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5 Steps to Open an Online Store

Launching an online shop is more approachable and affordable than ever before. Start-up costs are minimal compared to brick-and-mortar counterparts, and you can reach millions of customers from home. But succeeding online isn’t as simple as choosing the right products.

Keep reading for tips to on a successful foray into the wide world of e-commerce.

Choose wisely.

First and foremost, decide what you want to sell. This is a big decision, so don’t jump in with the first thing that comes to mind. First, decide on a price point. Keep in mind, the time and energy you spend processing and fulfilling orders is the same for high-end and low-cost items. Choose something you’ll be able to successfully market, ideally within a market you feel is underserved.

Decide on a platform.

Now that you’ve decided on a direction for your shop, it’s time to choose a platform. How to build your shop depends both on what you’re selling and your skillset. Hosted e-commerce platforms like Shopify and Squarespace are relatively inexpensive and surprisingly simple to manage, perfect if you’re not comfortable managing the back-end of a website. If you’re looking for an even simpler approach, consider a third-party platform like Etsy or Amazon. Be prepared to give up creative power for ease, though.

Choose your shop name URL with care. Don’t let your web address become a barrier for new customers finding you. Avoid tricky spelling or overly long addresses, and stick with tried and true extensions like .com or .net if you’re building your own site. Once you decide on a name, register it with a domain name provider.

Learn 12 ways technology can help your small business.

Think like a customer.

What makes a great shopping online experience? Browse some of your favorite web-based retailers and see what stands out. Intuitive navigation, accurate photos and interesting descriptions should be your baseline. Your site should be optimized for mobile and computer-based browsing, with a stress-free check out option. Luckily, big name online retail platforms should help you cover the basics. 

It’s up to you to take your site a step further. With thousands of shops competing for the same consumer dollars, a sluggish website, copy-and-pasted item descriptions and generic photos won’t cut it. If words and photography aren’t your forte, you may want to invest in some help. Getting your shop set up with quality collateral will be well worth it if you’re able to attract quality customers.

Dive into the nitty gritty.

Your concept and website are a go. You’re in the clear! Well, not so fast. Putting up pretty photos and having a “buy it” button doesn’t make your business legit. The e-commerce platform you choose will likely recommend a payment system. Double check, especially if you build your own site, you’ve integrated a secure payment system that protects your customer’s information. If you are iffy on your site’s security, don’t save payment or contact information. PayPal and Google Checkout are easy, safe options to start with. No matter what method you select, double check credit card processing fees and fine print. Most processors will take a cut of your earnings. Read up on trends in payment processing.

Decide on how you’ll ship items to customers and whether you’ll pass on those costs. If not, be prepared to lose a bit of your profit or up the cost of your goods.

Now is also the time to get tax documents in order. If you’ve hired an employee or contractor to help with the workload, he or she needs to fill out paperwork as well. Learn about financing your business.

Set yourself apart.

Established brands and websites have a big advantage: name recognition and build-in trust. What can you do to build trust? Create a brand. A successful business, online or otherwise, exists within an established brand. Spread the word about who you are and what you can offer through email, social media, online ads and marketing efforts.