How do I start an online shop?

Online shops are commonplace these days, and companies that were once content to just have a brochure-style website are now looking to sell online directly.

So, from first principles, how do you start an online shop?

What to sell?

If you are still at the stage of choosing what to sell, read What should I sell online.

Some things are much easier to sell online than others.

Which software package?

Gone are the days when you would have to spend tens, or hundreds, of thousands of pounds developing custom e-commerce software. There are now many different software packages to choose from.

And this in itself can create a problem. Which one is the best?

Unfortunately, there is no answer for this. It all depends on your requirements. There is no one size fits all approach.

You may think that you just want a simple online shop with nothing special. But there's no such thing. They all have their subtle nuances that can drastically alter which package would be the most suitable.

Do you need product personalisations? Do you need stock control features? What sort of stock control features? Are your products available in different sizes, colours, or other variations? How does this affect the stock control? Do you manufacture your own unique products or do you just retail products that sold by other companies too?

If you approach a web designer and they just propose using a software package "because it's the best" find an alternative company. This just means that is the only one that they've learned how to use.

We have taken over the management of several online shops (because they were having problems with their existing web designer) and in almost every case they'd been given a completely inappropriate software package for their requirements.

This also means that creating an online shop on your own, without professional help, is likely to be pot luck too. Without the experience and inside knowledge of the systems, you are likely to just choose whichever one you can get to grips with first.

Taking general recommendations won't help either, because it requires a thorough analysis of your requirements.

The design

How strong is your branding?

Do you just have a logo and a colour scheme?

If so, you can probably just find a ready made template or theme that matches your colours and add your logo to it.

If you have a stronger brand though, you will probably need a custom web design created for you. This will definitely need an e-commerce specialist web designer (not just your local printing company!).

A specialist e-commerce web designer will understand how the software package being used will work best with the design.

Marketing

Just creating an online shop won't sell anything.

You may get lucky and your site might get some good search engine rankings straight away. But even with this, you'll be unlikely to generate enough sales to even pay your hosting fees.

You must consider your marketing strategy from the start. Your choice of marketing methods may even have an impact on your choice of software package.

Some e-commerce packages make it very difficult (ie. very expensive) to use some marketing methods.

Read these articles for some marketing strategies to consider:

The 4 types of online advertising

Affiliate Marketing

A brief introduction to affiliate marketing

Video: The advantages of Google Shopping for Online Shops

Why should new online stores leave AdWords alone?

If all this hasn't put you off starting your own online shop, we're here to help you every step of the way. Contact us now on 0845 269 9624 to make sure you get off to a great start, instead of trying to repair the problems later.

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