- By 2021, eCommerce sales are projected to make up 17.5% of retail sales worldwide
- When starting a business from home, avoid niches that are dominated by established eCommerce giants or that have already become a household name
- Your brand name and logo should have a meaning that is directly related to the products you sell or a story behind the brand, to make it easy for your customers to identify, remember, and develop trust with your business
If you’re a budding entrepreneur who has spent weeks, months, or years dreaming about starting your own online store, now is the time!
By 2021, eCommerce sales are projected to make up 17.5% of retail sales worldwide, and with the recent acceleration of more people shopping online, there are new opportunities just around the corner.
Starting any business comes with certain risks, and requires proper planning, but these days, with the right tools, technology stack, and eCommerce model, you can launch your business with little startup capital or even any inventory.
So, if you are among those wondering about the next steps for starting your online store, this article will be your guide, and maybe even help you make that first sale on day 1!
Here are the 9 steps you need to take to get started.
Table of Contents
1. Select Industry or Niche
The first thing to set you out in your journey on how to start an online store is to brainstorm and select the strategic eCommerce niche that your business will specialize in. The type of industry you select depends on your target audience and the type of products you want to sell.
Do you want to sell tech supplies and electronics, Kitchen supplies, male fashion, children's toys, or pet products? Which market niche do you want to cater to? This is an essential step when figuring out how to start your own online store because you can't sell everything to everyone.
Therefore, you need to find a niche for your business options and decide the type of products you want to sell and who you want to sell to. The best way to do this is through market research. Google trends will be your friend when choosing a niche.
When starting a business from home, avoid niches that are dominated by established eCommerce giants or that have already become a household name. You will find it hard to compete. The best niches and products are the ones that don't evoke much brand loyalty but are steadily growing in popularity.
2. Select Business Type or Model
The next step in solving the puzzle of how to start an online store is to select your business type or model. Simply put, this is the eCommerce fulfillment model you want to leverage, and it is determined by your business goals and the initial capital you are willing to put in.
You have the following options:
- Dropshipping: if you have been thinking of starting a business with no money, or how to start an online store without inventory and make a quick buck off eCommerce, then dropshipping is the best type of business for you. Read our article on dropshipping to gain more insight on how to start an online store around this eCommerce model.
- Warehousing: starting an online store around this eCommerce model is best if you want to build a brand, hold inventory, and fulfill orders on your own. If you have the capital to purchase a large initial inventory, deal with inventory storage costs, pick, pack, and ship products, you won’t go wrong with warehousing. Our articles on Dropshipping vs Owning Inventory will shed more light on how to start your own online store around this model.
For more details, read our article on eCommerce fulfillment models so that you can make a more informed decision on the type of business you want to start.
3. Select Products to Sell and Manufacturers
Choosing the right products to sell and the manufacturers to supply you with the products is a critical part of deciding how to start an online store. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to selecting specific products to sell, and the best way to find top-selling products is to test different products within a niche to see what sells well.
That said, there are several tools you can use to accelerate your search and make your experimentation easier and faster. They include Amazon’s best-seller page, eBay’s best-seller list, and AliExpress’s best-sellers list. These will help you figure out the top-selling products in your chosen niche based on sales trends, competition ratings, etc.
Once you have figured out your products, use AliExpress, Alibaba, SaleHoo Supplier Directory, and Market Research Lab to find high-quality suppliers for your products. Make sure you vet the different suppliers based on their fees, customer support, and communication –both phone and email.
4. Design Your Brand Name and Logo
The next thing you need to do in figuring out how to start an online store is to come up with a brand name and logo that will help buyers identify your eCommerce store and brand. Think of your brand name and logo as a big sign that hangs on a physical store on the street, helping buyers identify the business and the merchandise in it.
Your brand name and logo should have a meaning that is directly related to the products you sell or a story behind the brand, to make it easy for your customers to identify, remember, and develop trust with your business.
Here are some best practices when choosing your brand name.
- Have a hard deadline to brainstorm your brand name & Logo: if you are not careful, you can spend weeks or months brainstorming your brand name and delay the start of your online store. So, give yourself a deadline within which you must come up with your business name and logo.
