Are you planning on starting an online store on your own?
Whether this is your first time setting up a small business online or you’ve been in the game for a while, this guide will teach you how to start an online store within a few minutes.
Also, if you’re looking to sell your products and services to anyone within and outside your location, state, country, one of the smartest ways to reach your target customers is to set up your own online store.
However, your store doesn’t have to be as big as the likes of Amazon, eBay, Aliexpress, etc. You can set up a small online store that offers only one or a few products. Just so you know, there are many online stores that specialize only in products like shoes, perfumes, flowers, auto spare parts, phones, you name it. And despite the fact these stores aren’t popular, they’re making money — big time.
So are you ready to start your own online store?
If yes, let us get straight to the point.
How to Start an Online Store Within Minutes
Setting up an online store isn’t as difficult as most people think. As you read on, you’ll learn all the important steps involved and you will also know all the basic information needed to setting up your own online store within minutes.
Without wasting much time, let’s get started on how to start an online store within minutes…
1. Choose the type of product(s) you want to sell
Choosing the type of product you want to sell is one of the most difficult tasks and it is also an important step towards setting up a successful online store.
A product that is selling very well for Mr/Mrs A doesn’t mean it will sell very well for you. You can’t just go about choosing random product that comes to your mind.
What to lookout for before choosing a product for your online store
There are some conditions you need to look out for before choosing any product.
Let’s delve into some of these conditions;
a) Customer’s demand
Firstly, the product must be of high and non fluctuating demand. And if it’s a new product that isn’t popular yet, it must fill a need that is constantly felt by many people and for which there are very few or no reliable solutions yet. This is a no brainer. Don’t attempts to sell something that no one would be interested in purchasing.
The demand (or potential) for any product isn’t difficult to figure out. Just look around you and answer the following questions for every product idea that comes to your mind.
For already well-known products:
- Are there many people buying this product?
- Are there lots of online ads for this product?
- Are there lots of sales for this product on Amazon, eBay and other popular online stores?
For products that are new to the Nigerian market:
- Are there many people who would be interested in this product because it fills a significant need?
Your answers to these questions will help you figure out whether there is — or will be — enough demand for the product here in Nigeria. If you cannot get convincing answers in the affirmative, it’s better to find another idea.
b) Avoid picking a product that’s too unique
A common best practice in marketing is to differentiate yourself from others. It makes you unique.
It’s also tricky to find a genuine way to differentiate yourself that the market is willing to pay for.
Instead of trying to differentiate yourself from every other product in your category, find a category with competitors that aren’t dominating their marketing channel.
c) Price of products
Choose a product that has a moderate price, what I mean is that the price isn’t too low and it is not too high.
As pricing changes, so does buying behavior. Prospects demand more proof. They may even demand a completely different buying process.
How many people buy cars without test driving them first? Not many. They want to see the car and talk to a real person before making a purchase that big. Cars require a lot of extra work and sales skills to sell effectively because of their higher price point.
We recommend finding a product that you can sell to your customers without them having problems with your price tag.
d) Comfortability of buying the products
Ensure that the products you are selling must be one that people are really comfortable buying them online. Certain products don’t sell online due to different reasons. For example, grocery will not sell well online because grocery stores are available everywhere, and most people would prefer to do their grocery shopping locally rather than online. Moreover, some grocery items are bought for immediate consumption, so it’s unrealistic to buy them online since they would take days to deliver.
Similarly, an online suits or wears store has relatively less chances of success because most people would prefer to visit local boutiques, where they can be sure that they are choosing the right size and quality. Buying such wears online would be a huge risk, as buyers are unable to physically check and confirm the size, colour, texture, quality, and other factors they consider when buying such items. the same goes as car selling as mentioned earlier on the post.
So, you must choose a product that people will be comfortable and be ready to buy no matter the situation or circumstances.
Avoid products that people are not likely to buy.
e) Consider the longevity of your customers.
This bit requires you to think a few steps ahead, but it’s important to have that foresight when you’re starting a business. This step all depends on the type of product(s) you are delivering and your relationship with your customer.
