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How to Start an Online Store in 2021 Guide

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Elliot Kavanagh

Elliot is the owner and admin of elliotkavanagh.com. He's a qualified marketing expert with a Bachelor of Business in Marketing and 7 years of experience in digital marketing. He also loves to eat and play games, somewhat badly.View Author posts

Looking into how to start an online store? Check out our detailed breakdown of everything you need to consider before getting started.

COVID-19 has everybody shopping online. In order to avoid getting sick or transmitting the disease, many of us have embraced online shopping which in turn has boosted the demand for more online shops.

In some countries experiencing a decline in daily cases, online shopping is still going strong leading many prospective entrepreneurs to wonder whether they should dip their toes in this kind of business.

If you’re one of these people, you’re in luck because this article talks about how you can start an online store despite being a newbie entrepreneur. Check this out.

Decide On A Niche

Online selling is a very competitive world. There are literally millions of online stores selling a multitude of things. This is why you need a niche product which is basically a good or service that serves a specific consumer base or category.

They are usually unique, handmade, and are made in small batches. Organic or vegan products, handmade customized children’s toys, and high-quality coffee are good examples of niche products.

It can be a struggle to find a niche, so here is a short guide to help you get started.

  • Find your passion

This sounds easy but is actually a bit complicated. A “passion” is not just something you’re interested in. It is something that inspires intense enthusiasm in you. It can be a cause or an idea that gets you enthusiastic and excited.

For example, are you enthusiastic about the environment? Then there are many products you can sell that are sustainable and earth-friendly.

If your passion is cars there are also many niche products that you can sell online. The point is: you have to be passionate about what you sell so that you have the drive and the eagerness to persevere.

  • Is there a market for your niche?

Next, you have to figure out if there is a market for your niche. The goal of every entrepreneur is to make a profit and you can’t do that without a market. This is why you need to find out if someone out there is willing to pay money for your product.

One of the best ways to find out is by doing some keyword research. You can use Google Keyword Planner to find out whether people are looking for certain products. Plugin some keywords related to your niche to find out search volume, competition level, and suggested bid.

For search volume, go for 1K-10K per month; competition should be low-medium, and suggested bids should be on the low side.

  • Narrow Your List

At this point, you will have an idea of what people are looking for in your market. However, in order to truly serve a niche, you need to narrow it down further. If you’re looking at a niche for “freelance writer”, narrow it down further to see which sub-niches you want to serve.

For example, you might want to provide service for “freelance financial writer” or “freelance sportswriter”. The narrower you get, the lesser the competition is and this is what will help you thrive.

  • Check The Competition

You also want to see what competition is like for your niche. Google keywords to find out what websites come up on the first page. This is where you will find out three things:

  • Are there already many sites ranking for your keywords? This may mean that the niche is very competitive and saturated.
  • There are no sites using your keywords to rank which can indicate that either there is an opportunity or there is no market for this niche.
  • There are websites that rank for the keyword but they are small or low quality.

One of the biggest advantages of serving a niche market is loyal customers. Since your audience has already been segmented, creating ads and content is easier because you just have to cater to one demographic.

Choose Between Dropshipping Or Holding Inventory

Now that you have a product and a market, you need to decide whether you want to dropship or hold your own products.

A dropshipper is basically a third party that packs and ships your products. You buy products from a supplier and the dropshipper packs and ships the items to your customers.

  • Dropshipping

In drop shipping the advantages are as follows:

  • No inventory which means you only need a smaller capital.
  • Mininal overheads especially on storage fees.
  • No packing and shipping from your home or physical store.

There are disadvantages of course:

  • When the dropshipper screws up it’s going to be your fault.
  • You will have to communicate with people who can be located thousands of miles away and speak a different language.
  • Product returns can be a headache.
  • Lack of branding.
  • Holding Inventory

The advantages are as follows:

  • Control in terms of branding, packaging and shipping.
  • Better quality control of products.
  • Shorter delivery time.
  • Knowing your products inside out which mean better and faster problem solving.

The cons are:

  • Buying inventory costs money.
  • Storing inventory is expensive.
  • Shipping and packing takes a lot of time and costs money.

Obviously, both business models have their pros and cons. You need to decide on a system that is advantageous for business but won’t compromise the customer experience.

Choose A Business Name and Register a Domain

Your business name can help you break it or make it in the niche you choose. This is why you need a clever and easy-to-remember business and domain name. One glance should be able to tell the consumer what your company and product are all about.

Choosing a business and domain name can be tricky. Here is my advice on what to do and what not to do when you reach this point in your journey.

