You’ve found your passion in life and you want to turn it into business, by opening an Online Store. Hopefully you do fulfill the first condition – you want to sell goods or services that you know the market needs and at the same time you are really passionate about it. If this is not the case, chances are you won’t put enough effort in to make it work and it will be destined to fail. It’s hard to grow a business if you aren’t passionate about it, and it’s even harder if you’ve chosen to sell something that the market doesn’t need. Our first and introductory tip will be: Don’t be in it just for the money, be in it because you believe in it, you enjoy it and you care about it.
So, your online store is ready to open it’s virtual door and you are ready to hit that “launch” button! We assume you covered and checked all the steps that precede this final and most exciting move. Either way we would like to take some time to list everything that should be covered before you launch your store into the online space.
You’ve developed a strong Business Plan.
Which should include all or most of the following:
- You’ve decided on the product or service you want to put on the market
- You’ve researched the market and figured out your niche
- You know your manufacturing or re-selling costs
- Shipping costs
- Storage costs (if needed)
- Employees wages (if you’ll be hiring help)
- Taxes and any legal fees
- Fees for domain name, hosting, web design and e-commerce platform you will use
- Marketing and promotion costs
We’ll move on from here with the assumption that you know what you want to sell online and are willing to do anything to make it work. You did your market research and you’ve found your target audience so you know you will offer a product or a service that is needed and will be competitive. Make sure you know your niche! From this point on we’ll list some useful tips that will guide you from your business plan to the final launch click.
You’ve chosen the perfect domain name.
This is a really important decision and it should take some quality thinking time. Your domain name needs to be short and easy to remember but at the same time needs to suit you and your business. However, even when you’ve found your perfect domain name, nobody guarantees that it will be available for you to purchase and register and you might have to start from the scratch. Yep, not at all easy.
You covered the Branding and Designing phase for your online store.
This is not necessarily something you personally have to do. It would be easiest and probably the best if you can hand it over to a professional. As long as you understand the importance of having a modern design and smart branding, you should be fine. The decision on who will take care of this part depends on your expertise and your budget, but also on the number of functionalities you want for your store, pages and content that will go on it. Think it through, if you can’t do it yourself and have no one who can help you with it, you have a couple of other options. One would be to choose a template page with the risk of looking like all the other online stores, or to invest in a a designer who can listen to your ideas and wishes and make them come true by making them custom and unique. If you do want to push your way through, you have to differentiate yourself from the competition through smart branding and a unique design.
You’ve chosen the best eCommerce solution for your business.
Same as with design, but even more complicated, this choice is influenced by many different factors, including your budget, the type of goods or services you will sell, features that you might need, and lastly the level of expertise you have in this field. Are you a developer? Do you know your way around coding at all? You want to have an amazing, interactive gallery of products with high quality pictures, and to be mobile friendly by being fully optimized and accessible. Are you going to use a simple and low cost template or do you want your e-commerce web store to look customized from top to bottom? Think this through and have in mind that your online store has to be attractive and easy to use, making the purchase fun and to offer a different experience than your competition.
What will be your perfect eCommerce solution:
Hosted – Your website will be a host on a server, a service you will have to pay, but which also provides web-based software to build and support your online store. If you are a complete beginner, this would be a good option for you.
Licenced – This would mean that you would install these platforms to a computer, but you would also have to deal with the hosting and security on your own.
Open Source -These are usually free solutions, but you will have to be ready to build your store’s website from scratch. I would highly recommend this simply because these sources offer the highest level of customization, but in order to figure things out, you will need to be a developer, or simply hire a professional to do the heavy part.
Bottom line, whether you are a programmer, or don’t have a clue on the subject, eCommerce software offer a solution in both cases. The ones that are free, or cheap and easy to use, are probably used by many other online sellers and you just have to deal with that if you want to go with a template it will look a lot like your competition. If you decide to invest a little more, know that you are doing a smart investment that will pay off. You are choosing customization, additional functionalities, a whole package that includes marketing and analytics tools, optimization and integration. It’s hard to invest a lot at the beginning, so don’t feel bad if you choose the cheaper option. In time, when your business grows, you will want to expand, build more and more functionalities and will be able to invest more.