After you make your first sale of the day and you’ve got your operations running smoothly, the natural next step is to work on generating more revenue right?
How do you do that? A lot of entrepreneurs try to increase their Customer Lifetime Value or Lifetime Value, and they come up with strategies to re-target their existing customers and keep selling to them.
However, certain products are absolutely horrible for customer longevity.
It pays to be aware of these upfront, so you don’t find yourself in a bind when you’re 6 months into your business and trying to figure out how to increase your Customer Lifetime Value.
For example, let’s talk about those who sells wedding stuffs.
People automatically assume that selling wedding attires or materials are highly profitable because, well, people are willing to spend extravagantly on their big day.
That’s true, but what they don’t realize is that the “lifespan” of each customer is rapidly short.
You might have 50 customers today, but these same 50 customers may disappear without leaving a footprint behind within 3 months, funny right, but that’s the fact and they’re never coming back except when they have someone who is looking for a wedding material or attire to buy, they may sharply remember you.
While other online stores will be able to work on customer retention and sell to their existing customers, but the story is a different one for you.
In order to scale your business, you’ll have to spend aggressively on ads and other forms of marketing.
You’d be stuck in an endless loop of customer acquisition. And once you stop, your sales drop too.
Now that you have known the type of products to choose, let’s move to the next point.
2. Decide how you will get the products
After you’ve decided on what type of product you want to sell online and the price, your next important step is to figure out how you’ll get a constant supply of the products at wholesale or cheaper at prices. It goes without saying that to make profits from your online store, you need to buy at lower prices and sell at higher prices. And the higher the margin, the more money you’ll make. So, your best bet is to find suppliers who will sell or supply to you at the lowest prices available without an alter to the quality.
Depending on the kind of products you intend on selling, you can either source locally or from foreign markets. For example, products like cell phone accessories can be ridiculously cheap when you buy them directly from platforms such as AliExpress. Products like hand-made shoes, on the other hand, tend to be cheaper when bought directly from the local makers.
3. Choose between dropshipping or holding your own products.
The next step in starting up an online business? Deciding whether you want to dropship or hold your own products!
According to Wikipedia, Dropshipping is a supply chain management method in which the retailer does not keep goods in stock but instead transfers its customer’s orders and shipment details to either the manufacturer, another retailer, or a wholesaler, who then ships the goods directly to the customer. The retailer is responsible for marketing and selling a product, with little or no control over product quality, storage, or shipping. You can also read our article on how to start dropshipping business. Dropshipping has become super popular, but as with anything else, it comes with its own set of challenges.
In this section, I’ll run you through the pros and cons of dropshipping versus holding your own products so you can make an informed consent on the best choice for you.
Let’s start off with dropshipping.
Pros of dropshipping
- With dropshipping, virtually anyone can start an online store.
- You don’t need capital to purchase your items. It is easy to get started with.
- You can list more items on your online store, at zero risk
- No warehousing costs
- No picking and packing activities required
Cons of dropshipping
- Delivery of product(s) may take time
- You have zero control over fulfillment of product(s).
- Return of product(s) may be problematic.
- There is lower profit margin
- Poor branding
- Customers may lack trust in you if you are just starting and you offer no return policy.
Now that we’ve covered all there is to know about dropshipping, so let’s move on to the pros and cons of holding your own products.
Pros of holding your own products
- Getting feedbacks from customers can help you to know what and what to improve in your online store. Because when you screw up, your customers tend to talk about it more.
- Delivery doesn’t take time unlike that of dropshipping
- You can easily fix problems or issues anytime it arises
- There is a better profit margin when you own your products. Because you’re buying in bulk, therefore, you’ll get a discounted rate.
- It helps you to form a brand.
- Products delivered in well-designed, branded packaging are perceived to be more desirable and attractive.
- Awesome branding and packaging also encourages consumers to share your product on social media.
Cons of holding your own products
- It is very expensive. You need capital to purchase your items.
- You need to pack and ship your products.
