How to set up an online store; The complete guide and resources

Table of Contents

As of 2020 online stores have become popular with lots of people claiming to have earned from the online store industry. People show 5 figures, six figures and some earning millions per month.  

Of course, I am not talking about Jeff Bezos who owns Amazon, one of the most successful online shopping platforms. I am talking about far smaller online stores with a single or a few products below 1000 or 100 products. 

If you want to join the league and also start an online store, this is the right place for you. 

In This article, we shall be looking at how to start an online store, how much it will cost you, the best ways to sell online, and how you will get paid or earn from your store. 

Online stores may be stand-alone or attached to a blog that offers useful information. Do these two create a difference in the success of your website? Read on. 

Furthermore, setting up your online model will matter a lot, are you selling for a local market, physical products, downloadable, drop shipping, or International market. 

Factors to consider while starting an online store. 

Type of products: physical, services, or downloadable products. 

Model of the store: Dropshipping, affiliate, or own product.  

Size of the store:  retail or wholesale. 

Products: single product, products of the same niche, or products from various niches. 

What do you need to set up an online store?

To set up an online store, you will need 

  • A domain name. 
  • Hosting plan. Website builder or Page builder. 
  • e-commerce platform or plugin. 
  • Shipping method. 
  • Sales automation software. 

Let’s now breakdown what you need to set up your store. 

  1. Choosing your niche.

This is a very important step in setting up your website because if you go wrong at it, your chance of success is reduced. The niche you choose impacts your earning, sales, and type of customers. 

A niche is simply a specialized sector or segment of the market for a particular industry or kind of product. Let’s say you are in a tech industry and you choose the phone sector or niche. Here is how you can niche down. 

Tech-Phones-Smartphones-Android. The niching can go on and on, you can choose to deal in phone batteries or even deal in a specific type of battery.  

Does niching help you or should you choose a variety of products? Both have their pros and cons. It will therefore depend on you on the niche or industry to choose while setting up your online store. 

In the niche you choose, the type of products in that niche will have a great impact on your store. Are products necessities or luxuries? Will you have returning customers or they will be one-time sales clients.  

Competition is also a great factor in choosing a niche to set your online store in. A very competitive niche may be hard to succeed in but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. Just make sure you have better strategies and ideas that will outcompete your competitors. 

  1. Choose the model of an online store.

This is where you will choose whether you will do drop shipping or handle your own products. 

Having your own products and drop shipping are the major modals of an online store. Both of the models have their pros and cons.  

The choice will also depend on many factors such as; 

Do you own the product?  If you do, handling the sales by yourself will be the best option. 

Less experience in handling online sales: drop shipping may be the best option since it is usually automated. 

Your budget: with drop shipping, you will not need capital to purchase the products while you will need to rent a warehouse for storage, buy stock, and many others. On a low budget, choose drop shipping it is way much cheaper. 

Target market: if your market is local, handling your own products is way much better than drop shipping. 

On the other hand, are you hoping to be a retail store or wholesale? These should also be thought of. A wholesale should have a large stock of products that sell out at a relatively cheaper price in bulk.  

A retail online store will sell by raising the prices a bit to earn a profit. The items sold the more money earned. 

Your experience with online stores, ownership of products, and your budget will greatly determine your choice when choosing an online store modal. 

Less experience with online selling, don’t own the product and a limited budget, dropshipping is the best option for you. 

Experience with online sales, you own the products and you have huge capital, make a store where you handle everything about the products and store. 

  1. Choose the products.

The right products will bring a lot of sales, returning customers and you will earn a lot if you choose carefully.  

There are a few things that make the product stand out; 

Competition: a product with less competition is likely to be a success compared to the product that is being sold by many sellers and of which some might be authoritative in the industry. 

Wow factor: Have you ever looked at a product and said wow by just looking at it? These are the type of products that sell highly. That ”wow effect” will increase sales since people will be amazed and would want to own that product. Therefore, choose a product that also amazes you. 

Price: the price matters a lot as it is the one that will determine what you are earning. Products that are relatively cheaper and can be sold at a high price are the best products. 

If you don’t have products in your mind, look at what various dropshipping providers have got, and from these, you will be able to choose the products that work for you. 

When you already own the products especially when they are self-made, you should just research the competition. 

 Should you choose products and niche after making a store or before? 

In my opinion, products and niches should be selected even before choosing a domain name. The type of products will give you the idea of how to set up the store, the name to call it, and the domain name too.  

It would be a bad idea to name your store a domain that really doesn’t match the type of your niche. 

The design will also vary depending on the product chosen and the type of niche you are in.

4. Choose a domain and a business name.

By this time, you should have decided on what model your store will be. With the niche and products chosen, use them to brainstorm a business or store name. 

