So you like to create an online store.
While selling online is definitely easier compared to the old way of selling retail products, there are still many decisions that you have to do before you can start selling. Sure, creating a website is easier than building a physical store, but that doesn’t mean that you should not make the necessary preparations and take this matter seriously.
This guide will give you a list of steps and resources that will help you build an online store. It is divided into 4 parts namely Choosing What to Sell, Sourcing Products, Building Your Brand and Building Your Website. We have divided the guide into sections for easy reference.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
PART 1: Choosing What to Sell
Every online store starts with a product. Without it, you will not have anything to sell.
However, it is not a matter of grabbing any product and selling it. You also have to get acquainted with the target market. This way, you will not be operating from trial and error. You’ll be operating by taking the needs of your target market into consideration.
I have three ways to approach this: Niche Research, Keyword Research and Competitor Analysis.
One of the easiest ways to find product ideas is to conduct niche research. For this, I love to use these tools: Google Trends, BuzzSumo and Comparison Shopping websites.
Using Google Trends is easy. You just need to visit the page and search for your product idea.
This will immediately uncover the search trend for that keyword over a certain period of time.
What this does is it tells you if a product will sell all year round. You’ll find that there are some products that sell more at certain times of the year. If you are just starting out, you’ll want products that can bring you sales no matter what month it is.
Next is Buzzsumo. This website is great because it allows you to see how much a certain page is shared. Searching is as simple as inputting your keyword on the main page.
If you will look for your general product keywords in this website, you’ll see the topics around that keyword that gets shared on social media.What you’ll get is not product ideas but content ideas that you can later use for marketing.
The best place to search for product ideas are comparison shopping engines also known as CSEs. These websites usually have a bestseller section that showcases the most popular products in a niche. You may visit the following CSEs below to find some product ideas.
Niche research allows you to have an assessment of the marketplace. But keyword research will help you look for keywords that you can rank for. Why is this important? Well, websites are only discovered when they are found in social media websites or the search engines. Paying for ads may also help you get discovered but all of these will cost you money. The only thing that will not cost you is having a first page search engine ranking.
But here’s the problem. There are millions of websites vying for the first page of the search engines. What can you do to become one of the 10 lucky websites?
Well, you do your keyword research. You need to look for keywords that have the can easily rank higher on the search engines. What type of keywords? You need to look for those with a considerable amount of traffic but have low competition.
For this, I recommend the Google Keyword Tool also known as the Google Keyword Planner. All Adwords users will have access to this tool and it is free to use.
Using the tool is pretty straightforward. Immediately, you’ll be greeted with a search form where you are asked to input your main keyword.
Let’s say that you want to sell some shoes. You can then search for that term or go specific like how it is shown below.
This will immediately return a result of keywords with their traffic volume (ave. monthly searches) and competition level.
If you are feeling a little lazy in uncovering new terms. You can always input the high ranking websites in the landing page search form and instantly spy on the keywords that they are using.
For example, you would like to see the keywords that 6pm is using, you would input URL like so.
Then, this will give you a list of the keywords that they are currently using.
Be sure to stay away from keywords that have too much competition. Always stick with keywords with Low to Medium competition.
Alternatively, you can just look at the keywords that your competitors are using. For this, I love to use the best tool for competition analysis: Ahrefs.
NOTE: I am not affiliated with the tool in any way. I am recommending it because it is the best competition analysis tool I found so far.
Using Ahrefs to uncover your competitor strategy is easy.
The first place that you can look at us the Competitor Top Pages.
Just search for the URL and click on Top Pages. It will display a page that looks like this.
If you will right-click on the URLs, you’ll be able to find the keywords that your competitor is using to rank for this particular page.
Be sure to always sort your list based on KD or keyword difficulty. Ahrefs came up with this term to determine how many pages are linking to a website. The higher the KD, the harder it is to rank for that keyword.
If you sort KD from lowest to highest, you’ll instantly uncover the ‘low hanging fruit’ or the keywords that have really low competition.
From here, all you need to do is go through the list to find the keywords that are worth ranking for. What are these keywords? These should be terms that represent certain products and should have a really low KD. This way, it will be easy to rank for them.
Now if you are interested in a certain product of a competitor that is already ranking on the front page of the search engines, you can always take that URL and input it in Ahrefs. This way, you can instantly uncover the keywords that they are targeting.