- Choose a name that is easy to pronounce: Choose a business name that is easy to pronounce and spell; otherwise, you might send potential traffic to the wrong URL.
- Give your brand name some meaning: choose a name that is related to your niche or has a backstory to make it easier for buyers to find and identify with your business.
- Choose a unique and original name: You can be sued for duplicating or using a name that is related to someone else’s brand.
- Keep your brand name short: a maximum of 1-3 words will make a great business name.
For your logo, engage the services of a creative logo designer, and make sure that your logo references your brand or the story behind it.
5. Choose an eCommerce Platform
Now you have your brand name, logo, and products figured out. The next step in your journey on how to start an online store is to choose an eCommerce platform and create your website using an online store builder.
There is no shortage to the number of eCommerce platforms that you can choose from. Some of the most popular solutions for creating an online store include Shopify, BigCommerce, wooCommerce, Wix, among others with each easily integrating with Easyship to provide your store with fast, efficient international shipping solutions.
Each of these platforms offers different themes, usability, and functionality, and allows you to start your journey on how to start an online store with a trial. You can use the trial period to experiment with each of them and see whether it offers the tools and features you want. Once you have chosen your eCommerce platform, all you need to do is create your website, select a theme for your store, and upload your products.
Here are some best practices when setting up your eCommerce store.
- Sign up for a free trial: Fill out a few details and sign up. You will then be redirected to your dashboard.
- Choose a theme for your store: From your dashboard, customize the theme for your store from the free themes available or pay for a premium theme.
- Upload your products: once you have your store’s theme set, it is now the time to upload your products by filling in some information such as product name, product category, product image, product description, and Meta description for better SEO.
- Fill out other pages: These include filling in payment details for your Checkout page, shipping details for your Shipping and Exchanges page, About Us page, and Contact Us page.
6. Set Up a Secure Checkout Payment Method
Starting a business from home requires you to think about how you will receive payment from your buyers, and it is a very crucial part when trying to understand how to start an online store. Merchant accounts, payment gateway packages, and simplified credit card payment processing are the three most popular ways to accept payment online.
Different eCommerce platforms provide different checkout methods so that you can choose the best payment option for your store based on your needs and the location of your customers.
To choose the best payment method, think about the location of your customers, and the commonly used online payment methods from those locations. For example, shoppers in New York City may have different payment preferences from shoppers in Hong Kong.
Security is also a big issue for online shoppers, and you need to take away their worry by making sure that your site is secure to shop in. You can easily secure your site with a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate to encrypt your shoppers' payment details.
Most eCommerce platforms include an SSL certificate in their plans or as an add-on. So make sure that the plan you choose when creating your store has this included.
Commonly used payment options in most eCommerce platforms that you can enable on your Checkout page include PayPal, Stripe, Square, Apple Pay, Amazon, Digital wallet payments, Shopify Payments, Square, and MasterCard among others.
7. Set Up Your Shipping Details
Starting an online store requires you to understand how shipping works. Now that you have products listed in your store, and have a secure payment method for customers to start purchasing your items, the next thing is to make sure that you can deliver packages to your buyers.
This is where shipping comes in when thinking of how to start an online store, and you need to understand how the different shipping options available in your eCommerce platform work. Here is what you should include when setting up shipping on your e-store’s shipping page.
- Your shipping origin address: This is where you will be shipping your products from and will help you calculate shipping rates and taxes correctly, print shipping labels, and get accurate shipping quotes.
- Your shipping zones: these are the countries and regions where you will be shipping to. Will you be doing international shipping or domestic shipping? Make sure that you show your shipping zones along with your shipping rates to each zone.
- Shipping options: shipping options are more on the type of shipping and the delivery speed you offer to your customers. Will you offer free or flat rate shipping? Other options include real-time quotes, store or local pickup, and rate by order price. Make sure you display any charges associated with each shipping option and delivery speed.
- Shipping services: You’ll need to partner with courier companies that will help you deliver your products to your buyers. Popular couriers such as USPS, UPS, DHL, and FedEx are excellent examples of shipping companies you can work with.
