How to start an online store: Ideas and Tips
Are you thinking about how to start an online store, but don’t know where to start? Yours is certainly a good business choice because it allows you to literally reduce the management costs of a physical store, on the other hand, to be competitive and differentiate yourself from competitors, you must offer an exclusive product and support it with the appropriate marketing strategies.
You will find out how to start an online store, and we will see some examples of activities and business ideas in Dropshipping, Ecommerce, and how much it costs to open an online business with particular attention to strategies for implementing successful ecommerce. Furthermore, we will analyze custom software and CMS such as Magento, PrestaShop, WordPress with WooCommerce, Joomla with Virtuemart, and Opencart. Finally, I will tell you about the most relevant differences to understand whether it is better to start an online store on Amazon or eBay or opt for Shopify Ecommerce.
How to start an online store?
Starting an online store is a laborious project and nothing should be left to chance, which is why you need to develop a strategy based on Digital Marketing and E-commerce knowledge, in particular, through the use of disciplines such as E-mail marketing, SEM, SEO, Facebook ADV, etc.
You can choose an open-source system, such as Magento, or a proprietary solution to develop your site, subsequently, your focus will have to fall on the choice of the target audience, the study of potential customers, and the development of your Brand, after which, you will have to:
- choose the digital platform most congenial to you in which to open an e-commerce site. There are services designed to allow you to start an online business for free, however, opening a free virtual shop can be risky. Alternatively, you can buy a domain on a Webspace, install CMS e-commerce software such as WordPress, Magento, etc., or open an e-Commerce on eBay or Amazon, or all those already consolidated marketplaces in which an autonomous space is kept.;
- engage your users. Once you have acquired a customer, involve them regularly to prevent them from forgetting about you. In this sense, interaction through social networks and the use of email marketing are excellent ways to keep your customers alive.
Starting an online store: examples of business ideas
Do you want to start an online business but do not yet know in which sector to invest? Let’s start by saying that everything depends on you, on how much physical, mental, and economic energy you are willing to invest to develop an online store that knows how to assert itself on the market.
Unlike what you think, nowadays, there are several ways to start an online store without having to face too expensive initial costs, sometimes related to logistics, initial capital, and the purchase of equipment. Precisely for this reason, to help you transform a valid business idea into a successful business I want to give you some tips to follow.
Starting a Dropshipping business
It is a sales model in which you, as a Dropshipper, (learn more here) will take care of the online sale and management of orders without physically owning the products that will remain in the warehouse to be shipped by your suppliers.
In this case, the ideal would be to focus on a specific market niche to start an online store, offering items that do not already belong to the large-scale retail market, but that maintain a sort of exclusivity. To help you in this case, imagine selling Enduro Mountain Bikes in Dropshipping, because maybe you participate in competitions, are passionate about sports bicycles, or simply want to serve a particular user of agonists or amateurs who need professional items.
In this case, when the user proceeds with the purchase of your Mountain Bike, the order will be forwarded directly to the supplier who will have to process it on your behalf, after which, you will still be responsible for marketing and customer service activities to support customers. in all the steps related to customer assistance and satisfaction.
This type of online business is based on the principle of trust between those who sell in Dropshipping and its main supplier, for this reason, you will absolutely have to regulate this collaboration through a contract stipulated by lawyers who know very well the Ecommerce regulations, to avoid incurring defaults that could cause irreparable damage to your Brand.
A good practice for those who decide to sell in Dropshipping is to enter into a contract with:
- One or more suppliers clearly specifying the rights and obligations of each other
- At least a couple of courier companies, making sure that they also support deliveries to the upper floors, that they are efficient and on time, etc.
- Electronic payment systems, such as PayPal and Stripe.
- Website hosting, etc.
- Agency for the assistance telephone number
- A bank for your online store’s checking account
- An accountant who takes care of your accounts
As you can see, nothing should be left to chance, for this reason, it is essential for you to know every detail of the Ecommerce regulations for online activities, also depending on the country or countries where you want to sell your products or services, also because, in that case, the laws may differ from country to country.
Design and sell a line of custom items
A creative way to do low-risk Dropshipping is to sell items and gadgets through print-on-demand, focusing on customizing your product to create a brand that preserves your business idea. You need an identity that distinguishes you from your competitors. STS DTF printers will allow you to print large scales of unique designs and will allow you to build a reputation of quality that will keep you successful over the long term.
