Guide on Starting an Online Store

Are you interested in selling your products online? Discover the steps to follow to set up your online store.

Online shopping has been popular for years, but never more so than it has been since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the number of residents shopping online in Canada doubled in 2020. In the United States, the statistics were similar. According to the popular data collection website Statista, 52 percent of Americans reported shopping for more products online than they did prior to the onset of the pandemic.

If you want to take advantage of the undeniable boom in the online shopping industry, you need an attractive, fully functional online store. However, setting one up may seem daunting to you, especially if you have very little experience with the technical aspects of website and shopping cart creation. Yet, setting up an online store is fairly simple, as long as you take the process one step at a time. Here are the most important steps to follow when creating an online store.

Select a Domain Name

A domain name is the URL text users must type to get to your online store. A typical domain name for an online store also incorporates the name of the business. For example the word “Amazon” is in the URL. Tips for selecting a domain name include:

  • Get one that ends in .com because .com domain names are the most popular and memorable.

  • Choose a short domain name users can jot down, remember, and share easily.

  • Avoid domain names that are too similar to other known brand names.

  • Select a domain name that is associated with the products you sell.

  • Be prepared to edit your domain name slightly if the one you settle on is already registered.

Choose a Platform

A platform is a type of computer program designed to help you develop your online store. There are multiple ecommerce platforms available. They all offer different features and prices. Some of them also come with limitations and fees, such as fees per transaction or a limit on how many products you can list monthly. Here are some of the most popular ecommerce platforms with unlimited listing options are:

  • Squarespace offers packages starting at $18, and the platform frequently offers discounts for new users.

  • Shopify offers packages starting at $29 and a 14-day free trial.

  • Wix offers a free service, with paid upgraded service starting at $23.

When selecting an ecommerce platform, make sure you choose one with the features you want. Check to see if you can easily update your product catalog within the platform. Also, make sure the platform offers the ability to easily create sales or special promotions. The best ecommerce platforms can also help you keep track of your transactions easily and provide you with sales analytics to help you adjust and improve your online store as time passes.

Know Your Target Audience

You must know your target demographics to have success in ecommerce. That means you have to figure out who your website visitors are or are likely to be and cater to their needs. There are several demographics to consider when setting up an ecommerce store. Age is among the most important, since children, teenagers, and adults all have different interests. You may also need to consider such demographics as:

  • Ethnic Origins

  • Gender

  • Income Level

  • Occupation

Select the Right Products to Sell

After you know the audience you wish to focus on you can start selecting products to sell. Make sure each product appeals to your audience. Select products that are likely to sell quickly. You might opt to focus on a popular industry, such as the clothing industry. Another option is to sell products designed to help customers solve specific problems. For example, the company Kong makes some of the most popular dog toys on today's market because their toys are so durable and difficult to destroy.

Focus on Website Design

The design of your website is essential for success. Make sure its layout makes sense to you. If you find it confusing, your visitors are sure to also find it confusing. Make sure navigation buttons and links work properly and are positioned in intuitive, obvious places. For example, most online retailers position the “cart” button in the upper right corners of their websites. Therefore, placing your “cart” button in the upper right may make it easiest for your customers to find.

You can also use colors to help your visitors navigate. Some research shows certain colors are more attractive than others. Red and blue are among the most universally popular colors. However, other research indicates matching the colors of the website you design to the types of products you are selling is more important than basing your color scheme on the general popularity of specific colors.

Provide Multiple Payment Options

There are many ways to pay for products and services in this day and age. Credit cards and debit cards are still used. However, fast online fund transfer methods like using Venmo or PayPal are becoming increasingly popular. Make sure you offer such options, if possible. Potential customers are more likely to make purchases when their preferred payment methods are available.

Incorporate Dropshipping for Easy Online Store Management

If starting an online store concerns you because you do not have the space to store your inventory, dropshipping is an option to consider. It allows you to purchase items and have them shipped directly from the manufacturers to your customers. Therefore, you do not need a retail space or storage warehouse. However, dropshipping is sometimes an expensive undertaking. Industry experts warn that it may take time to turn a profit when you dropship with a brand new business. It is more effective after your business is somewhat established when you have a steady flow of orders coming in.

Keep Your Early Customers Coming Back

In the early days after creating your online store, find ways to keep your customers coming back. Establish an email mailing list customers can join for updates and promotions. Include coupon codes, birthday promotions, or other incentives. Establishing loyal customers early and encouraging them to tell their loved ones about your business is the best way to get it to grow quickly.