Small business tips

How to Start an Online Store in 8 Easy Steps

Would you rather sell products over the web than from a brick-and-mortar business? You still need to enact and follow a game plan to make your virtual venture succeed.

Continue reading to learn how to start an online store in eight steps.

1. Pick a niche

The ideal niche for your online store has a market of willing buyers and is profitable. But it is also one in which you have skill and passion. It should also be in demand but not so competitive that your business can’t gain a foothold in the industry.

One way to gauge how profitable a niche is is to look at search engine volume for terms related to that niche. You can also use an analytics site like Google Trends to gauge interest in that niche over time. Also look up how popular and well-rated products in that niche are on Amazon and similar websites.

2.Determine a supply chain model

Do you want to be an online merchant who ships products that you make straight to customers? Or, would you prefer to have a drop-shipper ship third-party products to the customers? The specific choice you make will affect operational costs and inventory management. It will also dictate the level of control you have over order fulfillment.

3. Settle on products

One of the most crucial steps of how to start an online store is to hone in on the products you want to sell. Product viability, value, and scalability are all important criteria to consider. But the products must add real value to the niche to be desirable to a target market and profitable to you.

4. Get squared away with the law

Having an online business doesn’t absolve you of the need to pick a business entity and name. You may also need to register the business (or the name only) with the relevant state or local authority. Pick a store name that is not in use by another business. Also, ensure that a matching domain name exists for the name. At the same time, get a tax ID and any licenses and permits needed to sell in your locale. That includes getting a sales tax permit in states in which you have a physical presence.

5. Pick an e-commerce solution

You can build an online store from scratch or with the help of a developer for more customization. Or, you can go the simpler route and build an online store with e-commerce software. There are two main types of e-commerce solution software: hosted or licensed. A third-party service hosts and maintains a hosted online store. You would be responsible for store hosting and maintenance with the licensed option. The hosted option is effortless.

Don’t already have a business website? Services like Shopify let you buy a domain when you build a store. You can also integrate an online store with an existing business website.

6. Build an online store

When you’ve settled on an e-commerce solution, use it to build out the store. That includes the digital storefront, product category pages, and product detail pages. It should also include store policies, business contact information, and legalese. Last but not least, settle on a store design theme that is eye-catching and aligns with your brand.

7. Nail down payment terms

Decide on the payment options your online store will offer customers at checkout. The e-commerce software you chose may have its own payment system to take credit cards. Or, choose a third-party payment system to accept other payment. These include PayPal or Apple Pay. You can work these options into your store as checkout buttons.

8. Market your online store

Marketing is one of the most neglected aspects of how to start an online store. At the end of the day, you want more people to visit, buy from and return to your online store. That means promoting it through a mix of digital and traditional marketing tactics.

Email blasts can help keep an audience captive once you have a sizable subscription list. But to get that audience, you may also need to blog and rely on paid ads or social media influencers. Don’t forget about the power of print ads in local publications.

About the author

Manasa Reddigari

Manasa Reddigari has tackled topics ranging from computer software to home remodeling in her more-than-a-decade-long career as a writer and editor. During her stint as a scribe, she's been featured by MileIQ, Trulia, and other leading digital properties. Connect with her on copyhabit.com to find out what she's been writing about lately.

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The Growth Center does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.