Guest Post: How to Create an Online Store in 8 Easy Steps
You've always dreamed of starting your own business but don't know where to begin. You want to make the leap and start making money, but you're not sure how.
What if you could create an online store that did all the hard work for you? What if there was a place where you could find everything you need to get started - from how-to guides on building your website and adding your products to tips on marketing your business and making sales?
Here's what this post is all about. We created this guide to help you leap from idea to reality— from dreamer to doer.
We'll show you how to build an online store from scratch, step by step. We'll cover everything from setting up your domain name and hosting account to choosing which platform is best for selling products (and why).
Let's get started!
How to Create An Online Store in 8 Easy Steps
1. Find Your Niche
This is the most crucial step in creating an online store. But, first, you need to find a specific product or service that you can sell to customers and make money from.
Doing this is essential because it will help you define your brand and get it off the ground. How will people know what they're buying if you don't have a niche? How will they know if they like it? And how will they know if it's right for them?
While there are many different niches, some common ones include fashion, food & beverage, health & fitness, pet care products, technology, and more.
Once you've found your niche, focus on what makes it unique - what makes it stand out from other similar products or services sold on the internet today. This will help you create a brand identity for your company, so customers know what they're getting when they buy from you instead.
Finding a niche for your online business can be challenging. If you're struggling to decide or need more data to work with, use these five steps to find your niche.
a) Identify your interests and passions
Have you ever wondered why some people can start businesses quickly while others struggle? It's because they know their niche. They have a passion for something and want to share it with the world.
If you're considering starting a business, first make sure you have an interest or passion for driving your business forward. It will be hard to get started if you don't have a clear vision of what you want to do.
The best way to find your niche is to look at what interests you most. For example, if you love writing and helping people, consider becoming a freelance writer for an online magazine or website.
If you love sports, starting a sports blog would suit your passions.
b) Identify problems you can solve
To find a niche for your online business, you need to identify problems you can solve.
This will help you in two ways: first, it will help you narrow down the scope of your business to something manageable and achievable. Second, it will give you a clear idea of what content and product offerings will be most compelling for your target audience.
So think about the things that bug you or annoy you in your day-to-day life - and then think about how they could be solved with an online service. For example, if you hate trying to find a parking spot close to where you're going, maybe there's an app or service out there that can help.
Or maybe there's a service that helps people find good deals on new cars - and if there isn't one already, this could be something worth starting.
c) Research your competition
Before you start your own business in a specific niche, it will be beneficial to research the competition.
This doesn't mean you should just look at what other people are doing and try to do it better. Instead, it means that you need to look at what the competition is doing and see what they're doing well - and what they're not doing so well.
You can find this information using tools like Google Trends or Keyword Planner or searching for keywords related to your industry on Google.
You'll also need to pay attention to their websites, their content, and whether they have social media profiles.
d) Determine the profitability of your niche
It is crucial to determine whether or not your niche will be profitable. This will help you decide whether it is worth starting a business in this area.
If you cannot make a profit, then there is no point in getting people to buy from you. However, you should also consider how many competitors are in this niche and the prices they charge for their products or services. If they are charging more than you can afford, it might be time to consider another niche.
To determine the profitability of your niche, go to Google and search for "industry + market size." You'll be able to see a range of statistics about the market size you're considering.
You can also search for "industry + profit margins" or "industry + ROI," which will bring up similar information about how profitable the industry is.
e) Test your idea
Once you've developed your idea for a business, it's time to test it out.
You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on a marketing campaign; instead, try creating a test group of friends or family members and ask them to review your product or service.
If they like what you're offering, continue with the process. If not, go back to the drawing board and try again.
You can create a landing page with a brief description of your product, then reach out to people in the industry or niche you want to target and ask them to give their feedback on what they think about it. If you get positive responses, you know there's something worth pursuing; if not, consider changing direction.
2. Write Down Your Business Plan
Your business plan is the foundation of your company. It's where you outline your business's goals and strategies and identify any potential challenges.
When you're ready to apply for funding or loans, you'll need this information, so it's essential to ensure everything is accurate and up-to-date.
An excellent place to start is by writing down your goals for the future of your business. What are your short-term goals? Long-term ones? What do you want to accomplish in one year, five, or ten years? Do these goals align with what you've already accomplished in the past? How will they help shape your future path?
Next, identify the steps you'll need to take to achieve these goals. This might include hiring employees or buying new equipment.
It could also include finding clients already interested in what you offer - or even just getting started on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
Here's an example of a business plan outline that you can use to create a custom business plan:
a) Your business plan executive summary
The executive summary is the first page of your business plan and should be short, clear, and motivating.