In this case, the print on demand activity consists of customizing unlabeled products with your design, through one or more suppliers, and then reselling them with your brand on order, for example by proposing:
Designing and selling a line of personalized items is undoubtedly a creative and original way to start an online store at a low cost but with a good chance of an economic return, where the care of marketing, the original idea, and the communicative message acquire more value than the article itself.
In light of the above, also, in this case, it is an example of a Dropshipping shop. To undertake a business of this type, simply collaborate with a designer and rely on one of the various Freelance websites available online to form a collaboration such as:
In this case, many print on demand services provides for payment per product, therefore consider that the price per unit will be much higher than a purchase made in bulk, on the other hand, however, you will have the advantage of not having to buy too many items in advance with the fear of not being able to immediately resell them to your users, having the only burden of paying the designer if you had hired a third party to perform this task.
Create digital products or courses
Unlike physical goods, starting an online store that sells digital products such as music, templates, video courses, digital guides, etc. provides you with a distinctive element, that is, they do not deal with tangible goods, do not involve shipping costs or production costs and at the same time offer you ample profit margins.
On the other hand, however, the difficulty is understanding how you can make a digital product valuable by differentiating yourself, for example, from those who offer your same service for free or at a lower cost.
Here, the skill of a Marketer comes to the fore, who must be able to be particularly skilled and persuasive in the communication strategy in convincing users that this is an extremely original and useful product for them and that it is worth downloading and buying it.
We can take as an example music tracks or stock images, licensed by other authors, or information products such as ebooks or templates for websites or online shops.
For example, if you have a talent in dance and want to propose your video lessons by structuring a coherent and professional training path, consider developing it to propose yourself online opening yourself to a new revenue stream, as well as many training programs used by Personal Trainer o Martial Artists or Yoga courses.
If, on the other hand, you are more inclined to carry out dropshipping sales activities, this online sales method could also be applied if you want to:
- to publish a book
- offer an online service
- create digital products or courses
- start an online shop
How much does it cost to start an online store?
The first question that many people ask is: is starting an online store worthwhile? It depends, it can have an initial cost from $ 600 to $ 800, but of course, it has lower costs than a physical store that has fixed costs.
Also consider other economic factors such as the purchase of the domain and the hosting space, which varies from 50 to 80 dollars per year. Also, include additional fixed costs like paying taxes, etc.
Strategies for implementing a successful ecommerce
There is no product or service that cannot be sold online.
The main goal of those who want to start an online store is the same as that of those who start a traditional store: to sell their product. 2020 has done nothing but amplify a trend that has grown a lot over the years and is destined to do so again, online commerce.
Starting from this premise, your strategy for starting an online sales website will have to be based on the 8 fundamentals of ecommerce:
- Product: which product I offer;
- Service: which service I offer, surprise the customer by excelling in aspects that could be critical, such as returns;
- Logistics: optimizes delivery times for the requested product.
- Technology: choose whether to rely on open-source software or proprietary solutions;
- User experience: studies the site in such a way as to make the purchase pleasant and simple, creates the right integration with graphics, videos, images;
- Trust: to increase trust, adopt safety messages on the site, make the precise data of the supplier public, clearly express the return procedure. Publish reviews and customer opinions both on your own site and on social networks;
- Traffic: in addition to knowing the most common and used acronyms in the e-commerce field such as CPM, CPA, etc … plan a traffic acquisition strategy and use the channels that best suit the chosen business model, such as SEO, SEM, Email marketing;
- Payment systems: the success of your online store depends on these. Consumer safety and a successful purchase without problems depend on the effectiveness of e-commerce payment systems.
Customized software and CMS to start an online store
In light of what has been said so far, we can delve into the characteristics of the platforms to start an online store. You must know, that if you decide to proceed alone in the online sale of your products or services, you must have a good knowledge of WordPress, in case your ecommerce deals with a few articles, or ecommerce software like Magento, if it is instead of a structured online store.
