How To Build Your First Online Store [Comprehensive Guide]

In the past, setting up a self-run business was not for everyone. But when this decade began, things changed a lot. Online stores have opened up businesses with such a fast pace that they far outnumber brick and mortar shops.

E-commerce platforms like WoocommerceMagento, Shopify, BigCommerce, etc. with millions of online stores, all create more than $1.2 billion in revenue.

Sounds crazy, right? The good news is that even you can build an online store. It is easy, simple, and won’t require you to break your bank (or your head).

Here are some straight-forward steps to get your online dream store up and running:

1. Product Planning for your online store

What are you going to sell?

Is your store selling clothing, gadgets, food & grocery items, books, jewelry, or sporting goods?

Zeroing in on the product, or types of products you are planning to sell is called product planning. Try out some of these ideas to find your first product:

  • Look for the most sought out products from search engine keywords.
  • Spot underserved customer groups.
  • Find what it is customers love to do but do not have a proper way of doing it.
  • Give to the world what you’re good at doing (like a store selling professional photographs).
  • Bridge the supply and demand gap.
  • Gain an early entry into trends (selfie sticks, leggings, portable speakers, etc.).

2. Target Customer Group

Who will buy your product(s)?

The “target customer group” is the group of customers with common traits of age, gender, location, interests, etc. who will pay for your product(s).

Knowing your target customer is extremely important. Pitching school backpacks to corporate employees will not result in very many sales.

target-customer-group
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Identifying the target customer group early on will help you sell more products through online mediums. It will help you build traffic from the right sources and keep costs down. With online marketing methods like demographic-based advertising, you are sure to win more customers from target customer groups.

3. Choice of E-commerce Platform

Which platform will your store be built upon?

There are plenty of options when it comes to picking an e-commerce platform.

When shopping around for a platform for your online store, look for features like:

  • Code-level customization
  • Integrations
  • Scalability
  • Security measures
  • Page loading speed
  • Multiple store management
  • etc.

Also check if the platform has a thriving community, forum, or support system where assistance can be sought from when you are having technical trouble.

4. Responsive Design

Will your store be mobile friendly?

A lion’s share of online activity (including shopping) is now being performed with a smartphone. ComScore estimates (based on a Morgan Stanley study) the usage of mobile devices has increased and overtaken the usage of desktops.

Number of Global Users
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The bottom line is that your online store must be easily accessible to all mobile users.

responsive design is a must. A mobile website with a responsive design will be so helpful to you during the initial days of your launch. After a quarter of successful selling, you may even try an upgrade to a dedicated mobile app.

For further reading:

5. Product Photography

How well can you display your products?

Customers buy what they see.

In online selling, product photography plays a key role in convincing customers to make a buying decision. The store must make it a point to show the product from all corners, including a zoomed-in shot. This will enable customers to have a close-up inspection of the product just like at an actual store.

Bonus tip: Use light screens or backgrounds (preferably white) for product photography for maximum contrast to the product images.

6. Personalized Service

Will your store deliver personalized service?

No software or online store goes live without testing the user experience. Moreover, delivering a personalized experience is mandatory for any online service. Customers must not feel like they have logged into an online vacuum.

A/B testing and heat-mapping customer behavior help you to know what actions customers perform first when they log into the website. This will help you deliver a personalized experience tailor-made to each customer’s preferences.

As a result, your bounce rates will decrease and conversion rates will increase.

Here is a visual example of customer heat-mapping in an online store:

Online Store
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7. Security of your store

Is your store safe for online shopping?

At least one-third of online shoppers hesitate to pay using credit cards fearing cyber attacks. Internet customers will only shop from sources where they have trust that things won’t go wrong.

When we say “things going wrong”, we mean:

  • Credit card theft
  • User account information leaks
  • Server hacks
  • Unauthorized transactions
  • Privacy concerns
  • etc.

Embrace SSL security

  • SSL is recognized by industry veterans as a foolproof way to protect websites from all forms of security threats like hacking, snooping, and phishing.
  • SSL certificates ensure that the data or users entering the website are legit and free of any malicious after effects.
  • Embracing SSL security has many results. At least one out of three customers confirm that they feel more confident dealing with an online store or website that has SSL encryption than one which does not.

Further, search engines are priming their algorithms to reward higher search engine ranking for websites with SSL encryption.

8. Marketing

Can you make the customer buy?

If selling is good, marketing is great.

Marketing is the trigger which will nudge a hesitant window-shopper to become an active shopper.

the-aim-of-marketing-is-to-know-and-understand-the-customer
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Quoting the management guru Peter Drucker:

“Marketing is an introspection process where you understand the customer and his/her preferences better to sell more. Without it, your online store will be just another web portal.”

Being an online business, here are some online marketing strategies you can try to boost your store’s online presence and selling prowess:

  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Google AdWords campaigning
  • Pay per click campaigning
  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Display advertising

Each digital marketing process has its own target audience, purpose, and results. Weigh them against your target audience to pick an appropriate one that will bring in more conversions.

Building an Online Store

What are you waiting for?

Building an online store does not need to be a head-banging process if you bear in mind the above-mentioned tactics. The golden rule to sell more is to listen to your customers more.

In short: The customer is King.

What are some tips you have for building an online e-commerce store? Let me know in the comments below!

Like this post? Don’t forget to share it!

This is a guest post by Megha. If you would like to submit a guest post, read our submission guidelines.

Here are a few hand-picked guides for you to read next:

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Authored By
Megha Parikh is a Digital Strategist and having 6+ years of experience in the field of Internet Marketing. She especially enjoys learning about social media marketing and conversion rate optimization while exploring her social and interpersonal skills.

