So you’ve got an exciting product idea, and want to start selling online? You’re not alone. With online sales in the US and Canada set to exceed $340 billion dollars, it’s not surprising that many people are either starting a side hustle, or going full-time with their ecommerce venture. Ecommerce is not without its hurdles – check out our previous post on the biggest challenges you will face as a solo entrepreneur – but, with a little guidance, you can make it work. This article will assist you through the exciting process of building your first professional online store.
Research, Research, Research
Ecommerce is the modern way to gain financial independence and become established in the world of business. It can be a fantastic chance to build a steady income online, and it can be a very rewarding career with plenty of perks like location flexibility (making ecommerce a digital nomad favorite).
It’s advisable to start building up your business on the side before quitting your full-time job, to keep your cash-flow coming in and to ensure that you have a little financial security. The first couple years of setting up a business can be a bumpy ride at times.
You need to really care about what you’re selling. Passion and enthusiasm for your product offering will go a long way – you’re going to be spending a lot of time on this project, so do yourself a favor and make sure it’s something you won’t resent doing.
Keyword research may sound a little dull, but it’s an extremely useful process to get right, and can be used for many different purposes in your business development journey, from marketing to figuring out what products users are looking to purchase online in the first place. Keyword Planner is Google’s own tool, and it is fantastic – you don’t need to pay to use it either. Other available free tools include UberSuggest. You should test out a few different tools, and pool the data together in a spreadsheet so you can look at it all together and analyze it.
Pro tip: These tools are available for free, though if you upgrade to the paid versions, you will be able to see more information like search volumes for each query.
Choose your domain
Your domain name is your shop’s online ZIP code. It is often the first thing that a user will see of your store. Some ecommerce builders like Wix offer you a ‘subdomain’ URL, which looks like www.username.wix.com/sitename. However, this isn’t always considered as professional looking as having your own domain.
Choosing your own, original domain name can be hard. Here are some points to consider:
- Do you want your domain name to reflect your product offering? You can choose something like, say, leatherhandbags.com, and your product offering is clear. However, you could go á la Google and use a random, catchy word of your choosing. The latter looks more original, and has the potential to earn your site some brand recognition
- A good starting point is to use free tools like NameStation to see what’s available — you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes!
Pro tip: It’s advisable to register an original domain name with all of the available extensions, covering .co.uk, .com and .org. That way, you cover all bases and can redirect all of the domains to one version if (when) you go international. This way, you are also preventing a competitor from taking that name on in the future!
Select the right store builder for you
There’s a ton of ecommerce platforms out there for you to choose from. You need to choose the platform that makes the most sense for your audience in terms of usability and aesthetics. It’s best to take a look at impartial, third-party reviews to get a feel for which one would best suit your needs. Here’s a list of the top ten open-source platforms on the market — spend time getting to know their USPs and customer base to see whether you’re a good fit.
Hosted platforms can have you up and running in a matter of hours, so they are a great choice if you are tight on budget and time. Just follow the tutorials and guides provided, but make sure that you spend plenty of time personalizing and customizing any out-of-the-box features so that your store looks unique. Main areas to focus on: imagery, menus, category pages, home page, and your blog — a chance for you to develop your brand voice.
Alternatively, you could find a web developer, and design a custom-built online store. This will cost more in terms of up-front budget, however, it can give you a real edge if you want a sleek, personalized design.
If you’re already selling on Amazon, but looking to create your own store in tandem, check out this ecommerce merchant guide for tips on how to manage the transition smoothly.
Are you planning on setting up an online shop anytime soon? Tell us about your experiences and roadblocks you’ve encountered along the way!