Aside from top pages and organic keywords, you can also use Ahrefs to uncover medium tail keywords. What are medium tail keywords? These are terms that has 3 to 4 words in them.
You see, Ahrefs has a way to filter through keywords so that only keywords with 3 to 4 words are displayed. You’ll find this in the Anchors section. When you click on Terms 3 Words or Terms 4 Words on top, it will uncover all the medium tail keywords that you can rank for.
Again, you may need to go through the list to find keywords worth pursuing. Look for keywords that represent products instead of keywords that only shows discounts.
NOTE: Always keep a list of your product ideas. You’ll need this as you proceed with part 2.
- Find a product on the Oberlo marketplace
- 8 Strategies for Finding Your First Product
- How To Find A Product To Sell Online: The Definitive Guide
- 10 Interesting Product Ideas Trending Right Now
- 10 Places To Look For Products To Sell Online
PART 2: Sourcing Products
Product ideas will remain ideas unless you have the products in your hands. This is the reason why sourcing is needed. You need to find suppliers who can give you the products to sell.
In this part, we’ll go through two ways of sourcing products: supplier research and dropshipping.
An online retail business is only as good as its supplier. Many online stores have shut down simply because their supplier always send orders late or they have been scammed after payment. The experience is devastating for suppliers, seller and customers and it can often result to people’s mistrust on your brand and services.
With this, it is important to use trusted supplier directories. Here are some directories that are worth the mention.
Alibaba started off as a directory of Chinese suppliers. But today, it has suppliers and manufacturers from all over the world for just about any product imaginable.
Alibaba became the leading online supplier directory for a reason. One of these is its low prices. You’ll never see a website that has prices as low as Alibaba. Next is its product diversity. It is a website that literally has everything. You just need to use the search bar to find it.
Another great supplier website is Salehoo. Why? Aside from having 2.5 million products and over 8,000 suppliers, it is the main supplier directory that Amazon and eBay sellers use for their business. And that’s not all. Brands like Samsung, Disney and Sony have used this for their eCommerce websites. It is truly a supplier website that you can trust.
But there’s a catch. Membership on Salehoo is priced at $67 per year. This will grant you instant access to the thousands of suppliers in the website. It also has a community that will allow you to rub elbows with different suppliers in the industry.
The normal route for product sourcing is through suppliers. However, the problem with this approach is you have to spend money on inventory before you even sell a single item. That doesn’t include the fact that you also have to manage the inventory as well as send out items once they are ordered.
The process of online ordering may look simple but it’s hard. You have to get orders, get the item from your inventory, package the item, track your inventory and send the item. The process may be simple for small online shops but it can very complicated if you have thousands of items and millions of customers.
With this, dropshipping may be the best solution. This is where the supplier will take care of the inventory and just ship when an order comes. They do this in your name so you don’t have to worry about losing your brand in the process.
Here are some dropshipping website directories that are worth the visit:
- World Wide Brands
- Inventory Source
- Make, Manufacture, Wholesale or Dropship: The Pros and Cons of Each Model
- Alibaba 101: How to Safely Source Products from the World’s Biggest Supplier Directory
- How To Find a Manufacturer or Supplier for Your Product Idea
PART 3: Building Your Brand
With products comes the need for a website. But you need to build more than just a website, you need to build a brand. In the same way that Amazon and eBay are known for what they sell, you must also aim to have a brand that is memorable. You have to be memorable in order to be profitable. That’s just the way it is.
For this, I have three items that I need to tackle: Choosing Your Brand Name, Creating a Logo and Building Your Website.
Choosing Your Brand Name
Ever wonder why some brands just register in your mind while others don’t? Have you noticed the emotions that you feel whenever a certain brand is mentioned?
Think about popular brands like Nike and McDonalds. Don’t these brands immediately grasp your attention and let you feel certain emotions?
That’s how a brand name should be. It should be memorable but it should also evoke an emotion from your customer.
Why do you need to do this? Well, you have to stand out. It is quite easy to get drowned in the sea of online sellers. Don’t let your brand get lost in the crowd.
You create a brand name.
The brand name must ideally be composed of 1 word and should be memorable. The word can be made up but it must not be a name of a registered business.
Feel free to take some time to brainstorm some ideas for brand names. I suggest that you don’t rush this part for a brand name will stick with you forever.
