Starting an Online Store

E-commerce - How to Start an Online Store - Boutique

This is a step-by-step guide to implementing commercial ideas on the Internet and an answer for a question how to start a business for free. This is a blueprint for everybody. Even if you live in a small town, all you need to do is to get web access and stay online. Starting an online store/boutique from your home, where you could sell dozens of different products, is quite easy. But before you start, you should know several things about the process of a webstore’s creation. Take this article for a partner who will support you and give easy-to-follow framework for doing business on the Internet, evaluating the costs and creating a website.

Best Products to Sell Online

Let’s consider the question about what type of ecommerce store to open, and what are the best products to sell, if to be more exact. There are many goods, that suit online shopping. Some of them are better be bought in small amount due to their high prime cost. Others’ production cost is low, but demand for them is also low, as it turns out later. It is impossible to make money with such products. The most popular are shoe and clothing stores (with free shipping and return), e-shops that sell wallpapers, electric power tools, toys, mobile phones and accessories, coach outlets, flowers, machines, auto parts, baby stuff, bathroom furniture, edibles (wholefoods), gifts, sports nutrition, books and other literature, cloth and yarn, cosmetics, tea and coffee, scrapbook supplies, imitation jewelry, seeds, pet supplies, pictures, furniture, fishing tackle, building supplies, alloy wheels and tires, comforter sets and pillows, watches, and handmade goods. These are the most popular products for a online store! If you are still making a decision, you may think over the idea and conduct market research during all weekend. Google Trends search tool will help you.

Note, that there are products with high percentage of return, which could reach 50% and even more. The highest quantity of returns are observed in clothing stores, because these products may have different size or color (not the one from photo) or may just misfit. So, you must provide customers with the most precise product’s description and highly informative and true-to-life item’s photos.

Best eCommerce Website Builders and Free CMS

It is impossible to build a webstore without spending a cent. You will have to pay for domain anyway. In case you decide to set up a little boutique by your own means only, you may use usual website builders than.

Best eCommerce website builders:

  • shopify.com
  • bigcommerce.com
  • weex.com
  • weebly.com
  • squarespace.com

This way is the cheapest though it cannot be applied to a large or technically complex projects.

Best open source eCommerce CMS for online shop:

  • Magento
  • Opencart
  • Prestashop
  • Zencart
  • WordPress + ecommerce plugin
  • Joomla + Virtuemart
  • osCommerce

We can’t provide you full information about all software listed within this article. But if you want to read more about CMS, enter “CMS” + “a begginer’s guide” in a search box and you’ll find the results quickly (books and articles).

Step-by-Step Guide to Opening a Webstore

This instruction will help you in starting a online store from scratch by your own means during a weekend, even if you are fully inexperienced. You won’t spend much money, but you must realize that ecommerce website must be registered as a usual physical storefront. You will have to make things official in accordance with your domestic laws, as like filling out necessary financial accounting and paying taxes, etc.

Blueprint for website creation:

  1. Register a domain name. It is not difficult to find a proper service. All you need to do is to enter in a search box the following: “Domain Registration”. The process don’t cost much. Choose a name in advance, it must be easy to remember and catchy.
  2. Than choose a web hosting service. This is usually done in this way: you registering a domain name and getting a hosting package through the same company. Hosting plans are competitively priced and similar to domain name ones. All you need to know about the chosen hosting company is that it is reliable and provides 24/7 customer service. The company’s software programmers will take care of the rest.
  3. Choose your online store content management system (CMS).
  4. A successful business is a result of designers’ proper work and a good products line-up. You can affect the first condition at the stage of website creation. So, hire a designer or download a free template from the web if you want to save money. Don’t implement cheesy ideas, create something unique.
  5. Website tagging. You must put the correct beginning here, for further website’s indication depends on it much. You had better hire SEO expert in order he could create word cloud for online store that would match all special features of your business.
  6. Keep promoting site: optimize it, make it easier to navigate and fill it in with content.
  7. Add online payment systems to start rendering services for customers. Don’t forget to provide a customer with a detailed instruction about placing an order. Much depends on it!
  8. The last step is to get browsers to index online store. The shortest way to do this is to use Google Webmaster or Bing Webmasters Center.

Oh, let’s return to the question: how to start an online store. The thing you should understand the first is that an Internet-based boutique demands the same managing as a physical shop does. You have to find a supplier and a place where you are going to stock your products. If you are not a large retailer and don’t want to hold your own warehouse, you will have to build trust-based relationships with major suppliers in order you could ship goods to a customer directly from their warehouses. Usually it is difficult to cooperate with several suppliers simultaneously, so you should better start from searching one supplier only. The most profitable idea is to create a ecommerce website on the base of a physical storefront and resell products for a profit.

