An online store is a website through which customers place orders. It could represent a small local store, a major retailer, an e-commerce store or an individual selling products through a third-party site, such as eBay or Etsy.
Online stores were already the rave before the global pandemic. But they gained even more popularity shortly after because of their convenience and the ease with which they could be set up. E-commerce has had a yearly growth of 23% in the recent decade. Why? People love the idea of clicking a few buttons and getting what they need without having to sit in traffic, fight for a good parking spot or wait in long lines.
If you’re not a tech genius, the idea of setting up your own online store might scare you away. “I don’t know about web development, where would I even start?” Well, I have news for you! Of course, setting up a good eCommerce business requires a lot of hard work and time, but this time will not be spent learning how to code or trying to understand web design. Those skills would definitely be a plus, but they are not a requirement.
Why should you start your own online store?
It is relatively cheap
Depending on what kind of business you want, you could open your online store for a pretty low fee if you choose the basic business model on an eCommerce website builder like Wix .
There is no need for inventory or stock
You could open your own online store and sell branded products without ever touching or seeing them physically. Your customers just need to order from you, and the production, packaging and delivery is outsourced to another company. You could start a whole brand and have a logo and unique packaging without doing any of the physical work yourself.
Large virtual inventory
You have the choice to stock a large variety of items, both branded and unbranded without actually having them and with almost no budget. As long as you have a good supplier with an efficient production and delivery system, your business and brand will flourish.
Your location does not matter
You can open your own online store from anywhere and you decide your client base. Obviously, it is a lot wiser to start small, say your town, state, country, but once you get the hang of it and are not risk-averse, you could ship to anywhere in the world.
With an online store, you never have to close shop and miss out on customers. As long as the site is running and is regularly maintained, anyone can place an order anytime and you can process it as long as you have a stable internet connection and a working device.
As you can see, infinite possibilities and perks come with starting your eCommerce store, all at a manageable rate that wouldn’t require you to get a loan from a bank.
Let’s get into the different affordable models of online stores, what they entail and how to successfully set them up.
The first step is research.
You might already have your heart set on a specific service or product, but the goal is to have a profitable source of income. Your business is nothing without a client base. Therefore, it is important to do your due diligence.
There are many ways you can find out if people want what you plan on selling. You could go with the traditional way of asking friends and family, but if you require a more honest and accurate analysis, you could opt to use google trends, google keyword planner, google survey forms, or even polls on social media like Instagram or Twitter.
Another good option is a competitor analysis. This means looking up companies that already sell the same or similar products and services and then seeing how they are faring financially, how long they have been in business or the number of branches they currently have. A long-life span means that someone out there wants their product and might want yours if it’s better.
Decide on a domain name
Your domain name is the beginning of your brand because this is the URL your clients will see on social media when you start advertising your store. It is made up of the actual domain name and the TLD – a kind of postfix that follows the name after the dot- like .com or .net.
Your domain name should be appealing but descriptive. It should peak one’s interest and propel them to see what your online store is about. Spend time thinking carefully about your domain name, because you don’t want to change it later. To make your life easier, you can use a domain name generator to help you find ideas.
Before you skip to the next step, make sure no one else has your domain name in mind. You can easily check its availability using Domain.com. Once you have verified this, it’s time to purchase it using a company that registers domain names on your behalf.
Select a web host
Once you have your domain name, you will have to choose a website hosting service. With your budget in mind, you can either opt for a shared web host that you will share with other business owners or employ dedicated hosting services, which, while being pricier, ensures that other sites do not slow down your speed.
Choose a proper eCommerce platform
Today, there are many platforms available on the internet on which you can easily set up your online stores, such as Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, etc. No difficult web development or worrying about hosting and other technical stuff. You can set up the shop, import your catalogue and start selling right away. They can be either free or paid, and some even offer bonus add-ons and templates and many other fun and unique features that will make your online store look more captivating and animated. For a list of the best ecommerce website builders, check out this article!
Publish your website after testing it
Once you are done, you can now publish your website. You do not need to finalise everything before you publish your online store. Publish it, then make a few edits and changes later on. I know everyone expects perfection from themselves even on the first try but publish it. Sometimes, there are a few features and third-party apps that will not work until you do so. This only means it is publicly accessible. It takes a while for it to start showing up on searches.
Which online stores can you start with virtually no income?
If you want to start an online store but have no products, do not give up just yet. There are many ways you can still make money, as discussed below.
Using the dropshipping model, you do not stock or sell anything. You can directly sell & deliver from manufacturers or wholesalers to your customers from your online store with your personalised brand and design. You simply place your order, they will produce, package and even deliver with your store’s logo and other specifications you might have. As far as your buyer is concerned, everything was done by your store.
Selling Other People’s Products With Inventory
This is probably the most common and least risky way to start an online store. It is also the least complicated model because it does not involve commissions and dividing profits.
With this business model, you buy products at relatively low prices from wholesale distributors and then re-price them and ship orders directly to the end consumer and enjoy all the profits. Compared to dropshipping, the profit margins are significantly higher. However, you do have to deal with shipping and storing inventory.
Go the traditional way
Do you happen to know any old school retailers who know nothing about online shopping? Make a list of all of them and approach them one by one. Tell them about the benefits of online shopping and the sales that can come from widening their market. Reassure them that you will be taking complete responsibility for marketing and managing their products and orders. They will be sceptical and distrustful at first, but you can take it up a notch by offering two weeks of free services.
Add their products to your online store, and whenever an order is placed, they get a notification by mail or on their phone with the order details. They can either take charge of the delivery or you can do it. The payment comes to your online store. Using this method, you can slowly use your commissions to buy your products.
With all this in mind, you do not need a big investment to get your online store running. You have loads of affordable options to pick from at least until you can raise the funds for a proper website.
Gerald Ainomugisha is a freelance Content Solutions Provider (CSP) offering both content and copy writing services for businesses of all kinds, especially in the niches of management, marketing and technology.