Often, the largest obstacle that business owners face is being unfamiliar with the process: they are trying to figure out how to start an online retail business. So here are ten easy steps to learn how to open an online store, whether you already sell products in a brick-and-mortar location or you’re starting an online business from scratch.
Step 1: The Business Plan
Would you open a brick and mortar business without a business plan? You should not attempt to start an online retail store without one either. A business plan is critical to developing the roadmap and framework necessary to establish a successful business.
A business plan for an online business should include the approach that will be used for financing, marketing, and advertising of the business. It should also establish a clear idea of how it will reach success. If you need funding, you will also require this business plan to get venture capitalists on board with your ideas.
Step 2: Choosing an Online Retail Business Structure
After establishing a plan for your online business, you will need to choose an appropriate business structure. If you are unsure of the structure that is best for your company, consider the tax benefits and requirements of each.
Step 3: Choosing the Products You Will Sell
While your business plan probably outlined the general types of products you want to sell, this step entails a much more thorough list of your offerings. You should include the different products, as well as their unique colors, sizes, or other features. In addition to deciding on the types of products, you will also decide how they will be manufactured. In general, if you’re not producing your offerings yourself, you will need to get a supplier or find a solution that allows you to distribute through reselling or drop shipping.
Step 4: Choosing a Domain Name and Site Location
First, you must choose a hosting provider. You also have the option of purchasing a domain name and setting up a site yourself. However, this requires an understanding of technical processes that many business owners may not have.
Some of the most popular options to use for building an online retail store include Shopify, an ecommerce platform known by many entrepreneurs selling clothes online. The great thing about these sites is that they allow you to purchase your own domain name, as well as provide you with the basic tools and instruction that you need to build your website from the ground up.
Step 5: Building the Site
Once the technical parts of the site are set up, you will need to choose an overall design for your website. This includes setting up the theme, headers, product categories, and more. You will also need to organize your products into categories, and decide whether you want to include sections such as About Us or a company blog to attract customers to your site.
Step 6: Setting up the Shopping Cart
If you choose to go with an ecommerce platform to help you with your online retail business, setting up the shopping cart should not be difficult. When you do set up a cart, it is often beneficial to use hosted shopping cart software. When you choose self-hosted software, some potential customers may turn away from your business because they are unsure of the security of your site. This is a big factor to consider when establishing your online retail store — read more about features you should consider here.
Step 7: Launching, Advertising, and Marketing
Once your business has been established, your products are ready for sale, and all the bugs have been worked out of the site, you are ready for the official launch. After the launch, you will need to work hard on your ecommerce marketing and advertising strategies to grow your base of loyal customers.
Step 8: Maintaining the Business
Once everything is up and running, the final step – actually this is a step you’ll do every day for the whole life of your business – is maintaining your business. This includes taking care of technical aspects, such as working out any bugs on the site.