It happens all of the time.
You have a great idea for open an online store. Maybe you’ve read about a successful entrepreneur and been inspired.
You are able to muster the courage to pursue your idea, only to end up asking “Where do you start?”
We’ve created this guide to make it easier for you to start your eCommerce business. No matter whether you’re starting a new business or expanding an existing one, we can help you get off to the right start.
How to open an online store
01. Determine your target audience
The closer you are to your product (or audience), the greater your chances of building a successful business.
If not, consider an audience that you’re most familiar with. What products do you use on a regular basis? What do you value the most about your favorite brands? Or, who in your life are you looking to serve with your products?
As with any business, it helps to find a purpose that will keep you motivated in the long run. There are numerous logistical and financial questions you’ll have to address.
By reminding yourself why you’re running your business and for whom, you can better stay on track. To that end, take the time to establish buyer personas. Personas help you get into the mind of your buyer and, in turn, make decisions regarding messaging, website design, marketing strategies, and more.
02. Choose what to sell online
Choosing which products to sell will require careful consideration.
Beyond thinking about what your target audience likes, you’ll need to do a bit of competitive recon and ask yourself some key questions. For starters: which brands are already popular online? How do you plan on sourcing your products?
03. Decide on your business structure
By this point, you’re probably bouncing in your seat, ready to get started. However, there are a few legal things you’ll have to take care of in order to make your business official. It additionally includes decisions that will affect your eligibility for business funding, tax obligations, personal protections, and more.
04. Pick an eCommerce platform
If you’ve figured out what products to sell and how to source them, then you’re halfway to the finish line.
The next step is to build a site where you’ll list your products. Your site is the face of your brand. It’s where you’ll have the most control over your branding and the overall buyer journey. It’s also where you’ll be accepting payments and handling essential tasks.
05. Partner dropshipper
If you want to start selling quickly, you could always give dropshipping a whirl. A dropshipping business includes some key perks, like minimal upfront costs and easy management.
When you own a dropshipping business, you work with a supplier who handles manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping—all on your behalf. Here’s a play-by-play of how it works:
- You choose the products you want to dropship from your supplier’s catalog
- You list those products on your site and set your own prices
- A shopper purchases the products and pays for them on your site
- You forward the customer’s order (plus pay) to your supplier
- Your supplier ships the product directly to your customer’s address
06. Connect a payment provider
In order to earn your first dollar from eCommerce, you need to decide how you’ll get paid. It’s always a good idea to offer multiple payment methods. Just think about the last time you walked into a store or restaurant. However, on occasion you may walk into a store that only accepts cash—in which case, you’re either in or out of luck.
The same logic applies online, where you can offer payment options like:
- Credit/debit cards
- Digital wallets (like PayPal)
- Bank transfers
- In-person payment (if you have a brick-and-mortar store)
- Buy now, pay later solutions
There are also various payment gateways (aka payment providers) to choose from. Payment gateways are what ensure a safe, successful transfer of funds. Some gateways may be better than others, depending on your location and business type. Whichever you choose, your provider will need to verify your bank account before you can take home the money that you earn.
07. Name your store and get a domain
Finally. It’s time to get working on your brand. Start by thinking of a memorable name for your business.
To guide your name choice, consider SEO. Identify terms that shoppers are using to find products like yours. You can use Google Trends or keyword research tools, like Semrush, for help in this area.
You can do this in one of several ways:
- Research your direct competitors
- Search your name ideas on Google and social media
- Check your local business registration service.
08. Start your marketing campaigns
Your store is now ready to take on sales. It’s time to start shouting it from the rooftops. Drive customers to your online store using a variety of marketing strategies.