Starting an online store can be a great entrepreneurial step towards business success. Operating an e-commerce business offers the freedom to work your own hours and expand your market reach to a global audience.
Besides, statistics curated by Selz, an online selling tool, indicate that an estimated 80 percent of internet users have bought something online at least once, with 50 percent of online shoppers making more than one purchase.
The same set of statistics also shows that 71 percent of people recognize that they’re more likely to find better deals by shopping online and comparing their options as compared to shopping in a traditional brick-and-mortar store. With those statistics in mind, it makes sense to consider starting an e-commerce business.
However, if you’re anxious to get started as quickly as possible, you risk missing out on some crucial steps that could make or break your success. Before you get started, take some time to work through a checklist of things you should have in place before you open your store’s virtual doors.
Checklist for Starting an Online Store
If you’ve already made the decision to start an online store, chances are you’ll already know a bit about the types of products you’ll be selling. Rather than simply throw images of the products up onto a website and hope someone buys them, work through the checklist below to be sure you don’t miss any important steps before you launch your new business venture.
Step 1: Business Name and Domain
Decide on a catchy, memorable business name that no one else is using. Do your research and be sure that the name is available for you to use. The last thing you need is a cease and desist order because your business name infringes on someone else’s trademark.
When you’ve decided on a name that will represent your business brand into the future, take the time to register it. If you’ve created a unique name for your business, you might also want to consider trademarking it.
Once you’re sure your business name belongs to you, register the domain name. Ideally, you want your business web address to be memorable and easy to spell, so avoid hyphens or initials or unusual spellings if you can.
Step 2: Business Structure
Many online business owners begin by operating as a sole proprietor. However, if you have a business partner, you might want to consider whether a partnership is the right way to go.
Likewise, if you don’t want to risk your personal assets, you could also choose to set up an LLC or a corporation. Take the time to work out the right business structure to suit your future goals.
When you’re done, apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Your EIN will allow you to open a separate business banking account and to file your taxes in April.
Step 3: Business Licenses and Permits
Running an online store from the comfort of your own home doesn’t exclude you from needing the pertinent business licenses and permits. Take some time to check with your city, county, and state to ensure you have the right business licenses and permits in place before you launch your virtual store.
Step 4: Develop Relationships with Vendors
Selling online means competing with plenty of other businesses, so it makes sense to be sure you’re dealing with good vendors who can supply the quality products you need over the long term.
If you’re going to be storing your inventory in your garage, be sure you have enough space to cover your future orders. Alternatively, if you decide to use a drop-shipping company to ship out products directly to your customers on your behalf, ensure they have the capacity to cover potential orders in a timely and professional manner too.
Step 5: Website and Back-End
Designing an e-commerce website could be one of the biggest start-up costs you’ll have. Not only does your website need to be visually appealing, but it also needs to be highly functional.
It’s up to you whether you build your site from a WordPress template or you use an out-of-the-box e-commerce solution like Shopify.
You’ll also need to determine which payment processing options you want to use to accept payments from your customers. There are plenty of third-party payment processors available, such as PayPal, or you can choose to set up a direct merchant account with your bank to accept online payments.
The team at TierPoint.com/managed-services/ can also provide some assistance with website security and management services that can help make it easier to keep your online store operating with minimal risk.
Step 6: Content and Optimisation
Many online store owners rely almost exclusively on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to attract new customers to the website. However, you’ll find that organic leads generated by specific online searches will yield better sales conversion rates overall.
Each product you offer within your e-commerce business should be optimized as a priority. Each individual product listing should have a keyword-rich description that lets potential customers know precisely what they’re getting.
Aside from optimizing the product listings, it’s also a wise idea to develop a comprehensive content strategy. Not only do search engines love high-quality content, but it’s much easier to spread the word about your online business if you’re consistently publishing informative blog posts that can be shared on social media networks.
Step 7: Marketing
Aside from your content strategy, you’ll also need to develop a strong marketing strategy. What makes your online store stand out from all the others in the crowd? Why should customers buy from your business and not from your competitors?
Generating organic leads through search engines is one way to attract visitors to your online store, but you’ll also need other marketing channels working hard to build brand recognition too. Integrate social media, PPC marketing, and content marketing into your overall strategy.
Your marketing strategy should also include building an email list so you have a way to reach out to customers to let them know about sales, new products being launched, or any other special deals you have available.
Starting an e-commerce store can be a highly rewarding enterprise. Just be sure you work through the items on the checklist before you launch and you’ll find it much easier to grow your business over time.
About the author
Tom Miles has is a web developer and has years of experience working with his own websites and blogs as well as those which he creates for clients. Read his helpful articles online at a range of small-business blogs.