How to Start an Online Store
We are living in the midst of a digital age. In today’s world, consumers are no longer bound by one particular geographical location.
Nowadays people have the power to connect with their peers, conduct research, consume content and shop wherever they are in the world with a few clicks. And that means that in current times, if you’re an entrepreneur looking to grow your business, building an online store might be the best thing you ever do.
It’s clear that if you’re a modern business, entering the eCommerce arena is a wise move.
Define your idea
It’s most likely that you know what you want to sell. You can now start fine tuning your idea by conducting market research and finding your target audience.
Refining your idea with market research
If you decide to sell T-shirts online because you have an unrivalled love for tees, consider how your shirts will differ from the competition’s offerings. It’s vital to vet your idea to gauge the potential for long-term success.
There are a host of ways to assess how your idea compares to other similar businesses online. Here are the most important:
Do your friends and family think it’s worthwhile?
Offer your products for free — or for a sizable discount — to friends and family. Monitor how they respond to your product.
Do they love it? If so, find out what features are most appealing to them.
Is there anything about your product they would change? Get details.
Would they be willing to recommend your product to others in their networks and become brand advocates?
Did they enjoy their customer experience? What about your service made it shine?
Would they be willing to pay full price? What do they think your product is actually worth?
Gathering this level of feedback and data is a brilliant way to refine your product idea before unleashing it on the public.
Can you raise money to start, grow and sustain your eCommerce business?
Consider crowdfunding websites, like Kickstarter, where you can list your product idea and raise money to bring it to life on a bigger scale.
Here, you will want to get honest feedback on your product from a wider circle than your immediate friends and family as this will give you greater scope to fine-tune your ideas.
Don’t shy away from marketing your idea so that this wider circle can at least hear about it and understand its benefits on a personal level.
Can you sell your product on third party platforms?
Another effective means of gaining quick feedback, economically, is to list your products on popular third-party marketplaces such as Etsy, eBay and Amazon.
These platforms are likely to have literally thousands of customers, actively looking for products just like yours. But, there may also be hundreds of sellers in your product category on these platforms.
You do need to give these platforms a significant cut from your sales for listings and transactions. However, listing on third party eCommerce sites can offer you unique opportunities to fine-tune your core marketing messaging and product features to understand out what works best, before you launch your official online shop.
Finding your target audience
Basically, if you don’t understand your target audience or how to connect with them, your broad, generic content or brand messaging is likely to offer little value and as such, become overlooked.
Despite the vital importance of identifying and focusing on a specific target audience, many eCommerce businesses struggle with this notion.
When asked to describe their audience, a host of brands often answer in broad, vague, almost meaningless terms.
When you fail to define your target audience, your promotional efforts will suffer in the following ways:
You won’t be able to craft strong, authentic branding that resonates with potential customers.
Your marketing communications will be flat and uninspired.
You won’t be able to improve your offerings as you won’t have an idea of how your products can address your customers’ specific pain points.
You won’t be able to encourage customer loyalty, one of the cornerstones of any successful eCommerce business.
You will fail to stand out from the competition.
Define your target audience
To help you avoid such calamities, defining your target audience is essential. Here’s a practical outline of how to classify your target audience in a specific, value driven way that gets results, based on certain characteristics you should focus on:
Demographics: Statistical data relating to your audience
Professional details: Information concerning jobs, competencies and places of work
Influences: Media and impressions your audience typically encounters
Buying process: How your target audience makes purchasing decisions
Psychographics: Metrics and details based on personality traits and innate qualities
Goals: Descriptions of what your audience is looking to accomplish
Challenges: Pain points and problems your audience faces on a regular basis
The more you drill down into these facets of information, the better and more targeted your marketing will be. If you’d like to know your audience on an even deeper level, here’s a practical guide to defining buyer personas for your reading pleasure.
Important elements of an eCommerce
While there are only a few essential elements that you must have to create an online store, there are many other components that will help you get the most out of your eCommerce shop.
Before you start to sell online, consider the following elements and how you want to handle and manage each.
Product details and photos
Don’t just post product pages and hope your items will sell. Instead, create interesting and useful product detail pages with sales copy that lists benefits, features and specifications. And be sure to include photos that show the product in detail.
The best product descriptions inspire, engage, address specific pain points and most importantly, tell a story.
If you have a story about a customer who enjoyed great results with your product or service, share the narrative.
Much like product descriptions, product photos need to be vivid and eye catching. “A picture speaks a thousand words.” In the world of online shopping, this certainly rings true. Images and video content are widely consumed online as they’re digestible, instantaneous and if used well, they will make your online store look amazing.
Calculate the cost of shipping your products and select a shipping method that will best serve your customers and business.
Decide if you are going to ship internationally and create a shipping policy for international sales that includes extra costs and days for delivery.
Within your store, you have options for creating coupons for discounted rates or on individual products. Explore how you can use coupons to reward new or loyal customers.
