The e-commerce market has been growing for many years – along with the development of modern technologies. However, it was 2020 that was a breakthrough – on a global scale, e-business recorded over 16% growth, and it can be expected that this is just the beginning. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that more and more consumers are eager to order online. As more customers entered the market, it can be expected that and the potential for new online stores has opened! But how to start your own online store? Find out how to do it step by step.
The Internet is the most promising sales channel – there is no doubt about it. Regardless of the field in which you operate, the ability to reach the customer without location restrictions gives you a huge competitive advantage. It is worth using it – especially since setting up an e-shop today is simpler than a few years ago.
But be careful! If you think it will become like the snap of a finger… well. It’s not that good. To move from idea to implementation and then successfully build your market position, you need to know how to do it step by step. So see what you need to open a well-functioning online store.
Step 1: refine the business concept
Before getting into the technical details of your own e-shop, you need to go through some basic business tasks. They are the foundation of your investment. Remember: when setting up an e-shop, you invest in the long term. Therefore, you have to be prepared that the development of your business will not happen from month to month, and you will have to wait for the results.
So the question is: how to start? It depends on several factors. Consider: should an online store be a way to develop a stationary business or is it the first step you take on the market? If you already deal with the production and distribution of certain goods via stationary channels, you probably already have appropriate mechanisms developed, including with transport and storage of products, as well as marketing facilities. You already have a customer base and you know who your solutions are addressed to.
However, if you start completely from scratch – the first step is to find an industry. Start with in-depth research. Check what is the economic situation at the moment and consider in what area you are an expert or you can quickly become one. There are two approaches to this topic: either targeting a niche or building an exclusive brand, or vice versa – relying on proven and common material goods.
Also, remember that you have to decide whether you will sell goods under your logo (e.g. by cooperating with the manufacturer to create your own brand) or redistribute it.
It is equally important to ensure a suitable place for running an e-shop. While at the beginning, with small orders, you can manage by storing products, e.g. in a home garage, over time you will need professional storage space.
You can also decide to work in the dropshipping model, which means that you will work with the supplier of products, and you will only deal with the entire sales process until the order is finalized. This solution is good for completely novice entrepreneurs, but of course it also has its downsides, such as limited impact on the shipping process or checking the quality of products.
So, as you can see, if you are a complete beginner, you need to start by
developing the business foundation. When they are ready
and you know:
– What do you sell,
– to whom your products should go,
– what are your “processing capacities”,
– what budget do you have to start with,
you can start setting up an online store from the technical side.
Step 2: branding
If you already run a stationary business and have developed a brand recognizable by customers, the best solution is to promote it also as part of e-commerce activities. Remember, however, that if your market niche is highly competitive, an expressive, easy-to-associate brand may be one of the factors that will affect your business success. So developing a good branding strategy right from the start is the best you can do. Changing the name later can be time-consuming, costly and, above all, risky.
How to create a good brand?
Before you start:
– precisely define the group of customers to which your products will go – assess their needs, expectations, problems, challenges,
– indicate the key values with which your store (and products) is to be associated – which will be more important: prestige and very high quality of products, or maybe their designer character?
Once you know how you want to communicate with the market, you can go to the next step: choose the brand name and its visual identification system.
Especially in the latter aspect, it is worth using the help of professional graphic designers and web designers – they can perform this order on their own or as part of cooperation in designing the e-store layout. It all depends on how you want to “put it up”.
At this stage – when you develop a store brand – it is also worth buying a
website domain. Remember that you have at your disposal
not only com domains, but also .eu or .co.uk, but also many unusual ones.
Nevertheless – these 3 mentioned just now give you more
credibility. If you have the option, choosing a domain:
– buy a few “endings” of the address at once – you can then redirect them to the correct store (yours!),
– avoid dashes and other elements in the domain name that may make it difficult for the user to enter the address “by finger”,
– remember that the domain name itself has no impact on positioning – it should be easy to remember and of course be associated with a given business.
Step 3: choosing a platform
At this stage, a very important decision awaits you – which technology will be used in your e-shop. You can go several ways.
A. Commissioning experts to develop your store “from scratch” – it is the safest solution, which at the same time can be fully adjusted to your business needs. However, you must remember that the costs of creating a dedicated platform can be high (and unnecessary), and the time to prepare the website can be very long. That is why this solution is chosen by investors who can afford a one-off spend from several dozen or even several hundred thousand dollars.
B. Take advantage of the e-commerce platform.
When choosing an online store platform, be guided primarily by how large-scale you plan to operate – also in the perspective of many years. Also consider your budget.
When it comes to e-commerce platforms, you have two basic types of services: subscription platforms and open source platforms. How are they different?
Open Source Platforms
This is software that you must install on your own server. They are suitable for people who care about high independence, the ability to adjust the e-store to specific expectations, and above all for medium and large-scale stores. Running them may require previous e-commerce experience or technical support (especially at the beginning).
Usually the platform itself is available for download free of charge, but its operation and extension of the store’s functionality may require investment in paid plugins. It must also be remembered that it will be necessary to implement it on the server and integrate the selected graphic layout with it (own or selected from the available ready-made templates).
