Disclosure: This content is endorsed by the reader. So if you click on some of our links we may receive a commission.
Are you planning an online shop? Your timing couldn't be better.
The ongoing pandemic has seen online purchases skyrocket and most people staying at home.
However, this does not take away the challenges associated with starting an online store, especially if you are new to ecommerce.
Where should I start? What can i sell? Where do I get your products from? How do I create an online shop? Wait i need a web host too?
So many questions!
But don't worry – I've got you covered.
In this article, I am going to give you a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you get started with your first online store. This will make sure you don't make common and less common mistakes and get your website up and running ASAP.
Are you ready? Let's begin!
Your 2 minute cheat sheet
Would you like to skip the details and get a quick cheat sheet? May I help you.
You have to decide what to sell and how to get the products. And while you're at it, you also need to consider product prices, your target audience, and whether or not there is a target audience for your product.
Why would you want to sell a product that nobody wants to buy?
You can choose a product that metaphorically "scratches your own itch". You can also consider buying a product you already have, improving it, and then better marketing it. This is sometimes called drop shipping.
Personally, I would recommend the second option for first time entrepreneurs as it significantly reduces the risk of sales.
If you're ok with this, visit Alibaba.com to find suppliers for the product you selected. While Alibaba is one of the most popular marketplaces, it doesn't mean that there are no fraud cases on the platform.
To make sure you are only working with real suppliers, look for the Gold Supplier icon. This indicates that a particular supplier has signed up for a paid membership. Therefore, the gold supplier icon is unlikely to appear on their profile in the event of a scam.
If you do decide to move on with the supplier, be sure to order sample products to determine the quality you should expect. Don't forget to discuss payment terms and other details so that you and the supplier are on the same page.
With the products in place, you need to find a good name for your brand and see if a domain name is available. That sounds incredibly funny, but it can quickly become annoying.
Be patient though.
Think of your domain name as a long term investment and try to get the best possible result.
Next, you need to set up your online shop platform. Consider selling your products on either Shopify or Amazon – both are equally good.
Finally, work on optimizing your website by including targeted keywords in your product descriptions. This is a great way to drive more organic traffic to your website instead of engaging in more cumbersome marketing strategies.
Still, if I am honest you need to look for other ways to promote your shop such as: B. on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Step 1: find out your niche
Since you want to set up an online shop, you need a product. The very first thing you should do is decide what to sell and who to sell it to.
Many first-time entrepreneurs make the mistake of not thinking enough about choosing their niche. These include the product price, the audience the product is aimed at, and the market opportunity.
Don't make this mistake.
Always remember that your product matters most – both in terms of quality and in terms of relevance. Here you have two options: you can either create something that you need or get something from another place, improve it, and then market it.
I recommend picking a niche that is not yet dominated by some brands.
Let me explain this using two scenarios.
- Scenario 1: Your headphones have stopped working. You want to replace it so what do you do?
You can either order online through sites like Sony, Bose, or Beats. Or visit the physical stores of these brands.
- Scenario 2: You moved into a new house when you realize you want decorative lights for your bedroom.
You will likely google "bedroom decorative lights" or "buy decorative lights with free shipping".
Do you see the difference in your behavior?
Niches that are dominated by some brands are not really profitable for beginners. Trust me, customers don't even think of alternatives as their brand loyalty kicks in almost immediately.
Instead, it's much better to stick to niches and products that don't have specific brand names associated with them.
You can also use Amazon to review the competitors in your niche. Try to identify common features that you can use to improve your product. For example, you can have thick paper or reinforced steel notebooks for bottles. Basically things that will help improve the quality of the effectiveness of your products.
Next, you need to work on sourcing the products.
Step 2: source products from Alibaba
Alibaba.com is one of the most popular marketplaces for sourcing products. Many people in the e-commerce industry are already using this website. It therefore makes perfect sense for you to purchase your products on this platform as well.
But how do you go about it? Let's say you want to sell steel cylinders.
Search for "steel bottles". You will now see a list of suppliers who sell all types of steel cylinders at different prices.
Next, you need to contact some of them to see if they are a good fit for you. You need to find out your requirements first before you can get in touch with them. Otherwise, you are wasting everyone's time.
The way to distinguish real sellers from scams is to look for the Gold Supplier brand. Gold Supplier is a paid supplier membership on Alibaba.com, which indicates that the business takes trading with other international companies seriously.