It is advisable to choose a business name related to the niche or product chosen. In most cases, domain names are made from business names, and therefore, choose a business name that will portray your online store and products being sold on the store. 

After brainstorming the business or store name, it is now to get a domain name behind that wonderful name you chose. I will use Name Hero as an example. 

  • Go to NameHero. 
  • Choose domains from the top menu. 
  • Enter your business name to see if the domain is available. 
  • Choose domain extension and check out to complete your purchase. 

 On the other hand, if you already have a blog or website that you want to attach the store too. You can skip this process.  

Making a subdomain for your already existing website can also be a great idea. For example, you can make a shop.yourdomainname.com 

You can also choose to make a store on your website without making a subdomain for it. 

This will help you have a separate website with its own WordPress, theme, plugins, and content. You can then interlink the domain and subdomain to make navigation through the websites easy.  

Set up your online store. 

Various options will be laid on the table for you in the creation of your website or online store. You can choose to build it with website builders, buy an already made store or build it using page builders. Another option is getting freelancers or an agency to build it for you. Usually, choosing a hosting plan comes after the selection of the modal and how your store will be built. 

Website or store builders offer their hosting of which you will have to skip the process of selecting a hosting provider but rather you will be choosing from the already set packages by your website or online store builder. 

Dropshipping software and platforms such as ShopifyAliDropship, and others also have their type of hosting. For Shopify, you will have no option but rather choose their hosting while for AliDropship you can choose their hosting plan or get it from somewhere else. 

On the other hand, some hosting providers also have online store packages and usually sell stores too.  

You can choose to buy already mad stores but these usually come at a high price. Making your own with a page builder such as Elementor can save your budget. 

 

The number of products expected customers, and the size of the store will also greatly determine the type of store and plan you choose. The bigger the store and the more the products the bigger the plan you should choose. 

Let’s look at the popular online store builders. 

  1. Shopify

Shopify is a leading dropshipping store platform with over 218 million buyers from over 175 countries in the last 12 months. This shows how popular it is and the platform is recommended by many. 

On starting, you are offered a 14-day trial. In the first step of setting up your store, you will be prompted to enter your store name and you will be given a default Shopify URL (storename.myshopify.com). This is not permanent as you will be able to buy a custom domain. 

You will be asked a few questions that will help the AI set up your store. In the questions, you will also state what niche you will participate in, and therefore by this time you should have decided on which niche your store will be under. 

You will be now having a dashboard on a user panel to set up your store. From the dashboard, you will be able to customize the looks of your store.  

From the customization panel, you are also able to switch from desktop to mobile view to fully customize your store for both devices. 

From Shopify, you can add your own products or dropship products from other stores such as AliExpress. 

From the dashboard, you will also be able to add various apps that will help you run your store. Shopify has many useful apps in its store and you can add as many as you need. 

One of the most recommended or used app to source products on Shopify is Oberlo. With this, you will be able to import products from AliExpress as well as change the product price. 

Price: starts at $29 per month. 

Free version or trial:  Yes. 14-day trial. Get full pricing here. 

Demo store: https://biggest-puppy.myshopify.com/  (built in less than 10 minutes) 

  1. Wix eCommerce.

Another great platform to launch your online store is Wix. Wix is a website builder that you can use to create a website or online store with just answering questions. 

You can choose between Wix creating a store for you or use an editor and template to make your own design. 

You are prompted to choose the different options you would wish to have on your online store such as chat, subscribe form, and many other options. You can check whatever you want in your online store. 

After picking a theme, you can then choose a template of how your website will look. With a drag-and-drop builder, you will be able to further customize your website according to your preference. 

You can add products by just clicking on the add products on the dashboard. If you are drop shipping, you can add apps in the Wix store that will handle your dropshipping. Modalyst is the major app you will use to import products to your Wix online store. You will have to connect Modalyst to your store to get an automated product importation. 

The next step is setting the price markup or the multiplier through the prices of your products will be changed to. 

Price: starts at $17 per month. 

Free version or trial:  Yes. 

Demo store: https://dantecyrus2.wixsite.com/puppystore   (built in less than 10 minutes) 

  1. Blue Host WooCommerce.

You can buy a hosting plan that is specifically optimized for an online store from Blue Host.  

After selecting your hosting plan the next step is choosing a theme. You will have a website builder that you can use to get your website setup.  

For BlueHost, it will be integrated with WordPress or the platform of your choice. It doesn’t have its frameworks like the likes of Wix and others.  

You will also have to install WooCommerce to get your website to sell products. 

Price: starts at $6.95 per month. 

Free version or trial: No. 

  1. AliDropship.

AliDropship is one of the top product-importing tools for drop shippers. It mainly imports products from AliExpress and the best thing about it is that it goes for a one-time payment of $89. 

