Starting an Online Store: A Simple 7 Step Guide to Sell Online

A brief but incredibly useful 7 step guide of what to consider when opening an online store

Starting an Online Store: A Simple 7 Step Guide to Sell Online

Suddenly, your ideas that it could be good to have an online store have turned into a necessity. You may be thinking of turning your physical store into an online store,  setting up from scratch, or working a physical store with an online version too. It would seem like a good idea to cover as many basis as possible in what are and will possibly remain uncertain times.

You’ve got the vague plan, the ideas, the motivation, and the reasons, what you need now is the know-how. You could, of course, sell things directly from an online store or social media and send out via delivery services, it is certainly not unheard of for people to make a decent living this way. There are, however, a number of options to consider when starting an online store and we’d like to get you started thinking about what steps you might need to take, whilst not getting too heavy in the details.

 

Simple 7 step process guide:

1. Choose a CMS Platform
2. Choose a Domain
3. Choose Design or create custom
4. Add Products
5. Optimization and SEO
6. Payment and Shipment
7. Start Selling (Marketing)

 

 

Choose a CMS Platform

1. Choose a CMS Platform

The first step to converting website is to decide exactly how you are going to set up an online store. Are you going to design and develop your own website or use one of the many specialized Commerce platforms available?

It’s certainly a decision worth taking some time over and doing some research. Which Content Management system is going to best meet your needs, ion the short and longer-term. There are many more detailed arguments about the pros and cons of various sites than here. But there are general things to consider, such as;

  • Set up Cost and maintenance
  • Ease of Use -technical knowledge required
  • Features – do you require specialist e-commerce features, invoicing, stock management, etc
  • Transactions costs
  • Hosting costs
  • Support

Are you going to use a general website CMS like WordPress or Drupal or an E-commerce CMS such as Shopify or Magento? Additionally, we’ll come to this later, how are you going to get the site up and running once you’ve chosen your preferred CMS option?

Here is a link to 4 CMS Platforms for online stores in 2020 that can help you make a decision. Ask around, ask friends and family for advice, doing your research at this stage will save you time and trouble further down the line.

Choose a domain

2. Choose a Domain

Let’s put that decision to bed for now and look at another important choice. You will need a domain name, the web address for your web store. It doesn’t have to be your brand name, but that helps. There are tools online for you to check name availability and price. Availability tools such as namecheap.com, GoDaddy are easy to use, you simply type in your chosen name to see if it’s already been registered and if not what are the price ranges of different options. You will be presented with variations too.

Your domain name should be as short as possible, easy to remember, and to associate with your business. The domain extension is also important (.com, .net, .ai, .co.uk) as they add some authenticity and trust to your store. However, they are usually more expensive.

It’s also worth noting that some CMS providers offer a free domain name as part of their service, e.g Shopify.

 

Choose Design or create custom

3. Choose design… or create custom

Moving on, you’ve chosen your preferred CMS so what next. You’ve got to get your store designed, developed, and up and selling. There are basically two options, are you going to make it yourself or go for custom professional design? It will depend on cost and your technical abilities and time constraints too.

If you decide to go for the DIY approach, there are templates that you can use, depending on the platform you’ve chosen. This will, without a doubt, make your life easier. However, you are going to be more limited and will still need technical skills and flair. You must remember that your online store is the absolute representation of your product. It honestly matters little how great the product is if the site is slow, poorly designed, difficult to navigate, or prone to errors.

If you go for custom design and/or development you can then decide if you are going to go down the professional agency route or the freelancer route. There are pros and cons for both, but one thing you will get is a professional-looking, functional online store that will satisfy your needs. Even down this route you will have enormous input and have to make critical design and functionality decisions. Again talk to the agencies, see what they can offer you, and at what cost. Ask yourself what exactly you need? Will you make more money long term getting your site up quickly but spending more? What do you want your store to achieve? etc, etc. Do you need full design or just coding the site? Some examples are…

CMS with templates such as Wix, GoDaddy, WordPress, etc

Design & Coding services such as HTMLBurger, SmashStack

Freelance platforms such as Fiverr, Upwork

Again there are specific articles to guide you through this decision-making process and the pros and cons of each option and they are absolutely worth the time and effort to read through and get a full picture.

