How to set up an Online Shop

By SME Insurance

Posted 08/08/18

How to set up an online shop

In 2017 global online retail sales totalled $2.3 trillion, a figure which is expected to grow rapidly to an incredible $4.4 trillion by 2021 [1]. So there’s a lot of opportunity for online retailers to make a mark and expand their customer bases. This guide will help you set up your own online shop and start taking advantage of all that potential profit.

Decide on Your Product

It’s important to have decided on your product and have suppliers and stock lined up before you launch. Because online shoppers want to receive their purchases in good time, and don’t expect to be waiting around for weeks as you find the stock.

Before you decide on what you’ll be selling you need to consider the associated costs. If you’ve opted for a larger product like furniture you must arrange an appropriate courier or shipment method. And if you’re selling a higher quantity of smaller items you must have the capacity to individually wrap and pack everything.

Your product will dictate a lot about your online shop. So choosing that early will help the rest of your decisions run more smoothly.

Is Online Right for You? [2]

Online retailing isn’t the only way to set up a business, and just like a bricks and mortar shop, it has its advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the potential advantages of retailing online

  • Reach more customers.
  • Easier to track demand.
  • Quick to set up.
  • Easier to test products.
  • Always open.

Disadvantages of Retailing Online

  • The costs of setting up a website, including hosting fees, security certificates and domain charges.
  • Heavy reliance on digital marketing, there’s no physical shop for customers to walk past so you’ll need to take your shop to customers. And that can be expensive – for example, if you are using paid for advertisements such as Google ads.
  • Technical issues – there’s always the potential for something to go wrong which could effect your website from working correctly and prevent people carrying out purchases. Security – ecommerce websites can be a prime target for criminals to steal payment data so you’ll need to invest in robust protection.

However, you don’t need to run your own website. There’s a range of different online platforms that you can use to sell your products.

1. Pick your Platform

If you’re looking to test the waters to see if you can run your own online shop, and you’re not ready to set up a store or website then Facebook has its own market place where you can advertise your goods.

You can also take advantage of the larger sites like eBay and Amazon Marketplace, which  provide opportunities for small start-ups to sell with the added benefits that comes from the ecommerce giants – such as HUGE potential audiences.  Whilst sites like Etsy and Notonthehighstreet feel more personal and specialise in unique finds, handmade items and vintage products.

Then you’ve got specific, specialist ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce that let you tailor your site without having to build one from scratch. These have payment channels built in and give you deep insight into your inventory and customers’ buying habits, which you could use to  help you improve your sales. The level of extras you get depends on how much you’re willing to pay, and with so many competitors in the playing field you’ll be able to find a platform to suit your budget. [3]

The final option is to build your own website completely from scratch, but for a newcomer there’s a lot you’d have to consider with this – from hosting fees to paying for a domain name, as well as a lot of overheads to consider.

2. Research, Research!

Just as you would if you were setting up a physical shop, you must do your research! Start by identifying your competitors, what they do best and what you can beat them at.  And don’t stop researching them once you’ve finished setting up shop – keep analysing them, comparing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and targets. Thi will help to shape the direction of your shop and help you stand out amongst your competitors. It’s also important to research your target customers, in order to understand what they’re looking for and how best to reach them.

3. Consider your Marketing

When setting up an online shop, marketing becomes much more of an investment – you need to work hard to get your shop noticed.

If you’ve chosen to set up your own website then search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques are a way to boost your shop up the Google rankings page. Ecommerce merchant Shopify has a really great article on SEO for beginners which should help you on your way to achieving the ranking and traffic you want.

Setting up profiles on social media is an easy way to promote your shop, allowing you to share promotions, popular products and new stock. Post regularly and engage with your followers to  build up a loyal customer base.

4. Make use of Data

A big benefit of opening an online shop is that you’ll be able to collect data on your customers. You can use this to profile your target audience and even potentially see how they arrived on your site. This will help you target customers more accurately in the future. This, in turn, will ultimately help inform everything from the products you stock to the way you communicate with your customers.

Just make sure that you’re aware of GDPR, and  don’t fall foul of regulation!

 

Sources

[1] https://www.statista.com/topics/871/online-shopping/

[2] https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/advantages-and-disadvantages-online-retailing

[3] https://ecommerce-platforms.com/compare/top-10-shopify-alternatives

Posted 08/08/18

Author: SME Insurance

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