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How to start an online store?

Online shopping is clearly gaining in popularity – more and more people appreciate its advantages, overcoming their prejudices or habits. However, this does not mean that it is enough to create an e-store to be successful. The increased popularity of this type of shopping also means growing competition. So, how to start an online store? Check out our tips!

How to start an online store and ensure its success?

Have you been running an online store for a long time, but still collecting too few orders? Or maybe you are just planning to enter the market, but want to be sure that you will start “with a bang”? Regardless of the motivation, it is worth knowing ways to attract more customers to your online store. Good selling is not a matter of luck at all, at least usually. Those who consistently work for their success, while taking care of the consistency and thoughtful nature of their actions, are much more successful. This is all the more important as nowadays there are more and more e-shops, and therefore the competition is growing. Getting started trading online is often a matter of just a few clicks, but success is much more difficult.

Below you will find proven ideas on how to start your online store. Of course, the best results will be achieved by combining at least several promotion methods. Also, don’t forget the basics – no advertisement will help you stand out if your store page is non-functional or you are unable to offer the right level of customer service. Then you can only generate more traffic on it, but it will not translate into the number of transactions. Take care of the construction of the store itself, its appearance and clear layout. Try to display your products in the best possible way (lots of photos, extensive descriptions, etc.). Think about what makes your offer different and focus on promoting this feature.

First: SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is activities focused on website optimization in accordance with the requirements of search engines, especially Google. Thanks to them, your website is displayed higher in the search results, which means that more people find it. Optimization gives long-term results, although it takes a long time to notice them. That is why it is worth taking care of it in the first place – after all, you think about your store in long-term terms, right? Theoretically, this is a free form of advertising – all you need to do is constantly work on optimizing your website to start showing better results. In practice, however, effective actions require knowledge, time and dedication. Therefore, work on SEO usually comes down to employing a specialist in this field or using the services of an agency.

Optimizing a website according to SEO principles includes many factors. It can be divided into two groups. On-site activities are carried out directly on the website and rely on its appropriate preparation – in accordance with the requirements of the search engine algorithms. This means adapting the entire structure of the website and its content. The most important on-site activities include:
– supplementing missing content – mainly product descriptions,
– elimination of duplicate content ,
– content saturation with key phrases,
– appropriate selection of the content structure – length, headings, paragraphs, attributes,
– supplementing meta data,
 – the use of internal linking,
– adapting the website to display on different devices (responsiveness),
– code optimization and ordering.

All these factors affect the visibility of the website, although there are of course many more of them. In addition, off-site activities, consisting primarily of building a database of links leading to the website, help in positioning. When carrying out all activities related to positioning, remember to use only good practices. This is important, and the updates of the algorithms have already cut traffic on pages that were building separate areas too aggressively – e.g. link profile.

Second: Google Ads

Systematic and continuous activities within SEO will allow you to climb up in the search results systematically – as long as they are carried out correctly. However, if you operate in a competitive industry, it is very possible that you will never make it to the top. There is, however, a shortcut. Thanks to Google Ads, and specifically sponsored links in the search engine, your website can appear at the very top of the list of search results. Experience shows that such advertising can be very effective if used correctly. This is a very simple answer to the question of how to start an online store quickly and efficiently.

Google Ads is in fact a very extensive tool available for both small and large companies and used successfully by them. Payments are made only for clicking on an advertisement, which is a very favorable settlement model from the entrepreneur’s point of view. However, this requires very precise configuration of the settings. Proper selection of parameters can bring large profits at low costs. Sponsored links are unobtrusive and the average user is not associated with bothersome advertising, and the ability to precisely define criteria for who the sponsored content is to be displayed affects the effectiveness of this solution.

Google Ads is also the possibility of using the so-called image advertising. It is very effective if you don’t know how to start an online store that no one knows. It is a method that works best in increasing brand recognition and building its image. It consists in displaying your store’s banners on various websites that provide Google with advertising space. You can decide for yourself on which pages your ad will appear, which will increase its effectiveness.

