two popular scenarios on eCommerce:

Scenario no.1 is running an online store the traditional in the traditional manner. In this model

  • (1)You will either have to get products from a supplier or you will have to create them individually-(2) You will avail the products to the customers through the website –(3) customers will purchase the products (4)You deliver the products purchased .

Below is the dropshipping model:

  • (1)In this model , you will list the products on your website –(2) customers will purchase the products- the suppliers will deliver the products to the customers .

The advantage of the dropshipping model is that you are not obliged to personally hold the inventory . This has the implication that there are no costs associated with processes such as manufacturing the products or storing them. In fact, in this business model , everything sold  would be solely profit since you are only supposed to pay the suppliers after receiving orders from customers .

The traditional model necessitate for you to spend money buying upfront to manufacture the products or have them delivered to you . You are supposed to acquire the items for you to sell .

Alternatively, dropshipping won’t work if the products being sold are individually produced, needs personalization or customization features  before they are sold.

In general, you can choose dropshipping –especially if it is your first time staring an online store . Dropshipping is a good way to test the industry and ascertain the products you would like to sell are common to buyers . After this step , you can expand your business and choose  your own products to sell .

  1. Choose the Exact products to sell

Among the benefits of choosing dropshipping is the availability of multiple products to select covering nearly all niches.

This is good news to businesses that have just started and wouldn’t want to invest in their personal product development process. Below are the main steps:

  • Do research on your niche . Do an examination on products offered by your competitors and what are their best selling products .
  • Visit content sites on the web to determine what the targeted audience reads , this may be aspects such as products , challenges , or any issue affecting online stores.
  • Visit the niche related forum and learn what customers discuss.
  • Use keywords to search Google to search for the most relevant issue associated with the chosen niche .
  • Visit other sites such as amazon and conduct related searches .Check products that sell well.

After doing all this research , now go to popular markets and search for products you can sell.

AliExpress is the biggest market of this nature.  It is a normal eCommerce marketplace by most standards.  It also allows to develop a relationship with merchants where you offer their products as a dropshipper .  Visit the site and check for products that meet the research you had done. Also, check on products that are interesting and can be enjoyed by the selected customer base.

AliExpress online store
AliExpress online store

Our recommendation is you start with few products between 10 -50 products . This will provide the needed stock to ge your store up and running . This is important so that you do not end up overwhelmed by the daily activities within the store .

When you’re putting together products , keep the following things in mind:

  • Ensure that the chosen products can be shipped where you have chosen as target audience . Also , lowering the shipping cost is a plus .
  • Review the shipping schedule and ensure it is within the acceptable time-frames
  • When marketing, you can avoid to using brand names on products chosen (It would not be wise to depend on selling only a particular brand for instance selling Nike sneakers).
  • Most dropshipping stores have been known to set their margins at around 50% mark  . This has the implication that when looking for products that can be sold put emphasis on those that offer half price compared to the price you will sell them for .

As mentioned earlier , ensure to have a list of about 10-50 products when starting . We’ll use the list during importation of products to your real online store .

  1. Come Up With a Business Name and Register a Domain Name

Among the fun part of setting up your online store is choosing a the store name . This is because people have been known to love naming entities such as businesses .

Important to note is that the name you will choose will have a lot of meaning for future success and ability to do conduct marketing of the business in an efficient manner .  Here are some pointers to observe when searching for the store business name .  Do you have to overemphasize to other people for them to understand ?

Choose a name that can be pronounced easily

Imagine of a scenario whereby you are talking with someone over the phone and you are unable to pronounce the store name . The name should reflect the business and can be understood by other parties easily .

If you feel you have to explain the name to client , then the chosen name is complex and you will have to change to a simple name that can be pronounced with ease .

Pick a name that is easy to memorize

This is similar to the first point ,  The name should not only be easy to pronounce but can also be memorized easily .

This can be achieved this in a number of ways . You can choose a random made up name as the first solution . Also , you can combine to unique words to create a desired business name with real meaning . Ensure to come up with a name that will be original when combined to form the store name .

