Starting an online store has advantages over having a physical storefront: there's no rent to pay, and you can reach millions of customers from the comfort of your own home.
HOW TO START A ONLINE STORE - SHARK TANK - DAYMOND JOHN
To have a shot at success, however, it's a good idea to put as much thought into starting an online store as you would for any other business. You'll need a great product, a user-friendly website, and a solid marketing plan. Read on to learn how to get started.
1.) Decide what you want to sell.
If you want to start an online store, you probably already have an idea for a great product to sell.
Keep in mind that certain things are conducive to selling well online, while other items may be more difficult to sell when they can't be viewed in person. In any case, you should believe passionately in the value of your product - otherwise, it will be hard to connect with customers. Here are some questions to consider:
Is it a physical product that needs to be shipped, or is it a digital product that can be sent through the Internet?
Are you going to have an inventory (more than one) of each product, or will they be one-of-a-kind (e.g. artwork, vintage items)?
Are you going to want to sell a wide variety of products, or do you plan to specialize, like selling just t-shirts or books?
Are you creating the product yourself? If so, make sure you'll be able to keep up with demand. Form a relationship with a reliable supplier.
If you don't plan to make the product yourself, you'll need a good manufacturer. Research different companies to find the one that works for your business idea.
Decide how your product will be shipped. Create a plan to ship the product from your home efficiently, or work out a storage and shipping plan with a warehouse. You could also look into drop-shipping if the product is being manufactured by a third party.
You are going to be intimately involved with your product or service. In order to effectively spread the word and market your store, you are going to need to socialize with people from this industry. Make sure the product is something you can get behind for the long haul.
2.) Find a niche.
Knowing what product you want to sell is only part of creating a successful online store. You'll need to figure out what differentiates your services from all the other similar services people can choose, both in person or online. Why should a customer buy your hand-knit sweaters when they have 100 other online shops to choose from?
Size up the competition. Don't just jump into selling a certain product line until you've looked at the websites you'll be competing with. Consider the main online marketplaces you plan to advertise your products; and check out the competition within those portals.
Offer something truly original. If you're selling handmade crafts or works of art, the originality of your work may itself be the draw that sets your product apart. Try to strike a balance between something that is highly original and also has general appeal.
Offer expertise. Perhaps the quality that sets your company apart from the rest will be your expertise on the type of product you are selling. Maybe you're a former baseball pro selling a line of baseball gloves, for example. Make your passion and expert knowledge part of the package.
Offer a user-friendly purchasing process. Even if your product is very similar to other things for sale online, you can set your store apart by making the shopping experience fun and easy. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and fun to share. Be responsive and provide great customer service where others don't.
3.) Test the waters by selling your items on a small scale.
In the real world, it'd be wise to try selling your products through other, low-commitment avenues (consignment, flea markets, craft shows, etc.) before taking the plunge and starting an entire store. The same is true for selling online. Try selling your items individually on eBay, Craigslist, Half.com and the like. Here's what you'll want to look for:
Who is buying your product? Offer a discount coupon or free gift if they answer a brief survey. Find out where else they shop online.
How much are they willing to pay? Experiment with different prices.
How is customer satisfaction? This is a good time to test how well you can get your product to the customer. Are you using good packaging? Is the shipping method reliable? Are they happy with their product? Did you describe it well?
4.) Research all-inclusive e-commerce services.
If you don't have the inclination to set up your own website from scratch, there are plenty of services that offer a platform for an online store you can set up in just a few hours, for a very low cost. This way you will not have to learn how to code or hire a web designer, and you'll have all the tools you need to start selling your product right away.
All-inclusive services usually take a small cut from each sale you make.
The services have benefits, but there are also limitations, since you have to operate within their systems. Get familiar with the different services before choosing one. If you don't find one that suits the business model you have in mind, reconsider starting a new online store on your own
5.) Consider general e-commerce services.
Companies like Shopify and Yahoo! Stores will allow you to set up professional-looking online storefronts when you ship your own inventory. Hosted e-commerce solutions go further to provide storefront design, secure payment, hosting, mailing lists, selling statistics, customers support. This is attractive for those who don't want to do their own programming.