It should tell potential investors what your company does, why it's unique, and how it plans to make money so they'll want to invest.
b) Your business description
Your company's description should include everything from its history to its current products and services, its future goals, and any significant changes in direction that have happened over time.
c) Market analysis and competition
Before you can do anything else, you need to make sure that there's a market for whatever product or service you sell. That means doing some market research to see if anyone is interested in buying from you or if there's even enough demand for what you're offering.
This step also involves looking into how well-established other businesses in this space are so that you know where exactly yours fits in the big picture.
d) Your product or service
Once you've done your analysis, it's time to start fleshing out the details of your product or service. What does it do? How does it work? Who are its target market, and what will make it stand out in a sea of competitors?
The more detailed information you can provide about your product or service, the better off you'll be when presenting it to potential investors or partners.
e)Marketing and sales plan
You need to know how you will sell your products or services so that you can create a marketing strategy for them.
You should also include information about the money you need for materials and labor and any other expenses associated with making the product or providing the service.
This could be anything from renting office space to buying inventory items like supplies, inventory software, or other equipment like computers or printers.
If a business owner wants to fund their business, they must provide an investment plan as part of the business plan.
The investment plan explains how much money will be required to start the company, what form the capital will take, and how long it will take before there is enough profit for investors to get their money back plus interest.
3. Choose an eCommerce Platform Bases on Your Needs
Choosing an eCommerce platform is the first step in creating your store.
There are several different platforms, including Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so choosing one that meets your needs is essential.
Before you sign up for an eCommerce platform, you'll want to ensure it offers everything you need. Some platforms offer free trials, while others charge a fee for trying them out before deciding whether or not they suit you.
Once you've decided on a platform, it's time to start building your site. Here are the three popular eCommerce platforms that we recommend:
Shopify is an eCommerce platform that allows you to set up an online store with just a few clicks.
It has a drag-and-drop editor that lets you customize your site without learning any code or programming, and it comes with a built-in payment gateway and shipping labels.
You can also use Shopify's app store to add third-party apps to help you manage your inventory, create marketing campaigns, or fulfill orders.
Shopify offers a free trial period, after which you'll pay a monthly fee for the service. Their monthly plan starts at $29, and you can get 50% off if you pay annually.
BigCommerce is the leading eCommerce platform for retailers and brands. With over 140,000 customers in 150 countries, it is the most comprehensive, cost-effective, and easy-to-use platform on the market.
BigCommerce is a cloud-based eCommerce platform that allows you to create a professional online store with no software installation or design experience required.
With BigCommerce, you can set up your online store with just a few clicks. You can also easily customize your online shop by using its built-in design tools or hiring a professional designer to create a unique look for your store.
BigCommerce offers three plans: Standard ($29.95 per month), Plus ($79.95 per month), and Pro ($299.95 per month). Plus, there's a 15-days free trial.
Squarespace is an eCommerce platform offering a wide range of business features. It allows you to create and sell products, including physical and digital goods.
Squarespace is known for its simplicity and ease of use, which makes it perfect for beginners and small businesses.
They have many themes, so you can customize your website to match your company's branding. And there are also many plugins available that allow you to add more specific functionality.
Squarespace offers four different plans at different price points: Personal ($16 per month), Business ($23 per month), Basic Commerce ($127 per month), and Advance Commerce ($49 per month).
4. Register a Domain Name
A domain name is the URL of your website, like www.example.com or www.storename.com.
You'll need to register your domain before creating an online store. You can do this through a domain registration service or a website builder platform like Shopify.
It's unnecessary to purchase your domain name and hosting upfront if you're just experimenting with the idea of starting an online business.
However, businesses that want to establish credibility and trust with their customers must have their domain name.
Here are some tips for picking a domain name for your online business:
a) Make sure it's available
Before beginning to build a website, it's a good idea to check that the domain name you want is available. Otherwise, you could change your site's name because it wasn't available.
You can check whether a domain name is available using a tool like whois.
b) Make it short and easy to remember
You want your customers to easily remember your domain name when trying to find your website.
If it's too long or hard to pronounce, people might forget it and not use it as often as they should.
It should also be easy for them to spell, so they don't get frustrated when typing in the wrong address and have trouble finding what they're looking for on your site.
c) Use Keywords in your domain name
When choosing a domain name for your business, you must ensure that the keyword you use is relevant.
If you are selling shoes, it would be a good idea to include "shoes" or "sandals" in your domain name. This will help people who are searching for shoes find you more easily.
d) Don't use hyphens or numbers
Hyphens and numbers are not searchable terms in Google, so they won't help people find your site as quickly as words will.