Choose a store name that is Brandable

The selected store name should be original for people not to mistake it with other related businesses .

An example to demonstrate this is a scenario where you wished to name your store “Pizza Den but ” there’s another business named “Pizza pan” .In such a situation , that name would not be ideal .

Pick a shorter name

The name should not be longer whereby it is a combination of more than 2-3 words.

If you make it longer, it would be difficult to remember which makes it to be less brandable.

Don’t use special numbers or characters

Avoid using characters such as underscore, dots, dashes, etc.

Pick a name that has a domain.com availability

The .com domain is the world popular and most important domain name extension. Do not settle for a name that has no .com domain. You can view the availability of the .com associated with the selected store name at Domain.com (Do not purchase it at this stage).

Register a.com domain name
Register a.com domain name
  1. Start an online store website by yourself

Now , we are ready to build the real online store

Here is the amazing part: You can do it individually , there is no need to seek professional help .Further , you do not have to compromise the quality related to the final outcome . After it your online store is complete , it would be good-looking and functional similar to those built by accomplished web-developers .

  1. Go to Bluehost and Sign Up for Web Hosting

When looking to create an online store, we highly recommend you use Bluehost as our no.1 recommended web hosting platform. In addition, Bluehost services are affordable charging a sum of $2.75 on a monthly basis.

To start, visit the website Bluehost.com then click on the main button .

Bluehost web hosting
Bluehost web hosting

Check the plans offered and choose the cheapest one on the list. Click on select

Choosing the suitable bluehost plan
Choosing the suitable bluehost plan

In the preceding steps enter the selected domain name you have chosen for your store

Bluehost: setting up domain name
Bluehost: setting up domain name

You will be given the domain name for free covering the entire year.

2

.Install WordPress

WordPress can be classified as an operating system for websites.  It is a powerful open source and easy to work with. We will use WordPress as the foundation when setting up the store.

To install WordPress, go to BlueHost user panel and log in, then go to My sites then click on Create Site.

Bluehost :WordPress installation
Bluehost :WordPress installation

There will be some basic details such as the site name and tagline to be answered on the BlueHost platform.

The next step will be domain name selection – BlueHost will ask you for this to verify the address you would like to register on the site.

Bluehost: Choosing a domain name
Bluehost: Choosing a domain name

Click on next for WordPress to be installed.

After a few minutes, you will see a confirmation screen and you will be in a position to log in to your WordPress panel.

3. Install WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a plugin used by WordPress that it’s ecommerce functionality. This plugin is essential as it will enable you to launch an online store. It is open source making it free similar to WordPress.

To initiate installation, Log in to WordPress admin panel and visit Plugins – Add New (From the Sidebar menu)

Type in “WooCommerce’ in the search option, then do the installation and  activation of the plugin .

WooCommerce installation
WooCommerce installation

WooCommerce will then guide you through the first essential steps for your store operations.

Steps in setting up WooCommerce
Steps in setting up WooCommerce

4. Add your products

At this stage, you will be required to add the initial products on the store’s catalog.

If you intend to offer you own products, you can go ahead and add those in Products – Add Product. You will see the screen below.

Adding products to WooCommerce store
Adding products to WooCommerce store

Here, there is space for product description, product name and other important information such as shipping details.

If you choose to dropship, you will need an additional plugin installed. This plugin will enable you to import products from suppliers. Dropship.me is a good solution for new stores. You can begin using it for free then upgrade it to paid plans if you desire to import more products.

Dropship.me
Dropship.me

After installing Dropship.me, you will access more than 50,000 products you can choose from for your dropshipping business, AliExpress is a good example.

5.Choose a Theme

The last step will be to choose a theme (a design package) for the store.

An amazing factor about WordPress is that it provides thousands of themes throughout the web .

That being said, we will give emphasis to three themes that have specific benefits .

  • This is a theme that is used officially by WooCommerce. It is easy to start with and possess all the basic features. It has a basic design and it might just be what you need .
  • This theme looks great and works out for many scenarios. It has an optimized design which makes it suited for an ecommerce store.
  • This is a theme that has A swiss-army-like type of theme that has multiple starter sites and settings for you to exploit. If you like to experiment with things then use this one .

