Selling products and services through the internet offers vast opportunity for entrepreneurs everywhere. You can buy a readymade store, or start your own store. If you’re interested in starting a business, selling online can be extremely rewarding. It can also provide a path to success without the risks involved in buying property and opening a physical store.
There are several steps involved in starting an online store. You’ll have tochoose an industry, think up a business name, and decide what types of customers you want to serve. Since your storefront will be on the internet, you’ll also need tochoose the right domain name for your website, build your online store, and handle other details like which shipping carrier to use. At the beginning, this can seem overwhelming, but the process will be much more approachable if you follow our guide.
Below, we’ve condensed the whole process of starting your business and creating your online store, plus supplementary guides and resources.
- Choose what products to sell
For example, a new kitchen supply store would start out facing steep competition from huge, established brands selling a full selection of kitchen supplies, and the business owner would need expertise on a massive variety of products in order to make the new brand stand out as an authority. “Niching down” to a single type of product, like coffee makers, would allow time, energy, and money to be invested into a much narrower field, which produces stronger results. It’s far easier to position your brand as the world’s expert on coffee makers than on kitchen products in general.
While choosing your niche, think about the types of products that interest you. Starting your business and building your brand will be much easier and more rewarding if you choose an industry you’re passionate about. Also consider your possible suppliers for these items. Are you going to make a product yourself, or will you buy inventory from a wholesaler? Are you going to start out by drop shipping? These are important questions for creating a viable business plan.
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- Choose the right name
It’s very important to choose the right domain name. Domain names should be short, memorable, and clear. If your business name doesn’t already include keywords related to the products you sell, you should add your most important keyword to your domain name for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes.
Your domain name should also be easy to say out loud. When talking about your business, you don’t want to have to go into detail to explain how your domain name is spelled. Stay away from words that sound too similar to other words, digits mixed with spelled-out numbers, and anything else that sounds awkward or ambiguous out loud — including hyphens. People today are used to domain names being written as “all one word,” so hyphens hurt clarity more than they help.
One last pitfall to avoid is the accidental creation of other brand names or words when you combine words to make your domain name. For instance, bobscameras.com has the word “scam” right in the middle, even though it would be intended to say “Bob’s Cameras.” Choose your business name and domain name carefully to avoid this.
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- Build your online store
It’s important to choose the right platform so you won’t end up paying extra for necessary features and so your business can grow without being constrained by software limitations. 3dcart is an example of a powerful online store builder that provides a fast and easy way to design a website, add products, and manage all your sales from a convenient dashboard. You don’t have to install anything on your computer, either; you just create an account, choose a plan, and start creating. You can even get a free 15-day trial to get a feel for the 3dcart software without having to enter your credit card information.
You can choose your theme first, or start by adding products and categories..
If you already have a website, don’t worry — you can still build your online store with shopping cart software like 3dcart and connect it to your existing site through the use of a subdomain, like store.yourwebsite.com.
- Select your Shipping method
Shipping is at the core of eCommerce, since your customers are ordering online, and you’ll need a way to get your products to them — unless you’re selling digital downloads like ebooks or music files. If you’re selling physical products, you’ll have to decide which shipping carrier(s) you’ll want to use and determine the appropriate rates to charge the customer. It’s crucial that you understand eCommerce shipping so you can make the right decisions.
While free shipping is incredibly popular for online stores, you’ll need to absorb the cost, so it’s recommended to start out using real-time rates as provided by your shipping carrier. Real-time rates are calculated automatically while the customer puts together their order, ensuring you don’t overcharge the customer or lose money by not charging enough.
To get these real-time rates on your website, you need to use an eCommerce solution that offers a full set of shipping tools for selling online, including integrations with your preferred carrier to pull the rates to your online store while still giving you the freedom to choose the exact shipping methods you want to offer. Depending on your country, you can use carriers like USPS, FedEx, UPS, Canada Post, Royal Mail, AU Post, or others.
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- Market your online store
You should start marketing your online store right away to ensure a steady flow of customers. The best form of marketing is a multifaceted approach that includes social media, email newsletters, search engine optimization, and paid advertising. You can also run regular promotions and coupons, like product discounts, and even Daily Deals or Group Deals if your eCommerce software supports them.
Social media like Facebook is a great way to get your name out there and interact with customers. You should create a Facebook Business Page and load it up with images and company information — with a link back to your website, of course. Instagram and Pinterest are also popular means of engagement, and for an additional bonus, you can sell products from all of these platforms. More details about selling on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are included later in this guide.