Do

  • Choose something that’s easy to pronounce. The easier to pronounce, the easier to remember.
  • Choose a name with significance. People should be able to tell what you’re selling.
  • Be as original as possible. Stay away from naming your websites like popular websites or products. For example, a guy made a website called Victorssercrets.com and got sued by Victoria’s Secrets.
  • Choose a name that is available in a .com domain. The .com domain is still the most popular. It can be tempting to get a .net or a .xyz but it can be hard to make customers remember that you’re not a .com.

Dont

  • Choose a name that’s long. Stick to 3 words! Long website names increase the risk of typos and misspellings. Remember spelling is hard.
  • Choose a name with numbers. Harder to remember and will make you look dodgy.
  • Choose a name that refers to a specific product. What if you decide to branch out in the future?Organiccoffee.com sounds to the point and easy to remember. But what will happen when you want to diversify into teas or craft beer?

When you’ve found the perfect name, register your domain. This is the first step towards building your website.

According to WP Beginner, there are 151.8 million .com domain names already registered. There is a big chance that your perfect domain name is already registered or being registered right now.

This is why you need to act fast. In fact, many entrepreneurs actively register domain names even before they have started selling or making a business plan.

Domain names are relatively cheap. You can register for a year and if the business does not push through, you can let it expire.

Registering a domain name is easy. For example, if you want to register using GoDaddy, you just need to go to their website and enter your domain name on their search box.

If the domain is available you will be sent a message that you were successful. You can now add the domain name to your cart and then checkout.

Then, you will see your domain name registered for a certain period. They also give you the ability to change the term for up to 10 years if you want. But that can be expensive and renewing is easy, so I recommend renewing it on a yearly basis.

GoDaddy will need a registered account to proceed so create one and enter your billing address and make payment. GoDaddy will then register your domain name and will send you an email to access your control panel. You can tick the auto-renew button during the checkout process to prevent your domain from expiring.

Select An Ecommerce Platform

Since you are selling online, you also need an eCommerce platform. A good platform will make selling easy for you and has features that let customers find specific products, shopping cart, and payment processing.

If you have no coding background, don’t worry because there are many platforms that don’t require coding. There are platforms that require a monthly fee while others are free to use.

There are a lot of ecommerce platforms available but some of the most popular ones include:

  • Wix – best all-around platform.
  • Shopify – best for eCommerce sites with 10+ products or large stores.
  • Weebly – great for small bloggers and startups.
  • Square Space – perfect for entrepreneurs looking for high-quality templates and aesthetic storefronts.
  • Square Online – great for those looking for an all in one solution.

I have a more in-depth guide written on the best ecommerce platforms, which you should definitely check out. I’ve helped several clients set up online stores in the past so I have first-hand experience with many of these platforms.

Optimize Your Website

Having an ecommerce website is great and exciting. However, it needs traffic in order to thrive and grow. This is why your website needs to be optimized so that it can attract traffic through search engines.

One of the best ways to do this is through search engine optimization (SEO). Targeting SEO keywords can help you rank high on search engine results page.

There are many ways you can do this. A good example is blogging. Providing customers with informational and relevant content can drive traffic to your website and boost sales.

Aside from blogging to boost SEO you can also:

  • Advertise through Pay-Per-Click (PPC). However, this can be expensive especially if you’re inexperienced with PPC. This tactic needs serious thought and study.
  • Pay attention to on-page SEO and local SEO.
  • Guest blog on other sites.
  • Invite guest bloggers to write on your site.
  • Build an email list.

Spread The Word

Advertising can be expensive especially if you’re just starting out. However, it is necessary for businesses to spread the word in order to be found on the internet.

One of the best ways to advertise is to leverage social media platforms. You can sign up on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Social media is a good platform not only for advertising but also for engaging with customers.

Getting in touch with your customers not only gives you a venue for promoting your website or product but also gives you a chance to receive their feedback which can help you improve your product or service.

Make sure to release content regularly. Social media followers need constant engagement so that they won’t get bored and forget you. You can write blogs, release videos, or just spend time chatting with them or responding to questions or comments.

Social media is also a good place for advertisement. Facebook for example has an affordable plan that can let you reach local customers by targeting their location. They will be able to see your posts thereby boosting your reach.

According to research, the ROI of social media is higher than PPC. This is because gaining followers is a long-term investment. Also, when they start following you, you don’t have to spend money to send them content. When you post they will see it immediately without spending a single cent.

Wrap-Up

In an article by content marketing influencer Adam Enfroy, he stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated ecommerce growth by 10 years while physical stores like Lord and Taylor are filing for bankruptcy.

If you’ve been thinking about starting an online business for years but is still hesitating, it is clear that the time to do so is now. Starting a new business is intimidating but also exciting. Moving or starting your business online can give you a chance not only to reach the global market but also to gain an edge against your competitors.