Instead of jumping straight into setting up a store online, and selling a product because you like it and assume it will sell, there are some basic principles that you need to follow so you can run a successful online store. The end goal for your store should be to maximize your platform, extend your customer base, and bring in as much financial gain as you can for your business.
But you first need to know how the successful online stores that you see and hear of work.
Everything you need to know on how to build an online store from scratch has been summed up in a few but comprehensive steps in this article. Follow these six steps to successfully build, market, and optimize your online store.
In This Article
- Choose a marketing strategy
- Decide on a product niche
- Avoid Overly Unique Categories
- Moderate Pricing
- Adequate Demand
- Choose a brand name
- Create the online store
- Complete a 3-month marketing rush
- Optimize your marketing scheme
1.CHOOSE A MARKETING STRATEGY
It is easy to assume that this step should come in last, or at least after the store has been established, and the first set of customers has been made. While we will eventually get to that, it is important to pick a solid marketing strategy first. This is important because the marketing strategy you choose will determine where and how you will set up your online store. Knowing the right place to set up your store will cut out many uncertainties. And if followed through effectively, it can make the difference between an online store that thrives and one that exists.
On a surface level, it may seem like a tough choice considering the number of strategies available to you, but it is one that needs to be made to push your store in the right direction.
For online stores, three marketing strategies are usually employed. They are:
- SEO marketing
- Paid marketing
- Platform marketing
We will go ahead to discuss them one after the other.
Search Engine Optimization as a marketing strategy is as simple as using specific keywords on your site, so when people type in those words on a Google search, they are led to your site because you are high on Google’s ranking. Therefore, for instance, some online sites that make the best use of SEO marketing are Amazon and Target. Their contents are ranked high in terms of SEO, so whenever anyone puts in some specific terms (like), they will be led directly to these websites so purchases can be made.
Understanding how SEO works for business is important. Once you get the hang of it, you can lead the right traffic to your business’ online store and make the most out of it. If you are wondering why SEO may be the right pick for you, here is why:
- SEO brings the right kind of traffic to your store that you can depend on.
- SEO has the highest measure of traffic compared to other traffic sources.
- SEO is an extremely profitable traffic source when done right.
And of course, high, dependable and profitable is what you need for your online store.
However, it is important to understand that SEO requires a lot of time and effort. Irrespective of the level of competitors you have, you will still need to put in much time (6-12 months consistently) to make sure your site is ranked high on search results. If your site is not ranked high on Google, you will not get the required level of traffic that you need to your store. You need your site to appear on the first or second page of search results for SEO marketing to be fully optimized. SEO marketing requires consistency and patience to get its optimum benefits.
If SEO is your choice marketing strategy, the following three things are what you will need to focus on:
- Optimization: You will need to optimize your product pages with product keywords.
- Engaging Content: Everything on your page can’t be product keywords, or else, it would be flagged down. So, for the non-product keywords on your product pages, be sure to build them into engaging and useful content. This boosts your ranking of product pages.
- Trustworthiness: Building engaging and useful content can give authority so other sites can link your site as a resource.
With SEO, content and links are the most important things. So, most of your effort and energy has to be put into driving them.
Paid marketing encompasses buying ad placements on different platforms. It could be on Facebook, Instagram, or Google search. Nevertheless, the trick to paid marketing is, you have to figure out the type of product (and store) that will thrive with it.
So, you may ask, what business does a paid marketing work perfectly with?
Think of it as, ‘what kind of products will most likely sell on Instagram and Facebook?’. Since Instagram and Facebook are the biggest paid marketing platforms right now, whatever choice you make has to be in consideration of that. In answer to the question, the best kind of products that thrive on Instagram and Facebook are those that can be found when shopping –specifically in a mall.
Shoppers do not always plan to get all the products they find at the mall. It is possible that you just go to the mall and find something that you like and purchase it. That is exactly how it works with paid marketing platforms. Regular people do not go on Instagram and Facebook with the sole intention of buying a product. These apps are the first social media platforms where people go to relax. So, the kinds of products that people buy there are usually attractive ones. Therefore, to optimize and sell effectively on paid marketing platforms, you have to sell products that are typically sold at the mall. These products include:
- Consumer products: Thesekinds of products catch the attention of consumers faster than business products do on these channels.
- Visual and attractive products: They are quick to catch the attention of consumers who are using these platforms.
- Comprehensible offers: the sales process should be simple to understand so you can get the most of your paid marketing. People usually have only a few seconds to skim through your ad and understand what you are offering. So, having a complicated offer reduces the chances of making a sale.
