Digital Marketing & Strategy

How to Start an Online Store and Create an eCommerce Website

Apr 2, 2021
Reading Time: 8minutes

Ecommerce sales are increasing year after year and is showing no signs of slowing down, with 51% of Americans preferring to shop online. If you’re thinking of starting an online store and creating an ecommerce website then there is no better time to begin.

Clearly more people are purchasing from their home, tablet or mobile device instead of driving to your bricks and mortar store. With this change in purchasing attitudes, can you afford not to be online? Creating an ecommerce website might sound like a daunting task, but it is not as challenging as you may think.

In this article, you’ll:

●      Learn what to consider when starting an online store

●      Where you can find products to sell

●      Which platforms you can use to create an eCommerce website

Choosing your industry and product

To start an online store, you’ll need to choose the right product to sell as this can have a massive impact on whether or not your eCommerce website is successful. But with millions of different products available, how do you know which ones to sell that will ensure yours are purchased?

There are usually a lot of factors to consider when choosing an industry and product. Below are the key points that you should consider:

Price

How much does your product cost? If it is too cheap it will be difficult to reach a positive Return on Investment (ROI). If it is too expensive there is a good chance customers will take more convincing to make a purchase. They probably want to speak with someone over the phone or through live chat prior to purchasing, possibly checking out review sites and your social media sites to be convinced. Customer support requires more resources for you to make a sale, although can be profitable if your product price is right. Ask others and initial purchasers what is the price they are willing to pay for your product.

Profit margin

What is your profit margin for each sale, in other words how much after costs to sell the product will you make? Many products sold online have a margin around 30–35% however this can change drastically depending on the industry. For example, electronics typically have slimmer margins while phone accessories are often marked up a whopping 200% and even more. Before you start an online store, make sure you know the profit margin of each product you wish to list. Often this will require contacting the manufacturer directly or signing up with a distributor.

Local availability

Can consumers purchase your product locally? When a product does not exist in a local store, it is easier to drive sales to your eCommerce website? The consumer is left with little choice but to purchase online through your online store.

Shipping size

How big and heavy is the product? Bigger and heavier products tend to attract higher shipping costs that can dramatically impact sales. Many customers expect to have free shipping. Therefore, it can be difficult to sell a product with a shipping fee. You could combat this by including the cost of shipping into the price tag whilst raising the price and offering “free shipping.” The caveat however, is that increases in price can decrease your sales. A tip would be to offer products that are smaller and hence require lower shipping costs.

Finding manufacturers with great products

Now that you have identified which products you want to sell you will need to figure out who the manufacturers are going to be. There are various methods of finding manufacturers that can save a lot of your time.

Shopping searches

Google Shopping is a powerful search engine that only searches physical products sold online. It lists some additional information on who the re-sellers are (great for sniffing out the competition) but more importantly who their suppliers are. Before you start an online store, simply enter your product into Google Shopping and search which manufacturers show up under the “Brand” section.

*Beware if you are in a location that is not supported by Google Shopping – you’ll be unable to check out the competition!

Directories

Why not search several online directories of suppliers that make it easy to find manufacturers? The two directories below are the most popular ones:

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Worldwide Brands has nearly 10,000 wholesalers and more than 10 million products. The cost is $299 one-time fee for lifetime use.

Wholesale Central has approximately 1,500 suppliers and over 700,000 products. Here comes the sweetest part — it is free and for unlimited use.

Once you have compiled a list of manufacturers the next step is to start reaching out in hopes of reselling their products. Start with the manufacturers and distributors who have the least intimidating application and requirements. This is because many manufacturers tend not to deal with newer online stores with a limited sales record. Many larger manufacturers will want to know who you are working with first, so start with smaller suppliers to get larger suppliers on board later.

Create an eCommerce website and start an online store

Now that you have composed what products to sell and which wholesalers to obtain your products, the next step is to get them online. That means you’ll now need to create an eCommerce website and online store.

First, whilst you are waiting for the replies from manufacturers it is best to have a simple “coming soon” page before you begin to add your products. Knowing what products to sell will dictate which eCommerce platform to use or whether you require something special and customised.

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Choosing an eCommerce platform (aka “eCommerce cart”)

The ecommerce platform manages all the products, categories, checkout process, and other aspects involved with a fully functional online store. There are dozens of ecommerce platforms available, most of which have relatively the same functionality and features. Choosing a platform can be a drawn-out process for a lot of entrepreneurs. It is probably best to just make a decision quickly rather than spending days researching and testing various platforms.

Here are some of the most popular ones that you can begin to create an ecommerce website.

