How to start an online store?
- 12 August 2021
Every month, the e-commerce sector rapidly grows and attracts more entrepreneurs lured by a low entry threshold and a relatively straightforward business model. However, the way to build a successful online store is not always that simple. You have to keep several crucial elements in mind and carefully pick the tools you are going to use. If you’re thinking about starting an e-commerce business – read on. We have a solid dose of practical knowledge for you!
According to Shopify, the global e-commerce market is expected to total $4.89 trillion by the end of 2021. No wonder that today, there are about 8 million online stores worldwide. Over 2 million of them operate in the United States alone! Now, why is online trade so popular? There are two significant reasons. Let’s take a look at them.
First off, this business model seems to be completely covid-proof. While not that long ago brick-and-mortar stores were struggling to stay afloat (due to global lockdown), online retailers were flourishing like never before. Secondly, this solution is convenient both for the customer and the seller – you can buy products online 24/7, everywhere in the world. Moreover, the customer has immediate access to the store’s whole offer.
If you’ve been lured by this business model as well, you should make sure you’re properly prepared to run such a business. Times when you simply had to put your products on Amazon, offer a fair price, and count profits are long gone. Nowadays, online stores have to fight for customer attention and encourage them to place an order through an attractive offer. Let’s be more specific.
An online store: Where to start
Before you start selling products online, you have to take care of technicalities. Your next step should be to focus on your offer and, once it’s ready, on marketing. Now, we are going to discuss the most important elements of these three stages.
AN E-COMMERCE PLATFORM
The vast majority of online stores starts their operation by selecting the e-commerce platform. It’s a comprehensive online solution that works within your website. This platform is essentially the core of your store with all its functions, integrations, and layout.
You have a wide selection of options, which can be divided into three major categories:
- SaaS: e.g. Shopify, BigCommerce
- CMS: e.g. WooCommerce, Prestashop, Magento
- ERP: e.g. Oracle NetSuite, Baselinker
Get acquainted with these forms of e-commerce platforms and pick the one that suits your needs best. Generally speaking, SaaS platforms are the easiest to configure and use. Also, they come with 24/7 tech support so that you don’t have to worry about anything. On the other hand, CMS and ERP solutions require more work and IT knowledge on your side, but they can be better adjusted to your requirements, especially when you’re looking for some non-standard solutions.
By far, it’s your to be or not to be in the e-retail world. You can spend thousands of dollars on marketing, but if your offer is not attractive and well-priced (we’ll get to that in a second), you won’t sell many products. Start with thorough research:
- What products are currently popular in your category?
- Check what are your customers looking for?
- What brands are appreciated?
- Are there any novelties that you might offer and your competition doesn’t?
Use the internet to gain this knowledge. Analyze competitors’ websites, also foreign ones. Read forums and social media groups. You may find tons of practical knowledge that will allow you to craft a successful offer that’s tailored to your customers’ needs. It is also vital to analyze what product categories are prevalent in your country.
That’s the next extremely vital element. Your customers expect you will offer them all the solutions and features they are used to. That’s why you need integrations with complementary services. Think about integrating your store with:
- Online payments: You should have at least one solution that allows for instant payments, also from the mobile device. PayPal is a must-have.
- Delivery: Courier delivery is a must. If there are self-service lockers (like Amazon’s) available in your country, use them, too! Furthermore, many stores offer order tracking. Think about that as well.
- Installment purchases: Especially stores selling expensive products (e.g., household appliances and electronics) should think about this option. Installment purchases are available through banks and other financial intermediaries.
- Shopping assistants: Yes, chatbots and voicebots are more and more popular and enable you to answer customer queries automatically 24/7. You will easily find at least several ready-made solutions that will allow you to use chatbots without the need to invest in building one from scratch.
While integrations are primarily for your customers, tools are primarily for you. You will find tons of tools in the market that facilitate managing and developing your online store. Here, we have a few examples:
That’s us! Our role is to optimize and automate pricing in your store. Our algorithms track prices in specified places online (e.g., competitive stores, marketplaces, Google Shopping) and, based on that, set optimal prices for the products in your store. Do you want to discover more? Go here:
The main role of this platform is to automate your marketing campaigns. With this tool, you can optimize the following elements:
- Lead generation
- A/B testing
- Email marketing
- Image and voice commerce
- Customer data management
- Personalization and smart product recommendations
Go to their website in order to discover the whole list of their features.
Michał Sadowski’s platform is currently one of the very best systems for social media listening. With Brand24, you can monitor social media, forums, blogs, and news websites. Brand24 gathers mentions about your brand, products, or other requested keywords. For some time now, they’ve been offering sentiment analysis. Thanks to this function, you can quickly estimate whether the given mention is positive, negative, or neutral concerning your online image. Moreover, Brand24 will help you improve communication with customers, which you can use to enhance your sales.
This tool is extremely helpful when it comes to managing online sales. In short, it allows you to integrate your online store with other sales channels (e.g., Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping). You can also gather orders from diverse platforms and update your stock levels. Similarly, Baselinker provides you with the ability to integrate your store with carriers and helps you ship parcels and print bills of landing.
You can check out all of Baselinker’s functions on their website.
How to start an online store: Costs
Before you dive into the e-commerce ocean, you have to calculate costs. When it comes to online trade, the most significant cost waiting for you is related to marketing. As you already know, thousands of online stores fight every day for customer attention. If you don’t want to disappear in the jungle of offers and discounts, you have to devise an effective marketing strategy. Start with performance marketing and possibilities offered by Google. Usually, it’s the quickest way to reach new customers. In the long run, you can think about SEO as well. However, bear in mind that it’s a long-term strategy. The first results will be visible after at least several months.
What’s next? Copy and photos. Each product should have its unique description (no copy-pasting from the manufacturer’s website!) and at least two high-quality photos. This means you’ll need a graphic designer/photographer and a copywriter.
Other costs are related to your domain and server (typically several dollars a month) and logistics (warehouse, couriers, boxes, accessories). Now, when you combine all of these elements in your business plan, it may turn out that it’s all more expensive than you thought. It all depends on your scale and niche, though. If you want to start a small store offering several products to your community, you’ll need several thousand dollars to get everything up and running. If your ambition is to become the next Zalando, be prepared to spend millions of dollars to achieve this goal.