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A guide to starting
an online business

This essential guide outlines a range of items that you need to consider before you start an online business.

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An ecommerce store is an online business platform to sell products and services over the internet. You can sell anything you want — from physical goods like shoes and jewelry to digital products like ebooks and music. Amazon, eBay, Shopify, and AliExpress are some prominent examples.

A fully functional store handles nearly every process involved in transacting with a customer. It handles payments, facilitates checkout, and updates orders.

Whether you’re looking to move your brick-and-mortar store or start a new business, an online store will help scale your business and grow revenue.

Even if you have closed your physical store due to the pandemic, you can still serve your customers with their shopping needs.

Let’s see which steps you will need to take to proceed from in idea of a site to the ready product.

Plan your path to success

Research the viability of your business within its online sector; build a strategy around your vision and mission to maximise the opportunity to not just be operational, but successful. Be realistic, but don’t shy away from aspirational planning. Creating, managing and scaling any business takes dedication, handwork and creativity. Make sure that your plan lays way to the heights you want to achieve.

Read on to learn how to start an online store for your business.

1. Understand your niche

A niche is your intended market audience. It includes the people you would sell your products to — your prospective customers.

To convert these potential customers into your clients, you need to:

  • Recognize your customers’ needs
  • Find out the target audience’s desires
  • Understand your audience’s values

An easy way to do this is to identify your competitors and check on what they’re up to. Analyze their strategies and understand their whats, whys, and hows to develop your business plan and marketing strategy.

When deciding your niche, avoid overcrowded and brand-dominated niches.

2. Decide your product

To start a successful online business, you need to decide the products you want to sell.

You can sell:

  • Physical products
  • Services
  • Digital products — software, ebooks, apps
  • Courses and subscriptions

You can perform further research on your competitors to decide the range of products you can sell.

Research their business models and their trending products. Find out what you can emulate and pick actionable ideas.

Also, look for social proof for your business ideas. Go to popular online stores and see which items sell better in your niche.

Nonetheless, pick a product you’re interested in and are familiar with. It will make it easier for you, as a business owner, to relate to your customers and deliver the best products.

3. Ascertain your product source

Depending on what you’re selling, you need to decide your sourcing for your products. You can opt for:

  • Buying in wholesale — and operating as an online retailer
  • Partnering with a manufacturer
  • In-house manufacturing — for new products
  • Dropshipping the product

4. Set a budget

Before you create your online store, you need to plan your finances upfront.

Depending upon the niche and the nature of the business, it can cost you between $100 to $100,000 to set up your online store.

Plan your budget for:

  • Ecommerce hosting
  • Ecommerce software
  • Plugins and extensions
  • Business licenses and permits
  • Payment processing costs
  • Domain name
  • SSL certificate

5. Name your business

Your business name should fit your business. Either go for a unique name that stands out in public or a relevant name that describes your business.

You can also try a business name generator to brainstorm names for your business.

Once you have selected a business name, get a domain name — the permanent online address to your ecommerce site. It allows customers to find you on the web.

6. Register your business

While it depends on local rules and regulations, it is usually better to register your online business. It helps you with credit card processing and product sourcing. Also, it lets the buyers know that your startup is operating legally.

Organise Your Web Assets

If you can’t be found easily online, you are missing a huge opportunity! An estimated 1.79 billion people shopped online last year and forecasts indicate that this is an increasing trend. You will need to put in place a suite of digital touchpoints that will convey your message, engage your audience and offer an enhanced customer experience, all of which should be supported across the spectrum of mobile devices.

8. Define your brand identity

Everything from your business name to your web page design should be consistent with your brand.

For that, pay close attention to:

  • Page layout
  • Color scheme
  • Typography
  • Business logo
  • Photos

9. Secure your domain name using a registrar

This is the address that prospective customers will type into their browser or that appears in their search, so it should reflect what your business does, be meaningful, punchy and most of all unique. It’s possible that your first choice might not be available, so you may need to be flexible and creative. Make sure that you safeguard your name and logo.

10. Select an eCommerce platform

It’s time to choose an ecommerce platform and create your online storefront.

While there is a wide range of ecommerce platforms to choose from, you need to consider the budget, ease of use, and features — like templates, tutorials, and support for SEO and social media — to decide the one that is best for you.

Build a website that is easy and safe to navigate, that clearly displays your offering and that can be seamlessly advanced as your business scales. You can also be the master of your own Content Management System (CMS) with relative ease or alternatively, web designers will offer you a bespoke website.

As a feature-rich ecommerce platform with low costs, Hostinkos’s is a great choice to create and manage your store.

11. Choose a website host

The hosting provider will make your website available on the Internet, so make sure you choose a reliable one and, preferably, with extensive services. In your quest of how to open an ecommerce store, a good website host is vital.

Engage a website host to store the web pages and apps that will deliver your web pages to the consumer. This is where your customers will access your online business via their browser and connect with your product or service through pictures, text, videos, as well as offering them a secure way to pay.

While the domain name points to your shop, the strength of that shop — how many visitors it can support, how secure it is, and how fast it is — depends upon the website host.

If you are working toward a secure, fast, and high-performing store, check out web hosting plans from Hostinkos. Be sure to choose a host that can keep up with your projected growth, offering the security, support and bandwidth for demand you’ll require into the future.

11. Cooperate with a development team

Here comes the most exciting step from an idea to a website! You need to choose the performers of such responsible mission as creating the design and developing your product.

First of all, there are good reasons to choose a company over a freelancer. And, of course, choose carefully — consider the agency’s track record, reputation, and portfolio. Without false modesty, we can say Hostinkos’s 7+ years of experience make it a very attractive choice.

When you have chosen the team, provide everything you can regarding your future website’s look and features (wireframes for site design, technical specifications, verbal descriptions, sketches, and so on). Whatever is missing, can be created by the development agency experts upon your request, so they can help you shape all your idea.

12. Showcase your products

You have reached the final step of our guide to how to open an ecommerce store and have built your online shop.

It’s time to configure your product pages:

  • Add photos
  • Place logos
  • Write engaging product descriptions

13. Drive traffic your way

Having a digital presence isn’t enough on its own, now it’s time to increase promotion and get your online business seen. A robust digital marketing strategy will include a defined campaign of scheduled social network posts, targeted paid ads based on customer demographic research and search engine optimisation (SEO) including the copy on your website.

Achieving high rankings in the search engines is fundamental to the success an online business. Likely be one of your largest sources of traffic, Hostinkos can offer support with optimising your site.

If you wish, a SEO expert may also work with your newly-made site — submit it to search engines, take care of the sitemap and robots.txt file creation, build a SEO strategy, help you with picking the relevant keywords and expressions, write meta descriptions, provide internal linking, and much more.

14. Convert Hits Into Sales

Your customers are streaming through your virtual doors, so make sure that every hit on your site is a maximised opportunity to sell your product or service. Get to know your audience using external and internal data sources, then personalise their experience with custom landing pages, engage with your consumers using a tone that evokes an emotional response and builds trust. Potential buyers are far less likely to abandon their basket once that connection is made.

15. Think of website support

When your website is completely ready to impress the world, it still needs to be taken care of. First of all, CMSs get updated versions that make them more protected and feature-rich, so regular updates are part of success strategy.

In addition, regular performance and SEO audit, code review and actions like this are very useful for making your site work like a clock. You may also need new features to be added. So website support is necessary.

Ready to open an online store for your small business? You are lucky — Hostinkos is exactly the type of kompany that offers web development and support.

Start your journey today with Hostinkos

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