Keep in mind that you’ll want to consider branding and design every step of the way — these are important elements to the success of any online store.
4. Choose a business name
Your business name isn’t as make-it-or-break-it as the type of product you choose, but it’s still super important.
But, if you’re not careful, it could put a halt to starting your online store!
People obsess over picking a name, personally, I know I have. My advice is to give yourself a hard deadline of 1 to 2 weeks to choose the name for your online store. Otherwise you’ll spend months trying to figure it out and never pull the trigger on starting.
Now, onto some do’s and don’ts to help you pick a name:
✔ DO choose a name that’s easy to pronounce.
✔ Do choose a name with 1 to 3 words
✔ DO choose a name with some significance.
If it’s related to the products you’re selling, it makes it easier for people to “get” your business. If there’s a deeper, more personal meaning to it, it’ll make a great backstory for media pitching.
✔ DO be as original as possible.
✖ DON’T choose a name that’s too long.
Your business name should be 1-3 words, MAX! I would strongly advise sticking to one or two words. Again, the easier a name is to pronounce and type, the more people will remember it.
✖ DON’T choose a business name that’s a combination of words and numbers.
This is a no brainer, but I had to add it. That is, unless you’re trying to look dodgy and unprofessional.
✖ DON’T choose a name that references a specific product or product line.
You might be tempted to do this if you’re planning on focus your efforts on selling just one (awesome!) and highly innovative product. But what happens when you decide to branch out or sell more than one products in the future? You’ll be stuck to that one product since the name you chose is for a specific product. I hope you get me?
5. Register your domain name.
Your domain name is your online identity. So, be sure to choose a good one. Your ideal choice is one that is short, easy to pronounce, and easy to remember. If it reflects what your online store is all about, that’s a plus. But be careful though; some names can cause issues in the future if you decide to start selling additional products on your online store.
If you’re already running an offline store and would like to sell the same products online, you can go with the name of your offline store, if it’s still available. But in any case, pen down at least three names, so you can have alternatives if your main choice isn’t available.
In addition, Ensure the domain you are registering is also similar to the name of your online store.
It’s best to go with a .com domain name, since that’s what most people are familiar with. But if the .com extension is no longer available for your chosen domain name, you can consider other popular extensions. For a .com domain name, you can register with any hosting company such as Namecheap, domainking.
6. Set up your online store
Chances are high that you won’t be able to handle this step on your own, so you’ll need to hire a good website developer — unless you’re smart enough to figure things out yourself. There are lots of technical details about this step, but I’d rather keep everything simple and short.
While there are many options to choose from, the two best and most straightforward ones available to online store owners are Shopify and WordPress, you can also make use of Wix, Bigcommerce to build your online store.
While Shopify is an all-in-one solution for setting up online stores, WordPress is a versatile open-source software package that can be used to create different types of websites. Opting for Shopify means you won’t have to worry about domain name registration, hosting, and store set-up, as everything has been included in a single package. All you have to do is visit Shopify’s website and start setting up your online store right away.
On the other hand, opting for WordPress means you’ll have to register your domain name and purchase a hosting plan, design your store using a good template, and integrate product pages and payment system using a good e-commerce plugin such as WooCommerce. This option requires more technical know-how than Shopify but can be far cheaper. For Shopify, you pay more for the convenience of having everything in one place.
If you’re still lost as regards the differences, look at it this way. Assume you wish to take some fried plantain. You can either go to the nearest restaurant to buy already prepared fried plantain or go to the market to buy raw plantains and take them home to fry them on your own. Remember that the latter option would require some cooking oil, salt (optional), etc., and you have to source everything yourself. Shopify is like the restaurant option, while WordPress is like the second option, which is you frying the plantain at your home. Hope you understand?
Another important factor you need to consider while at this step is your choice of payment gateway service. You’ll need one to be able to receive payments from customers, who would order from your store using their ATM cards. You can make use of PayPal, Payoneer, Bank Wire, or any other payment gateway option you wish to make use of.
