How can I start an online store?

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend by emailSend by emailPDF versionPDF version
How to setup an online store

Do you own a small local flower shop or small grocery store and you want to expand your market reach? Are you planning to establish a branch outlet of your gown rental in another city to reach out more clients?

These are some of the scenarios that most people are considering in expanding their business. But nowadays, with the advent of the internet and online technology, you can sell anything to anyone from anywhere using an e-commerce system.

What is E-Commerce?

E-Commerce is commonly referring to electronic or online commerce or business transactions. Wikipedia defines it as the trading in products or services using computer networks, such as the Internet.

Today, businesses use e-commerce systems and platforms to launch and manage their stores both physically and virtually online. If you are planning or considering to put up your own online store, the detailed procedures below can help.

What You Can Sell Online?

If you look at several online stores or e-commerce websites running today, you will notice what they are actually selling. They are listed below:

  1. Physical products or goods
  2. Services
  3. Digital goods (downloadble files like E-Books, audio files, video files, PDF files)
  4. Subscription or membership (like membership in a dating site or online tutorial sites)

Do you have these saleable entities listed above? If yes, then you can start selling online with your e-commerce website!

How to Start an Online Store

There are few things to consider in launching an online store or an e-commerce website. These things are very basic even for startups or the first timers. We will describe the details in the succeeding text.

The Business Sidebusiness permits

If you are already doing business locally in your immediate location, then you are all set. You have the products or services to sell ready for the global expansion. If you are just starting out a business venture and your first option is going global immediately, then it is also possible. In this case, you have several options:

  1. Register your business in your city so that everything is legal. This ensures that in your city or country, you are allowed to do business and from then on you are a self-proclaimed businessman.
  2. Seek legal assistance in your community as to how to register your buisiness. Most government agencies now offer electronic filing of business registration to facilitate faster and efficient transactions.
  3. Make sure that you have acquired all necessary the necessary permits and licenses to conduct business.
  4. NOT RECOMMENDED: Even if you are just an individual, and not a business entity, or with a business license, you can launch your own online store. But it is always safe to do business legally - that is, with all government permits and licenses.

The Store Side

You can sell products or services or both. For the products, they can be physical products like groceries, clothing or gadgets. They can also be digital products preparing your online storelike downloadble ebook and PDFs or audio recordings.

  1. Organize your inventory. Make a complete list of products and/or service and make sure that they are categorized properly. The main purpose for this is so that when you publish your products online, they are categorized. They are both easy to add and manage.
  2. Come up with your own categories of products. You can also refer to established online stores like newegg.com for an insight on how they categorize their products.
  3. Prepare your photos. One of the very important asset that can enhance your e-commerce site are the pictures you put there. The more beautiful your images are, the more appealing your store will be.
  4. Prepare your physical products. If you are selling physical products that require shipment, keep your inventory up-to-date and maintain a good number of your products to be always prepared for a huge volume of shipment when you start selling online.
  5. Prepare and organize your downloadable digital goods. If you are not selling physical products or services, then you must be selling downloadable digital products like ebooks, audio files, video files and other digital products. Please make sure that you have a very good digital copy of those files to avoid publishing corrupt files online that will just give you tons of complaints and refund request.
  6. Prepare your subscription details and costing. Another entities that you can sell online are subscriptions. Examples of these are Pro Membership is a dating website, Pro Membership in a live online tutoring services, and many others. If you sell subscription online, prepare your subscription details like the privileges and the costing of any subscription levels.
  7. Keep a good number of shippers and shipping options. This applies to vendors with physical goods or products that require shipment. Do not stick to one shipper, get a collection of shipping options so that your customers have the freedom to choose as to how their purchased items are delivered to them. Most of them may have preferred shippers so it is a great thing for them to see their favorite shipper listed in your site.
  8. Make more payment options available. Do not just stick to Paypal. There are several other payment processors out there that your customers in the various parts of the globe would prefer so it is bery important that you can integrate those options in your online store.
  9. MOST IMPORTANT: Make your literature ready! Your site will not only be composed of pictures. Descriptive literatures are also the very key component in any successful website. Blogs are secondary. Make sure that you have compelling writeups of your About Us page, Home Page, Terms and Conditions page, Product pages, and other textual components of your website. You can hire brilliant sales writers online if you do not trust your writing skills.  

