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Starting an online store
Everyone dreams of success, and running a business can be a big part of that. If you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you can feel like you’ve succeeded in life in general. Selling online is especially appealing because it can offer a balance between life and business: you can manage your online store from anywhere, work from home, and grow at a pace that’s comfortable for you. Plus, your e-commerce business is under your creative control and you can work toward your dreams of what you want it to be.
Business owners who already sell offline, such as in a physical store, craft fairs and other venues, also benefit from opening an e-commerce store. The same can be said for retailers who sell their products on existing marketplaces such as Etsy, eBay or Amazon. Building your own online store helps expand your reach, attract more customers and define the uniqueness of your brand. A site of your own gives you complete freedom to choose a design or theme that puts your brand in a distinctive light. In other words, your online store becomes your central identity in the online world.
Of course, any new business can be intimidating, and opening an online store is no exception. This step-by-step guide will help you understand the process so you can start fulfilling your e-commerce dreams.
First, consider your interests
Where are your passions? You will do better in business if you have a genuine interest in your products, as you are likely to have extensive knowledge in that area. Even if your interest in a specific type of product stems solely from the possibility of making a profit , you should still learn what you are selling, as this will make everything from inventory selection to customer service much easier.
Do you create your products yourself?
This is expected if you have been selling crafts at local shows or online marketplaces, and it comes with a couple of advantages. Your overhead is likely to be low, and your products will be unique to you, making it much easier to stand out from your competitors. You may also have existing customers who will be happy to follow you to your new website. Plus, you will no longer have to pay listing fees, so you will be able to reduce your prices slightly and make more sales.
Practical restrictions on the sale of products.
Consider logistics: how much inventory space you will need and whether you can ship these items reliably, safely (or even legally). Shipping extremely large and heavy products will be a nightmare, and the same can be said for very delicate items. You must factor in the cost of shipping, cost of materials, cost of storage and more.
Here are some other tips to help you determine which products might be suitable for sale.
Market research is an excellent way to learn about popular products. You can find out what sells, as well as where and when it sells: some products are more in demand in certain regions or during certain times of the year. It makes sense that some products have trends like this, and you can find some examples yourself if you think about it. Like these:
♦ Popular fashion items in the Pacific Northwest (or any other specific area)
♦ Winter clothing, which is purchased mainly during the fall and winter months.
♦ Supplies for mountaineering or any other sport with a defined season.
♦ Summer outdoor toys and winter outdoor toys.
♦ The latest and greatest fashions everywhere (as when restless spinners exploded on the market).
Learn from your competitors
Your competitors will naturally compete with you, but they can also provide you with great information. Researching your competitors can teach you about your own target audience and your own potential supersales.
You can do this research as you decide what to sell, as it can help inform your decision. Seeing the potential problems that marketers have to deal with in a market you are considering can help you choose whether to continue in that niche and prepare you to deal with similar problems yourself.
Creating a budget
Budgeting is going to take careful thought, and you must approach it methodically. You will need to consider every possible expense your business will encounter. Surprise costs can cause significant damage to a small business or even cause it to fail altogether.
Calculate your fixed costs (which will likely remain the same), as well as costs that may fluctuate. Be sure to leave enough latitude to cover them if they rise unexpectedly. Depending on the source of your products and other details specific to your business, your overhead costs will include most of the following:
♦ Cost of products (or materials to create products)
♦ Cost of web site hosting, e-commerce software, security, etc.
♦ Cost of office tools and software (e.g., QuickBooks )
♦ Marketing and advertising.
♦ Shipping materials.
♦ Custom graphics and web design / development.
♦ Professional product photography.
♦ Employee salaries.
Making a business plan
So, once you’ve determined your expenses and created a budget, what’s next? It’s time to move on to a business plan, in which you write out your business goals and the steps you’ll take to get there. It’s best to start with an outline and then expand it in more detail as you learn the finer points of what each step will entail.
The journey of creating an online store does not end here: there is much more to do. Go on and learn about designing your online store.
Designing an online store
Once the framework of your online store is in place, it is time to start defining the design of your online store. This includes the look and feel of the website, as well as other important aspects such as the category and product page structure, the included content pages and more. Be sure to plan your design before you start in order to achieve a much better end result, preferably without the need to go back and correct things later. Don’t rush this process: take your time to methodically plan and implement each step so that you can.
Building your category structure
When creating your categories, keep in mind that it should only take the customer 3 clicks to find the product they are interested in. If you do, you may lose the customer’s interest.
Create your categories around how your customers would classify your products in their own minds. Subcategories are extremely useful for organizational purposes, but remember the 3-click rule and don’t overdo it.
Some of your items may fit into more than one category, so be sure to categorize these products so customers can always find them where they expect. Remember that the whole point of categories and subcategories is to help your customers navigate to the item they are looking for, so make it easy for them!
Add your products
In general, there are two ways to add products to your online store: individually or in bulk. With Website PagoYa!, for example, you can add products in bulk by uploading a properly formatted CSV file or by importing your products from an existing inventory such as your eBay account or a dropshipper. Either way, you may want to add some products by hand at first so that you become more familiar with the interface and the data you will need to provide your product pages.
This product information will include things like title, description, price and cost, category, and a unique product identifier such as a SKU or part number. Other information may include weight, dimensions, manufacturer, and industry-specific product identifiers, such as an ISBN for books. If your products have multiple variants or options such as size or color, you can add those as well.
Launch an online store
If you have gone through the process of creating and designing your online store, your products are uploaded and everything is set up, you are ready to launch! This is a quick procedure, but don’t forget to take a few small precautions.
Sometimes good SEO still isn’t enough to reach the top of the first page of search results, but you can pay for advertising to keep your site appearing for visitors. Sign up with a search engine ad service like Google AdWords or Bing Ads, and set a daily or weekly budget that stays within the limits you defined in your business plan. Your e-commerce platform may offer you a free advertising credit to get things started.
Email has proven to be the most effective marketing tool on the Internet, and there are several ways to use email to attract and retain customers. Every email you send should offer some value to the customer for them to be interested in it, so don’t just send advertisements and sales pitches. Your emails should be useful to your readers and serve as a connection that fosters a relationship between customers and your business.
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