Experts expect global ecommerce sales revenues to hit $4.88 trillion by 2021.
If you want to sell products online, this stat should give you the incentive you need to realize your dream. Of course, the process can be somewhat involving, but it will be worthwhile when you start bearing the fruits.
You can set up an online store to sell electronics, clothes, baby products or whatever product you think it's hot. As a first-time seller, the problem is opening an online store.
How exactly do you start and run a fully operational online store?
That's exactly why this post is here for, so keep on reading to find out.
1. Take Care of the Basics
Just like running a brick-and-mortar operation, there are things you need to complete to become operational.
First, you need to get a business plan. Having one helps you to develop a roadmap and framework for growing your online store. It allows you to determine your approaches and strategies for marketing, financing, and business growth.
If you need funding, some traditional lenders will want to view your business plan before approving your loan application.
Most people usually start a store as a proprietorship or partnership. Be sure to choose a structure that applies to you to meet the federal requirements. Acquiring some retail operation skills can also help along the way in ensuring proper store management.
2. Determine Your Desired Products
Opening an online store doesn't mean you can just sell anything and expect to rake in profits. There are those products that perform well and others that can hardly hit your targets.
Your product of choice impacts different things, including
- Your sales numbers
- Customer retention
- The amount of effort and resources you need
Keep in mind that you'll be working with your products almost every day. So, you want something that won't lead to boredom along the way. You can also choose several products or make your own.
3. Or, You Can Dropship
If you don't want the hustle of making or sourcing products, drop shipping is the ideal option for you.
With drop shipping, you don't need capital for stocking your products. You store can have lots of product listings with zero risks. There are no picking and packing activities and warehouse costs.
This is something that anyone can do regardless of their skills or financial situation. The only problem is that you have no control over order fulfillment. So, if the manufacturer messes up, customers will hold you accountable instead of the manufacturer.
Still, dropshipping is an option on your plate if it's something that appeals to you.
4. Pick the Ideal eCommerce Solution
Well, you'll certainly need a solution for managing your product listing and accepting orders. Depending on your level of expertise and budget, you have three options:
- Hosted - A hosted solution hosts your website on their server and provides software for your products. You'll pay monthly subscriptions for these services. For example, Shopify and BigCommerce.
- Self-hosted - This option allows you to buy the software and host it yourself. You're responsible for customizing it and configuring security protections. Magento and Zen Cart are great examples.
- Open source - An open source solution gives you free software. It's a great option for experienced coders as it requires heavy programming.
If you have the budget, you can work with an ecommerce software development company to design a custom solution. This option is certainly costly, and you'll shoulder a huge burden of ensuring security, regular updates, and other modifications.
WordPress is also great for setting up an online store, and it offers several plugins, such as WooCommerce, Shopify, Easy Digital Downloads, and Shopp. WooCommerce is the most popular option, and part of setting it up is learning more information on the mistakes to avoid.
5. Set Up Your Website
At this point, you have an idea of the products you want to sell, so you need to build a house for them: A website.
Assuming you already have a business name, you can still use it as your website name and domain name. Or, you can make modifications to make it ideal for your domain address. Keep in mind your domain needs to be precise, memorable, and representative.
Determine the right categories for your products to ensure a smooth experience for shoppers. Also, work with a web design company to give your website a unique design that appeals to potential customers.
6. Choose How You Accept Payments
You payment options play an essential role in opening an online store. Ideally, customers want to make payments through methods they trust. Google Checkout, PayPal Standard, and PayPal are the most common options for many sellers.
With PayPal, you can accept Checkout payments or cards, such as Visa, Discover, AMEX, and MasterCard. Still, you have even more options, including Stripe and Square.
Choosing the right payment processing solutions is essential. Be sure the processing is PCI compliant, and their services are compatible with your ecommerce solution. They should also have measures in place to prevent fraud.
7. Market Your Store and Grow
Setting up your store can indeed be overwhelming, but you have just completed a portion of the process.
Marketing your store is the real animal. Apart from the people you know, it's going to be challenging to earn direct customers at first. But, in today's digital era, things are a little bit simplified.
Thanks to online marketing, you can employ techniques, such as search engine optimization and social media marketing, to attract customers. If you have enough budget, you can also leverage paid per click advertising to generate quality leads.
Keep in mind that online marketing is a continuous process if you want to keep your sales funnel live.
Opening an Online Store - Final Thoughts
The truth is, starting an online store takes a little bit of work. However, with the right approach, you'll soon be up and running. These seven steps can help you ensure your dream comes true.
Most importantly, you need to learn how to manage your store. There are a lot of things you'll encounter after opening an online store and how you handle them determines your store's profitability.
If you have a team, be sure to use team building activities to boost productivity and performance as you grow.