The Resilient Retail Blog

How to start a successful small business online store – an essential guide

Are you looking to start a successful online store as your small business venture? Then you are not alone.  Although the traditional brick & mortar stores still make up the vast majority of all sales, online shops or internet-based businesses are on the rise. According to Statista, the online shopping market reached a whopping $3.9 trillion in 2020 and in 2021, e-retail sales surpassed 5.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide.

According to eCommerce News, the UK population is 66.8 million, of which 96% of people use the internet. The country’s eCommerce market reached 688.4 billion pounds in 2018, according to the Office of National Statistics. In 2020, people in the UK spent over 197 billion pounds on online shopping. Around 87% of the UK households purchased retail items online in 2020.

Many people think starting an online business is easy and straightforward. However, this is not the case. It requires careful planning and preparation. In today’s article, I will guide you on how to start an online business step-by-step. Read on!

What do I need to do to start a successful online store?

  • Define Your Niche 

Defining your industry or niche is the first step to start an online business. Whether you want to sell clothes, homewares, skincare, stationery, kidswear, or any other products, each niche comes with its own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Create a list of niches and sub-niches that you think have good potential for a successful business. You can find many different niches in the online industry. However, when choosing your niche, make sure you answer the following questions:

  • What is your passion?
  • What products do people buy the most?
  • Do you have a target audience for a particular product?
  • Who are your competitors on the market?
  • Do you have good knowledge of products?

After answering these questions, perform thorough competitor research to figure out the type of products companies sell, their target audience, marketing tactics, etc. For instance, if you want to create an online store to sell baby supplies, a good starting point is to look for online stores in the same niche.

Examine the type of baby products they sell, the methods they use to sell them, including the descriptions, images, videos used on product pages. Analyze the pricing points and the branding of your competitors.

The purpose is to get some brainstorming ideas and choose a niche that perfectly matches your passion, the market requirements, and potential customer preferences. Besides, I recommend searching for industry reports, case studies, market statistics, trends, segmentation, value, and benchmarks. If you don’t have enough knowledge, make sure you read more of my latest blogs and podcasts to learn about running a product business.

2. Create a Website or Store 

Although you can sell your products (whether homemade items or products from suppliers) on Etsy, Amazon, eBay and other platforms, it is better to create your own business website. Having a business website is not only about selling your products; it is also about providing value to your targeted audience and potential customers.

Before I tell you more about creating a website, it is crucial to know that more than 63% of small businesses have a website, and around 80% of people research a website on Google before making a purchase.

According to Statista, there are over 4.5 billion active internet users. Around 4.28 million people access the internet via smartphones. Therefore, it is essential to create a user-friendly, responsive, and easy-to-navigate business website.

3. Register a Domain Name 

Once you have decided on your market niche, it is time to register a domain name for your new online Business. A domain name is a unique online address and your intellectual property. Different companies offer domain registration services, such as:

  • Domain.com
  • Google Domains
  • GoDaddy

 

If you want to create a personal brand, go with your name. For instance, you can register CatherineJohn.com if your name is Catherine John. If the domain name is already registered, choosing something like CatherineJohnHomemade.com or Homemadeitems.com if you want to sell homemade items.

 

4. Design Your Website 

There are two ways to design a website: create a site from a DIY website builder or hire a developer to design it for you. I recommend the first option because it is easy and does not require any programming or coding skills.

Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce website providers. If you want to know more about which web host to choose, this blog post will help.

5. Customize Themes and Pages

Fine-tune your business website with different font styles, color choices, and special elements to showcase your brand personality. Although you can write content for your pages, I advise setting up your website’s features and functionality first.

Customize your theme with headers, colors, and social media buttons. Upload images to inspire your potential customers and add clues about products. Don’t forget to add a contact form. Create pages for your products and write short descriptions for each. While this might be a daunting task initially, you will learn it over time.

Link to Google Search Console to avoid indexing errors and set up Google Analytics to collect your website’s traffic data. The data you will analyze in the future via Google Analytics will help you create a better product-market fit.

