There is no denying it: The Internet has fundamentally changed the way in which we do business.
For example, ASOS, a multibillion-dollar business, was built solely online. Founded by Nick Robertson and Quentin Griffiths in June 2000, the site landed its own-label collection in 2003 and hit 1 million unique visitors by 2005. In 2011, after going multichannel and multilingual and joining forces with social media networks, the company saw an impressive 142 percent increase in international sales. Last year, the company saw nearly $500 million in profit.
The takeaway here is that e-commerce is a lucrative business opportunity. Moreover, ASOS isn’t the only example of an e-commerce site rising through the ranks to multibillion-dollar success. Brands like GREATS, Beardbrand, and Mindzai Toys all started in relative obscurity and worked their way to the top with highly successful e-commerce platforms and online selling strategies. Wondering how you can set up your first online store, start bringing in money, and join the ranks of these tremendously successful e-commerce giants?
Luckily, we’re here to break it down for you.
Where to Setup Your Online Shop?
Once you have a product that you are ready to start selling online, you have three basic selling options: You can use a pre existing platform, set up shop on social media stores, or develop your own e-commerce site.
1. Use a pre existing platform
There is a wide variety of pre existing e-commerce platforms that you can use to start selling products online. These include well-known platforms, like eBay, Etsy, Amazon, and Alibaba, as well as other smaller platforms. Smaller e-commerce platforms tend to be more product-specific. For example, SoleHub can be used specifically to resell sneakers, while Cafe Press can be used to create and sell T-shirts and Art Pal can be used to sell art.
Keep in mind that there are several downsides to opting to use a pre existing platform. First, running your own store on a larger platform can be compared to renting a rack in a big shopping complex. As a result, it can be very hard to build your brand. Furthermore, it can take a toll on your bottom line, as you will have to share a cut of your own revenue with the platform owners. Put simply, when you opt to use a preexisting platform to sell your products, you are simply building someone else’s empire — and not your own. Even worse, using a pre existing platform means that your entire business is run at someone else’s mercy. The platform can simply revoke your store and shut off your entire business with a change in policy.
2. Set up shop on social media stores
Social media stores allow you to sell products directly from a social media site. Facebook and Instagram, for example, offer stores.
If you have a sizeable social media following, this can be advantageous. If not, it can be problematic, as it means that you are dependent on social media for business. Furthermore, a change in visibility algorithms can wreak havoc on your business. Not long ago, Facebook changed its algorithms, making it much more difficult for storeowners to reach their customers. As a result, many stores saw their sales plummet. In addition, as of 2015, Facebook began cracking down even harder on posts deemed promotional in nature, including
“… posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app, posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context, [and] posts that reuse the exact same content from ads.”
So an artist who wants to encourage fans to purchase his new song on the Facebook store, for example, could run into major problems.
The bottom line is that if you run your store on a social media site, you will be subject to the whims and regulations of the site.
3. Develop your own e-commerce site
This is arguably the most advantageous option. However, it does require a bit of work. To develop your own e-commerce site, you will first need a web host and a domain. Then, you can develop your own e-commerce site with WordPress and WooCommerce (a toolkit that helps create your storefront and payment system easily) or, alternatively, with e-commerce software, such as PrestaShop and Shopify.
If you are going to develop your own e-commerce site, keep in mind that it is a pretty big commitment in terms of effort, time, and money. However, developing your own site is an absolute must if you are committed to long-term success. Ultimately, no e-commerce business can succeed without its own website.
In conclusion, there are three major ways to get your e-commerce site up and running. However, the first two options, using a preexisting platform or using a social media store, have major limitations. If you truly want a taste of e-commerce success, your best bet is to develop your own site.
Which platform to go with?
So, once you have decided to develop your own e-commerce site, there are a few things you will need to know to get started. It is true that in the long term you want your own site. However, when you are just getting started, this might not be feasible. Your best bet is to take a three-pronged approach and leverage the power of each of the three options.
In other words, use all three options simultaneously when you are getting started.
My suggestions –
- 10% of your effort and budget should go toward selling your products on a pre existing platform. The first step is to start selling your products ASAP on another site’s platform. Your profit margin is lower, but you will start to generate revenue instantly.
- 30% of your effort and budget should go toward social media. It is critical to start building up a community of followers on social media, including Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
- 60% of your effort and budget should go toward your very own online store. This is the most important piece, especially in regards to long-term success, so you want to concentrate the bulk of your effort and budget here. Build an online store and collect emails for long-term success.
The Technical Part: Building An Online Store
To start an online shop, you need three things.
