eCommerce is a big business. Last year, in 2002, online store sales exceeded $4.2 trillion globally; this figure is set to increase year on year. You might want to join this momentum and open your online store.
The problem is where to begin, especially if you are no ecommerce expert. So, how to start an online store, be it an online thrift store or an online gun store, might seem merely a dream.
However, it isn’t that complex, and most of the assistance is out there. More so, you can start your store with just these six steps:
Step 1 – Pick your domain name
If you are going to sell online, you need to make sure your business name is available.
When you start working on a domain name for your website, research the existing domain names.
When selecting your domain name for your online store, do so carefully.
Get the brand to reflect in the domain name.
First, you should ensure that your brand is reflected in the domain name.
Also, see that the name you select is easy to spell, short, and communicates your business.
For instance, if you send SMSs as part of your marketing, a long name will cost you more. A shorter name is better not just to remember but to cost less.
However, make sure that the name you select is not dull but not strange – make it memorable.
A big no is anything with hyphens, numbers, or even special characters.
Avoid names that can lead to copyright infringement
When selecting a name for your online store, you should avoid any names leading to copyright breaches or legal issues.
You should ensure that your domain name is mobile-friendly. Keep in mind search engines and keep the name relevant to the industry you represent.
You don’t need to follow all these tips, but select those pertinent to your situation.
The bad idea is to choose a weird-sounding name to have a keyword. Instead, pick a name that will pique the customer’s interest.
Get a name for your online store that is available
If you are going to sell online, you need to make sure your business name is available.
Research the existing domain names when you start working on a domain name for your website.
But when it comes to picking your domain name, do it carefully. First, you should ensure that your brand is reflected in the domain name.
Also, make sure the name you select is easy to spell, is short, and relates to your business. For instance, if you send text messages as part of your marketing, a long name will cost you more, so shorter is better to remember and save you a bit.
Don’t be dull, and avoid numbers and special characters
Yet, make sure that the title you pick is not dull, but also not strange either – so make it memorable.
A big no is anything with hyphens, numbers, or even special characters. But you should also avoid names leading to copyright breaches or legal issues.
You should also ensure that your domain name is mobile-friendly, keep in mind search engines, and then keep it relevant to the industry you represent.
Step 2 – Select your eCommerce platform
Many eCommerce platforms are available if you don’t want to spend a fortune on a custom-built site.
However, each site will charge different fees, possibly also transaction costs. The safest approach is to select a platform that is both cost-effective and capable of matching your needs.
Some options to consider
There are a few options to consider, such as Amazon. Also, you do not have to do much legwork. If you are busy, you should consider going to Amazon FBA.
You can then turn your attention to boosting your sales rather than running the backend of your online store.
Consider your own needs.
However, also consider your needs. For instance, Wix, Weebly, or 3dcart would work well if you are a small business. If you are a large business, then BigCommerce would be better.
Alternative spaces to sell online
Just remember, you can also sell on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. The important point to remember is to select a platform you can manage that is suitable for your budget and scale.
Many eCommerce platforms for your online store are already available, so you don’t want to spend a fortune on a custom-built site.
Remember that each site will charge different fees, including transaction costs. The safest approach is to select a cost-effective and capable platform.
Step 3 – Discover the unique selling point that sets you apart from the competition
If you have a business idea, ask yourself – is this idea unique? If you are unsure, then look at the work of W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne devised the terms blue and red oceans to represent the market universe.
In short, the red ocean is cut-throat and bloody, and most businesses are trying to outperform their competition, grabbing their share (and holding onto it) of the market.
However, the blue ocean is a vast space with opportunities and growth. The key is innovation; the unique idea is to tap into this unknown market space without competitors.
Set yourself apart from the competition with your unique selling proposition (USP). You can do this by placing yourself in your client’s shoes.
Maybe they will not love your product as much as you do. And don’t just think you can offer it cheaply. The improvements that Nobel Prize winners Paul R Milgrom and Robert B Wilson made to Game Theory also indicate that there are people who will buy quality items, regardless of price.
In contrast, others will look for bargains and will ignore quality. Make sure you are aiming for your market of choice.
This means looking at behaviors and buying choices. What is also important is to look at your clients’ genuine wishes and not just what your competitors are doing.
What makes you different?
For small business owners that have a business idea, ask yourself – is that idea unique? If you are unsure, then look at the work of W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne devised the terms blue and red oceans to represent the market universe.
In short, the red ocean is cut-throat and bloody, where most businesses try to outperform their competition and grab their share (and hold onto) of the market. However, the blue ocean is a vast space where opportunity and growth await.
The key is innovation and a unique idea to tap into this unknown market space, free of competitors.
Step 4 – Define your target market
You need to know who your market is! This means knowing those buying your product or making use of your service.
You need this vital info since you will base your marketing strategy (including your digital marketing strategy), branding, and all your messages on this – make sure you have it right (and keep it updated!).
What you need to do is create personas for these various clients. Give each a name, so when you formulate your copy, you speak to James, the 22-25-year-old male who has just bought his first apartment and still has a student loan.
James is a lawyer and shows potential for making a partner in only three years. He lives in New York in a studio apartment. It is small, but he likes to go out a lot.
Also, he likes the movies, bars, and socializing with friends. We gave James a description that makes it easier to visualize him when you construct your messages. You will be more personal and more story-driven.
Step 5 – Optimize your online store’s website
It sounds obvious, but you need to optimize your website to increase traffic via the various search engines.
There are several ways to optimize your site – such as adding a blog, using keywords you have selected while doing keyword research, adding meta descriptions, and the correct headers − and don’t forget to check for broken links.
Also, what can be missed is that if there are issues with your site, it crashes. An unavailable site will negatively affect your SEO score.
Step 6 – Get the word out about your website
You can tell people about your site in various ways – from email campaigns and text marketing to advertising on platforms such as Google, Facebook, or other sites.
The latter type is known as PPC campaigns. These campaigns can be highly effective in driving new people to your site.
Remember, this will cause a temporary spike, which will only last if you keep feeding it. In the long term, that can be expensive, so you must get your SEO sorted.
However, you can employ other marketing tricks, such as running a competition, using social media influencers, collaborating with other companies, and using discounts.
In addition, you can grow your social media presence and use your online fans as your marketing ambassadors to spread the word about your site.
Last few words about starting an online store
eCommerce is big and getting bigger. The competition among online stores is also increasingly challenging, so you must innovate to stand out.
There are also various platforms to host the online store that you can use to make your life easier. If you aren’t that tech-driven, it is straightforward to get started.
You can always choose to outsource the most demanding and time-consuming tasks. This way, you can focus on growing that eCommerce business and making it a place people want to visit and discuss.