Informative

Beginner’s Guide For Setting Up An Online Store

We’ve said it before and you’ve heard it enough: we’re currently going through some tough times and the need for businesses to shift from brick and mortar to online is bigger than ever. By allowing your customers to visit your store online, you’re able to better compensate for the decreased foot traffic. So how do we do this? By setting up an online shop. After reading this blog, you’ll know everything you need to create an online store for your business, by yourself.  Let’s dig in!

Angelina Natividad

Online Marketer at The Next Ad

May 20, 2020

Great news: you really don’t need a lot of money or insane coding skills to set up a nice online shop. Of course, you can always hire a professional web designer to create a dazzling website, but if you are looking to keep your costs low, creating a simple webshop will do just fine. 

But where do you start and what do you have to consider? 

There are a number of important things you’ll have to do to make sure you’re setting up your online adventure for success. Since we’re setting up a simple online shop, we’re going to keep the steps as easy as possible. 

Content

Prior to building your online store:

Setting up your online store:

After launching your online store:

Check Legal Requirements for Opening Online Stores

This is definitely the first thing you’ll want to do. When setting up an online shop, it’s easy to postpone these tasks or forget about them altogether. 

Every country or state has different requirements and laws for obtaining the right licenses you might need for your business. This could depend on the products you sell or the services you provide. 

Consider to take a look at the following things:

  • Which taxes you may need to pay
  • Which organisations you have to register with
  • What business records you have to keep
  • General data protection regulations for your country
  • Product, packaging and labelling requirements 
  • Use general terms and conditions to minimise your risks and provide clarity for your customers.

Pick a Website Builder

Using an eCommerce website builder is a fast and easy way to create a nice looking online store, without needing any high-level tech skills. There are many different online store builders out there, so it’s good to do your due diligence and find out which one best fits your needs and budget. 

To help you out and get you started, we’ve listed four online store builders that work well for beginners down below:

• Shopify – Pricing starts at $29/mo – Basic Shopify

Shopify is one of the most well-known and used online store builders out there. The platform provides a variety of tools to help users set up and run their businesses. Depending on which pricing plan you pick, Shopify offers many options to showcase your products online and to make your store work for you.

Some features with Basic Shopify plan:

  • Unlimited products
  • 70+ professional themes (customisable)
  • Built-in mobile shopping cart
  • Inventory management
  • Email, live chat & phone support
  • 100 payment gateways (PayPal, IDEAL, Visa etc.)
  • Credit and debit card payments from all major card companies
• WIX – Pricing starts at €17/mo – Business Basic

Wix is an online store builder that has made it easy to design a great online store for your business. With the platform’s ‘drag and drop’ function, creating a basic storefront can be done in minutes. If you are looking for a simple and sleek online store builder, Wix could be a great option for you. 

Some features with Business Basic plan:

  • 20GB storage
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Google analytics
  • Credit and debit card payments from all major card companies
  • PayPal, Venmo, Stripe etc.
  • Customise cart page
  • Free domain for 1 year
• Weebly – Pricing starts at €0/mo – Free plan for basic use

Weebly provides an easy way for small businesses to sell their products online. A great advantage Weebly offers is the ability to let customers search and filter for products they’re looking for on your online store. Next to Wix, Weebly is quite similar in terms of the other features they offer.

Some features of the Free plan:

  • Site search
  • Quick shop
  • Inventory management
  • In-Store Pickup
  • Square gift cards
  • Chat, email & phone support
  • Instagram feed integration
  • Add sorting and filter option
• Squarespace – Pricing starts at €17/mo – Personal plan

Squarespace is the right option for you if you’re looking for an online store builder that will help you create visually strong storefronts. The platform allows you to insert your text, images, and files wherever you want on your site. While the cheapest plan for online stores starts at €17/mo, you’ll probably want to look at the Business plan for €24/mo, as it provides you with more ‘necessary’ features. 

Some features with Business plan:

  • Fully integrated eCommerce
  • Unlimited Products
  • Gift cards
  • Customer accounts
  • Checkout on your domain
  • Analytics
  • Products on Instagram

But don’t just take our word for it! Definitely take a moment to check out some other platforms to find the one that works best for you.


Step 1 – Build Your Online Store

Great, so once you’ve found a platform and plan that works best for you, we can start building your online store! Of course, there are endless possibilities with the way you can customise or design your store, but there are some main steps you’ll have to take. 

Once you’ve done this, you can go all out on design and extra’s, if you really want to. 

1. Pick a domain name

First, you’ll have to pick a domain name for your online store. If you already own a domain, you can often just use that. If not, you’d probably want to keep your domain name synonymous with your brand name.

With the countless number of websites out there, however, there are some chances that the domain name you’d like to use, is already taken. You might have to be a little creative to find an available one that also makes sense with your company name! 

