The world wide web in itself is a huge marketplace. There is an endless amount of potential and there is a lot of money to be made on the internet, if you know what you are doing. Nonetheless, most people fall into the trap of thinking about the internet as some place where you can get quick cash with little to no investment or starting capital. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The internet is a global marketplace of goods and services – the biggest marketplace in the world today, but at the same time it should be approached just like you would approach any “real word” marketplace – it should be approached seriously, analytically and with a calculated plan of action.
In this article we will be focusing on the process of starting an online store – from the beginning to the end. You can view this article as an in-depth analysis and a guide both. We will tackle this subject from quite a few different angles to ensure that you, our readers, get the most objective, realistic view of this entire type of business. So, without further ado, let’s start.
What Are Online Stores and How Do They Work?
Before we get any further into this, it’s important to explain what are online stores and how they work. Essentially, an online store is exactly what you’d expect it to be even if you’ve never actually visited one – it is a website, or a collection of similar websites, that serve the purpose of being a virtual marketplaces of goods and services. So, instead of going to an actual store and purchasing what you need, you just browse the online store (the website) and buy what you want – obviously, after a while, it gets delivered to your doorstep.
As you can see, the basic principle is fairly simple and easy to understand. As a user or a potential customer, you wouldn’t have a problem using an online store and buying items on it. However, it is very different to be on the other side of the fence. Owning and running an online store is, in many ways, just like running a legitimate, full-blown offline business. It takes time, dedication and a lot of hard work to run a successful online store and make money doing it.
How To Start An Online Store – Part 1: The Basics and Preparation
A lot of preparation is needed before actually launching your website. As we have previously established, in order to launch and run a successful online store you need to approach it just like you would approach any other business.
The first step is doing what’s called a competitive analysis. This means taking a long, hard look at similar websites – go to the most popular web stores in your niches and figure out what they’re doing. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should copy them (in fact, in order to be successful you need to have a unique website) but the fact that they are so big and making money means they must be doing something right. Try to figure out what it is that separates all of these websites from others of similar kind. Obviously, some principles are universal which means you will be able to apply certain things to your own website, without actually copying others.
The second step is researching the market. A good, thorough analysis is absolutely essential when it comes to starting a business and starting an online store is no different. Researching your market means understanding your target demographic better. Target demographic are your potential customers. You need to gain an insight into their minds, thoughts and wants. This means that you need to understand what is it that they want and give it to them. That is the essence of this type of business – you need to provide your customers with the things that they want. That is the only thing that will lead to a constant stream of money going your way. Researching the market is an important piece of this entire puzzle and definitely something you should spend a lot of time on before launching your website.
Third and final step of this preparation phase is equally as important as the first two, yet often underestimated and overlooked. This can be your advantage – you can gain an additional edge over your competitors by utilizing and applying this philosophy, so to speak. We are talking, of course, about writing powerful, compelling content about the products you are selling. This is the foundation of internet marketing – content. Human beings are psychologically hard-wired to react to certain things. Writing good sales pitches and product descriptions with a call to action at the end is what can ensure a purchase. Keep those descriptions concise, straight to the point and be as realistic about the products you are selling as possible, while at the same time trying to get your website visitors to purchase them. This, in itself, is an art form that takes a lot of time to perfect, so if you are not to keen on writing or simply don’t have the time you can always consider hiring an experienced content writer.
How To Start An Online Store – Part 2: Building a Website From Scratch
The next part of this process is starting a website and building it from scratch. After you’ve done with the first phase (competitive analysis, market research and content) it’s time to build your website. This is something that you can do yourself, if you have the time or need to save money, but you might as well hire someone to do it for you. That is entirely up to you to decide.
One of the things you have done during the preparation phase is competitive analysis. After analyzing your competitors and their websites, you can draw a few conclusions. What are their websites like? What are they lacking and where could they improve? What are they doing wrong? What would you, as a customer, like to see changed? These are all important questions that you should ask yourself before you start building your own website. Use your competitors, not as an inspiration, but as a tool for starting your own online store.
Your website needs to be designed in a way that it’s user friendly. Which means easy to use, fast and convenient. Your customers need to be able to browse the website quickly and without any problems. This is what guarantees at least a slight increase in sales of whatever you choose to sell. Make sure to get good hosting and to tweak and improve your website in a way that it doesn’t lag or slow down when there is a lot of traffic.
Needless to say, your online store should be visually attractive and designed in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to your customers. All of these elements combined are what makes a good website that the user wants to spend time on. The more time visitors spend on your website the more likely they are to make a purchase.