Note. If you wish to learn more tips associated with installation of an online store using Bluehost and eCommerce ,  you will find an in-depth guide on the topic here .

6.Set Up Payment Methods

The last part of the puzzle when starting an online store is being able to accept payment from customers.

By default, WooCommerce makes it possible for you to get payments from platforms such as PayPal. There is not much needed for you to enable this payment system. This was likely taken care of during the initial phases of WooCommerce installation.

PayPal
PayPal

That said, you can select other payment platforms, or even use can choose different ones to act as alternatives payment systems simultaneously. A good reason to have the alternatives is that you may find a client to be more inclined towards one payment platform than the other. So having a more integrated into the store will generate more sales.

Among the common additional payment methods associated with WooCommerce are Square and Stripe.  These two serve as the best choices for those intending to use credit cards.

It is free to get started with both Square and Stripe. However, as associated with every payment method, there are additional fees charged on individual transactions made.

It is simple to get a new payment plan installed in your ecommerce store .These payment plans are delivered as WordPress plugins. They can be installed in a similar manner as  WooCommerce installation.

After that, individual payment systems have different setup processes. In most cases .  Though all you have to do is to sign up for an account  make ensure to verify your details .

  1. Start Marketing Your Online Store

There are different activities you can engage in to ensure your website products and services have reached the desired audience.  Here, we will only focus on four –this four will work well in the year 2020 and beyond.

Influencer Marketing

This is a new marketing technique for promoting a store. It is common on Instagram .

Below is how it works :

  1. Find people fitting your chosen niche of whatever reason .
  2. Contact them and inquire their rates for promoting products similar to yours. It is important to check their fun base following and ask for the number of engagements they get on similar posts.
  3. Make agreements of two or three promotional posts, and give them the product.

Paid Ads

Paid have low chance of failing , for example , if you have potential market for a product and you use ads to target , you are guaranteed to make sales.

Google Adwords is the most popular platform where you can advertise products. The platform is easy to use and Google has its own guidelines when using the platform highlighted below.

Social Media Marketing

While Instagram has evolved to be the number one social media network currently, this does not imply that it is the only place where your store ads can be displayed .

In fact, you should have presence in all the platforms where your potential clients interact with.  In the current times, this will imply social media networks. Among them include, Pintrest , twitter among others.

You should use a similar approach when on these social media platforms and convey your message creatively .

Among the first things to do is to carry out a research on how store promotion is conducted . Take notes highlighting tactics and strategies and choose what you can adopt to better your situation . Pay more attention on the following .

  • The nature of messages posted
  • How frequent they post
  • How often they do direct product promotion
  • Their general voice and how the messages elicit your feelings

The preceding step will be to set a publication calendar in place and make preparation for social media post early . You can use tools like buffer to push the posts.

Content Marketing and SEO

Nowadays, SEO and content marketing have become the most effective methods in website promotions (Including ecommerce stores).

The principle behind content marketing is simple: People should be given insights on topics that are related to the business and create interest on the products you aim to sell.

For example , you can give people information on winter socks if that is what you intend to sell . The advice can be relayed using a blog . By individual reading your blog , they will get an introduction to your store and the products available in your catalog .

This principle above is also applicable to any niche or market.  Establish what individuals need to know and avail content that gives them that information.

When doing so, ensure to do content optimization to make it rank high on Google. Statistics show that Google is responsible for about 94% of total organic traffic on the web.

Below is more information on how to get more traffic to your online store or website using SEO?

Summary

As illustrated on the tutorial, setting up an online store is an easy task . You need to carefully plan your process and use modern tools such as WooCommerce and WordPress.

Just to recap , the steps have been highlighted below once more :

  1. Make a decision on what you would like to sell
  2. Choose whether you will dropship or you will sell your own merchandise
  3. Choose the specified product to sell
  4. Select a business name and do domain registration
  5. Start your online store
  6. Avail payment gateways
  7. Do marketing of your online store

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