6. Accept Online Payments

PayPal and Stripe are two popular options for online payments.  On Shopify, you can also use Shop Pay to add a third option.

While PayPal takes a higher percentage of sales, it is also very widely used, and a preferred option for people who don’t want to get out of bed to go and find their credit card!  In other words, it can help your conversion rate for those purchasers who like convenience.

7. Figure out Product Delivery Methods

Want to know the lowdown on all things postage and packing?  Check out this blog for all the details.

8. Drive Traffic to your Business Website

Small business owners often look for ways to drive traffic to their websites and turn them into customers. After all, the goal is to increase returns on investments (ROIs). From search engine optimization (SEO) to social media marketing to working with influencers to running PPC campaigns, there are several ways to drive traffic to your business website.

  • Optimize Your Website for Sales

Your website should be easy-to-navigate to ensure shoppers find their desired products. Make sure you set up your product catalog on the homepage, add a “Shop Now” button or “Start Shopping” button to lead your customers to the products’ page.

Bear in mind the importance of photography. You may have heard that “content is king” but “photos are queens” on your website. High-quality photography for your products is mandatory so customers can see what they are buying.

Research shows that 83% of online shoppers say that product photography strongly influences their buying decisions. Quality control is another important thing you need to consider to ensure you stand behind your products. I recommend scanning product descriptions and optimizing them medium-to-high keywords so they can accurately characterize each product.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Google is one of the most widely used search engines globally, with more than 4.3 billion users. The company has more than 90% of the online market share. It means your potential audience uses Google to search for products like yours. Right?

SEO involves optimizing your website so your target audience can easily find it on Google. Start your website SEO by understanding the key terms, also known as keywords. These are individual words or short phrases that allow people to find your business site through Google. Use tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Google Trends, to find keywords for your products, webpages, and content.

Add keywords to your website’s metadata, such as titles, headings, slugs, descriptions, and pages. Don’t forget to optimize each and every page on your business website. For instance, if you are selling homemade water bottles for babies, make sure the SEO title for the product page is something like “Baby Homemade Water bottle.”

It can also be “toddler water bottle homemade,” or “eco-friendly water bottles” or any other depending on your keyword research results from tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs.

  • Create a Blog 

Blogging is one of the free and easiest ways to drive traffic to your website. It is a great way to give your customers a reason to visit and re-visit your website for useful and valuable content other than shopping.

You can write articles or blog posts to promote your products and provide insightful information to your customers. For example, if you are selling baby supplies, you can write articles like “10 tips to find your perfect cot,” “top five pushchairs for travelling,” and many more.

You can include links in the article to drive the reader to your product pages. I recommend using keyword research tools to find key terms for your blog posts or use Google Auto Suggestions. You can write guest posts and publish them on third-party sites like medium.com to build some authority. That way, you can attract more traffic to your website.

There’s so much more to say on the topic of driving sales to your website, for my complete guide, take a look at this podcast episode.

What now?

Starting an online business is an excellent opportunity to create multiple streams of income. It is a viable option for those who want to sell their products from home. An online business helps you collect customer data, build your brand and get repeat purchases.  If this is a dream of yours, why not start today?

 

Find out more

f you enjoyed this post, why not get my ebook on driving traffic to your website?
It’s an e-book designed to give you more detail about how to get people to your website.

Getting your hands on the Driving Traffic ebook is easy, and you’ll get so much more too!

It’s all part of my “Start Your Business” FREE toolkit – a collection of resources designed to get your business idea out of your head and into reality. The toolkit contains:

  • Start your business checklist – a step-by-step guide from idea to reality.
  • Where can you sell your products? A complete guide to the different selling platforms and marketplaces
  • Getting your products to your customers – A complete guide to your postage and courier options
  • Introduction to pricing – a mini-course on the importance of setting your prices correctly
  • Driving traffic to your website – an e-book on getting eyes on your business

Ready to get the toolkit? Just put your email below to receive the link.

 

To find out more about all of my toolkits, visit my toolkits page.

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