In these times, an online store isn’t the exception, but the norm.
Statista predicts that online sales will touch $6.4 billion by the end of 2023, so it’d be a shame if you missed the bus.
With many customers deciding to shop online, it is imperative that your e-commerce workflow be as intuitive as possible or you risk losing customers.
Seven Steps to Build An Online Store:
- Find and evaluate your target audience.
- Conduct thorough market research.
- Create a website using a website builder. #
- Link your site to an e-commerce platform. *
- List product categories and items to sell.
- Prepare media for these products.
- Go live!
#Skip this step and go directly to step 4 if your business already has its own website.
*Most self-hosted website builders double up as e-commerce platforms (Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc).
1. Target The Right Audience
Step 0 would be to identify your target audience for marketing purposes. You need to know your target audience if you want to have a strong ad campaign.
If your business is a baby food company, you’d want to advertise in hospitals, pregnancy clinics, pediatric offices, daycare centers, and the like.
Mess this up and you’ll regret it because a business is only as good as its reputation, and reputation greatly depends on how you deliver on advertised promises.
Once your marketing strategy is in place, you want to turn to your competitors. Ask yourself “what will make their customers come to me?”.
2. Perform A Market Analysis
Look for any shortfalls that the competition has. For example, if they have only one payment method, you should offer several to cater to more shoppers.
Look into at least 5 of the market leaders in your industry. Try to locate common elements and then improve upon them.
Are the leaders’ pricing schemes similar? When do they run their sales and offers? What are the most preferred methods of shipping? Do they charge for shipping?
Questions like these will help you conduct better research, and good research will greatly impact your business strategy.
3. Create an Online Store
There are two steps to this process: buying a domain, and subscribing to a site hosting service.
A domain is the web address of your e-store, and a host is basically your domain’s house on the internet (where it lives).
Be careful when selecting a domain because this becomes practically synonymous with your online business.
Tips for choosing a sensible domain:
- Keep it short and sweet. Anything longer than 15 characters (max.) is a strict no-no.
- Try to incorporate your business name or initials into the domain name. (e.g. John Smith’s flower shop might go with jsflowers.com).
This is done to use your brand’s existing credibility so you don’t have to start customer relations from scratch.
- If your choice of domain is already in use, play around with the extensions. (Switch .com with .shop, .online, .net or even .biz).
4. Integrate Your Shop And Online Stores
While choosing a snazzy domain is important, you do need to pay equal attention to your hosting provider.
Popular integrated ecommerce platforms are WooCommerce, Shopify, Magento, and Opencart.
These are external store builders/managers you use to create an e-store. Then, you attach this e-store to your website.
The simplest way to link these is with a “shop” button that redirects you to the parent e-commerce platform.
People who are more technically inclined may decide to add a “cart” to their original website instead.
While this does require more initial work, you only have to manage one website instead of two (your business’s website and its sell online site).
If that sounds like too much work, you can always use a website builder that supports e-commerce too.
Examples of these include Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace.
5. Create Product Lists
The sole purpose of doing this is to provide easy SKU tracking and inventory management.
You’d need to keep a very close track of the number of products because when you upscale without proper organization, you might lose track and duplicate products.
Organize all your products into lists and then write down all their variations (size, color, accessories, etc. for physical products and duration for services).
This also helps prevent products from becoming deadstock.
Aside from that, categories and subcategories help users navigate better, especially in stores that have lots of different offerings.
6. Develop Content For Your Product Pages
Never underestimate the power of quality content. If you have a killer product and an awesome site with poor photos or descriptions, you’ve already lost sales there.
It might be a good idea to hire professionals to handle this bit for you (photographers and content writers) because first impressions matter.
Most successful online stores have an excellent website and multiple photos of each product. Some even throw in an “explainer” or “unboxing” video for popular items.
Seven Things To Consider When Making An Online Store:
- Cost of the overall hosted plan or third-party store. (Ranges from $35 – $200+/mo).
- Portability: Can you “port” your store to another provider in the future? (Rare, but a huge plus).
- Does your choice offer free marketing, SEO, and SKU tools with the plan? (Allows you to save some money while not compromising on performance).
- Does the store builder support dropshipping? (For extra revenue).
- Does the store builder integrate with all major payment gateways?
- Is there a mobile app available for on-the-go store management?
- Are there any fees aside from the monthly subscription, such as per-sale commissions? (These sneaky fees are always in the fine print — be careful).
There was a time when the respectability of your business depended mostly on the size of your brick and mortar store: the bigger the store, the greater the business, right?
Not anymore. These days even a simple 12×12 room can house the HQ of a company that packs 300 orders a day — all you need is a computer and reliable internet.
An online store can truly make (or break) your business but if you pay attention, it’s actually easier done than said.