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How To Build A Successful Online Store: A Guide For Newbies

An open e-commerce shop sign in the window of a shop.

There's no denying that in today's digital age, having an online store has become necessary for businesses. The thing is, there's a difference between launching an online store and building a profitable brand that matters.

The former will take just minutes to set up, while the latter typically requires days or weeks of preparation before going live with a new online store.

You're reading this article today because you're serious about building a successful online store and want to do things properly. Of course, creating an engaging e-commerce store can be a daunting task for people new to setting up an online shop.

However, the good news is that the following 18 steps will help you have the best possible chance of building and growing a successful and profitable online enterprise. Take a look at the following tips and tricks to learn more about what you need to know:

1. Know Your Market

You've decided to sell some products and services through a new online store. But do you know who is likely to buy them? Or have you thought about the types of customers you'd like to target?

Knowing your target market is crucial to establishing a successful online store. Understanding your target market ensures you know the types of people most likely to buy what you sell, plus it helps you sell the most relevant products and services.

2. Know Your Target Audience

You may already know the types of people most likely to buy your products and services online. However, it's also essential to understand what motivates them to do so.

For example, are they impulse purchases; do you sell luxury goods or things that people only buy on special occasions? Are your customers most likely to make purchases out of necessity; do your goods and services fix problems they are experiencing?

3. Carry Out Lots Of Market Research

The worst thing you can do is launch an online e-commerce site and create a market that doesn't exist. Successful businesses only profit because they sell things that solve existing problems.

You probably don't need to worry about this point, but if you're trying to sell something you know isn't available on the market, you need to ask yourself if it's a product or service people want to buy.

4. Develop Your Business Plan

You can ignore this step if you already run an established business and are simply looking to create an online extension to your retail store. Otherwise, creating a viable business plan for your online store is necessary to build a successful online enterprise.

Your business plan should include information like the following:

  • Executive summary and business description;
  • Market analysis;
  • Products and services you want to sell online;
  • Sales and marketing strategies;
  • Sales forecasts;
  • Legal and regulatory requirements.

5. Consider Your Online Business Model

Are you planning to sell your products and services to individuals, other businesses, or a mixture of both? Within your chosen business model, is there a specific subset of customers that will ideally buy from you?

For example, if you want to sell car parts online, are your customers likely to be vehicle owners, car repair workshops, dealerships, or above? Make sure you know your online business model to avoid any confusion.

6. Think About Your Branding

Selling online is an excellent idea, but have you considered your brand name and logo? Those two essentials differentiate you from your competitors, so you must consider branding that best describes your online business and the types of customers you wish to attract.

When researching brand names, check that you aren't using someone else's brand name or logo. Aside from a quick Google search, check for registered trademarks via your relevant local intellectual property agencies.

7. Buy Your Brand's Domain Name

Once you've worked out your brand name and are happy to use it, the next step is registering your domain name. As you will soon discover, numerous domain name options are available, so it makes sense to choose the right one for your online store.

Many entrepreneurs would opt for a .com domain name, but using your locale's specific country code domain (like .co.uk for the UK) can be a better idea if you aren't quite ready to target an international market.

8. Research The Best E-Commerce Platform

Using a reliable and intuitive e-commerce platform for your online store is a fantastic idea. Doing so means your customers will find it easy to buy from you, and you'll find it simple to manage orders, payments, and inventory.

Shopify is the most popular e-commerce platform, but others exist like:

Try a demo of each platform to determine which will best fit your needs and your customers.

9. Work With A Reliable Web Host

Some e-commerce platform providers like Shopify and Wix provide hosting as part of their solutions. Others, such as OpenCart, require a web host where you can install their online store software and “self-host” it.

If you're choosing a self-hosted e-commerce platform for your business, you must select a reliable hosting provider. How can you determine which host is best for you? Consider the following points when shortlisting potential hosts:

  • Customer service – scores and reviews from independent review sites like TrustPilot;
  • Location – data centers in the same region or country as you;
  • Hosting packages – do they offer scalable e-commerce platform hosting packages?

10. Make Online Security A Priority

Your customers need to trust you with your personal information, and one way to earn that trust is by creating a secure online shopping platform for them to use.

Thankfully, there are many simple ways to achieve that goal. Examples include investing in a robust, guarantee-backed TLS/SSL certificate to encrypt all website data sent and received and working with a PCI DSS-compliant payment processing company like Stripe or PayPal.