- Impulse-friendly pricing: consumers need to find your prices reasonable and something they can pay for on impulse, or else they will skip your page and move on to other things.
If your product fits into these yardsticks, then paid marketing may just be the route for you.
However, the reality of paid marketing is that you may not know its possibilities until you try it out. And by trying it out, you will have invested a good amount of money in pushing your market. So, it is not always a reliable marketing strategy unless you play the game right.
Whenever paid marketing works, it takes more time, effort, and iteration before you start making profits. Like SEO marketing, too, it takes about 6 months to actualize profits. So, while the marketing strategy may be effective in the long run, you have to make sure that you do not invest more than you can gain. Evaluate your options and decide if paid marketing works for you, or else, we move on to the next marketing option.
While the first two marketing techniques may be similar in nature, this third one tilts in a different direction.
With platform marketing, you are not creating your store from scratch; instead, you are leveraging the ecommerce platforms that already exist to build yours. Some of these platforms include Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. They work perfectly for platform marketing of any kind, although Amazon tends to be the first pick because of how large their audience is. Having an audience as large as Amazon will mean that almost any product you need can be found there. But Etsy can be the choice of those who are into a kind of craft business. Craft businesses require a level of a specified audience who are more about craft-oriented products. eBay, on the other hand, calls more for people who are involved in buying and reselling different products.
So, considering the thin line between these platforms, you pick whichever one works for your marketing and push into it. When you decide, your initial procedure will include creating the store, listing the products, and then optimizing the store to reach as far as it can.
When optimizing your store, you first fill your product pages with specific terms appropriately (not excessively, so you are not flagged), so users can find you and find you faster. Then, you get 5-star reviews on your first sales as much as you can. Search terms and reviews are what make or mar your platform marketing. To make as many sales as you will want to, keep improving on these two things and see the outcome.
4.Choosing the Right Marketing Strategy
Now that we have succinctly explained the three most effective marketing strategies for online stores, it is important to know which one(s) works for you and complete the first step on how to start an online business store. From another angle, these marketing strategies are the types of online stores you can open. So, picking a marketing strategy is like killing two birds with one stone. You not only figure out the style you will use to set up your store, but you also figure out the exact platform to put it on.
Reiterating what we already discussed, SEO marketing requires time and patience with a focus on links and content. Paid marketing focuses on simple, impulse-friendly, and attractive products that take you about 3 to 6 months of pushing and the right amount of money. Lastly, platform marketing requires the highest level of understanding and commitment with a focus on search terms and a thread of 5-star reviews.
Is it possible to pick just one of these strategies, or work with your best two, or just inculcate the three?
The ideal thing to do is to pick just one and push it as much as you can. It is easy to assume that trying to run two at the same time will bring in many customers as you will want. The reality, however, is that it is not as productive and effective as you will want it to be. Focusing time and energy into one line of marketing will, over time, improve your know-how and output.
For many reasons, mastering one marketing strategy is better and easier than trying them all at the same time. Here are some reasons:
- Unique tactics: the different strategies have different principles that apply to each of them. It will also take time to master each of them, thus, slowing down the application process to your online store.
- Constant changes: if there isone thingthat is constant in marketing, it is that things will always change. What is working right now may take a different turn in a few months. So, imagine you spend all your time mastering some tactics for the difference, and when it is time to apply, they become ‘old school’. You will have a harder time keeping up with the different changes from diverse directions.
- Power controlled: with marketing, it is either you are winning, or you are losing. And it is only a few people that understand the overall tactics to win. So, not maximizing the opportunities of one channel may not lead you to the level of profit you aspire to.
Sticking to one marketing channel and learning all you need a lot faster is how you thrive with marketing. The sooner you understand their ‘secrets’, the faster you begin to benefit from your online store. With that, we can move on to the next step of starting an online store.
2.DECIDE ON A PRODUCT NICHE
The next step in line is to find the right product niche that works for your online store. This is where you decide what exactly your store is going to be known for, and the needs that your store can provide for. This decision is a very important one, and you need to pay enough attention to it. A very important key to winning this step is doing adequate research.
It is not enough to want a store where you can sell what you like –just for the reason that you like it. It may lead you to open up a business that does not thrive, eventually. What is going to matter at the end of the day is that you have a thriving business, not just one that you enjoy –because if it does not thrive, all your enthusiasm for it may fall drastically.
