How to set up an online store: useful tips and tools

Posted by Lilach Bullock on 2 Jul, 2018
View comments Marketing
It's easier than you think. A guide to starting up - from finding your products to creating and promoting your store.

online store

Are you thinking of starting an online business? It can be a daunting task if you’re not sure where to start and what you need to do in order to build an e-commerce store. However, it’s easier than ever to become an entrepreneur online: you just need the product and the determination to work hard.

In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to set up an online store, with useful tips and tools.

Do you have a product?

Good – you’re almost ready to get started.

Now, what if you don’t have a product? Don’t worry – it’s actually a pretty common problem. People want to own their own online store… but aren’t very sure what exactly they should sell.

That doesn’t mean your shop is doomed before it even started. There are ways to brainstorm product ideas:

Start with your own ideas

Are you sure you don’t have any product ideas? Take your time, think about it: what types of products would you like to sell? What are you very knowledgeable about and how can that be turned into a product? What are your interests and what kinds of products do you use the most? What kinds of products do you wish existed to help you solve your needs? Maybe you can be the one to help yourself!

Try Trend Hunter

When it comes to consumer trends and new products, Trend Hunter is the biggest and most popular community worldwide. It can provide a wealth of information to an aspiring entrepreneur and help you get ideas for products based on actual consumer trends.

Trend Hunter

Try Pinterest for inspiration

Another great platform for product inspiration is Pinterest because users love new products – and they absolutely adore the ingenious and interesting.

Pinterest gadgets

Do people want your product?

Once you do find a product that you want to sell, you need to do some research to truly understand whether there is an actual market for your product – i.e. will there be enough people who want to buy it?

There are several ways that you can learn more about your audience and about your target market; for example:

Use social listening

Tools like Brand24 and Brandwatch allow you to monitor different keywords across the web, in order to help you understand how many people (and which people) are talking about these subjects and what the sentiment is like. It can even help you get more product ideas.

Use Google Trends

Google Trends helps you understand audience interest over time in different locations around the world. Plus, you can also make comparisons to see how they stack up.

Google Trends

Use keyword research

There are few better ways to understand your market and your audience then by their online behaviour and their Google searches. Use a keyword research tool like Wordtracker to understand search volumes and trends, and later on, use the keywords to improve your SEO, PPC campaigns, and your shop’s content.

Setting up your online store

To start putting together your online store, you can use a tool to help – a tool that can help you every step of the way and provide you with most of the features you need not only to build your shop, but also to run it.

One of the most popular options online is BigCommerce – a full suite online store software. It’s super easy to set up which makes it perfect for beginners, but it’s also built to scale so it can grow along with your store.
BigCommerce

Use it to design your online store from start to finish. There are numerous themes available so it’s very easy to put together. Plus, you can fully customize and edit your website with no coding whatsoever, if that’s what you prefer. Also worth mentioning, all of the themes are mobile-responsive, so you can rest assured that they will work well and look great on any device your customers are using. And if you prefer to have even more control over your options for design, hosting and content management and want to use WordPress,  BigCommerce are going to be rolling out a WordPress integration very soon.

Another very useful feature for ecommerce, is that you can set up all kinds of personalized experiences for your customers, so you can reach visitors with targeted content and improve your sales.

You can also work with any popular provider to handle and accept payments and you have a several shipping and fulfilment features.

And finally, you can integrate with all kinds of popular marketing and sales tools, and you have access to built-in conversion optimisation tools to help boost your website visitor conversion rate (such as abandoned carts emails, single-page checkout, coupons and discounts, and more).

Another very popular option is Shopify, which features the tools you need to design your online store and run it.

There are dozens of themes to choose from, all of them mobile-responsive. You’ll be able to to fully customize them, as you get full access to HTML and CSS.

In terms of payment, you can use pretty much any payment gateway you want and accept any major credit cards. And, depending on your location, Shopify can even help you handle your taxes.

Shopify

The software features the tools you need to manage your store, and a few useful features to help you market your store; for example, you can use the MailChimp app to set up email marketing campaigns, send emails automatically to recover abandoned carts, and you can set up discounts and other types of promotions.

Promoting your online store

As you can see, setting up an online store is very easy. But to be successful, you need a great promotional strategy in place.

Here are some of the best marketing practices and promotional strategies for online stores:

  • Search engine optimisation: in order to sell more, your audience needs to be able to find your products easily via search engines. Investing in SEO and ranking for the right keywords can make a huge difference to your success.
  • Try ads: online ads (on social media, Google, and so on) can be highly effective if properly targeted. Plus, you get to control how much you spend, which is great when you’re just starting out and you don’t have a big budget. Make sure to experiment with your ads so you can understand what works and what doesn’t and optimise your strategy accordingly.
  • Social media: sites like Instagram and Pinterest are amazing promotional tools for ecommerce businesses. Or, depending on your audience, you might be better served by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on – whatever the case may be, establishing a strong social media presence should be one of your priorities. Plus, you can also sell on these platforms – both BigCommerce and Shopify allow you to sell on social media sites.
  • Email marketing: use email marketing and marketing automation to continue to engage your leads and customers, recover abandoned carts, and send them personalized recommendations to boost sales and upsells. Do remember to keep in line with the new GDPR privacy regulations.

Conclusion

If you’re thinking of building an online store, make sure to start with research. Even if you think your product is great, the rest of the world might not share your opinion – conduct extensive market research to truly understand your audience, as well as their needs and wants.

Once you know there’s a big enough market for you to sell, building the actual store/website can be very quick and easy . The harder part is promoting it. Take marketing seriously and use as many channels as you can to promote your store, in order to reach more of your target audience.

So, what would you sell?

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