If you have a hyphenated domain name that includes a number (like www.shoes-4u.com), try removing the hyphen and adding "and" between each word instead (www.shoesand4u.com).
e) Use only .com Domain Extension
You can register your domain name with any of the available extensions. But, if you are starting a business online, you should choose the .com extension. This is the most popular extension, giving your website more credibility.
f) Don't pick anything that sounds like another brand's name
Owning a legally registered trademark for your brand's domain name can protect any other entity trying to register the same domain name.
However, suppose another person or business already owns that trademark. In that case, they can use it to take over your entire business by sending a cease-and-desist notice to your domain registrar.
g) Register Your Domain As Soon As Possible
Once you have decided on your perfect domain name, make sure that you register it right away before someone else does so.
If you wait too long, there is a chance that someone else will register it in their name and take away your opportunity to own this great domain name.
5. Build Your Website with an Online Store Builder
There are many options and platforms if you're looking to build an eCommerce website. One of the most popular is Shopify.
This section will walk you through how to create an online store using Shopify.
a) Sign up for a free trial account
To get started with Shopify, you need to create an account first.
Head over to their pricing page, and choose a plan to try it free for 14 days.
Once clicked, you will be asked to add your store name, the type of website you want to create, your business location, etc.
After creating an account, you will be redirected to your dashboard.
b) Add a custom domain
Once you are in your admin dashboard, you can see several options you need to check. However, Shopify recommends you set up your domain first.
Click on the Add Domain button, and you will see two options - Buy a new domain and Connect an existing domain.
If you don't have a domain and want to buy directly from Shopify, click on the Buy new domain button.
However, if you already have a domain name or planning to buy from a third-party domain registrar, click on Connect existing domain.
Once you have added a domain, move to the custom theme option.
c) Customize your theme
Next, you need to choose a theme for your online store.
Click on the Customize theme button to explore more themes on the Shopify store.
Shopify offers both free and paid themes. To view free themes, click on Explore free themes.
You can also explore their premium themes packed with features, optimized for selling online, and covered by premium support.
Once you have chosen a theme, let's move to the Products section.
d) Add your first product
To upload your product, click on the Add product button.
Then, you need to add your product title, description, pricing, images, etc.
Once done, click on the save button at the bottom of the page.
e) Create other important pages
To create a page, go to the left-hand side of your dashboard and click on the Online Store > Pages option.
Give that page a title, and write your content.
Once done, click on the Save button.
f) Review the rest of your settings
Before you publish your site, you'll want to review all the settings to ensure everything is accurate.
First, ensure that your site is set up to handle sales in the currency you want (primarily if you sell internationally).
You may also want to change your payment gateway options so customers can pay with whichever payment method is most convenient.
And if you have a large inventory, it might be a good idea to enable bulk shipping - this way, customers can purchase multiple items at once without having to pay extra shipping costs.
There are endless ways to make your eCommerce store more appealing. You just need to do a little research, figure out which ones would be most effective for you, and then implement them.
To view your site's settings, click on the gear icon at the bottom of your dashboard.
Next, click on each option in the Settings menu and review whether you want to change anything.
Congratulations! You have completed your website.
7. Optimize Your eCommerce Store
Optimizing an eCommerce site for search engines can be challenging. You'll need to consider many things, from where you place products to how much information you provide on each page.
However, optimizing your eCommerce store will be a breeze if you know what to look for and how to go about it.
Here are some tips for optimizing your eCommerce store:
a) Optimize product pages
The first step to optimizing your eCommerce store is to optimize your product pages.
This includes having a clear, concise description of the item you're selling, as well as including all of the relevant information that customers want to know before they buy: price, shipping method, and return policy.
You should also ensure that your images are high-quality and optimized for mobile devices.
b) Use SEO best practices
SEO (search engine optimization) is ensuring that search engines can easily find and index your website's content. This is important because the higher your site appears on search results pages, the more likely visitors will find you!
It can be challenging to know where to start if you're looking to get your eCommerce site noticed on search engines.
But we've got seven tips to help you get the most out of your SEO efforts—and ensure your site is optimized for success!
Optimize for mobile
Use structured data markup (Schema)
Create high-quality content regularly
Make sure your site loads quickly
Build links back to your site
Create an FAQ page with clear answers
Do keyword research
c) Create user-friendly navigation menus
Make sure your navigation menus are easy to read and understand, whether you're using dropdown or sidebar menus.
You want customers who land on your site from Google searches or social media posts to navigate easily through your store without feeling lost or confused about where things are located on the page.
d) Use product descriptions that are optimized for search engines
You've got a great product, but if people can't find it online, it doesn't matter how great it is - no one will ever buy it.