How To Start An Online Store – Part 3: Picking The Products That You Want To Sell
Each part of this process is equally important but picking the products to sell is, arguably, the key piece of this entire puzzle. Picking the products to sell in your online store is the culmination of all of your previous work. You need to select the products that you want to sell based on your research and competitive analysis.
Again, it is important to think like your potential customers think. What sort of product would they want to buy and how much are they willing to pay for it? Pick products that have a good reputation, that are already at least somewhat popular and that have been reviewed elsewhere on the web before. That is the safe route to take, however, you can take a risk and include a few products that are not as well-known. This might be a risk, but if you pick the right product, that according to your assessment and research satisfies the needs of your customers – you might hit a jackpot. On the other hand, at the very beginning of launching your store it might be best to take the safe route and stick to products that you know people usually want, need and buy.
All of these products need to be up on your website, available to your customers with complete and comprehensive, yet concise, descriptions and, if you will, reviews. The content around these products needs to be unique, compelling and provide value to the reader.
How To Start An Online Store – Part 4: Marketing
You can have the most uniquely designed online store with amazing products that people are not able to find anywhere else, but without proper marketing all of this is worthless. Simply put, if people don’t know about your website they will not visit it. No matter how good your online store is, if you don’t market it and find ways to reach out to your target demographic you will see no sales and make no money.
The work “marketing” is used to define a number of things, tactics and philosophies that work together in synergy and are meant to improve your businesses’ visibility and reach out to potential customers. When it comes to internet marketing this is encompassed in, essentially, four different things: SEO, link building, social media promotion and building a brand. As online stores depend on internet marketing, we will focus on each four of these things separately.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO is the process of making your website visible in search engines. Basically, when someone uses Google to find a certain product they use a certain keyword or a set of keywords and what you need to do is try to rank your website as highly as possible in search engine results – this, in return, makes it more visible which means more people come to your website which, again, means more sales. The math is simple – the more people visit your website the more products you will sell. Your website needs to be built and it’s content written and created in a way that it suits Google’s ever-changing algorithms. This means the content needs to be 100% unique and provide value to the reader. SEO does not revolve around content only. It encompasses a few different things as well, all of which help rank your website higher in search engine results, which is what we are going to talk about next.
Link building is, essentially, another SEO tactic and, needless to say, it can greatly improve website traffic. Link building means leaving links, all over the web, that point to your website. You can post links to your website on forums or write guest posts on other websites and include a link. The amount of options is limitless and this is where you can get creative. Try to have links that point to your website at high-authority webpages, this is also great for SEO. Not to mention how much traffic can you get from websites that have a lot of visitors per day, so it’s even worth looking into payed advertising on other websites, if you have the budget for it.
Social media promotion is another very important part of your overall internet marketing strategy. Social media is absolutely huge nowadays – there are entire communities coexisting on these websites and literally millions and millions of users log into their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles on a daily basis. Of course, these are not the only social networks out there, sites such as Google+ and Pinterest are also worth looking into. Social media websites are amazing when it comes to reaching out to your target demographic – you can pick and choose who you advertise to, build up your social media profiles and leave links to your websites. If you run your profiles accordingly not only that you will get people to visit your website, you will also be able to gain a following, a legion of fans that love, visit and enjoy your online store.
This is a great intro into what we are about to talk about and that is brand building. Establishing a brand is another extremely important part of your marketing strategy. To build a brand means to have a reputation and to have a reputation means to have trust. What does having trust from your customers mean? That means you will always have people who will visit your online store and buy what you are offering. Owning a well-known and well-established brand is a dream come true for every successful businessman. However, that is something that takes a lot of time and dedication but it is what pays out the most in the end. Owning a brand is absolutely invaluable and it is what every entrepreneur should strive for. Nothing works as good when it comes to marketing.
How To Start An Online Store: Final Words
There you have it. A complete guide to starting your own online store. What more is there to say? Remember to take it one day at a time. Everything worth accomplishing takes a lot of time and dedication. Treat your online store as a business and you will even be able to turn it into something more. It’s important to remember that every journey has it’s ups and downs – they are an integral part of the entire process. What’s most important is learning from your own mistakes, correcting them and adjusting to the changes on the market and to your customers’ wants and needs. All of this, combined with an impeccable work ethic and everything else that we have mentioned in this article are tools and strategies that will be of great use during your journey to success. Do you want to embark on that journey? If the answer is yes, start working right now.