Remarketing advertising looks very similar. This is a great tool for those stores that have a significant amount of so-called abandoned carts (the customer adds products to the cart but does not complete the transaction) or experience other types of conversion problems. Your store banners are then displayed to customers who have already visited it. You can decide that the displayed content should be dynamic, i.e. tailored to a specific user. Then he will see the items he has previously viewed and possibly other related articles. Such advertising can be very effective!

Third: social media

Presence in social media is nowadays a duty of every company – especially an online store. Profiles on popular websites work like constant advertising. The possibilities of their use are very wide. Through regular, interesting posts you can systematically increase your audience and influence their engagement. By also engaging in replying to comments, you help potential customers to feel and strengthen the bond with your brand. It is a unique way of two-way communication with recipients. So you can also get feedback on your actions – find out what you like and what you don’t. In this way, you can also receive a ready-made hint on how to start your online store.

In addition, the most popular social networking sites allow the use of paid ads that allow you to reach a much wider audience. This is primarily about Facebook or Instagram, which offer advertisers a wide range of opportunities and often also satisfying results. However, it is worth using the advertising potential of all platforms on which you operate.

Speaking of which – when it comes to activities in social media, it is not worth limiting yourself. Most companies run Facebook, but they don’t try to appear on other platforms. This is a big mistake because this is where your customers are often! Social media is a way to reach them directly – especially if your target is a younger clientele. Check what YouTube can offer you (you also launch YT campaigns via the Google Ads panel), TikTok or Pinterest – it is very possible that thanks to your activity in these portals you will gain more customers.

Regularity, diligence and matching content to the potential recipient are the most important rules of operation in social media. You need to know who you are “broadcasting” to, show interest and be original. Posts thrown out of duty, ill-considered and simply boring, will certainly not bring the expected results, and may even work the opposite of what you would like.

Fourth: company blog

A company blog is the most important tool for content marketing, i.e. content marketing. It is considered one of the most important and effective methods to stand out on the web. Content marketing has a lot to do with SEO – by publishing high-quality content saturated with the right keywords, you can significantly improve your site’s position on Google. At the same time, it can attract and interest the client. So it is a great method for anyone who wants to know how to start an online store.

What is it about? Content marketing is based on publishing valuable, useful, interesting and original content (the form is also important). It is true that it is not only about texts (you can also publish, for example, videos, infographics, podcasts and many others), but a company blog is one of the simplest forms of content marketing. All you need to do is think about what your customers are interested in or remember what questions they ask about your offer the most and turn this information into blog articles. It is worth ensuring that they are as substantive and comprehensive as possible. Put yourself in the role of an expert and it will help you build a positive image of the store. Write more about your products, their functions, ways of use, key features, and maybe even how and what they are made of. Thanks to this, you will arouse much more interest and trust.

A company blog can be run independently, although most companies decide to hire professionals – a content marketing agency, SEO agency or copywriter. A specialist can use the information you provide to him that will help create unique content. At the same time, however, it will ensure that the whole thing has an optimal form and style, is linguistically correct and presented in an attractive way. It will also take care of the use of keywords in accordance with SEO requirements.

Fifth: email marketing

E-mail marketing is now often relegated to the background, although not so long ago it was the main form of advertising for entrepreneurs who wondered how to start an online store. Today it is rather a supplement, but it is still not worth giving up. By building your own database of e-mail contacts, you become independent from the operation of social networking sites (e.g. in the event of a failure, hacker attack or other factors that will prevent you from using your account), and you also gain an additional channel of communication with customers. It is worth encouraging you to subscribe to the newsletter, e.g. by offering a small discount on the order. You can remind by e-mail about promotions or sales, inform about new products and any changes taking place in the store. Thanks to mailing, you do not let your customers forget about your store and motivate them to visit your website.