Before narrowing down to the exact product you will be selling, you can narrow down to the product category first. When considering product category, here is what you should have in mind:
1.Avoid overly unique categories
Understandably, you want to have a business that stands out. In reality, it is highly advantageous. But it could also be a tricky space to be in. There is a lot you can do to stay ‘unique’. If you are not careful, you may be in a category that does not work for you. While trying to be or stay unique, different businesses tend to overdo it and turn out ‘unnecessary’ things and eventually lose their customer base. There are only a few techniques that can truly differentiate you. You need to understand the rules that guide the category the different products are in. If the product is a simple one –and that is all the consumers require, there is no need to do anything extreme or out-of-the-world to impress them.
It is a simple rule: instead of looking for unique ways to do what every other person is already doing, look for a category that no one is paying so much attention to and optimize it for your store. And how do you find these categories? This way: if you are doing SEO marketing, check out the stores that have low SEO quality and are not invested in their advertising. If you are unto platform marketing, are there quality products that are not getting high reviews? When you take out time to research these, you have an opportunity to out-do them with your marketing.
You want to avoid selling a high-priced product. This does not mean that you should sell a product that is lowly priced. It is important to strike a balance between the two. Selling at a high price will mean that you do not have to sell as much product as you will need to if you are selling at an extremely low price. This sounds like a good idea to anyone that thinks about it. But the reality is, with high-priced products comes high responsibility. Your potential customers want to know why your products are costlier or priced higher than regular products. And for stores that are based online, you need to do more to convince consumers.
That is why it is important to pay attention to products that are nothighly-priced, or overly low either; otherwise, they would instantly assume the product is a counterfeit. If it is moderate enough, however, then you are likely to have a straightforward process and get sales faster.
You do not want to go into a business that is not in demand. It is when there is a demand for a product that you can make the supply to consumers – this is a basic economics principle.
To tell if a product category is in high demand, you will also have to research. For SEO marketing, using the Keyword Planner on Google Ads shows how often a keyword has been typed into Google in a month. So, if you have a keyword in mind and it brings in less than 1,000 searches a month, then your guess is as good as ours –it is probably not good enough demand-wise.
For platform marketing too, a product that is not high on reviews indicates that there is probably not so much demand for it.
It is important to factor in demand in the long-term for your online store.
4.Choose a Brand Name
We are on to the really exciting part. Whether you are here because you want to know how to start an online clothing store or a store of any type, this is an important part you have to tick off.
The caveat here, however, is that it could get hard. Naming stores is not as easy as naming people or pets. You need to find a name that is good enough. Again, you need to find a name that has not been taken. It is not surprising that new store owners think they have hit the jackpot when they find a name, only to check and see that a store bears the exact name or something similar. The fact that there are so many businesses and stores out there does not make it easier.
But the truth is, you always need to find a good name. It can be much work, but settling for less, will affect your store in the long run. If it is not confusing consumers when they try to look you up, it may cost you many trademark laws. Whichever way, you will lose a level of profit.
So now that we know why picking a good brand name is important, we move on to how we can pick one.
There are a few things you should have in mind when considering a name. They are:
- Few words. Having a brand name that is too wordy will cause people to forget easily. You want people to be able to remember your store name because it is a few words and its catch. Having a name that is five words long may not be ideal. The name should also be easy to spell. This is especially important for SEO and paid marketing. When people want to find your website, it should not be hard for them to do that.
- Available on the .com domain. While there are different domains available, the .com domain gives the most credibility to a website. So, it is important to check if the name you have in mind is available on this domain before proceeding. Once you find it, be sure to reserve it as soon as you can.
- Relevance. The name NEEDS to be relevant to the product category you are going for. Even if it is not 100%, there should at least be some relevance.
- Free of trademark issues. Trademark suits can wreck your online store. You have to make sure that no one in your jurisdiction has trademarked the name you are considering. While you can look this up on the internet, employ due diligence, and allow a lawyer to do a quick check for you. If eventually there is not any problem, then you can be sure to go ahead with the name. You should also consider trademarking your business name, eventually.
Once you have chosen a simple yet attention-grabbing name, be sure to register the domain name.
5.Create The Online Store
For platform marketing, creating the online store may not be so much of a big deal. But with SEO and paid marketing strategy, you need to pay enough attention to this. The kind of site you create plays a big role in getting consumers to your path and converting them to buyers.
As a general rule, the site for your store needs to have the following:
- Quality features –a blog in particular
- Eye-catching and user-friendly
While it is possible to build your store site from scratch with web developers, you can take advantage of already existing platforms to build your site. Some of the available ones are – Shopify, Wix, Bigcommerce, and WordPress’ WooCommerce. These sites are different from platform marketing. Platform marketing can only be used to build stores where things are sold. Shopify and the likes allow you to customize your site to whatever it is that you want. Most of these website builders offer you simplicity, affordability, and great features. It is up to you to decide which one fits into the purpose you need it to. Again, you have to research.
