Building an online shop on your own is more achievable than ever. There’s a plethora of convenient and accessible tools available for creating a website, turning it into an online store, and building a customer base. If you’ve ever wanted to become an online entrepreneur, now’s the time!
But it can be difficult to set up an e-commerce shop, especially if you don’t have any experience. Let’s break down how you can get started with an online store step-by-step.
Define Your Niche and Target Audience
Every online store has to know its customers and target market if it is to succeed. Therefore, you should carefully define both your niche – the area of your market where you operate – and your target audience before launching any online shop.
Your target audience is the group of people most likely to buy from your brand. For example, if you sell homemade jewelry and want to launch an online store, your target audience will probably be comprised of:
- Women aged 18-40
- People who like homemade items
- People with personable or casual accessory styles, etc.
Before moving on to the next step, you should do plenty of market research to know who you’ll advertise to and who will buy your products. Understanding your market niche and target audience is the only way to set your business up for long-term success.
Pick the Right E-Commerce Platform
Next, you need to choose the right e-commerce platform for your online store. An e-commerce platform is a control center for your online business. It allows you to keep track of your inventory, marketing efforts, customer service, and other elements from a centralized dashboard.
The best e-commerce platforms are:
- Easy to use and intuitive, even if you don’t have experience running an online shop
- Made with important features like checkout, customer relationship management, and customer support tools. A good e-commerce platform will also offer basic business accounting features such as monitoring cash flow and keeping track of profits and sales revenues.
- Compatible with good web hosting services, which provide you with the server space and resources you need to accept online traffic and orders
Adobe Magneto is one example of an e-commerce platform, though there are dozens more, such as WooCommerce. You can alternatively choose an online marketplace like Etsy, which allows you to set up an online shop through its proprietary platform.
But if you want to build your online store and website yourself, you’ll need an e-commerce platform that integrates with that site. Do your research and find the e-commerce platform that’s most affordable and suitable for your needs.
Should you choose to build your own site, you can use a website builder like Squarespace or hire a talented web designer to create an online store for you.
Set Up Your Site and Store Systems
Even the most comprehensive and user-friendly e-commerce platforms will require some setup, so you should take the time to set up your store systems after designing the initial layout of your site. Some of the most important store systems include:
- An online shopping cart, where customers will store items before checking out
- A virtual terminal that enables your mobile device or computer to accept credit cards
- A payment gateway that lets you accept online payments securely without compromising customer information. On top of credit and debit cards, mobile credit card processing, and bank transfers, you should also consider accepting cryptocurrency payments. Accepting crypto will broaden your market, speed up transactions, and lower transaction fees. Just make sure you have a high-quality crypto wallet to safely receive and store crypto payments from your customers.
- Billing and invoicing features, which let you bill or invoice your customers through a secure payment gateway
You can often get these store systems from the same e-commerce services provider. Gravity Payments is a perfect solution for new e-commerce business owners who need payment and other services fast.
Pick Your Business Structure
You’ll also want to consider the business structure for your new enterprise. If you plan to run your online store yourself, you can launch a sole proprietorship or an LLC/limited liability company. Both business structures will provide certain tax advantages, though LLCs also protect you from liability and lawsuits.
Research the different business structures and choose carefully. Your business structure can influence whether you can hire employees, what you have to pay in taxes, etc.
Develop and Prepare Your Products
Your online store has to sell products to grow its cash flow. Therefore, you should consider your market research and develop products that:
- Solve specific problems for your customers or that your target audience members may need
- Provide value to your customers
- Are priced appropriately for your target customers’ likely purchasing points
Depending on your niche or industry, developing and preparing your products from scratch could take several weeks or months. Be sure to take attractive, engaging pictures of the products, then upload them to your new e-commerce store. Those photos are the only way your customers can examine the products before purchasing them.
Develop a Marketing Campaign
Even if you have the best products in your niche, you’ll need to advertise them if you hope to turn a profit. Develop and plan a marketing campaign before you launch your e-commerce store by:
- Optimizing your website for better search engine rankings
- Creating digital PPC or pay-per-click ads, which you only have to pay for once someone clicks on them
- Creating a social media marketing campaign to drum up anticipation and excitement for your store launch
Remember that online marketing always starts slow but picks up steam and becomes more valuable as you stick with it.
Launch Your Online Store and Start Marketing!
When your marketing campaign is ready, begin advertising and launch your online store on the same day. Launch day can be hectic and exciting, so remember to stay logged into your e-commerce platform so you can monitor traffic, answer customer concerns, and fulfill orders as they come in.
There you have it – a step-by-step guide to starting your e-commerce store and launching your entrepreneurial career. Good luck, and don’t forget to contact Gravity Payments if you need a digital shopping cart or online payment system for your new store!