To make your life much easier with shipping, Easyship partners with over 250 popular and reliable couriers to offer you pre-negotiated shipping rates and real-time shipping rates in your store with our Rates at Checkout feature.
This feature allows your customers to choose between the fastest, cheapest, and best value for their shipping. Providing your customers with transparent shipping choices is the key to avoiding cart abandonment and setting proper expectations about the cost.
Through the Easyship dashboard, merchants can also determine who will pay the duties and taxes, them or the customer. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the terms Deliver Duty Paid (DDP) and Deliver Duty Unpaid (DDU.) DDP simply means that you as the merchant pay the duties while DDU means that the customer will need to pay them before the package is released from customs. To avoid surprise costs, it’s advisable to go with DDP and factor duties and taxes into your pricing.
So far, congratulations! Now you have your store set up and your products uploaded, with a secure Checkout method in place, and different shipping options to send packages to your buyers in different shipping zones and countries.
8. Marketing Your e-Store
Marketing your new eCommerce store is an important step worth the effort when figuring out how to start an online store. This is the part that will determine whether you will make your first sale on day one! Now that you have your website and products ready, it is time to sell by creating a marketing plan for your store.
Here are the best practices that will help you figure out your marketing plan when thinking of how to start an online store.
- Content marketing and SEO: selling products online is a game of numbers. This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in. To take advantage of organic search traffic, write unique product descriptions that include keywords for the products you are selling so that your store can rank high on Search. The other part of content marketing is to write optimized buyer guides, unique articles, and blogs to educate and inform buyers about the benefits of your products with clear calls to action (CTAs) to direct them to buy your products.
- Social media marketing: social media is a powerful channel to think of in your marketing strategy on how to start a small online business successfully. Aim to meet your buyers where they spend their time –on social media channels! Target your audience on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with ad campaigns that direct them to specific product pages or landing pages to make purchases. Also, keep your buyers engaged and posted by keeping your social media pages active and updated with relevant content.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM): SEM is also known as Pay-per-click (PPC), and you can make $2 for every $1 you spend on AdWords according to Google. So, running Google Ad campaigns is worth considering in your search engine marketing plan to boost your SEO efforts.
- Email Marketing: Businesses make an average of $44 for every $1 spent on email marketing! Reaching out to your email conducts to spread the word about your business is a great way to market your products without breaking the bank.
- Influencer marketing: Reaching out to genuine influencers and opinion leaders in your niche or industry and having them talk about your products is a great way to spread the word about your business and products in their networks and convert their followers into potential buyers.
So far, you have your store live online, and you have already started to see money streaming in, thanks to your marketing efforts. The last step in learning how to start an online store is to have a way to measure your online success and understand buyers’ behavior so that you can improve their shopping experience.
This is where analytics come in to help you figure out your conversion rate, gauge the success of your campaigns, email marketing efforts, cart abandonment rates, and a whole lot of other metrics that you can track to help you know what you are doing right or wrong, and improve accordingly.
You can easily do this using google analytics to keep track of specific metrics that will give you more insight into your online store and customer base.
Here are some of the metrics you can track.
- Conversion rates
- Average order value
- Customer acquisitions cost (CAC)
- Shopping Cart Abandonment rate
- Revenue by traffic source
- Customer lifetime value (CLV)
The last bit of our article on how to make your product launch go viral will give you more insight into each one of these metrics. Analyzing your online success will help you maximize your conversion rate and maximize your customer retention rate, hence ensuring the success of your e-store.
Now is the Time to Launch Your Online Store with International Shipping
There you have it! Now you know how to start an online store and launch with the right marketing strategy. Of course, making it successful over the long term requires hard work, dedication, and listening to feedback from your customers. Those are often the most challenging parts of running a business but with the right motivation, you can achieve your dream of entrepreneurship.
And with Easyship, you can reach an international customer base through our extensive courier network and innovative tools.
Sign up for a free Easyship account now to get started!
If you found this guide to starting your online store informative, you might find the following interesting as well: