You may have been thinking about launching an online shop for some time now, but it's hard to know where to start—especially if you don't have e-commerce experience. Fortunately, today's tools make opening an online store easier than ever.
Get your online store up and running by following these six steps.
1. Chose a domain name
To sell online, you need a website address. This is an important decision because it will reflect your company. Best practices are to choose a name that is short, easy to spell, and relates to your business.
"It's best that you come up with a unique yet legit sounding domain name to make sure you don't look suspicious once your online store becomes visible online," says Lianne Sanders, founder of Total Shape, which sells healthcare supplements. "As much as possible, make it catchy and easy to comprehend for the purpose of building familiarity towards clients and customers."
2. Select an e-commerce platform
Several e-commerce platforms are available, and no coding knowledge is necessary. Some charge a monthly fee while others are free, and most include charges based on a percentage of each transaction. Sanders recommends choosing a platform that is efficient and cost-effective at the same time.
"Earning big but paying half of it to the platform's subscription fees is a total no-brainer," says Sanders. "Make sure you subscribe to the right platform. One that can cater to all your e-commerce needs and is low-cost at the same time."
3. Find your unique selling proposition
You probably have an idea of what you want to sell. The next question to ask yourself is how your products or services will be different from what is already available.
"I look at the competition and how they do things," says Jeremy Harrison, founder of Hustle Life, a website that helps people find a side hustle, such as launching an online store. "I find a way how I can do it better. This is part of your due diligence and must always be done before starting anything."
4. Determine your target market
Another important detail to identify is your target market. By understanding who will buy your products, you can customize your branding, messages, and marketing outreach efforts.
"Find your target audience by looking at the customers of similar businesses," says Erma Williams, owner of The Pomade Shop, which sells all-natural hair pomades. "Pay attention to what they like and market to them from that angle. Figure out where they hang out online and offline and start frequenting those spaces to get to know them better. Then develop a plan for interacting with them."
5. Optimize your site
You can't just launch a website and expect people to find you. It needs to be optimized to attract traffic through search engines. Using keywords in your product descriptions is one tactic, but it should be just the start.
"Our strategy was to start a blog targeting SEO keywords that offered useful information and had the potential to rank high in search engine results," says Gilad Rom, founder of Huan, a company that sells tracking tags for pets. "This would draw traffic to our site and drive purchases of our product."
Rom researched keywords and scheduled blog posts on a weekly schedule. "Within four months, we started to see traffic to our online store from our blog posts, which translated into a boost in our product sales," he says.
6. Spread the word
Placing ads can take money that you may or may not have. When you're launching an online store, take advantage of cost-effective social media marketing, suggests Stephen Light, co-owner of Nolah Mattress, a bed-in-a-box company.
"Social media marketing is a necessary investment for businesses who want to establish an online presence, especially those with online stores," he says. "The ROI of social media marketing is higher than pay-per-click because gaining followers is a long-term investment."
The upfront investment can pay long-term. "Once followers follow your business page, you don't need to spend money to send them content," says Light. "When you post, they see it immediately without spending a single cent."
Online retail can be an exciting business to launch. By adopting the right strategy before your site goes live, you can help set the stage for e-commerce success.
Find out more about Starting a Business