Many storefronts include a review feature. More than half of customers read reviews before making a purchase, so encourage your happy customers to leave reviews after their purchases.
Term of service and conditions
Make sure to a refunds and terms of service policy on your website or app and prompt users to agree to it before they make a purchase.
Don’t forget about taxes when you sell online. Talk to an accountant to determine whether or not you need to charge tax on your online sales.
The most important step. Review the logistics of managing new orders and create a checklist that takes an order from beginning to end. Planning ahead and knowing the process will help you properly set expectations and avoid late deliveries and unhappy customers.
Create your online store
To take that first small but essential step in making your online store a reality, sign up for your free trial.
Set up your account and define your settings
Once you’re all signed up and logged in, you’ll enter your App name and category to get started and shape the direction of your brand new easy eCommerce store.
Choose your template
With your framework firmly in place, the next step is choosing your App’s overall appearance by selecting a template from a range of eye catching options. Once you’ve selected your theme, you can change the font and color of your page and customize it to your satisfaction.
Start building pages
Here’s where you start building your App out beyond the home page. You can start with the home page and reorder or remove any of the elements. Then, go through and do the same to the other default pages: About Us, Shop and Contact Us. Fundamentally, a compelling eCommerce product page offers an intuitive, navigable and satisfying user experience (UX), so be sure to keep it simple and test your pages with people you trust. You don’t want to launch your App, only to find that no one can figure out how to find your products.
Update your site settings
Once your easy eCommerce site has materialized, filled with product pages, images, colors, fonts and user friendly functionality, you’ll need to update your App settings to make those all-important final touches prior to being published.
Once you’ve entered the “App settings” section of your account, you’ll need to consider the following elements and update them to your particular preferences:
Update all of your business contact information so that it’s present and correct.
Link all of your active social media accounts to your online store.
Manage your store
Before being published, there’s one final thing you need to do and it’s critical. Yes, you might have guessed it. You need to add products and set up your payment methods. Adding a product is simple. Upload an image and include the name, description, price, tax category and other basic information. Once you save it, your product will be in the commerce section of the Online Store.
With Appily App Builder, you can accept PayPal, Stripe and offline payments from your customers.
Once you’ve set up your preferred payment offerings, select your shipping options to fulfill your orders. Click on the payment type you want to add and you’ll be redirected to a form that will take all of the information.
Promote your store
The final element of our how to start an online store guide comes in the form of promotion or marketing.
Why you need to promote your store
Many small business owners think that once they have created an online store their job is done. The most successful online sellers have figured out a way to spread the word in their customer community. Some do it through social media marketing. Others identify influencers in their community and have them promote their product. Some business owners come up with clever viral marketing campaigns by promoting their products with special discounts.
Connect with online marketplaces
As mentioned earlier, connecting your online store to renowned international eCommerce marketplaces is an excellent way of enhancing your profit-making potential while expanding your promotional reach.
Build an email marketing list
Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is still one of the most effective promotional methods available to today’s eCommerce brands.
Now, if you’re just starting your journey into eCommerce entrepreneurship, you might not have the capital to spend on a host of pricey promotions. But, as you’ll no doubt know by now, promoting your online store is essential if you want to be a success.
To ensure your emails get read and help to boost your store’s bottom line, you will need to build a targeted email list of willing recipients that are open to receiving your communications.
While this can prove tricky at first, once you’ve learned the fundamentals and found a little momentum, you will be good to go.
Social media marketing
Social media has become a popular way to connect with friends and family, share pieces of our lives with our followers. Social sites like Twitter and Facebook help us stay abreast of the latest trends. LinkedIn has become a go to source for job hunters and recruiters alike. And image-based sites such as Pinterest and Instagram feed us with visual inspiration. But, until fairly recently, social media wasn’t a must have marketing tool for business.
For businesses that sell products online, getting social offers additional perks, from a free way to offer incentives to an organic means for building buzz about specific products.
With a little bit of know how, online sellers can use social media to take eCommerce sales to new heights.
Engage with your customers
People love talking about products and services they’ve used. Whether a customer’s experiences are good or bad, your business’s social profile is a place where they can go to engage and share their feedback about the products they use. Take the opportunity to connect with your customers and find ways to promote through conversation.
Use share buttons
A great way to promote your products online is by adding share buttons to your product pages and home page. The buttons allow customers and social visitors to showcase their interest in your products on their own social profiles.
Explore discounts and coupons
By offering coupons, deals and discounts, you’ll be able to boost your levels of engagement and attract prospects to your brand.
An eCommerce App can open a large, new audience for your business. You will be able to sell to millions around the world instead of the thousands in your neighborhood. You will be able to tap into a billion dollar market. And, you will be able to give your business an opportunity to expand and grow with minimal risk and low investment costs. Build your own eCommerce App today.