Now that you’ve checked and double checked the most important steps, let’s go to smaller tips that will make sure your big launch will go smooth without you missing anything:
1. Setting up your Social Media Pages
Maybe you started selling on Facebook or Instagram and have now decided it’s time to open up a real online store. Even if that’s not the case, you are starting with an online store, don’t forget that Social Media is your biggest ally. This is how you can promote your business, how people can learn about your products and track your news and stories, small and big successes you want to share everyday. When setting up your Social media, make sure that you create a separate page for your business on all popular platforms that will showcase your product or service the best way and make it easy for your fans to find you by giving the same name to all your pages.
Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn are perfect places for you to advertise cheaper than with Google, especially when you’re just starting your online business and don’t have the funds to go big.
2. Setting up a Newsletter
This definitely has to be ready and set before you hit launch. An email newsletter is one of the most effective tools of your marketing strategy and you need to use it even before you open the virtual doors of your store.By carefully preparing and setting up, you can easily find a way to place your products and promo materials in your subscriber’s inboxes regularly. Offer coupons and discounts, announce news, and most important, give tips and helpful information that will answer your customers most frequent questions. If you decide to write a Blog, this is also a perfect place to promote it.
Setting up a Newsletter can be done easy and free with platforms like MailChimp where you can design and customize your email marketing campaign. Set up an easy and attractive way for visitors to subscribe and give them useful information or discounts in return. If you reward their trust and don’t just spam their inbox, they will expect your emails and look forward to them.
3. Check your Shipping and Payment options and make sure they work!
Tricky and risky step. You may not be able to offer free shipping, but on the other hand, if offering products that can be found on eBay, Amazon, Walmart, … you’ll have to take a hit on this one to be competitive and reward the choice that led your potential shopper to your online store. In order to not lose your customer at the very last step – shipping options, it might be a good idea to offer flat rate or to absorb parts of the expenses on your end to keep the traffic on the path towards making conversions and at the bottom line to get to the profit you need.
There are multiple payment options. Again, depending on your own budget and deciding on how simple you want to keep it for you, and more importantly for your customers, don’t forget the safety and privacy you have to guarantee and secure. You can choose to use PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, or offer the option to pay with credit cards to your personal account. If you choose the last option make sure that you set up Internet Merchant Account with all it’s fees and additional bank costs. PayPal, on the other hand, has no monthly fees, setup or cancellation fees. There are some charges of 2.9 percent of transaction plus 30 cents per order, depending on your company’s sales volume. For a start up eCommerce business on a low budget that wants to start easy and quickly, this is the perfect option.
Make sure you tested your payment and shipping methods and you are certain everything works before your first customer clicks on that shopping card of yours.
4. Track, double check and back up everything!
Did you set up your Google Analytics before the big launch. With the available Google tools you can easily be on top of everything and track your traffic and success flow. This is a key step in your Marketing strategy that you will change based on the results you track.
Whether you are using Shopify, WooCommerce, or WordPress platform, backup everything and do it on a regular basis. If you don’t know how, hire someone to help you set up, you don’t want to be cheap and skip on this one. By being in the business of trades you will have inventory that will be changing daily and pages that need constant updating. In case of any mishap or catastrophe that may happen, you need to be prepared and secured so all previous steps we listed don’t disappear along with all the money you invested in them.
5. Grand opening of your store’s virtual door
3, 2, 1 READY TO LAUNCH!
But wait! Is everything really ready? Did you plan the big announcement! You should have! Make it really BIG with fireworks and bells. This is where your Social Media should kick in, along with Newsletters and all the ads you decided to invest in to promote. Don’t forget the good old word of mouth, physical promo materials, use it all and show it everywhere you can. Offer discounts for the opening period, give coupons or a small free gift to every first time shopper, host giveaways or fun games but promote it IN ADVANCE, so once your store is open, they all know where to look, what to expect and what’s in it for them if they become your first loyal customer.
Now that you: revisited your business plan; confirmed that you’ve chosen the right options to set all technical details; added all those small, but very important marketing tools into your strategy; checked that customers can actually buy and that you can ship products they ordered; that every button and every functionality is working it’s safely backed up and analytics are warming up to track your sales AND you’ve taken your sweet time to promote, you are definitely ready to LAUNCH your baby and watch it grow