Creating a Logo
A brand name is just a word until it has a graphical representation. Ever wonder why the golden arches mean so much that you instantly think of McDonalds? Well, the image has something to do with it.
For this, you will need a designer who can create a logo for you. It may be best to steer away from cheap logo designers and go for designers who can create up to 3 concepts and create the logo from scratch. After all, you don’t want a logo that’s been automatically generated by online logo makers.
Creating a Tagline
Aside from the logo, you’ll also need a tagline. This is a short phrase that summarizes what your brand stands for. Just think of Nike’s Just Do It, Walmart’s Save Money, Live Better and Coca Cola’s Open Happiness.
Now, you don’t have to be completely strict with your tagline. Unlike brand names, you can change your tagline after a few years. Just make sure that the phrase represents what your company offers and you’re good.
- What You Need to Know About Ecommerce Trademarks
- 5 Logo Design Tips for Ecommerce Websites
- What Should I Name My Online Store?
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- 5 Rules For Choosing A Memorable Domain Name
PART 4: Building Your Website
Once all of the brand stuff are out of the way, it is time to create your website.
But you will not create just any website. You will be creating an eCommerce website.
For this, you can use the most popular eCommerce solution online: Shopify.
NOTE: I am not affiliated with Shopify. I just find that it is the easiest platform to use when launching a brand new eCommerce website. I find that it is better than using a eCommerce WordPress plugin. Plus, you’ll love the features as well. Let me take you through a mini walkthrough on how to set up an online shop on Shopify.
Step 1: Sign Up
The first thing you need to do is sign up for a Shopify account. This can be done in a few minutes. You just need an email address, password and store name and you’re set
From here, you’ll be presented with two options: creating a store to represent your physical store (such as a retail store or pop up shop) or you can create an online store.
Now, if you already have a physical retail store, you can choose that. If not, I suggest that you go the online route.
Click on the box so that it will have a green checkmark then click on ‘Next’.
The next page will ask for your personal details. It will ask for your name and address. Why does it do this? The website considers tax laws in different states. So it wants to know where you are located before you set up your shop.
Next, Shopify will ask for your background in selling. Honestly, I don’t think that you need to fill this up. I guess this is just for survey purposes. Shopify simply wants to get a glimpse of the nature of its customers. Once you’re done, you can click on Enter My Store.
Step 2: Add Products
Once you’re in, you’ll be greeted by this long menu. If you are familiar with WordPress, you will probably not get too overwhelmed with the options. If not, you may need to do a bit of exploring just to get the feel of the website.
Then, you can click on Products. This will take you to a page that allows you to add a new product. The product page will ask for details as well. You may need to provide more than the product name for a description and price is also required. This may take some time to do especially if you have a huge database of products to upload. You can hire a virtual assistant if you find that this is too time consuming.
Step 3: Customize the Look of Your Site
Once the products are up, it is time to alter the design of the website. You have to get the website ready for selling after all.
To do this, simply go to your dashboard and select Customize the Look of Your Site. This will take you to a page that allows you to tweak just about any aspect of your site. Again, this section may take some time to get used to. I suggest that you look around and try some options to see what they can do. Spend a day if you need to.
But if you are pressed for time, you can always go to the theme store. This will give you a wide selection of themes that you can use for your store. Just select and you are ready to go.
Step 4: Link Your Domain
When you create an online shop on Shopify, you’ll find that they’ll give you a subdomain. While this is great for testing your website, it is not good for the actual launch. Nothing screams unprofessional than having a shop on a subdomain. So do yourself a favor and link a domain, it is not that hard to do.
Setting up a domain is easy. You just need to visit the dashboard and click on Add a Domain. Shopify allows you to transfer an existing domain from another registrar or to register a new one. If you don’t have your own domain, it may be best to just register through Shopify so that everything is in one convenient location.
You will need to pay for the domain. Domains are renewed on a yearly basis.
Step 5: Don’t Forget to Activate Payments
It’s easy to forget about payments once your website is set up. Don’t do that. On the Shopify dashboard, there’s a tab that’s called Payments. You can click on this anc choose from different payment processors. The most popular is Stripe. Or you can choose the Shopify payment option.
Then, click on Launch Website.
Congratulations! You now have your very own online store.
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As you can see, the process for creating your own online store is far from easy. But if you follow each step of this guide, you are at least on your way.
I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to ask your questions below.