For platform marketing, on the other hand, you need to make use of all the advantages it offers you. Optimize your product pages, use simple but compelling copies, make use of high-resolution photos, and attend to your pages constantly. It is all the little efforts that accumulate into something worthwhile in the end.
Be all about allowing your store to stand out –through presentations, services, and customer engagement.
6.Complete a 3-Month Marketing Rush
Now is the point where you need to put in more effort than ever.
You have set up your store, and you are thinking about the next step to take. You are wondering how to start an online store without inventory. You want to be able to get to the point where you get several sales or multiple reviews or get ranked on Google’s first page. But before you get there, there is a few homework you need to do and heights you need to stretch yourself to. Well, the first set of inventories you will get are probably those you run by yourself or with the help of those you know. Yes, there is a system that works for the stores, but it takes effort to get to the point where you begin to rule or change the game.
That effort should include going all-in on marketing for the first 90-days after setting up your store. In those 90 days, it is pretty much trial and error. Some of the things you do may not be sustainable in the long run, but they will at least bring in the results you require at the time you need it.
Some of the things you can do in this 3-month period are: putting in personal money to pay and promote ads to know how far they can go, asking those you know to put in the first reviews on your online marketing platform, and (personally or not) write published articles elsewhere that you can link to your site to up your ranking. Of course, in the long run, you can’t keep depending on reviews from family and friends. But it has accomplished what you need it to accomplish in those first days.
These methods will involve a lot of effort and time, but in the end, it will be worth it. Asides from the abovementioned, you can (should) have other ideas that can help push your marketing to the next level during your first 90 days. Gather your thoughts, ask around, and put them all down. Figure out which ones would work better and start to plan for them. Try putting them all into the 90-day rush and accomplish as much as you can. Eventually, some of the tactics may not work. But those that will work will have done so, and your online store cannot be in the same position that it was when you started. At the same time, do not expect too much from this. Slow and steady wins the race. As time goes on, you will continue to gather momentum and build your online store. You will also continuously master the particular marketing channel you are leveraging. But this step is not something you can do without.
7.Optimize Your Marketing Scheme
The last important step you can take to leveraging and setting up an online store is to optimize the marketing plan that you have on the ground. Once your store has been set up, and you have gained initial momentum, you have to slowly change gears and build a marketing scheme that will push your business into something greater than you. This means that you may not have to be the one at the helm of every task and decision-making.
Let us look at each of the marketing strategies one after the other.
For SEO marketing, at the initial stage, after the store has been set up, you may be the only one handling all the content creation and linking. But this is not sustainable. It will eventually get to the point that you need to focus on other things aside from writing content for the site. Many people can create the content you need once they have put through. All you need to do is put down the requirements of what you need, hire someone to create them, and focus your attention on other things. You can hire someone you trust to put them up for you. You are still indirectly creating content, but you have the time and energy to focus on other important things.
For platform marketing, we already discussed how you run most of the first reviews and sales on your online store. While your store coverage increases, you can’t keep doing this. Thankfully, different available tactics can keep bringing you reviews from time to time. One way to do this is by asking customers to leave a review with a promise to give a discount on their purchase. Another way to do this is by automating customer interactions. Automation is taking the business world by storm, and you can key into this. Automate emails to every new customer, automate newsletter subscription, and anything legal that you can. You can’t spend all your time replying to every customer, or else you will not gather as much profit as you can from your marketing.
For paid marketing, you can delegate paying for ads, community management, automate customer interactions, or even schedule posts.
Optimization means prioritizing and putting your efforts more in the things that you can do by yourself and delegating the rest. Eventually, you will be able to make the most out of the little time that you have in hand. Your conversion rate will increase, and your efforts will be profitable in the long run.
Pay attention to the tactics that can push your business and incorporate them into the marketing scheme you have. Focus on what needs your most attention and build a scheme that can still work outside of what you input.
For you to generate sales fast enough, accelerate your store growth, and optimize your online store, you need to know how to keep improving your marketing scheme.
Whether you arestarting an online store with no money, or you intend to start an online store in California, the rules are almost the same. All you need is to get a full grasp of how they work and apply the right techniques when you need to.
Remember, the first step to setting up an online store is figuring out the marketing strategy. It defines everything else.