Shipping Options

There are several ways of delivering papers, lots and production sets to different destinations:

  1. Courier delivery services. This must be either your own employee or hired currier.
  2. National postal services.
  3. Shipping companies.

How to Drive Traffic to Site

Trading is impossible without customers. Your business is not based on franchise, so you will have to find a way of customers attracting from scratch.

  1. SEO is a form of search marketing. Content is crucial for this method. You have to optimize online store properly, specify the territory where your business expands and set yourself apart from competitors with unique keywords.
  2. SMM, SMO is a way of promotion via social media networks. This method’s special features and benefits consist of a small budget, quick boost of your audience engagement and a possibility of selling on social accounts pages. It is rather easy to work via social networks, but community or account’s marketing will take much time (in case you have chosen hand in hand marketing).
  3. Contextual advertising. You had better use Google Adwords, Yahoo Advertising, Bing Ads. Search for detailed instructions in these browsers.
  4. Teaser advertising. It is more beneficial than contextual advertising in some aspects.
  5. Banner advertising.
  6. Affiliate marketing program. You must find a partner (or better several partners), who will be selling your products and encourage more customers into store. The referrals, made by the partner, will reach the online store by clicking on an affiliate link. In case they buy an item, the partner will receive a cut, and your trading will be increased.
  7. Google My Business. You must necessary add the information about store in Google My Business!
  8. Offline advertising in the city of business location.

All mentioned advertising techniques have instant effect except for the first one (the search marketing’s main advantage is attracting more stable flow of visitors).

Online Store Payment Options

  1. Pay by check.
  2. Pay by cash. A product is sold on work site: a customer pays money to a currier, or to a online store owner.
  3. Cash on delivery.
  4. Pay by debit or credit card. This is the most preferred method of payment.
  5. E-money/e-wallets.

Offer as many online payment options as possible. You can use points of sale for this purpose.

Your store must contain a detailed guide to making a payment. A customer must see the amount he or she has to pay and be sure in the process safety.

Website Integration with Warehouse

The situation when a customer had chosen an item, placed an order and than receives a call from a manager hearing that the chosen item is not available and would arrive to stock up for the weekend only is quite unpleasant for the customer. The professionals don’t act this way. Carry extra expenses and combine online store and warehouse data into one system. Unfortunately, it won’t cost you little money and there is no any manual method or instruction to create database by your own means. So, hire programmers.

It is unnecessary to do if your business has just started growing. In this case you can do with paper journal, containing all information about sales and product availability in stock.

Analysis and Customers

Here is a tip from online business gurus: your ultimate goal is not traffic volume, its traffic quality that counts. No matter how many users visit the website, what is the average time on the page, and how many inner pages are viewed. The most important thing is to turn a new visitor into a returning one. Your business model must include customers that turn into permanent store visitor after a single purchase. Create such store development strategy where permanent visitors’ service is privileged. Analyze website traffic stats, change online store, shipping methods across your city, and payment options. Do this in such a way that your customers base started including as many people as possible. It is hard, but this process guarantees success for sure!

Website Useability

Probably it is the most important condition for business success. Useability is just what customers have to do with: design, website interface and content. Your online store must provide ultimate comfort for a visitor! The best way to make it is to contact usability specialists.

Mistakes, Cons and Risks

The main mistakes:

  • Interface: bad design, uncomfortable useability, non-informative photos and poor items’ descriptions or its absence.
  • Technician ones: low page speed; unavailability of an item in stock and contrary information on the website; long purchase confirmation; order confirmation takes long time (in cases when a store’s employee must call a customer to confirm the order, but the call is not made or made with sufficient delay, a day after, for example, instead of calling as soon as possible); price increasing when paying by check.
  • Bad customer service or cheating them: it is usually referred to terms of delivery failure and rude, poor customers service rendered by your managers.

All these mistakes will negatively affect your reputation on the Internet and cause bad comments about online store posted on other sites.

The main cons:

  • Sometimes online boutique’s creation costs big money.
  • There are many small but important moments concerning website and flypage’s design. Web design studios used to ignore them sometimes, e.g. you will have to hire usability specialists furthermore, for instance.
  • You may carry extra expenses on website marketing and SEO.
  • You may need online advertising for quick start and customers’ engagement, what will cause additional and sometimes large expenses.

The main risks:

  • Your store can receive a penalty from search engines for over-optimized content, what will lead to sufficient reducing of your customers or their total loss.
  • If you get bad reputation thanks for poor service and customers’ cheating, you will loose a great part of clients or all of them for sure.
  • Absence of customers. This happens as a result of improper analysis that was conducted to choose products to sell, by low website quality, by strong competitors, by search engines penalty, or by poor online store optimization.

Keep growing business even if you have created a successful online store. Take all processes into account, develop your store and analyze competitors and leaders in other segments! Keep in mind that your competitors are all there! Have a good luck!


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