7 Easy Steps to Start Your Own Online Shop
It has never been easier to set up your own eCommerce website. There are plenty of providers out there now who will let you build your site using a ton of drag-and-drop features or pre-built templates, meaning that you can get up and running quickly and cost-effectively without writing even one line of code.
Of course, building the site is only one step in the process – you will also need to define an effective SEO strategy so that your brand new site is easy to find. As an award-winning eCommerce SEO agency, here are our seven top tips for starting your own online shop.
Choose Your Platform
The first step in launching your online store is choosing the right platform to build it with. There are a lot of options out there, but the four potentially best-known options are Wix, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Squarespace. Each has particular strengths and features, so decide what you want from your store and then select the choice that is best for your particular needs.
- For smaller stores (those with fewer products), Wix is a good option. It is super easy to use and you can be up and running in a couple of hours with no issues.
- If you have a larger range of goods, and need some more advanced inventory and ordering features, then Shopify is the industry leader. It is still fairly easy to use, and the inventory system is ideal for high volumes of orders as well as more varied products.
- Stores that want to integrate with social platforms seamlessly, and provide a better, more unified multi-channel user experience should look at BigCommerce.
- Finally, if you want your site to really stand out from the crowd, then Squarespace is very style-first with a large number of carefully and thoughtfully designed templates to select from.
What’s in a Name?
You need to choose a domain name next. Try to think of something short, catchy, and far enough away from other names that there will not be any confusion. You might also consider being non-specific if you intend to grow the business over time.
Think about the comparison between amazon.com and theamazononlinebookstore.com. Not only is the first one quicker to type, more memorable, and easier to recommend to friends and family, but it also means that when the company moves away from the original core offering there is no need to re-brand or re-name.
When you have selected the name for your site, you can choose to either purchase the domain name through your site provider or through a domain registrar. It is easier to do it through your provider, but should you ever want to switch, it will be trickier – so choose whether you want to spend the time and effort now or save it for later.
Build Your Site
Now you need to build the site, so start by choosing the template that either matches your ideal finished product, or as close as you can get it. You should be able to make some customizations and tweaks to the template fairly easily (still with no coding involved, don’t worry), so as long as your basic outline is near to what you imagine, you will ultimately be able to tweak it to perfection.
It is a good idea at this point to take a look at your competitors’ sites – both for the products you are selling and for the kind of demographic that you are targeting. See what works, see what doesn't work, find what you like from a range of established sites, and combine them into yours.
Be sure to design your site with mobile users in mind – the majority of internet traffic comes from smartphones and tablets. This requires a little bit of attention at the design and build stages to ensure that your visitors have an easy-to-use, mobile-friendly version.
List Your Products
This is going to be the most time-consuming part of the process. You need to upload photographs, videos, 3D models, and virtual reality interfaces for each product, alongside well-written, accurate, and engaging product descriptions. Choose whether you want to display your items as a list or as a grid, and how many items you want the default to show – too many and you run the risk of your customers being stuck from too many choices, too few and you may suffer from visitors leaving as it is too time-consuming to find what they need.
Set-Up Payment Processing
Your chosen website builder should have an option for payment processing, so this does not need to be difficult. Ensure that the payment system you use accepts the types of payments that your target market is comfortable with or familiar with – Shopify and Wix both allow you to accept PayPal payments, for example.
When you are happy with the way your site is set up, it is time to get it published. Be sure to go through each page thoroughly as a visitor to check that everything works as it should – any issues and visitors will either leave through frustration or lose confidence in you and your business. It is a good idea to get fresh eyes to go through it with you – a friend or family member is ideal, as long as they can be trusted to give honest feedback.
Once your site is up and running, it is time to get visitors. You may have heard of SEO (search engine optimization) in passing, you may be a digital marketing expert – either way, you need to make it so that your site is what pops up on the search results when someone searches for the things you sell.
There is so much that goes into effective SEO – the time it takes for your site to load, the way your images are tagged and indexed, the words that you use in your product descriptions and blogs. It is highly recommended to use an external SEO consultant with this, as learning all the different aspects, implementing them, and responding to audience and algorithm changes can be a full-time job.