Entrepreneur Lifestyle & Business Management

How to Start Your Online Retail Business in 2020

Can an eCommerce business flourish if it lacks an impeccable online presence? The answer to that question is an obvious “no”. So if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to launching an online retail business, in this post, we’ll walk you through the basics of the process.

5 Things to Do to Launch an eCommerce Shop

Your online retail store can’t exist without a website. So, to be fair, at some point you might face the need to turn to qualified developers for building an eCommerce store or advancing it, especially if you aren’t techy. But before we jump to that step, let’s take things one at a time.

1. Which sphere do you wish to work in?

Choosing the niche of your future eCommerce business is amongst the primary decisions that you should make. You need to figure out what is it that you want to be selling online in order to make up your mind on further things that’ll follow from it.

If you’re truly new to this, the best practises here are not to choose “mainstream” spheres that the market is already cluttered with nor to select a sphere that’s aimed at a very petite and narrow audience. An example of the latter would be selling accessories and supplies that are suitable only for Pomeranian Spitz dogs—this is way too limited. Instead, it makes sense to expand the idea to something like accessories and supplies for small dogs of different breeds. This way, there’s a larger chance for your products to be in demand.

The prices that you wish to establish are another key point to then carefully think about at this stage. Again, “the happy medium” in regard to your store’s pricing can be the way to go for eCommerce newbies so as to be compatible with competitors on the market.

2. How do you want the inventory to be managed?

Falling back on the example of the eCommerce store that specialises in selling goods for various breeds of small dogs, there are several paths that you can take.

a) Let’s assume you are the one actually producing your products and product lines.

In this case, you’ll need to have a warehouse with an inventory where you’ll keep the stock of products. You’ll not only be the manufacturer of the unique items for sale, but you’ll also be handling the entire process of the sale from start to finish. This includes creating the quality products, putting them up on your eCommerce website, selling them on your website, packing the orders and delivering them to your buyers, and handling any customer service questions if they occur. You’re responsible for it all, and the inventory and shipping costs are on you as well.

b) You’re not producing anything, you’re re-selling goods that were made by other manufacturers.

The path can also split in two here: you can either opt for retail or settle on dropshipping.

In the first case, you’ll be a distributor who purchases goods of other manufacturers at wholesale prices, you place these items up on your online store, and sell them at retail prices. Noteworthy, these goods are kept in your inventory and warehouse. Likewise, in this scenario, you’re the one packing and shipping the orders.

In the second case, your hands are “product-free” since everything is taken care of on the side of the manufacturer (or wholesaler). Being a dropshipper, you never actually have the product physically yet it is displayed on your website and customers pay you the retail price for them. When such an order is placed, you pass it to the manufacturer, pay them the wholesale price, and they are the side that puts together and ships the order to the client.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though. You’ll most probably have to pay additional money to the wholesaler/manufacturer for doing business with them as a dropshipper (often it’s a fixed percentage or shipping cost coverage). And since you were the one who received the money from the client in the first place, as an “intermediary”, you’ll have to resolve any issues with the order if they occur.

3. Which platform do you want your eCommerce store to be built on?

First of all, you must bear in mind that eCommerce websites can be based on multiple platforms. The most common ones are:

  • Shopify
  • Magento
  • BigCommerce
  • WordPress
  • WooCommerce

Platforms like Magento were designed for those who are more skilled in the “art” of development and are suitable for complex eCommerce stores that require a lot of customisation. Others, such as WordPress or Shopify, are much easier to create due to their drag and drop functionality but are template-like.

Furthermore, there are several things that you’ll need in any case, regardless of the selected platform. You can choose to opt for shared hosting or cloud hosting, each of them has its own benefits and the choice generally differs based on the size and necessities of your business. If you’re just starting out and plan to have something simple, one of the hosting packages that you can consider is Hostgator.

As seen on the screenshot below, depending on the selected plan, you can get a combination of the required things for your eCommerce site: a free domain for a year, an SSL Certificate which is obligatory for accepting payments, and the installation of WordPress as the foundation of your future online store.

Hostgator plans
Hostgator plans

From here on you’ll need to take care of the standard setups and configurations. Usually, there are auto-setup wizards that can assist you. Following that, you’ll be putting together the store, meaning that you’ll have to add content, create pages, fill out the information on your products, etc.

4. Is your catalogue & product database well-crafted?

When creating your catalogue, make sure to give extra time to your product pages. These are the pages that matter most, therefore, when adding products to your database:

  • Add pictures of great quality but, more importantly, optimise your images in terms of size and weight.
  • Craft great product descriptions and give all of the necessary data on your products, by all means, avoid duplicate content.
  • Fill out all of the meta-information properly, use keywords, and don’t copy-paste (this is all vital for search engines to find your store).
  • Categorise your products with extra thought, preferably, any product should be available within a maximum of 3 or 4 clicks from the home page.

On a side note, make sure that your eCommerce website is equipped with security software. Since your customers trust you with their contact information and payment details, you are responsible for safeguarding them. You for sure don’t want to face the consequences of data leaks due to hacks or other malware, thus, make sure your site is secure.

5. Can you invest time in adding corresponding social media shops?

Now that you have a well-running eCommerce store with a neat product catalogue, you must take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by social media channels. Of course, it must be stated that getting additional shops via your social media business accounts won’t be as effective for every sphere of online retail. Yet for many niches (for example clothing, apparel, and beauty products) you’ll miss out on a lot if you don’t get them. To be more specific, here’s what we have in mind.

Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest currently give business owners the opportunity to sell directly from these social media platforms. The simple steps of getting such shops include getting official business accounts, integrating your eCommerce store’s product catalogue, and verifying your account.

And Presto! Your followers can see the details and prices of the tagged items that are shown on your posts and, importantly, they can follow the link leading to the respective product pages of your store to purchase the item.

To demonstrate this on an example, here’s how product tagging looks like on the official Burberry Instagram account:

Official Burberry Instagram
Official Burberry Instagram

Final Word

Wrapping up the above, creating an online retail business isn’t rocket science. Without a doubt, it requires detailed planning, as well as includes investment and resources to be spent on growing your product lines, brand awareness, client database, and online presence. But in the end, you’ll have a running eCommerce store!

About the Author

Alex Husar, CTO at Onilab with 8+ years of experience in Magento support services and Salesforce development. He graduated from the Czech Technical University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Computer Software Engineering. Alex’s expertise includes both full-stack dev skills and a strong ability to provide project-critical guidance to the whole team.

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