46 thoughts on “How To Build Your First Online Store [Comprehensive Guide]”

  1. Great Article ! I user WooCommerce on WordPress platform for one of my Client. I found it to be very easy to use and even my Client finds it simple on how can he view his Store.

  2. HI Megha, This article is very useful for young entrepreneurs..Great information.and anyone can start the online store but customer feel insecure while time to pay money, for that also you have explained in very fine manner. That’s really cool..keep posting such an useful article..

    1. Hi Megha, I’m happy you find this article useful and informative for young entrepreneurs.
      Thanks for your kind words. It means a lot to me πŸ™‚

  3. Hey Megha,

    Nowadays, people are heading towards the online shopping. Most of the people like to buy the products online. There are many e-commerce websites available.

    But if you want to create your own online store then Shopify is one of the best platforms. Apart from all the above-mentioned platforms, you can also use WordPress.

    Thanks for this informative article.
    ~Ravi

    1. Hi Ravi,

      Shopify is one of the best ecommerce platform that helps you sell online, or in person. Thanks for sharing your views here.

  4. Online Business, many thinkinng about it now a days including me..this article is very helpful to me to know the basic idea of the online stores..and it also very useful to many others..I must say thanks to you..

    1. Hello Pranay,

      I’m happy you found it helpful. Thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts here.
      Have a nice day!

  5. Thanks Megha, This article is very useful for setup online business. Your article give the basic knowledge of how to setup Online Store? Its very valuable info. to know all the people who setup online business. Words of PETER DUCKER is very useful word to marketing the product & services. Please Posting such kind of articles & thanx again megha. Your experience is very knowledgeble for us. I really appricate your articel.

    1. Hello Geetika,

      I wrote this comprehensive guide for the beginners who want to setup their online store. And when the readers like you appreciate the efforts, it really makes me feel great.
      Your words encourage me to write more stuff in future.
      Thank you for stopping by and reading my article. Have a great time πŸ™‚

  6. Online Stores takes much effort to build its reputation you have to make your customers believe this website have no threat for anyone it is totally secure to do shopping, there were some main points where you have to do some works to make your online stores good for shopping you have to work on the area of security for make your users believe that there will no harm for them when they paid online and you have also put some efforts on SEO to make your store popular and at the same time you to advertise it on many platforms at the same time you have to take the reviews from the customers that how your store working.

    1. Hello Navneet,

      I really appreciate your effort to write down your valuable views here. Thank you for reading my post and commenting here.

  7. Great, informative post, but even with a great online platform like shopify, you still wont be able to make money online without some online marketing. Its not as it sounds

    1. Cassidy Hennigan

      Well, Shopify does indeed a wonderful job with their e-commerce platform. Has anybody here tried their support? They’re sweeter than honey and will go out of their way to help out. They’re not as successful just because!

      1. Hello Cassidy,

        Thank you for sharing some additional (and wonderful) information here. Have a great time ahead πŸ™‚

    2. If you want to make your business successful, you have to build a strong online presence. Onlline marketing helps to improve your online visibility and brand image.

  8. Hi Megha,

    What a wonderful job you’ve done here!

    As a blogger, I know how important content is to building your business… but you also need to have the right products to sell in order to monetize it.

    I think eCommerce has become so popular because it gives people something tangible to promote and sell.

    Ideas, information and how-to instruction is just so overly available that the info products are tougher to market, but physical products are always going to sustain a good business model.

    You’ve pointed out all the highlights for doing just that, so thank you for myself, and for all my crowd that I will share this with.

    -Donna

    1. Hey Donna,

      I’m really happy to know that you love this information. Thanks for coming by and sharing your wonderful thoughts here.

      Thanks once again,

  9. Great Post, But for as a beginner, I would prefer Shopify or Woocommerce. Well, thanks Megha for such helpful article.

  10. You did not list Bitnami’s OpenCart which i think is also a great user friendly platform for building online stores, especially in contrast to other platforms like Magneto that could sometimes be a pain in the butt.

    And for security, asides SSL, there are good programs like maxmind that help with securing your shopping site against hacks and theft of user information, these programs can track details of visitor data and compare IP addresses depending on how you configure them to work

    And lastly, what is the use of an online shop if you will not do a proper marketing for it to reach the required audience??? It is also good to do proper SEO optimisation as well as feed submission to automate organic traffic.

    Great post as usual, Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Benny,

      Thanks for suggesting additional platforms to add into my list. I’d definitely consider these.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your wonderful words here. Have a great day πŸ™‚

  11. Business planning is the major subject for establishing an business. This is not different from online business like e-commerce. Personally I like Shopify software for building an e-commerce website as well as online store.
    However thanks for sharing this good tips with us.

  12. MEGHA PARIKH Thanks for all these efforts. I highly request you to wright another article about Ali Express and Alibaba. How we can find a cheap products and sell it on over sites. Thanks again

    1. Hi Monika,

      Thanks for suggesting me the topic for my next writing piece. I will definitely consider it.

      Thank you for reading my article.

  13. Vishwajeet Kumar

    I am also willing to start a online store for my friend. I have tried many eCommerce platforms but never had tried shopify. I will definitely check it out. Sounds interesting to me. Thanks for sharing this.

  14. Hi Megha Parikh Sir,
    WordPress is Very Easy For WooCommerce. Please Guide About Payment Method Paypal is Easy.If We Add Master Card Option It Show Some Error We Buy Any Service For Master Card?

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