Gurus will tell you that it’s easy and that if you just follow their advice, you can build it in half an hour.
Maybe they can because they’ve built a lot of successful ones, but it’s not that easy for the average person who wants to start an online business to make extra money.
But if you take your time and put it together piece by piece, it’s not hard either. Building an online shop isn’t hard; you just need a lot of patience.
Finding Your Niche
Choosing what to sell is the hardest part of opening an online store.
Some people already have a passion for something, so they know right away what niche they want to be in. For example, if you like fishing or golfing a lot, you might be drawn to those niches.
Many people find it hard to choose a niche, or they find that their passion doesn’t work (for example, if your passion is taxidermied mice in dresses, there probably isn’t a big market for them).
But if your passion is fairly normal, you can sell it. Just think about what you buy online and look into other products that are similar. If you want to make quilts, you have to buy patterns and fabric. Others also do it.
If you’re like me, you thought you didn’t have a passion for anything, and you spent months in a state called “paralysis by analysis.” Then, one rainy day, I was doing one of my favourite things, which is walking through a hardware store and looking at the new gadgets in each section. I love finding cool new things that someone smarter than me made to solve everyday problems, and voilà, I had found my niche.
To choose a niche, you should spend a day or so with a pen and a notebook writing down everything you see that can be bought online. You might end up with a few pages of products, but if you start to group them together, you will have a shorter list from which to choose.
This is part of the last list I made as I tried to find my niche:
- Renewable energy and living off the grid
- Biodegradable consumables
- Cleaning up water
- Boomers (old people) (old people)
- Preppers (for an apocalypse) (for an apocalypse)
- Hot tubs
Not everyone will have a “aha!” moment like I did, but if you narrow down your list, you’ll find something that interests you, and believe me, if it can be shipped, it can be sold online. For instance, it’s pretty clear that you can’t sell bridges.
Choosing a platform for hosting
Now that you’ve chosen a niche, the next step is to choose a platform for your store. A website is just another word for “platform.” You need a website, but you have several options.
I think you should stick to the most popular ones.
Among them would be:
- Using WooCommerce plugin on WordPress
All of these platforms, except for WordPress, have themes that are already set up for you. All you have to do is add your logo, colours, and products. WordPress also has themes, but you start with a blank template and build your store from there. This gives you a lot more freedom to look different in the market, but it’s much harder to learn.
When picking an e-commerce platform to build your new store, the most important thing to look for is great customer service. Sometimes you won’t know how to do something, and when that happens, good customer service is a big part of your success. You want to know that you can get in touch with them most of the time. When you’re stuck, you’ll want help, even if it’s 3 a.m.
Check out this blog post to get a good overview of the costs of each of the major e-commerce platforms.
Now that you have chosen your niche and platform, you can start having fun.
Before you can add products to a platform, you have to set up certain things.
First, you’ll have to decide on a theme.
There are paid and free themes. Most free themes are basic templates, while paid themes will have extras built in. When you use free themes, you might need to add more apps to them. Some apps are free, but others will cost money. Depending on the platform, these apps are often called plugins.
Most e-commerce stores use plugins like:
- Customer feedback
- Menus like Mega menus or tiered menus
- POS plugins (point of sale)
- Shipping and Tracking
- SEO (search engine optimisation) (search engine optimization)
- Image editors
- Google and feeds from social media
- Using bots to talk to your customers
- Product upselling, cross-selling, and bundling
- Keeping track of inventory
- FAQ Page
- Currency exchanges
- Adding Items
Now that you’ve chosen and set up the basic settings and plugins for your online store, you’ll need to add products.
If you make your own products, you’ll need to take good photos and write interesting descriptions for each one.
If you want to dropship, you should do some research. Many marketers make the mistake of copying the description of a product from the supplier or manufacturer. This is sloppy, and Google doesn’t like it. Also, they aren’t the best.
Google wants content that is original.
Take the time to crop or flip images so that they don’t look exactly like the images on thousands of other online stores. Also, all of the product images on your site should be the same size, so that the layout is consistent.
If you can, you should buy the product and have your own high-quality pictures made that are different from those of your competitors. You can do this yourself using your phone’s highest resolution setting, or you can pay someone on Fiverr or Upwork to do it for you.
Along with the images, you should take the time to look through all the sites you can find that have information or specs about your product. You can then write a compelling, unique description of the product.
The title is the most important part of your product description.
It should have the Brand name and the model name, if there is one, as well as anything else that makes it different. The title of the product should be clear, short, original, and optimised for SEO. (read on for more about SEO)
Use the most common words when naming your product. You want your title to be different, but not so different that Google can’t put it in the online category you want it to be found in.
Use your imagination when describing things. Show how the most important features solve a customer’s problem. You don’t want a long list full of technical jargon. If the product’s specs are important, it’s a good idea to list them. Read this article by Shopify: 9 Easy Ways to Write Product Descriptions That Sell.
Next, you need to add reviews of your products. You can find these on the sites of your competitors or from the company that made them. You shouldn’t make up your own reviews.
There are plugins that can help your site handle customer reviews. Product Reviews is a free one from Shopify, and Loox is a very popular one that isn’t free. There is a review plugin for WooCommerce on WordPress.
Not all e-commerce platforms have review plugins, so you will need to decide if reviews are important for your business.
Adding Search Engine Optimization
Now is the time to use SEO to improve your website (search engine optimization). This will help people find your site through natural searches.
Every Meta Description on your site needs to be unique.
Search engines will “crawl” your site and put what they find in an index.
Meta Descriptions are small bits of information about your product that search engines look for.
Say, for example, that you sell tyres and wheels. You want the terms that customers will search for in the title, the description, and the URL.
You want the title to be as descriptive as possible and to include words that customers will search for, but it also needs to make sense.
The URL should be clear and relevant so that search engines can put your product in the right category and index it so that potential customers can find it when they look for it.
The platform you use will often save the Meta Description as the beginning of your product description, but you should always change it to something better.
Your meta description is your “hook” to show a potential customer that your site has what they want and that they should click on your link.
Try not to repeat what your title or URL says. Make sure your description is easy to read by not using too much punctuation or sentences that don’t go together. It should sound like a short paragraph about the product’s features or benefits.
Now, you will send your site to “Google Search Console” so that Google can crawl and index it. Send in your site as soon as you have a few products on it, even if it isn’t done yet. The sooner Google has indexed your website, the better.
But how will people find my shop?
Lastly, you need to get people to your shop now that it’s built and looks the way you want it to. This is called “Traffic.”
You should ideally be on the first page of Google, Bing, and Yahoo. You should also think about getting paid to advertise. Depending on what your product is, you can choose to advertise on:
- Google Shopping Ads
- PPC (pay per click) (pay per click)
Wasn’t that simple?
Not everyone wants to build an online store, and some will give up when they get stuck on one part of their dream of becoming financially independent and quitting their day job.
You will do well with your shop as long as you keep working at it every day.