In 10 steps to an (successful) online store
Online stores are popping up like wildfire. Big chance you are also thinking about starting one.
There is a lot to consider when starting an online store. Perhaps more than you initially thought.
To help you start your first online store, or to make the choice if starting one is something for you, we wrote down 10 steps that you have to take into account before starting your online store.
Please note: This list is not a complete checklist. When starting an online store, you have to take care of maybe more than 100 cases that affect your business. The elements that will be mentioned in the article will act as a guideline to take care of.
The 10 steps that will help you to set-up an (successful) online store
1. Choose a product or service
The success of your online store stands or falls with the choice of a product or service. You can have a fantastic idea, but if nobody has an interest in your product or service it will not lead to the wanted result.
Probably you have a hobby that you want to make money with. Really nice, but research if there is a demand for the product and if people are willing to pay money for it.
No idea what you might want to sell? Take time to do some comprehensive research. A good source of inspiration can be Google Trends. Via this platform, you can search for keywords and subjects that are trending at the moment.
In the past weeks, Google Trends showed us that mouthpieces were really popular. This could have been a potential idea to set up an online store for.
Another way to get inspired is to find out what knowledge you have. Maybe you can transfer this knowledge into a digital product like a video course or a podcast.
Moreover, you can look for popular products on big marketplaces like Bol.com or Amazon. Probably, there is a product that is booming in the USA, but is unknown in the Netherlands and has a lot of potential.
2. Determine your budget
When you know which products or services you are going to sell via your online store, it’s time to make a budget plan. It does not have to be a comprehensive financial plan, but it is good to think about this ahead.
Starting up a website goes along with a lot of involved costs, and probably more than you initially thought.
Think about costs like:
- Domain name
- E-commerce software
- Stock/purchase of products
- Chamber of commerce registration
- Plugins for your e-commerce store
- Hiring of developers
- Costs for creating a corporate identity and/or logo
- Business account
- Packaging material
One cost item is higher than the other and some costs can be postponed. However, sooner or later there is a good chance that you have to deal with them.
So at least make a spreadsheet with the expected costs and your budget. Are the total costs within your budget? Then you can proceed to step
3. Choose the right domain name
Well, now you know which products or services you want to sell and you have a rough idea of what it is going to cost.
Now it is time to think about a name and so, to secure your domain name. Keep in mind that a lot of logic domain names are already in use. So it’s time to be creative!
Think carefully about your name and check if the domain name is already in use or not.
Moreover, do not forget to look if your name is still available on social media!
More tips for choosing a domain name:
- Don’t make it too long
- Use a logic extension: .nl, .com or .fr for example (what is applicable for your country)
- Try to avoid the use of a hyphen (-) in your domain name.
- Think about using your product name in your domain name or not (not always useful, for example, if you are planning to sell more kinds of products)
- Try to select a domain name that people easily can type.
4. Choose the right e-commerce software
In the e-commerce world, there are dozens of solutions available to build your online store with.
WooCommerce, Magento, Shopware, Sylius or shops that are directly in the cloud like Shopify.
Which software you choose is dependent on the requirements, ambitions and the budget you have.
Do you want to start in a relatively cheap way, and want to have freedom in setting up your shop? WooCommerce might be a good solution for you.
If you have a bit more budget, if you want more functionality and a robust system that will benefit you for years to come, then Magento might be the right choice.
Immerse yourself into this. The choice for which e-commerce software is best for you is really important because you probably stick to it for years to come.
For sure, we as an e-commerce specialist can provide you with good advice! Do you need our help? Please contact us for advice without obligation!
5. Which requirements you set for your online store?
Perhaps you’ve already thought about it. But what are the requirements you set for your online store? Does it have to be really fast? Does it have to be easy to set up? The requirements you set are in relation to the e-commerce software you will finally choose.
As soon as you make a list of requirements, it is good to think about the following cases:
- Which payment methods have to be available?
- Which payment provider do you choose?
- Which requirements does the design have to meet?
- Does the online store have to meet a certain loading speed?
- Which features does it need to have (a searching functionality for example)?
- How much focus do you put on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
- How many products does your store have to consist of?
- how many visitors should be able to shop at the same time?
- And many more
All those elements have an impact on the costs, which e-commerce software you choose, if you can do it by yourself or if you have to hire a developer etc.