Apart from having a dropshipping plugin, AliDropship can help you set up your online store especially for a drop shipping model. You can choose from a variety of proven store templates. With the purchase of the store, there is also a one-time payment of which hosting can be included. 

If you choose to host with AliDropship, you will pay $48 per year which is kind of a good deal. 

After the payment, you will have an option to choose from the many templates of which you can customize to make the store yours. 

Price: starts at 299 one-time payment. 

Free version or trial: No. 

  1. BigCommerce.

BigCommerce is one of the leading eCommerce builders powering many online stores. With inbuilt sales tools, it’s a one in all platform that you will need to launch your store and boost sales. Among its clients are Toyota, Kodak, and many others. 

Big-commerce also lets you sell across multiple channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Amazing SEO tools or addons also make BigCommerce a great platform that can easily be found by search engines. 

To create your store, your prompted to fill in your personal and business information. You will then be given a dashboard that you will use to customize your store. From the dashboard, you can choose from free and paid themes for your store.  

You can add products easily or if you choose to do drop shipping, choose from the many dropshipping tools BigCommerce offers. 

Price: starts at 29.95 per month. With the first month free. Get full prices here. 

Free version or trial: Yes. Offers a 14-day trial. 

Demo Website:  https://store-4tz5p1u46c.mybigcommerce.com/ 

  1. WordPress + WooCommerce.

If you already own a WordPress website, adding the WooCommerce plugin to your website can transform your website into an online store. 

On the other hand, you can also choose to start an online store by reading this article on How to start a website. After your website is built, add the WooCommerce plugin to transform it into an online store. With WordPress, you will have to use the Page builder to build your store. This calls for more work than when you use website builders.  

Elementor is one of the best page builders you will use to build your store.  You can also choose to purchase templates to make the store setup much easier. One of the best places to get templates is Envato. 

With WordPress and WooCommerce, you will be able to choose the hosting plan and provider of your choice.  This is much friendly in determining your budget and prices compared to the dictated prices offered by website builders and various platforms. 

Price: Depends on your hosting plan. 

Free Version: No. 

Demo website: https://billionairesurge.com/rhesa/ (I built it for my 8-year-old nephew and it’s Fully functional ) 

Work with a developer.

Setting up an online store can be quite hard if you’re aren’t a website guru. Even with website builders, installing tools, importing products, customizing the store is not so straight forward and thus not easily done.  

That’s when you should hire a developer, freelancer, or an agency to make sure your online store is set up. Some agencies can get all the work done for you as low as $50.  

Billionaire Surge is an agency that can help you set up your website and manage it. Get a quote today. 

How to sell or market your online store.

After your website is set up; you will need your website to get to know or reach a large audience to get sales.  

These are the ways to get your online store visible to the customers.  

  • SEO

Search Engine Optimization is getting your website to be search engine friendly so that you can easily be found when a person searches for products related to your niche. This is one of the easiest and free ways to get organic traffic. 

To do so, you need to rank for less competitive keywords. Other factors like having a fast website, SSL certificate, mobile responsive store, and other factors can get your online store search engine friendly. 

  • Social media.

Almost everybody today is at least on 2 or more social media platforms. This makes social media platforms the best place to get your online store known. From stats, over 3.48 billion people use social media as of 2020.  

Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are among the best social media platforms to get your online store known. 

On social media, you will also build an audience and of which many can be returning customers. On social media, you can use free or paid strategies to get known. You will also be able to tell your audience about the new arrival and news from your store. 

  • Influencers

One of the best places to sell using influencers is Instagram, here you can people with a large audience in the niche your store is. These influencers will talk about your store, products, and leave links in your bio from which their audience can reach your online store. 

  • YouTube.

Who does not watch YouTube? Everybody with the internet does and that means that potential customers for your online store also do. 

By making product reviews, paying people with a large number of subscribers to mention your products, and having a channel that offers useful content related to your online store will get you, customers. 

  • Remarket using an email list.

Place a subscription form on your store so that when customers opt-in, you capture their emails and sell them to them a time later. Through emails, you can let them know of new arrivals, latest trends, and other useful information that will make them return to your website. 

How to get paid on an online store.

There are various payment methods through which you can be paid.  Payment methods will depend on your audience and the modal of your online store.  

You can accept cash on delivery which is a bit risky as you might probably lose sales when you don’t happen to meet the customer on delivering the product. It is also not suitable for drop shippers since with drop shipping you pay your supplier before the product is shipped. 

The most suitable ways are; 

  • PayPal. 
  • Stripe. 
  • Google pay. 
  • Apple pay. 
The bottom line.

Building an online store can be tricky and messing with one part of the process can cost precious time and money to repair. It is therefore recommended to take care as you build your store. Watch Youtube ‘’How to’’ videos if you have to. 

An easy way out is hiring an expert to set up the store for you. 

Get a free online store setup quote here. 

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