Starting an online store is a dream for many, but where do you actually begin? With so much competition it’s easy to be put off, however, it’s always worth persevering. If you have something unique to offer, or it’s your ambition to start selling online, you should do your best to achieve it. These eight tips will help you set up your perfect online store.

There are so many ways to start an online store these days, making it accessible to anyone – regardless of your space, experience, or budget. You can even start an online store with no inventory, and simply use drop-shipping to satisfy your orders!

So where should your path to an online store begin?

1. Know your brand

Concise branding is one of the key elements of any successful business, whether it’s online or offline, so it’s worth thinking long and hard about before you begin. What is your business going to be called? What will your logo be? Do you have a tagline or a motto? What is the identity you want to present to your customers?

It’s a wise investment of your time to consider these questions sooner rather than later, as it will allow you to design your online store and shopping experience around your brand – rather than having to fit your brand in around a pre-existing template. Your brand will be the primary way your business is identified.

2. What are you selling?

Another key question is, what are you actually going to sell? Will you sell simple clothes and posters? Will you go into custom printed merchandise such as Amazon Merch? Or are you going to be selling a service to your customers? Again, knowing this in advance will allow you to make sure you design your online store around your products.

This is key for a cohesive online shopping experience. Customers will be able to tell if you chose to sell a bit of this and a bit of that just for the sake of it – it’ll make your business appear muddled in its direction. It’s much better to specialise and have a concise range of related products to offer your customers.

3. How will you sell?

What type of online store do you want? Are you going to host your own website and fulfil your own orders? Or will you take advantage of drop-shipping services? Dropshipping is a wise choice for new online stores, because it allows them to start selling without the need to handle inventory or shipping themselves.

Essentially you connect your store to your fulfilment partner – when an order comes through, they will print, pick, and pack it before shipping it on your behalf. You can have your items packaged with your branding, but you don’t need to actually handle the hard work of shipping every order yourself. You can begin selling without the need for physical inventory.

4. Design your website

Your online store can either be the thing that converts traffic into sales, or the thing that drives traffic to the competition – it all hinges on how well designed it is. Remember that the most successful websites aren’t the most artistic, the most beautiful, or the most original. The most consistently successful websites are the ones which are easy to navigate.

You want to create the shortest possible path between traffic arrive, finding what they want, and checking out. Online customers can be easily distracted or dissuaded from following through with a purchase, so make sure you put as few barriers as possible in their way. It’s also always wise to offer a guest checkout option for first-time visitors.

5. Build trust

Many online shoppers view purchasing something from a seller for the first time as something of a gamble, so it’s important that you do everything you can to inspire trust and confidence in your services. You can do this by making sure any awards or certifications your business has are clearly displayed for customers to see.

Also, make sure that your checkout process is clearly labelled as secure – and of course that it can actually back up that claim. A robust and generous returns policy is always a wise idea, as comparatively few customers will actually use it. If possible, integrate a way for customers to leave reviews of your service after verified purchases.

6. Start marketing

Now your store is built you need to get the word out there. While you’re building your community, social media is going to be your best friend as it’s both an effective and affordable way of mass marketing. Build a social media presence and post often, engaging with your growing numbers of followers to build brand identity and relationships.

Encourage customers to share their interactions with you on social media, such as photos of your products. It would also be a wise idea to send sample products to “influencers” – people with successful blogs or YouTube channels specialising in your product niche. Their seal of approval can be a key aspect of a small new business gaining trust and approval.

7. Get SEO optimised

Search Engine Optimisation is a cornerstone of online marketing, so important that it deserves its own mention. SEO concerns the way your website ranks in search engine results – specifically Google, as it’s the most popular search engine in the world. It’s worth investing in SEO if you want to consistently find new traffic.

Spend some time learning about SEO and how to implement the keywords that will drive the traffic you’re looking for. The higher you rank in search engine results, the more popular your business is going to be. In time, you’re going to want to invest in some help from an SEO specialist to help further build your brand.

8. Get started

The most important tip is to actually make a start! It won’t happen unless you make the first move, so take these tips to heart and begin your journey to the online store you’ve always wanted.

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