We recommend you to create a checklist for this, so you will not forget the things you have to take into consideration.
6. Choose the right webhosting
When you reach this point, you have a fairly good idea of what your online store has to comply with. For now, it is important to determine which hosting provider you are going to choose.
There is an enormous number of web hosts, so investigate carefully the differences between those hosters to make sure it fits your needs.
Chosen for Magento? It might be a great idea to select a specialized host of Magento 2 hosting, Hipex for example😀.
Rather run your store on WooCommerce, and receive only a few visitors per month with not the best performance? Than a shared hosting package at a budget hoster would probably fit your needs.
Keep in mind that cheap hosting can become really expensive at a later stage.
Don’t forget to look critically at the security measures that web hosts take.
So, do good research about the type of hosting you want. The selection of the wrong hosting can have big negative consequences on the store’s performance, and so, the number of visitors that purchase something at your online store.
7. Develop it yourself or outsource it?
You now know a lot more about your online store, but who is going to build it?
The choice of your e-commerce software is really important. Not every e-commerce platform is out of the box ready to be built easily. Some need custom work while others have templates to build your website with.
Do you want to launch an online store with many features and customization? You do well to outsource building your online store to a development agency or a freelancer from your network.
When you outsource this partly or totally, you have to take into account that there are costs involved that will increase your total costs,
Don’t have a big budget, you can choose for easier systems like WooCommerce and Shopify. These systems are often ready to use out of the box. For designing and setting up your online store, no technical knowledge is needed.
Did you reserve a sufficient amount of money to build a robust shop with a lot of extensive e-commerce possibilities and want to develop your online shop by another party, then Magento or Shopware might be an option for you.
8. Attracting visitors to your shop (online marketing)
When your online shop is live, it is important to get traffic. Without traffic, no sales! Apart from the sales traffic will generate, it’s important to analyze how your website is performing.
Multiple ways to generate traffic to your website:
You can choose to buy traffic via advertising like Google Shopping, Google Ads or Facebook Ads for example.
Another way is to invest in SEO from the beginning of your online store. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and has the objective to score as high as possible in search engines like google, youtube or Bing organically(free).
Just as you’ve questioned yourself to outsource or build the web shop yourself, you should do the same with online marketing. It’s a profession on it’s own, especially in the digital world we’re living in at the moment.
And if you are planning to do it yourself, what would be needed to start seeing traffic from your input? What budget do you need?
Another way to get traffic to your website is for example via social media. This is a very time-intensive process to do besides all the other tasks you have to do.
Our recommendation is to focus on one specific platform and to really go for it. Another social media platform can potentially be outsourced to an external party.
Hipex has besides shop development partners also marketing partners. Are you planning to outsource your marketing activities? Please contact us, so we can provide you with advice about the best parties that can help you with this.
9. Delivering your product to the customer
When you sell physical products via your online store, it’s most likely you will send them via a postal service. Time to think about how and via which service you would like to do this:
- Via which delivery services do you want to send your products? Or are you going to do it by yourself?
- How many times to you want to send orders? Per order or collecting some to reduce the costs?
- Which sending labels are you going to use?
- Which packaging do you choose?
- How are you going to deal with retour orders?
These questions are all questions to take into account.
Tip: Do you have some difficulties during one of the steps? Ask people in your network if they have some experience with this.
10. Optimizations and improvements
If everything is set up, it is important to optimize your processes. How can you work more efficiently? Which channels get the most traffic? Which target groups have the highest conversion rate? Which support questions come across and how can you answer them in an earlier stage of the purchase?
Your online store is live, but the real challenge has not even begun. You have to deal with real customers, that want something from you, that pay too late, that will try to call you at impossible times et cetera.
And what are you going to do when everything is doing so well that you run of out stock? Or totally upside down, that you don’t get rid of your stock?
Measuring is knowing! As soon as you get traffic to your website, you can measure and optimize so you can get the most out of your online shop.
Putting your website live, while a couple of important elements are lacking, just to collect information is not recommendable. First, ensure your website is working properly and then start to collect data.
Hopefully, the 10 steps above give you enough things to think about before starting a web shop. Please, pay attention to the fact this article is a guideline, but starting an online store has more elements than the 10 items above.
For example, think about insurances, cookie notification, set up terms and conditions, request a general phone number and deal with customer enquiries.
Nevertheless, these 10 items above are a guideline to start with your successful online store.