One way to make sure that happens is by ensuring your product descriptions are optimized for search engines so that when people search for products like yours on Google or Amazon, your eCommerce store will show up in their results (and hopefully above competitors').
e) Optimize for local searches
People who search on Google often want to find businesses in their area. For example, if someone searches "coffee shop near me," they want a coffee shop they can walk to.
Optimizing your eCommerce store for local search is a great way to get more traffic from Google.
f) Make sure you have a fast site
Your site speed is critical to your business. It takes only one second for visitors to decide whether or not they want to stay on your page, and if it takes too long to load, they'll bounce right off.
You can use Google PageSpeed Insights to see how fast your site is loading and what issues might be causing problems.
g) Optimize your images
Images are vital on eCommerce websites because they give customers an idea of what they're getting before they even click on a product page.
If you don't optimize these images, they'll take longer to load and may appear blurry or pixelated when they load.
You can optimize them by following a few simple rules: keep file sizes small; compress them as much as possible without sacrificing quality; use high-quality image formats such as JPG or PNG; make sure any text in the image is legible when it loads, and use alt tags for each image, so search engines know what's in each picture.
8. Start Marketing Your New Shop
Marketing is essential for any business, but it can be crucial for an online store. You want to make sure that people know about your product and that they know how to find it.
If you're starting your online store, you might wonder about the best ways to market your new business.
Here are five easy and practical tips that will help you grow your brand and bring in more customers:
1. Create a blog on your website
A blog is a great way to market your eCommerce store and bring in new customers. The best blogs are written by an expert in the industry, like you.
You can write about topics related to your niche or write about topics that interest you.
If you have multiple products, consider writing about everything from choosing the right product for your needs to how to use it once you've purchased it.
2. Build your email list
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways of promoting your products and services. It allows you to communicate with your customers regularly, which helps create a connection between you and them that can lead to more sales.
To build an email list, simply add a signup form on your website so people can sign up for your newsletter or receive special offers.
You can also include an opt-in form on every page of your site, so visitors have the opportunity to subscribe at any time.
3. Reach out to bloggers in your niche
One of the most effective ways to market your eCommerce store is by reaching out to bloggers in your niche.
Bloggers have large audiences and trust from their readers, so they're perfect for promoting new products and services.
If you can find a blogger who has good engagement on their blog, it's time to reach out and see if they'd be interested in reviewing your product or service.
Please include a link to your store in the email and tell them what you're asking them to do. If they don't want to post an actual review, ask if they'd be willing to include a link within one of their posts or on their social media page(s).
Suppose someone is already blogging about similar products and services. In that case, they might be more receptive to working with you than someone else who hasn't written about anything related before or isn't active on social media.
4. Leverage social media
Social media has become a popular marketing tool for eCommerce businesses and can be a great way to market an online store.
There are many different types of social media platforms that you can use to market your products, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. But the most popular platform is Facebook because more than 1 billion people use it monthly.
The best way to use social media is by posting photos and videos that show off your products in a positive light. You can also try running contests where you offer discounts or free products in exchange for shares on Facebook or Instagram.
5. Referral or loyalty programs
Referral and loyalty programs are a great way to promote your products and generate more sales.
A referral program is a marketing strategy that rewards customers who refer their friends. It's also known as "refer-a-friend" or "referral marketing." The idea behind this strategy is simple: when customers talk about your business with their friends, family, or colleagues, it helps spread the word about your brand.
There are many ways you can use this strategy, including:
Offering discounts to entice customers to share your link
Reward points for each friend who signs up through an existing customer's referral link
Giving away free products or services for referring new customers
If you want to create an online store, there are several things you'll need to consider.
The most important is that you must have a clear understanding of what your customers want. If you can't answer the questions "why" and "what," then it's likely that your business will fail.
Once you have a solid idea of what your customers want, it's time to create a plan based on their needs. This includes things like deciding on products, setting up pricing, and determining delivery methods.
After these steps are complete, you'll need to set up an online store and find a reliable way for customers to pay for items they purchase from your site.
From there, it's all about maintaining relationships with clients, so they feel like they're part of something special - and that's how you'll make money!
Now, it's time to start your online store, and we can't wait to see what you do with it.
About the Author
Jyoti Ray is the founder of WPMyWeb.com, which specializes in social media, marketing, and SEO. He writes and has been featured on JeffBullas, SurveyAnyplace, SearchEngineWatch, and more. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.
Interested to have your work featured? Share your knowledge with our community by submitting an original article here!
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