How do I start an online store? This is a question that many people ask and finding a straightforward answer that will really help one figure out how to start an online store can be hard to come by. As with starting any type of business, there are certain steps that need to be followed to ensure that you are doing business legally and that you are creating a secure environment in which to accept credit cards or other payments online. Let’s take a quick look at the first five steps to consider before starting an online store.
#1 Ideas of What to Sell at Your Online Store
The first step in starting an online store is coming up with ideas for what you want to sell in your online store. To begin with, you may just jot down a long list of items that you think are popular and that you think you would be able to sell for a profit. Take into consideration the amount of money you have available for purchasing the product, the price per item, if you can sell the product without having to actually take possession of it (through the help of a drop-shipper or some other third-party entity) and the long term popularity of each item.
#2 Research Your Ideas, See if They are a Good Option for an Online Store
This is the hard part. You really have to do a lot of research to find out what has the greatest chance of success. Just because iPhones are really popular doesn’t mean that you are going to be able to make a business out of selling them. The cost of purchasing them and then reselling them to an already over-saturated market where the “Big Guys” can sell the same product at a huge discount, is going to make it impossible for you to achieve success. So not only do you have to research what is popular and what a reasonable mark-up rate is going to make you, you also have to figure out how much competition there is for the same or similar product, what the current and future trends are that may influence the popularity of the item, and how you will be able to market it. If you are selling your own product you can take a look at some competitors websites to get an idea of what you like and don’t like and how you can differentiate your marketing strategy.
#3 Form a Company or Business Name to Opearte Your Online Store Under
Depending on the scope of your business venture there are a number of business types to consider. A sole proprietorship is the most basic type of business and can work for an individual that wants to run a business on his/her own with full responsibility and reliability for both the profit and loss the business may incur. For a more involved business one may want to consider forming a corporation, partnership, or some other type of business entity. This is going to be a very individual decision and will be based on the type of business you are doing, amount of capital (start up costs) one is going to need, etc.
#4 Secure a Domain Name for Your Online Store
Once you decide on the product, business name, and such you will need to register a domain name. Many people don’t think about this but this is an incredibly vital part of starting an online store. Branding and marketing are crucial when it comes to doing online business. As a brand new start-up company it is going to take some significant marketing to get your name out there and let people know what you are selling. Your domain name should be relevant to your business, easy to spell, and as short as possible. If your business name is not available as a dot com check out other domain extensions that may be relevant or easy to remember: .us, .tv, or .is are just a couple of the many possibilities.
#5 Create the Actual Online Store
After all the previous steps have been completed one can actually start thinking about the process of creating the online store. Luckily there are MANY options online that can make this step relatively easy. Some options include web hosting that includes shopping cart software, website templates, and payment processing (e.g. merchant account) options. These will take some knowledge to setup and get ready to go, but hosts such as BlueHost or FatCow provide a lot of online tutorials and also have live customer support that can help you get started. Other options include companies like BigCommerce or Volusion, these “hosted shopping cart solutions” are designed specifically for ecommerce websites.