Recommended: How to receive international payment in India
7. Upload your products
If you really want to attract attention to your products online, you need to display high-quality, clear, and beautiful pictures of them. Poor quality pictures will send the wrong signals about any product no matter how awesome that product might be. And good quality pictures, on the other hand, can help sell even the crappiest of products. (I’m not saying you should use quality pictures to deceive people into buying mediocre products; I’m only explaining the effectiveness of good quality pictures).
Therefore, when creating product images to upload to your online store, you shouldn’t use your mobile phone camera lens. I know there are smartphones with great camera lens, but what you’ll get from those can’t be compared to what you’ll get from a photographer who would use a hi-tech digital camera and photo editing tools. Alternatively, you can get some high-quality images of your product from the manufacturer’s website — if they have one.
Once you have the images, upload them to your store, so potential buyers can see what your product really looks like.
And one more thing, don’t forget to describe in details what the products is all about.
8. Fill in the necessary pages for your online store
You can handle this aspect yourself if you’re a very good writer. But if you’re in doubt over the quality of your writing, hire a seasoned writer to craft all the content you need or use an online generator to do that. Poorly written content will create bad impressions about your online store. So, don’t ever compromise on the quality of your content.
However, if you decide to make use of shopify for you online store, you can auto-generate sample refund policies, privacy policies and even terms of service statements using Shopify.
Here’s how it’s done:
Click on “Settings” (all the way at the bottom of that left-hand panel), and click on “Checkout”.
Your home page should display some basic information about your store, products, contact details, and links to other pages on your website. Your about page should tell a brief story of your business, and yourself — if you wish. And your FAQ page will answer questions that potential customers are likely to ask about your online store, such as your refund policy, how long it takes to deliver your products to buyers, and so on.
9. Plan how to deliver the products
Delivery is one of the most important aspects of your online store’s operations, so you need to plan it carefully. You can either create your own in-house delivery system or use a third-party delivery service.
If your store is targeted at customers within a small geographical location, such as within a state or city, you can have your own in-house delivery system. This would involve delivering orders with your own personal car, a newly bought vehicle dedicated to deliveries, or a hired vehicle.
But if you’re targeting a larger geographical location or cannot afford to set up an in-house system, you’d need to go with a reputable third-party delivery service. Examples of such services include Aliexpress delivery service, KOS (Konga Online Shipping), Courier Plus, and FedEx.
Some of these services accept pay-on-delivery payments on your behalf, while others do not. So, be sure to weigh your options and seek other people’s opinions before making a choice.
10. Check for any errors on your website
It makes zero sense when customers have issues with one or more aspects of your website. It creates a negative first impression, which will make you lose some customers forever. To avoid this, you need to test your website several times before launching your online store. Check that all links redirect to the right pages. Check that all payments are perfectly processed. Check that your delivery system is ever-ready. And check that visitor flow and user experience on your website is flawlessly smooth.
Note that this step isn’t one you can cover on your own. You’ll have to involve a website developer. And you’ll have to ask as many people as possible to test out the store and give you feedback. Be sure to fix all glitches discovered during the testing phase. And once you’re sure there are no glitches or errors or issues, you can go ahead to launch your online store.
11. Launch and market your new online store
With everything all set, your website is ready to start getting orders from customers. But remember that no customer will come unless you actively promote your online store. So, you need to promote your store on online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, etc that are often used by your target customers.
While you can promote your store on some channels without paying a dime, you’ll need to do Facebook ads, Google ads, twitter ads, Instagram ads etc in order to cover a lot of audience and these will require some amounts of money.
In order to scale your business, you’ll have to spend aggressively on ads and other forms of marketing.
You’d be stuck in an endless loop of customer acquisition. And once you stop, your sales drop too.
Congratulations, you can now go ahead and start your online store within minutes.
Setting up an online store is one of the quickest ways to make money online because you can start making money as soon as you launch your website and after doing the necessary things.
Now, that you’ve learned the steps involved in setting up an online store, let me know if you have any questions, contributions, or other thoughts.