Now let’s see, in more detail, some of the best known software and CMS for ecommerce:
It is the most used open-source platform for the creation of structured sites full of articles, it is extremely reliable and customizable thanks to the numerous components and themes available (free and paid). Furthermore, you can also use it to manage multiple online stores from the same administration panel. It is important to know that it requires servers with high minimum requirements to function properly. Finally, you have the option to choose the Community Edition which is free or the Enterprise Edition which is paid and also includes technical support. Magento is the best solution for starting a large online store.
Thanks to its multiple features and ease of use, Prestashop is considered by entrepreneurs as one of the most reliable ecommerce platforms among those who have decided to start an online store. It is possible to integrate ad hoc applications and additional modules according to our business needs.
The customer has the convenience of deepening the characteristics of the products, viewing the related articles, checking out without necessarily having previously registered, etc … The technicians who manage the site with Prestashop have the ability to keep countless aspects under control including the analysis of sales, returns, shipping costs, payments by bank transfer, credit card, cash on delivery, and much more.
WordPress with WooCommerce
WordPress is the most famous open-source CMS born for the creation of blogs. Thanks to the availability of numerous components and themes, it is quite versatile and can be transformed into an e-commerce platform. Among the most complete components for creating online stores, we find WooCommerce, WP e-Commerce, and JigoShop.
Basically, they are free, but they offer additional functions for a fee. Their installation is very simple as well as the management of objects. It is not suitable for the construction of very large or elaborate online stores as it does not offer advanced configuration parameters as other e-commerce CMS created specifically for use in this area, even if it remains a valid solution if you are thinking of starting a medium-sized online store.
Joomla with VirtueMart
Joomla is an alternative with lower management costs than Magento, but at the same time capable of managing a large number of users and with simplified functions for sharing files, it represents a valid solution for starting an online store. VirtueMart is one of the most popular e-commerce components for this platform.
Opencart is suitable for medium to small online businesses, which is why if you have decided to start an online store from scratch it is the ideal choice. Among its advantages we identify the ease of use, no special computer skills are required to exploit its potential, the ability to insert an unlimited number of products, and, last but not least, the automatic optimization of articles for SEO purposes. Although it is one of the newest products on the market, the usability on the development side is among the best together with the excellent user experience on the customer side.
Starting an online store on Shopify
Let’s start by saying that Shopify is a platform where users can start an online store with their own URL, capable of carrying out all the payment transactions necessary to manage an Ecommerce, a physical store that also has an online presence, or even a temporary store.
Unlike Amazon and eBay where these two marketplaces mainly advertise themselves by limiting direct contact between customer and shopkeeper without offering any particular advantage for the supplier, Shopify acts differently, being neither a marketplace nor an online store, but an ecommerce platform.
In this case, each shop maintains its own identity as if it were in a shopping center, to which rent and common utilities are paid, but each manages contact with the customer independently from the platform, since you are the managers and owners of your business, while being able to benefit from its marketing, accounting, shipping, etc.
In light of the considerations made on this Ecommerce platform, I invite you to read the next paragraph thanks to which you can draw your own conclusions on which Marketplace is the best to start an online store.
Better Amazon or eBay?
Better Amazon or eBay to sell online? Difficult to say, but before offering your services or products within these two giants of the marketplace, you need to know some important differences that can affect user behavior.
While Amazon invites users to interact with “buy it now” or “online auction” modes, eBay (visit the site!) Acts more like a showcase that exhibits the goods without going into the merits of user transitions, if not to get paid a 10% commission on sales. Furthermore, Amazon and eBay differ in the policy of the right of withdrawal and in the conditions of sale, where eBay refers to the conditions of the seller who “declares to accept the return policy in any case”, alienating himself from possible third-party responsibilities.
Amazon, on the other hand, operates as a reseller of third-party products, while entering into the contract between itself and the buyer, or as a marketplace that hosts offers from third parties that sell and ship their products directly.
For greater protection, Amazon always indicates the source of origin of the product or service resulting in a very controlled showcase. As for payments, eBay responds only when transitions take place via PayPal or via credit card generated by PayPal, offering fewer guarantees on the user side and proving less attentive to the consumer than Amazon.
The Ecommerce market is constantly growing and requires competent and qualified figures, if you have decided to start an online store and do not want to rely on consultants or web agencies, you must necessarily train in order to sell your products and present yourself on the market efficiently.