Wondering how you shall start an Online Store? Well, you are in the right place!

An online store is one of the best eCommerce businesses you can start, especially now that businesses have been forced to become more innovative due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic period, countries went into lockdowns, and customers could not visit the traditional brick and motor stores as usual. As a result, most of the brick and motor stores had to close. The only stores that survived are those that were creative enough to start selling their services and products through the internet, especially by creating websites where customers could place orders since they could not physically get to the stores.

What is an online store?

An online store is a website created by a small local store, a major international retailer, or a person selling things through a third-party site like eBay. The website acts as a bridge between the physical store and the customer.

Instead of customers physically visiting the brick and motor (physical) store, they visit the website, search for what they want to find out if it is available in the store, look at the details of the products they find. Then, when satisfied, they place an order and pays for the product, which is then delivered to their doorstep or mail.

And since the world has greatly moved towards digitization, selling services and products online is the fastest way of reaching your customers instead of sitting still waiting for them to make their journey to your shop.

In this post, we shall take you through the steps of creating your online store. But first, let us look at some of the advantages that online stores offer compared to traditional brick and motor stores.

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Advantages of online stores compared to brick and motor stores

  • Online stores allow you to reach customers from a wider geographical location than the brick and motor stores, where you can only depend on the local customers.
  • Through advertising and SEO optimization, you can reach customers easily compared to the brick and motor stores where you only sit down and wait for a customer to decide to come to you.
  • Online stores provide your customers with the liberty of making buying decisions at any time of the day compared to the physical stores where it has opening and closing hours. In addition, most people get time to review products after work in the evening.

Step by step guide for starting an online store

Step 1: Choose what it is you want to sell online

When starting any type of business, the first thing has a clear mind on what you want to do. Next, you should carefully choose what you want to sell through your online store if you do not have an operational physical store yet. Also, if you have a physical store, you may consider evaluating the goods that will sell more and even do away with those goods that do not sell.

Step 2: Determine the target customers/audience

Determining the target customers helps you identify which goods or services would sell most.

If you want to start an online store for selling back-to-school products, with your eyes set on the education system in the United States of America, you will have to ensure you have the learning equipment suited to the education system. If you adopt a similar approach targeting African schools, you may not get many customers since the equipment used is different.

However, it is important to keep your eyes on a larger demographic than just your country or location to utilize the full potential of online selling.

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Step 3: Get a name for your store

Now we get to the fun bit. Select a name for your store, which will be the same name on your website.

The name should be simple yet ‘telling.’ By see the name, a person should be able to guess what you are selling and what he/she can get in the store.

If you intend to sell flowers, for instance, you can choose a name like Florist. Then, if a person is searching for a place to buy flowers online and comes across that name, he/she will click to find out more.

Step 4: Decide on the eCommerce business model you want to use

There are different business models like Business to Customer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B), and you should carefully choose the model you want to use for your online store.

The business model is majorly determined by the type of goods you want to sell through your online store. For example, if you are selling things that are to be used by the end customer, you should consider using the Business to Customer (B2C). On the other hand, if you are selling things other businesses require to conduct their business, you should go for a Business to Business (B2B).

If you are selling second-hand goods that you own, you should go for a customer-to-customer (C2C).

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Step 5: Choose an eCommerce platform and get a domain for your store

An eCommerce platform is a platform where you shall build the website for your online store. There are different eCommerce platforms, with the most commonly used being:

  • WooCommerce
  • Wix Stores
  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce
  • PrestaShop
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The eCommerce that you choose to use will hugely determine how smooth your online store will run. Some of the factors to consider when choosing an eCommerce platform include:

  • Tools that the platform offers
  • Special tools for specific business ideas like sealing CBD, subscription box business, etc.
  • The cost of running your online store on the eCommerce platform
  • Design capabilities. Does the platform allow you to design your online store website to be as attractive as you would like?
  • Mobile view optimization. Does the platform allow you to optimize your online store for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets?

Step 6: Design the store site for sales

You should carefully design how your storefront will look like. And when doing so, you should ensure you optimize for conversions.

Some tips for these step include:

  • Using the available eCommerce templates and customizing them to fit your requirements. This saves time for having to create new templates from scratch.
  • Clarify what you sell and update your site’s metadata to reflect that.
  • Create and write clear CTAs to enable your customers to know what to do next during the purchasing process. For example, you can start with a clear ‘Buy Now’ button that, when clicked, leads to the catalog.
  • Organize your store by using a navigation bar at the top with different tabs for the different selling items. This helps customers navigate within your online store when looking for products.

Step 7: Connect a payment provider

It is important to provide your customers with a wide selection of payment options though this will also be limited by your location.

Some of the most commonly used payment options that you should not leave out in your online store include:

  • In-person payment
  • Credit/debit cards
  • Bank transfers
  • Digital wallets (e.g., PayPal)
  • Mobile money transfer (e.g. Mpesa in Kenya)
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Step 8: Create a strong branding strategy

Branding makes your business unforgettable in the minds of customers. To create a strong brand, you should have a simple but unique business name, color palette, logo, and voice tone.

Step 9: Start doing marketing campaigns

You are ready to start receiving customers at this stage, and it is time to start shouting from the rooftop, telling people that you are selling A, B, C, and D.

You can choose to use free marketing strategies like social media campaigns, email marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or paid marketing strategies like Instagram and Facebook Ads, Google Ads, WordAds, and Affiliate programs others.

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