Importantly, the cost of email marketing is low. The preparation of the content and graphic design of the message can be commissioned to specialists or prepared by yourself. Tools for sending messages are inexpensive – there is even a lack of functional free programs on the market if the recipient base is not large.

How to run modern, effective e-mail marketing? First, don’t forget about form. Make it inviting, attractive and consistent with the image of your store. Use CTA (Call to Action) to encourage going to the site. Second, think about personalization. Let the customer choose what kind of information he wants to receive, what product groups he is interested in, etc. It greatly increases the effectiveness of the messages sent!

Sixth: discounts, promotions, loyalty program

How to start an online store in terms of the number of purchases and visits to the website? One thing is certain – nothing motivates you to buy more than a price reduction. Sometimes it’s hard to break to offer a promotion in a store that is barely spinning, but believe – it’s worth it. Promotions should be frequent and varied. It is best if they appear at least once a month and you incorporate them in some way in your business model. There are plenty of ideas for effective actions of this type!

You can, for example, every week, on a selected day of the week (or on a weekend, for example), lower the prices of products belonging to a specific department or group. The promotion will be even more effective if the discounts are tailored to the needs of users and related to current events. There are also stores where promotions are valid daily and their scope changes once a week. Example? An internet drugstore that runs weekly promotions on four selected cosmetic brands. The alternative to discounts are promotions such as “two for the price of one” or “buy the product and get the other half price” or “free delivery”. These types of treatments are very effective in encouraging shopping, and they encourage you to visit the store more often or subscribe to the newsletter.

In addition to regular or cyclical promotions, you can also use discount codes as a thank you for loyalty – e.g. a 10% discount on the next purchase for everyone who subscribes to the newsletter and makes purchases for a certain amount. Another method is cashback – e.g. 10% of the order value stored in the customer’s account, which can be used as a discount on subsequent purchases. Such discounts should have an appropriately selected expiry date so that they can be used safely.

Online stores also eagerly use other forms of loyalty programs. For example, you can promise your customers a gift with the fifth order or create a points system that can be exchanged for discounts or rewards. The well-known clothing chain H&M thus encourages you to sign up for the Customer Club. People participating in the program, after spending a certain amount, receive a discount coupon of 10%. Collecting a certain number of points during the year gives Premium status, and in it some privileges – e.g. early access to sales, limited contests and a guarantee of free deliveries and returns of each order.

I am addressing the issue of loyalty programs as if out of duty. Personally, I do not believe in their operation. They are usually used by customers who would use our services anyway. In addition, we have to invest in their promotion in anyway, the advertising budget, so the question of whether it is not better to target new customers remains open. Probably the reasonableness of a given loyalty program depends on many factors, so you have to test a given solution yourself. There are no ready answers.

Seventh: cross-selling and up-selling

If you are not offering your customers similar or complementary products related to what they are watching or selecting, you are making a serious mistake. Cross-selling and up-selling are very simple techniques that allow you to significantly increase your sales. The customer added sports shoes to the cart? Offer him socks made of breathable yarn. Are you buying a smartphone? He should see a window with the recommended accessories – e.g. a protective case, wireless headphones or a power bank. This type of play is called cross-selling.

Up-selling may also work for some online stores, although it is more often used in services. The customer chose a smartphone with 128 GB memory? Ask if he really would prefer the richer version of 256 GB, selecting for example “pay only … dollars” or, for example, “choose a higher variant and get a 10% discount”. Simple? Oh yes, but also extremely effective.

Eighth: analysis

You can implement all of the above methods and still not achieve the desired success. Therefore, try never to act blindly. Constantly analyzing your own actions, as well as watching what the competition is doing, is an extremely important component of success. You won’t correct anything if you don’t measure it first. With analytics, you can instantly see what’s working and what’s not – and then adapt your steps accordingly. Follow the above advice and you will quickly forget about difficult times and you will no longer search for information on how to start your online store!

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