Magento is one of the best growing ecommerce platforms around. What users like about this ecommerce platform solution is the wide variety of features that are available and it is now owned by eBay. Meaning that using Magento can also help you with selling some of your products via eBay and the kind of exposure that it can offer to your business. There are approximately 250,000 eCommerce websites that are powered by this platform and is suitable for all those online store owners who wish to create a robust and reliable storefront. For the bigger companies that wish to use Magento, there is an Enterprise Edition available. This solution costs about $15,000 every year. On the other hand, the smaller businesses need not worry as they can make use of the Community Edition.

Bigcommerce is a popular ecommerce software and is about $29.95 per month without any contract. Considering this price range, it has numerous features that are worth noting. It is similar to Shopify (mentioned next) in the fact that it is extremely simple to use and is laced with many features and is easy to use. Considering this, it suits well for mid-sized retailers who can create a fully functional and high-end online shopping cart without paying over the odds for it.

If you are a smaller business, then Shopify is probably the most reasonable choice. It allows you to select one of the many available templates for your website. It is reasonably simple to integrate your products and you can also optimise your store design, append a catalogue of products to the store and even create your own blog posts, all through one administration dashboard. The analytics option of Shopify allows you to keep track of visitor activity and gives you the option of integrating a secure shopping cart that accepts credit card payments. There is a 14-day trial period for Shopify, after which the price is $29 per month. This is reasonable money to pay, considering the many benefits that come along.

WordPress is a robust and popular CMS (content management system) that can be used for building pretty much any type of website. Whether it is an exquisite corporate site, a blog, or an ecommerce solution. WordPress is a fantastic platform for those getting started, enabling the possibility to add hundreds of ecommerce extensions and plugins (including WooCommerce) to create an online store that customers will love. Another user-friendly aspect is that once the store is set up it only takes a very little maintenance to keep it looking fresh and uses minimal code.

Another great open-source choice and perhaps the most popular of them all, WooCommerce is used by half a million online retailers worldwide. Primarily designed for small to medium-sized businesses using WordPress, it powers 40% of online stores worldwide. For many online businesses, its popularity is gaining because of its effortless and straightforward use together with WordPress. Whether you have done some WordPress programming yourself or have a developer to create an online store for you, WooCommerce is a clever choice if you create an eCommerce website, with its various themes available.

Lastly, Etsy is a fantastic platform to start and grow your online business. It allows you to quickly get an online store up and running and gives you the tools to sell your products. You don’t have to worry about getting your own hosting services, have your website designed and built, setting up payment processors, or any other technical mumble jumbo that’s reserved only for supercomputer users!

Furthermore, Etsy is frequently visited by a lot of visitors who can potentially be your customer – so you don’t have to worry as much about sourcing your own prospective customers! A lot of these visitors are ready to buy. Pretty darn awesome platform if you are just starting out, although many users complain about the fees, which are 3.5% of the item price, plus $0.20 to make the listing.

Logo and web design

A website’s design and branding can have a huge impact on how often your potential customers purchase from your website. Hiring a good designer can cost more but will provide your brand with a uniqueness that others will not have. If you are a first time entrepreneur with a very limited budget and wish to bring initial costs to the absolute minimum, you could do the following:

Purchase a website template — There are thousands of templates you can now purchase online, plus ecommerce websites contain their own themes you can use that do not cost. Even if you do pay they usually cost around $20-$50 which is much cheaper than paying a designer. However, you should note that other competitors may have the same idea so your theme could be similar and lose its uniqueness.

Get a low-cost logo — A logo is an important component for any branding and marketing efforts. Hiring a professional designer is likely not the cheapest route, but then again, good quality does not come cheap. Either way, it can be a good idea to take a look at 99Designs, 19 Dollar Logos or Fiverr for alternative options. 99Designs is more expensive than the others but the quality is better — simply put, you will pay for quality so consider carefully. Changing your branding once you have launched can be quite expensive to implement (the online store itself, all the marketing materials, directory listings and so on), therefore select carefully.

Domain name and hosting

Every website needs a domain name for its brand and a server for hosting. However, note that all ecommerce websites also need an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate to encrypt sensitive data like payment information. Plus, search engines including Google are paying more attention to those websites that are more secure and can be easily navigated on mobiles. There is a plethora of web hosting companies that can service your needs, it is merely a case of picking one that you like.

If you plan to use a hosted and managed ecommerce platform as per the examples described above, you will not need to worry about the hosting, SSL certificate, or any other technical specifics. Either the hosting company or the developer of your online store can take care of it all.

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What would be the next step?

Equipped with all the information above, you are ready to start an online store for your own business. Once you create an ecommerce website, you’ll then need to consider how to get your brand out there. Considering you’ve taken the important step to create an ecommerce website and placed your brand online, digital marketing then, is a great way to drive potential customers to your website through several online channels.

You don’t need to do them all, and probably cannot do them all as they may not be relevant for your brand and its products. If you’re unsure at which is best for you, then why not contact the team and ask for advice?