The E-Commerce Solution

And now the most thrilling part, starting your actual online store! Before you can launch your actual online or e-commerce website, you need to consider few things.

Domain Name or Sub-Domain?

The very first is your domain name. Do you want to have your own domain name like elegantjewelries.com? Or do you want to just "attach" your identity to someone's brand like elegantjewelries.iwebs.com? (In this example domains, iwebs.com is the original brand and you are making your site as a SUB-DOMAIN.)

Responsive or Non-Responsive?

This can be a technical thing but in a nutshell, the differences between responsive and non-responsive websites are easy to tell. Websites looks wonderful in regular-sized screens or displays like LCDs or laptops. However, when they are viewed in smartphones and tablets, how would these sites render? That is the actual edge of responsive websites since they will be rendered properly even in smaller displays like smartphones and tablets.

Here is a sample non-responsive website viewed in a smartphone:

Non-responsive

As you will notice, the entire site is forcedly fit into the small smarthphone display. As a result, text are not too visible as they are reduced in display size. The responsive equiivalent is shown below:

The responsive design

The result is simply great! More visibility as the content is showing part of the site that fits in the smaller display without compromising esthetics. (Photo Credits)

Develop from Scratch or Not?

If you have a lot of funds to finance your online venture, then you can go and hire a group of developers and create your online store totally from scratch. As a result, you direct the team of developers what you want done and it will be done.

However, it can be re-inventing the wheel. Groups of brilliant developers have already developed a high-caliber e-commerce platform and are now being used by several thousands of stores. These e-commerce solutions are packed with essential features that will allow you to run your store, manage your products, keep track of your inventories, track sales and other business related activities. With these e-commerce solutions, you can focus on your products and your business and not mind the website at all.

Using Shopify - The Complete E-Commerce Solution

Using Shopify - The Complete E-Commerce Solution

Yes, there are lots of available online store solutions out there. However, Shopify is simply so feature-rich that you can ignore. As there tagline goes, it is everything you need to sell online. Here are the few features that you can check and verify before trying Shopify:

Storefront 100+ professional themes   Products Digital products
  Brand & customize your online store     Import/Export
  Edit HTML and CSS     Inventory management
  Full blogging platform     Multiple images
  Mobile commerce ready     Product organization
  Web-based website builder     Product variations
  Work with an expert     SEO product tags
  Your own domain name     Unlimited products
Shopping cart 70 payment gateways   Web hosting 99.94% uptime and 24/7 monitoring
  Abandoned checkout recovery     Daily backups
  Automatic carrier shipping rates     Email forwarding
  Automatic taxes     Instant upgrades
  Flexible shipping rates     Level-1 PCI compliant
  Multiple languages     SSL certificate
  Offer free shipping     Unlimited bandwidth
  Secure shopping cart   Analytics Dashboard
Store management Customer accounts     Export reports
  Customer groups     Google Analytics
  Customer profiles     Product reports
  Dropshipping     Traffic/Referral reports
  Email templates   Shopify Mobile All your data synced with Shopify
  Fulfillment centers     Email or call customers
  Manage on the go     Manage inventory
  Order fulfillment     Mobile dashboard
  Refunds     Order fulfillment
Marketing & SEO Discount codes and coupons   24/7 support Dedicated support team
  Email marketing     Discussion forums
  Free Google and Facebook ad credits     Ecommerce University
  Generated sitemap.xml     Knowledge base
  Gift cards     Shopify Experts
  Product reviews      
  Search engine optimized      
  Sell on Facebook      
  Social media integration      

With this set of cool features, you can never go wrong in starting your next online store with ShopifyStart building your Shopify site now!

Try building your online store with Shopify for FREE!

 

For a list of successful Shopify shops, please refer to these links below:

http://technicalforum.org/software-review/e-commerce-watch-list-successf...
http://technicalforum.org/software-review/elegant-e-commerce-jewelry-sto...
http://technicalforum.org/software-review/successful-e-commerce-sites-us...