A web host, a domain name, and a well-designed, user-friendly site with online shopping features, and a payment gateway to receive customer payments.
Let’s look at each of these key features.
Element 1- Web Host and Domain Name
Domain name and web hosting are two different things.
When we talk about web hosting, we normally refer to service providers that provide Internet connectivity and server space for website owners to store its web content (think web pages, images, audio, database, etc).
A domain name is the identification string or address associated with your website. It is how customers are able to find your website.
To start a website, you will need to register your domain name with a domain registrar and purchase a web hosting service to store your website.
Register a domain
To register a domain – simply go to one of the reputable registrars you are comfortable to work with. For first-timers – just pick either GoDaddy or Name Cheap (both are recommended) – there’s no point to sweat on this.
Choosing a web host
Picking up a web host, on the other hand, is not so easy. It is critical to choose a host that is known for fast, reliable service. You want to choose a hosting service that is known for excellent uptime — ideally something over 99.5%. A web hosting service with poor uptime means that your website is more likely to be down. Not only is that unprofessional, but it means that consumers won’t be able to access your site when they want to buy something, which can have a negative impact on your sales.
There are several options to choose from when it comes to hosting services. InMotion Hosting, TMD Hosting, and InterServer are great if you are looking for premium options, while A2 Hosting, A Small Orange, and eHost are excellent budget options.
|Web Host||WHSR Rating||Recommended for…||Price||Action|
|A2 Hosting||Newbies||$3.92/mo||Visit Online|
|A Small Orange||Newbies||$4.20/mo||Visit Online|
|InMotion Hosting||Beginners & advanced users||$4.19/mo||Visit Online|
|InterServer||Beginners & advanced users||$3.85/mo||Visit Online|
|TMD Hosting||Beginners & advanced users||$5.85/mo||Visit Online|
You can find more hosting choices and information in this list of hosting reviews we have published on WHSR.
Element 2- A Well-Designed, User-Friendly webSite
Keep in mind that user experience matters a lot.
You want to make sure that the site loads quickly, that navigation is easy, and that the flow of information is smooth. And, of course, the ordering process should be absolutely idiot-proof. A complex site with a convoluted ordering process is a surefire way to kill conversion rates.
We will talk about the art of selling online in the later part of this article. As for conversions and UX designs from a marketer’s perspective, read my other article here.
Also, when it comes to your e-commerce site, appearance matters. Therefore, you want to pay very close attention to your logo and the overall look of your site. If you don’t have expertise in design, it is probably best to hire a pro to do the job. Alternatively, you might want to buy a professionally designed theme from opened market like Theme Forest or Elegant Themes – which, in most cases, the cheaper and more effective options for first timers.
For examples here are what your website can look like using the Divi theme offered at Elegant Themes (check out the theme page here).
Element 3- A Payment Gateway
Last but not least, you need to make sure that your website is fully equipped with a payment gateway. A payment gateway is an e-commerce application service provider that authorizes payments for e-commerce businesses and online retailers, facilitating the transfer of information between the payment portal on your website and the front-end processor or bank.
To understand how online payment works –
There is a variety of payment gateways that you can choose and here are some of the reputable ones.
Arguably one of the easiest ways to accept online payments, BainTree allows you to accept payments made using Apple Pay, PayPal, and credit and debit cards in your e-commerce store. It’s used by prominent brands like Airbnb, Uber, and GitHub.
2CO is basically a combination of a merchant account and a payment gateway. It’s easy and user-friendly. All you need to do is register and verify your account. Once you’ve done that, you can start accepting credit card payments and even PayPal payments. 2CheckOut also offers international payments, shopping cart stores, and a recurring billing feature.
A major PayPal competitor, Dwolla has some pretty impressive benefits. Most notably, it allows you to transfer funds through email, phone, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. In addition, there are no transaction fees for payments under $10.
One of the world’s most widely used payment acquirers, PayPal processes over 8 million payments a day. One of the major perks of PayPal is that it allows customers to make a purchase from you without ever having to leave your site. There is no denying that PayPal is very convenient and quite well trusted by consumers. However, there can be some pretty hefty fees associated with PayPal use.
Making Your First Sale: The Art of Selling on the Web
Ultimately, you might have a great e-commerce site, but if you don’t have great content, you aren’t going to sell anything.
Content is the key to the success of your online shop. Great content helps you provide high-quality information to your consumer, drives engagement on social media, helps you differentiate yourself from the competition, and, ultimately, drives sales.