 

Add products to your store

4. Add Products

So once, you’ve got the online store planned you need to get your products uploaded onto it. If you’ve gone down the professional route then you will be guided every step of the way and supported. If you’ve chosen the DIY route then follow the specific CMS guide for your store. Unfortunately, it isn’t just as simple as listing the products. You’ll need quality images, detail essential information, good layout and space, organization, and categorization. Part of this will have hopefully been achieved in combination with your design decisions.

The web store needs to be easy to navigate, customers don’t want, indeed won’t spend time trying to figure out where to look for what they want. They’ll move on – lost sale. It needs to be clear, clean, functional, filtered, and fast. Look at the stores you like to shop on, look at your competition, what do you like? What do they do? Get feedback from friends, colleagues- and more importantly listen to it. There is simply no point in spending time, effort, and money on a site where people can’t access what they want to buy.

 

SEO for your store

5. Optimization and SEO

Search Engine Optimization – is one of the ways people will find your online store. Until you are a global brand, until your marketing or reputation are dragging people in, then you want to get the customers who aren’t specifically looking for you by name. The searchers, the googlers, and so you want your store to be high in the search engine ratings. There are techniques that will help: site speed, keywords, page titles, snippets (the things that show in a box in google search results like a review, rating, etc.) all come together to boost your online store. Professional developers and designers will give you great tips and guidance here, they know the importance.

 

Payment and shipment service for your goods

6. Payment and shipment

How important is this? Dream product, great site – you’re ready to rock. Now is the time to get the money flowing. Choose the payment methods and system wisely, read there terms and conditions, fees, etc. Account for it in your costings. Assess the importance of a well known, well-trusted payment system, or systems for your store. Unless you accept the customer’s card, they are likely to find someone else who will.

Think carefully about how you are going to get your product to the customer and at what cost. Customers demand timely delivery and quality service. The last thing you need is poor feedback and reviews in this particular area.

Be honest and upfront about your terms and conditions, spell them out for the customer. Great customer service generates trust, return business, and word of mouth spread plus those reviews that you are going to rely on.

 

Start Selling from online store

7. Start Selling (Marketing)

So it’s all in place. Now you need to really push the word, get your profile out there, and show the competition what you are about. You could hire an agency or adviser – there are specialists in all fields. You could do it yourself. Some things that are worth thinking about are:

  • Social Media profiles – essential, social media is one of the best, cheapest and easiest ways of getting your brand out to the masses. Create profiles on all the major social media platforms don’t just rely on one or two. Create links to and from your online store, create regular and interesting content to build a following, keep it updated. Check out tips for improving your social media marketing online.
  • Email – one of the highest-rated “return on investment” strategies is email marketing. Find ways of getting the email address of past, present, and potential customers. Use email marketing campaigns to target your customers with new offers, promotions, discounts, etc. There are specialist email marketing services such as MailBakery that will create custom email designs or offer templates to make your emails stand out and crucially get opened.
  • Promotions, offers, discounts, vouchers – just like you would with a physical store on the high street, you need to create interest. Online the best ways are through your social media presence or email marketing campaigns. Create a buzz, offer a great value – people who shop with you once are likely to come back.

 

Final Words

A brief, but we hope, a useful guide to what to consider when starting an online store. The links given will provide more detailed information as will your own searches and research, but if you stick to this 7 point skeleton plan and work from it then you’ll have a great chance of success. Online sales are increasing year on year, globally, they will continue to do so – there is no reason at all for you not to be on the crest of this wave.

You may also be interested in some of these related articles:

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Lyudmil Enchev

Lyudmil is an avid movie fan which influences his passion for video editing. You will often see him making animations and video tutorials for GraphicMama. Lyudmil is also passionate for photography, video making, and writing scripts.

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