Take a look at this screenshot:
It shows that this particular supplier has been a gold supplier for three years. Since they have to pay for this recognition, you can be sure that they mean business when they negotiate with you.
You need to discuss payment terms and minimum amounts and other things so that every detail is explicitly clear to avoid misunderstandings in the future. I would also recommend ordering sample products before placing a bulk order to get a better idea of what you will be receiving and what the shipping times are.
Step 3: choose a name for your brand and get a domain
Now comes the exciting – and sometimes frustrating – part of starting an online store: choosing an appropriate name.
Once you start looking for options, you'll find that the best names have already been trademarked and website domains have already been registered.
It's like hitting one dead end after another!
But don't give in just yet, because finding a good name is an effort well worth the pain (and tears).
Here is a quick checklist to follow:
- It should be easy to spell and too concise – three words or less.
- It should have a .com domain
- It has to reflect your chosen niche
- It cannot already be registered as a trademark by someone else – the legal effort is costly and very worrying.
Take my domain as an example. NeilPatel.com is short, succinct, and reflects my brand. You don't have to use your name. That was just a choice that was right for me.
The good news is that you can get a domain without paying the registration fee. Most web hosting services give users a free domain – assuming you choose a company that offers this feature, such as Bluehost or Wix.
Highly recommend this method as it gives you fully owned free .com domains that will make you look more professional and credible to your visitors. If you're already looking to purchase a web hosting plan, choose an option that gives you a free domain.
Purchasing a web hosting plan, usually on a one-, two-, or three-year contract, is required. Think of the free domain as a bonus on your investment.
The next crucial step is to set up your ecommerce store on a platform that is easy to use and has good customer support.
Step 4: set up your online shop platform
Shopify and Amazon are two of the most popular and easy-to-use ecommerce websites out there.
You can also use WordPress + WooCommerce if you want. However, this is best for times when you already have a blog with a large audience. That way, you don't have to put in any extra effort to drive traffic to your ecommerce store.
Option 1 set up your Shopify account
Shopify has over 218 million buyers from 175 countries. So you can imagine how many people trust this ecommerce website.
You can start the 14-day free trial to get an idea of what Shopify has to offer. If you decide to continue, upgrade to the paid plan.
The first step is to enter a business name, which will also become the default url to start your trial. For example, if you want your Shopify's shop name to be JoshBeans, your URL would be joshbeans.myshopify.com.
If you buy a custom domain (joshbeans.com) you can remove the "myshopify" part.
Complete other instructions as desired. Then you have your own Shopify account.
To further customize your store, visit https://themes.shopify.com/ to choose a theme that can be used to make your store more branded and to fit your brand.
Additionally, you can speak to a Shopify expert if you need help with the technical aspects of setting up your store or if you are stuck in a specific location.
Option 2 set up an Amazon account
You also have the option to display your products on Amazon.
Go to Amazon and scroll to the bottom of the homepage. Choose Sell on Amazon.
Sign up to become an Amazon seller. You can register as a retail seller or as a professional seller. In my opinion it is better to become a professional seller if you are with it in the long run.
Now that you've set up and verified your identity, it's time to start listing your products. Before doing this, make sure you go through the details of the selling process on Amazon.
Then click on inventory followed by add product. This will open the Amazon catalog where you need to search for the product that you want to sell.
You can also create a new product list if you can't find a suitable option.
And that's it! You are now ready to start selling your product on Amazon.
Before you can start listing your products, make sure you have high quality photos of them, preferably on a white background. Similar to this:
Step 5: optimize your site
If you think customers will come to you as soon as you launch your website, we have news for you: this will not happen.
Instead, you need to optimize your website to attract visitors through search engines by targeting SEO keywords in your product descriptions.
Write a good copy for each product listed, be sure to mention the USPs and describe them explicitly.
You will focus on two main areas:
- You need to target your product pages to specific terms that are normally searched for within the platform
- Work on getting as many five-star reviews for your products as possible
The two tips above will go a long way in improving your search terms and ratings so that more people can see your products on the platform. This translates into more sales and revenue for you, exactly what we want.
Congratulations! You have now set up your online shop.
From finding what you want to sell and source, to choosing a reliable ecommerce website to display your products on, now you are an expert when it comes to starting an online store.
But don't celebrate too much – you next need to work on getting your business known so customers can buy your product or service. When the money comes in, I expect a party.
We wish you good luck!