In any online playing field, you will want to keep these basic web marketing rules in mind:
Establish yourself as an expert
The key to successful selling is situating yourself as an expert in your market niche. Make yourself known and trustworthy. In all interactions with your customers, make sure that you are knowledgeable, authentic, responsive, and real.
Take your competition seriously
You can learn a lot from your competitors, so be sure to take them seriously. Study their marketing plans, and build your strategy on top of theirs.
Relate to your audience
The key to crafting compelling content is developing content that is relevant to your audience. In other words, content that ties directly into their wants, needs, and preferences. Furthermore, your content should elicit some kind of emotion from your target audience. In order to build rapport with your customers, they need to feel like you understand them.
Make your customers happy
Happy customers are one of the best forms of publicity. And remember, happy customers tend to be repeat customers — which means more sales.
Building Traffics to Your Online Shop
Keep in mind that you will need to continually market your shop in order to direct traffic to your site, build a loyal customer base, and grow your e-commerce business.
Pulling new traffic into your store and retaining new customers should be your most important priorities. The bottom line is that no traffic equals no business. So once you get your website up and running, about 80 percent of your time and effort should be focused on site marketing in order to generate traffic for your shop.
There are three primary ways to generate traffic to your site: search engines, content marketing, and social media. Let’s break down each.
Also read: 15 Strategies to Promote Your Online Store
Effectively marketing your online shop means ensuring that your website is visible in search engine results pages.
In other words, you want to maximize your position in the rankings. The higher your e-commerce site appears in rankings, the more likely a potential customer is to click. To optimize your position in the rankings, you will need a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. This includes both on-page SEO — such as compelling and informative title tags; page title optimization; semantically correct, descriptive URLs; HTML header text; and meta descriptions — as well as off-page SEO, such as incoming links and positive social signals.
Effective content marketing entails developing and strategically sharing content that is relevant to your target market.
Great content marketing produces content that consumers actually want to consume, from compelling blog posts to informative infographics. Content marketing is an incredibly powerful tool for marketing your online shop. Research shows that brands that engage in content marketing have conversion rates six times higher than brands that don’t, as well as a seven-times-higher year-over-year growth in unique site traffic.
- How content marketing build business
- The mixology of content marketing [infographic]
- The advance guide of content marketing
Lastly, it is critical for your brand to develop a presence on social media sites. However, keep in mind that not all social media sites are created equally. You need to determine which social media sites your customers are using. If you have an incredibly well-developed Pinterest account, but the bulk of your target demographic isn’t on Pinterest, it isn’t going to accomplish anything.
How can you choose which sites your brand should be on when promoting your online shop? Be sure to consider the following:
Facebook is the giant of all of the social media sites, with over 70 percent of all Internet-using adults on the network. Therefore, Facebook might be an especially advantageous option for your brand if your target audience encompasses a broad demographic. It should also be noted that Facebook is currently growing rapidly with senior citizens and remains the top social network for teens, with more daily teen users than any other platform. It is therefore also an excellent option if you are specifically focused on teens or senior citizens.
Twitter is yet another social media giant, and the largest demographic on Twitter is hands down millennials. Only 23 percent of Internet-using adults are on the site, a small fraction when compared to Facebook, but if you are specifically interested in targeting millennials, it is hands-down the best option.
The majority of Google+ users are male, and a good chunk of users are tech-oriented, as the site is especially popular with engineers, IT professionals, designers, etc. So, if you are trying to target a young adult, male, technically oriented crowd, Google+ is probably a great option.
LinkedIn is especially useful for companies trying to target an older, well-educated crowd, as the site is most popular with employed professionals in higher-income households. The majority of users are adults between the ages of 30 and 49, and the average annual income of its users is $150,000.
The majority of Pinterest users are females in higher-income households between the ages of 30 and 50. Keep in mind that because Pinterest is so visually focused, it is only a good option if you have visually driven content to share.
Instagram is rapidly growing, especially among women, teens, and young adults under the age of 35. Again, because this platform is visually focused, it is only a good option if you have visually driven content to share.
Effectively marketing your online shop means employing a multifaceted strategy. You need to leverage the power of social media, content marketing, and search engines. With some time and effort into a well-developed site and a great marketing strategy, you can climb your way to e-commerce success.
Action & Read Further
Now that we’ve broken down just how to set up your online shop, it’s time for you to put this knowledge into action and start making money. Remember, knowing is only half the battle. Now it’s time for you to put this knowledge to use!
This article is part (1/5) of our e-commerce series. Read further on:
- 15 strategies to promote your online store
- How to build a sales funnel that converts
- The secret to writing headlines that sell
- The ultimate checklist to boost your website sales
Enjoy and good luck!