When using an online store builder, a default website often automatically comes with a domain from that builder (e.g. www.username.wixsite.com/ for WIX). If you don’t want to have a default domain name, you ‘re usually able to replace the default URLs by connecting your own domain name.

When choosing a new domain name, be sure to keep the following things in mind:

  • Search for your business or brand name (or something synonymous).
  • Make sure it works well with your logo and overall brand aesthetic.
  • Try to keep it as short as possible.
  • Check the availability of your domain name on a wide range of domain extensions.

2. Design your online store

The design of your website often is one of the first and most important determining factors for your customers whether they’ll want to buy something from you or not. If you’re presented with a sketchy website that is selling a number of products, chances are big that you’re exiting that page within seconds. 

Establishing a sense of credibility and trustworthiness is crucial if you want consumers to place orders at your business. 

Making use of the pre-built website templates and themes offered by online store builders, therefore, is a great option! Not only do they often have a clean & responsive design, up-to-date tech and available support, it’s usually the cheapest way as well! Oftentimes, users are also able to customise and tweak the templates to their liking. 

So what are some things you have to keep in mind?

Your homepage is now your storefront

Your online store’s homepage is very important. Not only does it act as the gateway for visitors to understand what your company is about, it also has a great impact on your traffic, SEO ranking and conversion numbers. 

Whereas normally customers would walk past your store and look inside to see what you are offering and what your business’ feel is, their first impression of your business is now made on your homepage. Here are some things you should have/do to create a successful homepage:

  • Feature your best products
  • Be sure to make it mobile-friendly
  • Include a search functionality if possible
  • Create a prominent main menu for easy navigation
  • Add high-quality images or videos to your homepage
  • Include customer reviews and demonstrate site security
  • Keep it clear and simple, don’t add too much distractions
  • Have a fast loading speed
Have a simple navigational structure

With a good navigation system, you’ll help your customers to find whatever they’re looking for faster and more efficiently. If your visitors can’t figure out where to go, they’ll probably leave quickly and shop elsewhere. 

To avoid losing customers due to inefficient navigation, think about the following:

  • Use clear and meaningful language. Although it might be fun to be creative with wording, it could end up confusing your customers.
  • Follow common navigation conventions. Similar to confusing your customers with unique wording and labels, by following the usual navigation conventions, you’ll make it easier for your visitors to find the navigation bar.
  • Create product category tabs within your navigation menu. This will help you guide your customers to specific items, your most popular products or perhaps your Sales section.
  • Have a website footer. A great website footer design keeps visitors engaged and moving through your online store. That’s why it could be a good practice to add a copy of the main menu in the footer. Usually, the footer is also the place where you’d find the websites’ technical and legal information. 

3. Create these must-have pages 

Every business is different, which means that their online stores might have different needs as well. When it comes to the customers, however, they’ll often have set expectations of websites. This includes the information they expect to find and where to find this information. 

When you’re creating the website for your online store, there are a number of general pages that all online stores should have. 

  1. Homepage
  2. Product pages
  3. About Us page
  4. Contact Us page
  5. Privacy policy page
  6. Return policy page
  7. Page not found page
  8. Sitemap (a sitemap page is a non-fancy index page that lists all the web pages you have on your website)


Step 2 – Add Products

Great! Now that you have set up the basics of your online store, it’s time to add your products. 

The way you’re able to add your products will differ, depending on the online store builder you’ve chosen to work with. If you want to know exactly how to do it, check out the support pages of your chosen platform (Shopify | Wix | Weebly | Squarespace). 

Some things that should always be included when adding a product, however, are:

  • Product names
  • Product descriptions
  • Prices
  • Categories
  • Formats and weights
  • Product images/videos
  • Shipping details (if possible)
  • Product reviews (if possible)

When buying products in physical stores, customers are able to see products in real life and make a weighted decision based on their observation. This is not the case with online shopping. When buying stuff online, consumers will have to go on what’s been provided by the company. If any important information about the product is missing, chances are big that your customers will get annoyed and take their business somewhere else. 

This is why it’s important to make sure your product descriptions are detailed, engaging and convincing & that your product images are of high quality, the same size and from different angles. Do try to stay away from including too much complex worden, cliches and long sentences. An informative product description can make the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity! 


Step 3 – Set Up Payment Methods

Setting up payment methods for your store – another vital part of creating a successful online store. Remember: this is the ‘place’ where you’ll convert consumers into customers. Make it easy for customers to make it easy for you. You don’t want to lose them at the very last step of purchasing!

Luckily, most online store builders have made it simple for users to add a number of payment options and optimise the process. 

Now there are many different payments options available, so how do you know what to pick for your online store? *Again, here it’s also important to know what rules and regulations apply for online payments in your country. 

Always keep in mind what suits best with your customers. What payment option fits best with the majority of your customer base? Do they use credit or debit cards, IDEAL, PayPal or would they prefer a post purchase payment option like Klarna? These are questions you’ll have to think about before making a decision. 