11. Get Professionals To Build Your Content

You might be thinking to yourself that there's no way you can afford to hire professionals like copywriters and graphic designers to create professional content on your e-commerce platform. However, did you know it's possible to do so even on a tight budget?

You don't necessarily need to hire a marketing agency to offer a one-stop-shop solution when you can instead work with individual freelancers who don't have high overheads and can pass on those cost savings to you.

12. Make Search Engine Optimization A Priority

Building an online store is only possible if people can find it! That's why you must pay attention to search engine optimization or SEO and develop an ongoing SEO strategy for your website.

It's worth familiarizing yourself with all the different types of SEO to understand how best to formulate such a strategy.

If you've got the time, you can conduct your online store's SEO yourself, but it's better to let a seasoned professional handle that side of things for you to attain the best results.

13. Create A Blog On Your Online Store

You'll likely want to update your online store's visitors with news and information on upcoming products and services, case studies where previous customers have successfully used what you sell, and even information on community sponsorships.

A blog is the perfect communication medium for such news and events stories, especially as you can share links to blog posts on your social media accounts.

Ensure that your blog contains relevant and fresh information, and don't forget to write regular content on it for your readers to check out!

14. Develop A Marketing Strategy

You might assume that SEO is the only marketing strategy you need for your online store. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong with that assumption! You must develop a viable marketing plan for your online brand.

Your marketing should include SEO, of course, but it must also contain other things like offline marketing and promotion on online platforms like YouTube and social media.

15. Work With The Best Shipping Providers

Are you planning to sell physical goods in your online store? If so, ensure you're working with reliable, cost-effective shipping partners. There are a few reasons why you must pay attention to your shipping.

Firstly, dependable shipping partners will reduce the risk of orders getting damaged or missing in transit. Secondly, it helps boost consumer confidence. Lastly, it'll save your online business money.

16. Conduct Thorough Website Testing

Before your e-commerce site goes live, you should conduct some thorough testing. This involves checking the user experience on mobile devices and desktops, accessibility, payment processing, order processes, and customer engagement.

17. Set Up Visitor Tracking

Google Analytics is the typical go-to solution for visitor behavior tracking. But did you know other solutions exist to provide greater insight into how your customers find you and what they do once on your website?

For example, hotspot tracking lets you see where customers click or tap the most on your pages, helping you to improve your user experience.

18. Launch Your Online Store

Last but not least, when you've completed all the above steps successfully, all that remains is for you to launch your website.

Summary

In the modern digital era, it's essential to establish an online store and create one that thrives. This requires ample time and strategic planning. If you're committed to crafting a successful e-commerce platform, the subsequent 18-step guide can be instrumental.

1. Understand Your Market: Identify potential customers and learn about their preferences.
2. Identify Your Target Audience: Determine the motivations behind your customers' purchasing decisions.
3. Engage in Thorough Market Research: Ensure there's a demand for your product or service before launching your site.
4. Develop Your Business Plan: A comprehensive plan is vital for newcomers to e-commerce.
5. Consider Your Business Model: Decide whether you'll cater to individuals, other businesses, or both.
6. Contemplate Your Branding: A unique brand name and logo can set you apart.
7. Purchase Your Brand's Domain Name: Register your domain once you've settled on a brand name.
8. Choose The Best E-Commerce Platform: Consider platforms like Shopify, Wix, Magento, OpenCart, WooCommerce for WordPress, and Weebly.
9. Partner With A Reliable Web Host: Choose a provider with excellent customer service, local data centers, and scalable hosting packages.
10. Prioritize Online Security: Build customer trust by ensuring their data is safe.
11. Hire Professionals For Content Creation: Enlist the help of copywriters and graphic designers, even on a budget.
12. Focus on Search Engine Optimization: Make sure your online store is easily discoverable.
13. Start A Blog On Your Online Store: Regularly update your customers with relevant news and information.
14. Develop A Marketing Strategy: Implement a multi-faceted approach, including SEO, offline marketing, and social media promotion.
15. Collaborate With Reliable Shipping Providers: This boosts consumer confidence and saves money.
16. Conduct Thorough Website Testing: Ensure your site is user-friendly on all devices.
17. Set Up Visitor Tracking: Gain insight into customer behavior with tools like Google Analytics or hotspot tracking.
18. Launch Your Online Store: You're ready to launch after following the previous steps.

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