– provide the possibility of a very wide “customization”,
– they are friendly for the positioning of online stores,
– they have enormous technical support – especially the users themselves, who are constantly developing this technology
When you choose one of them, you will experience additional costs of implementation, hosting, administration, as well as challenges related to adapting the platform to legal requirements (including developing store regulations).
If you choose an open source
platform, you will also need to purchase hosting at this
stage. The hosting server should:
– be well secured – so that it is not vulnerable to attacks, and that your clients’ data is safe,
– be adapted to the requirements of the e-commerce platform that you have chosen,
– provide you with sufficiently fast data transfer.
You can choose from shared, inexpensive and suitable for small stores, and dedicated servers – more expensive, but also easier to configure individually. They are suitable for larger and more advanced e-shops.
When choosing an open source platform, you also have a greater impact on the appearance of your e-store. So you can implement it on a template prepared by a computer graphic – so that it fits best into your brand’s visual identity system. You can also take a look at the ready-made templates that are already available.
Subscription platforms (SaaS)
Subscription platforms usually operate in the SaaS model, i.e. Software as a Service. This includes such platforms as Shoper, Shopify or Shoplo. On them you get access to the software in the form of an accessible panel – and this is what your e-shop is based on. In their case, there is no need to “upload” the store to your own server – you use a ready-made system. Fees for using the platform in the SaaS model are charged in the form of a subscription – e.g. monthly or annual, and you, depending on your needs, can choose a specific scope of services and possibilities offered by the website. The costs of such a solution range from several hundred to several thousand dollars per year.
Who are the subscription platforms for? Primarily for beginners who want to run a small-scale online store, especially in the dropshipping model. The use of this solution is the simplest, but it poses many limitations – related to e.g. with limited functionality or the need to choose one of the ready-made graphic templates. Some SaaS platforms are also not perfect in terms of positioning online stores and are burdened with various barriers.
If you are in doubt as to which e-commerce platform to choose, get advice from experts. Analyze your business model with them so as not to make a mistake. Changing the platform later can be costly and time consuming.
Note: Your online store should be responsive. This means that it should be displayed in a fully functional way on various devices – both on computers as well as on tablets and smartphones. Sales via mobile channels are also growing very dynamically, so you cannot afford to lose customers from this source!
Step 4: e-shop integration with ERP
Although this is not a necessary requirement, it is worth considering integrating the online store software with the one that controls warehouse resources. Why? The reason is very simple: if it turns out that a customer orders a product that you do not have in stock, you will face trouble. This single situation can happen. However, if such problems become widespread, you will quickly lose your reputation, and with it – your customers.
That is why the best solution is to use the option of integrating the online store with the ERP system. The immediate flow of information will eliminate the possibility of a mistake and make your task easier.
Step 5: selection of payment methods and their integration with the e-shop
In order for customers to be willing to shop in your e-shop, you need to give them the ability to conveniently pay for goods. Of course, a standard bank transfer is not enough. That is why you must decide on a convenient, yet safe and easy-to-use payment method. There are many trading platforms to choose from. When choosing, consider both available payment methods, as well as commissions and other fees, and flexibility in accessing funds.
Step 6: choosing the delivery methods for the products
This is a matter that you need to take care of primarily in the model in which you handle the shipping of goods yourself. If you have decided to dropshipping, your contractor has probably specified the shipping methods.
However, if not, make sure your customers receive convenient forms of receiving products – apart from courier services, pay attention to the increasingly popular options for delivering goods to points, e.g. shops or parcel machines. On the other hand, however, remember that the more options there are for a customer, the greater the logistical challenge. Therefore, it is worth keeping the golden mean.
Step 7: Add Products
Many e-commerce platforms allow integration with wholesalers and automatic updating of product data. However, if you sell your own assortment, you have to describe it “by hand” in the store. When adding products to ready-made subpage templates, it is worth taking care of two key issues: on the one hand, the attractiveness of the presentation of the product range for the client, and on the other – the fulfillment of SEO requirements.
Therefore, both a good and unique description as well as attractive product photos count. If you sell an assortment of other manufacturers, you can usually get ready-made materials. If you distribute your own products, have professional product photos taken.
In the content area, make
– were written in the language of benefits – so that they presented not only the advantages of the products, but their translation into the customer’s needs,
– were written in a style adapted to the characteristics of the potential client,
– are in line with SEO requirements – care should be taken, inter alia, o the use of appropriate keywords, headings and bullets. You should also take care of entering metadata and generating friendly URLs.
Step 8: Marketing
Once your store is up and running and you start serving customers, it’s time to increase its visibility to customers, and thus – its popularity. In order to promote your e-store, you can take a number of activities – from paid links, PPC advertising, through social media activities, to positioning your online store and using inbound marketing tools.
It is also good to think about a blog in an online store, which will strengthen the potential of positioning and the image of the website. As you can see, the recipe for setting up your own online store is a methodical step-by-step operation based on a well-thought-out strategy. This is the best way to achieve long-term business success.