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How To Build Your First Online Store [Comprehensive Guide]

In the past, setting up a self-run business was not for everyone. But when this decade began, things changed a lot. Online stores have opened up businesses with such a fast pace that they far outnumber brick and mortar shops.

E-commerce platforms like Woocommerce, Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, etc. with millions of online stores, all create more than $1.2 billion in revenue.

Sounds crazy, right? The good news is that even you can build an online store. It is easy, simple, and won’t require you to break your bank (or your head).

Here are some straight-forward steps to get your online dream store up and running:

1. Product Planning for your online store

What are you going to sell?

Is your store selling clothing, gadgets, food & grocery items, books, jewelry, or sporting goods?

Zeroing in on the product, or types of products you are planning to sell is called product planning. Try out some of these ideas to find your first product:

  • Look for the most sought out products from search engine keywords.
  • Spot underserved customer groups.
  • Find what it is customers love to do but do not have a proper way of doing it.
  • Give to the world what you’re good at doing (like a store selling professional photographs).
  • Bridge the supply and demand gap.
  • Gain an early entry into trends (selfie sticks, leggings, portable speakers, etc.).

2. Target Customer Group

Who will buy your product(s)?

The “target customer group” is the group of customers with common traits of age, gender, location, interests, etc. who will pay for your product(s).

Knowing your target customer is extremely important. Pitching school backpacks to corporate employees will not result in very many sales.

Identifying the target customer group early on will help you sell more products through online mediums. It will help you build traffic from the right sources and keep costs down. With online marketing methods like demographic-based advertising, you are sure to win more customers from target customer groups.

3. Choice of E-commerce Platform

Which platform will your store be built upon?

There are plenty of options when it comes to picking an e-commerce platform.

When shopping around for a platform for your online store, look for features like:

  • Code-level customization
  • Integrations
  • Scalability
  • Security measures
  • Page loading speed
  • Multiple store management
  • etc.

Also check if the platform has a thriving community, forum, or support system where assistance can be sought from when you are having technical trouble.

4. Responsive Design

Will your store be mobile friendly?

A lion’s share of online activity (including shopping) is now being performed with a smartphone. ComScore estimates (based on a Morgan Stanley study) the usage of mobile devices has increased and overtaken the usage of desktops.

The bottom line is that your online store must be easily accessible to all mobile users.

A responsive design is a must. A mobile website with a responsive design will be so helpful to you during the initial days of your launch. After a quarter of successful selling, you may even try an upgrade to a dedicated mobile app.

For further reading:

5. Product Photography

How well can you display your products?

Customers buy what they see.

In online selling, product photography plays a key role in convincing customers to make a buying decision. The store must make it a point to show the product from all corners, including a zoomed-in shot. This will enable customers to have a close-up inspection of the product just like at an actual store.

Bonus tip: Use light screens or backgrounds (preferably white) for product photography for maximum contrast to the product images.

6. Personalized Service

Will your store deliver personalized service?

No software or online store goes live without testing the user experience. Moreover, delivering a personalized experience is mandatory for any online service. Customers must not feel like they have logged into an online vacuum.

A/B testing and heat-mapping customer behavior help you to know what actions customers perform first when they log into the website. This will help you deliver a personalized experience tailor-made to each customer’s preferences.

As a result, your bounce rates will decrease and conversion rates will increase.

Here is a visual example of customer heat-mapping in an online store:

7. Security of your store

Is your store safe for online shopping?

At least one-third of online shoppers hesitate to pay using credit cards fearing cyber attacks. Internet customers will only shop from sources where they have trust that things won’t go wrong.

When we say “things going wrong”, we mean:

  • Credit card theft
  • User account information leaks
  • Server hacks
  • Unauthorized transactions
  • Privacy concerns
  • etc.

Embrace SSL security

  • SSL is recognized by industry veterans as a foolproof way to protect websites from all forms of security threats like hacking, snooping, and phishing.
  • SSL certificates ensure that the data or users entering the website are legit and free of any malicious after effects.
  • Embracing SSL security has many results. At least one out of three customers confirm that they feel more confident dealing with an online store or website that has SSL encryption than one which does not.

Further, search engines are priming their algorithms to reward higher search engine ranking for websites with SSL encryption.

8. Marketing

Can you make the customer buy?

If selling is good, marketing is great.

Marketing is the trigger which will nudge a hesitant window-shopper to become an active shopper.

Quoting the management guru Peter Drucker:

“Marketing is an introspection process where you understand the customer and his/her preferences better to sell more. Without it, your online store will be just another web portal.”

Being an online business, here are some online marketing strategies you can try to boost your store’s online presence and selling prowess:

  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Google AdWords campaigning
  • Pay per click campaigning
  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Display advertising

Each digital marketing process has its own target audience, purpose, and results. Weigh them against your target audience to pick an appropriate one that will bring in more conversions.

Building an Online Store

What are you waiting for?

Building an online store does not need to be a head-banging process if you bear in mind the above-mentioned tactics. The golden rule to sell more is to listen to your customers more.

In short: The customer is King.

What are some tips you have for building an online e-commerce store? Let me know in the comments below!

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This is a guest post by Megha. If you would like to submit a guest post, read our submission guidelines.

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