  • Make sure to offer a secure checkout experience. Have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate for your online store, in order to provide a secure connection and encrypt payment information!
  • Different payment methods come with different fees and charges – know what your business will be paying for and/or your customers.
  • Also consider allowing customers to purchase products without having to create an account on your site.


Step 4 – Sort Out Delivery Options

Now that you’ve set up the store and added some payment options, you’ll have to start thinking about how to deliver all of your orders!

If you choose to ship orders to customers, there are a few things you should figure out. 

  • Will you be shipping orders from an address that is not the same as your office? If so, make sure you use a separate shipping origin address for your shipping labels and quotes.
  • Where will you be shipping your orders to? Will you enable orders to be shipped to other countries or regions or only locally? How will this affect the shipping rates? 

Once you have decided on this, make sure you display this well on your website for customers to see!

If you know where you’ll be shipping your orders to, you can start thinking about how you will deliver them. There are a number of options you can usually pick from:

  • Free shipping
  • Flat rates within a certain country or area
  • Rates based on order prices (reduced shipping costs with certain min. spend)
  • Real-time costs based on size, weight and destination
  • Free local or in-store pickups

If you decide to work with a parcel delivery service, you’ll have to pick a courier to do so. Naturally, the available couriers will differ per country or region.

With many brick and mortar stores being forced to close up shop in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, making use of parcel delivery services might not always be an option. For those smaller businesses, consider one of these options could be good:

  • Personally delivering the orders to local customers 
  • Add a free ‘store pickup’ option, so local customers can collect their orders at your store from a safe distance. 


Step 5 – Preview, Review and Test

Nice – you’ve now gone through the most important steps of setting up your own online store! Last thing you’ll want to do before going live is testing, and doing this thoroughly.

Most online store builders will let you preview the website and test all the functionalities before publishing it – this is a must-do!

While you should just test everything on your online store, pay close attention to these points: 

  • The buying process: searching, picking, checkout, payment & shipping options
  • Correct display of prices and products (in carts as well)
  • Correct display and processing of discounts and sales
  • Website navigation & responsiveness (mobile devices & different browsers)
  • Content and contact details check

Whether you’re able to publish your online store after reviewing your website depends on the specific process of your chosen online store builder – always check if you haven’t missed a step! If not, congratulations – you’re now the proud owner of an online store!


Attract Customers to Your Website

Whoo – You’ve managed to get yourself an online store for your business, well done! Now that people are able to buy your products from the comforts of their homes, you’ll have to find a way to attract customers to your online store. Telling your friends and family about it simply won’t be enough. 

It’s pretty obvious that without traffic to your website, you won’t be able to sell your products. And if you are getting more traction to your website, but from the ‘wrong’ audience, you STILL won’t be able to sell your products. That’s why it’s important to first take a deep dive into who your target audience is, and how you should reach them.  

So what should you do?

One of the fastest and most effective ways to generate traffic to your website is by promoting your business online! Through online advertising, you’ll be able to attract relevant potential customers to your business, even for those with a small budget! 

The two most common methods of online advertising is through search engines (like Google) or social platforms (like Facebook and Instagram).

Social advertising 

With the incredible amount of daily users on social platforms, social advertising offers small businesses a great opportunity to market their products to an audience that would be likely to be interested in buying certain products, based on their interest, online behaviour and individual characteristics. 

Social media advertising is great for:

  • Raising brand awareness
  • Acquiring new customers
  • Boosting conversion rates
  • Its low-cost approach (efficient ROI)

Google advertising

Google also offers many different ways to promote your business to potential customers. While it ranges from the ads you see on top of your Google search results, banner ads placed on websites or the ads played on YouTube videos, if you’re just starting out with advertising, it’s good to keep things simple. 

By advertising through Google, you can:

  • Reconnect with visitors from your website
  • Only pay when someone clicks on your ads
  • Easily control your budget
  • Build your online store’s visibility

For your online store, however, it’ll be good to focus on Google search ads (or Search Network campaigns) for now. 

A Google Search ad is a type of advertisement that appears on Google’s search engine results pages after someone ‘Googles’ for a specific search term. By running Google Search ads, you’ll be able to help your online store stand out from the search results and get noticed by people who might be searching for your product or service! If you want to know how to create a Google Search ad, be sure to check out this beginners guide!

Over to You!

Though there are many ways to advertise your business online, if you’re just starting out, it’ll be good to keep things simple and effective. Don’t worry though, we’re going to help you get started.

Advertising is what we do best and as a Google & Facebook advertising partner we’ll know just what will help you get the most out of your online business 😉

Eager to start gaining traffic to your online store? With our free Google Search tool, you’ll be able to set up Google search ads within a few simple clicks – no need for prior experience and no hassle working with confusing systems!

Click here if you’d like to check it out!

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