- Step 1: Decide what you’re going to sell
- Step 2: Expectations and basic planning
- Step 3: Design
- Step 4: Content and Multimedia
- Step 5: Payment methods and shipping options
- Step 6: Promotion
Do you want to start your own business and make extra money on the side? Do you already have a physical store and want to expand your business by selling online? Can you imagine being your own boss and working from wherever you want?
Creating an online store is a good way to start a business with a reduced initial investment. However, all that glitters is not gold. Unrealistic expectations and bad planning can lead the project to ruin.
In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know to create your online store in the easiest way and with the greatest chance of success.
Step 1: Decide what you’re going to sell
The success of your online store stands on one crucial decision – which products to sell. The profit margin, the competition, the sales and marketing costs and even the branding all depend on it.
To begin with, there are two major product categories, consumer products and niche products.
- Consumer products are those essential, high-demand products that we all use on a daily basis. They have high competition and are controlled by well established brands. They are the typical products you can find on Amazon or in big stores such as fashion items or smartphones.
- Niche products are those that target a specific need or a type of customer. They are often subcategories of more generic products. They have less competition so it is easier to position yourself as a brand. Two examples of niche products are snacks for vegans or backpacks for carrying laptops.
It is highly recommended to choose a niche product. With less competition, you won’t have to compete for price against giants like Amazon. With a more defined audience, it will be easier to create content and advertising campaigns and you will also be able to build your brand image faster.
For example, handmade items are often very successful on the Internet. These products allow you to control the whole process, they don’t have much competition and the public appreciates their value. If you are good at crafts, this is a perfect niche to start with.
Don’t worry if you’re not very handy. There are still many products you can sell in your online store. Learn how to find them below.
How to choose a good niche for your online store?
There are several factors to consider when choosing a niche to specialize in.
Cheap products will be easier to sell, but you will have to make many sales to cover the costs of your online store. On the other hand, if you choose a very expensive product, the sales margin will be higher and you will have to make fewer sales of the same product.
It is advisable to choose an intermediately-priced niche with an average cost between 80 and 120$. This price range allows you a good margin per sale without being too difficult to reach a sufficient volume of sales to easily cover the costs.
Do a Google search. Are big brands competing for the same niche? Do you think you can do a better job in terms of content? If Amazon or eBay already have a specific category for your niche, perhaps it’s best to find another niche or specialize just in a particular part of a niche.
Google trends and look at the search trend for your niche or major products. Is there a positive trend? Better to choose a niche with a progressive trend rather than fashionable products that grow quickly but then disappear.
Google trends will also show you the seasonality of your niche. There are some niche products with demand focused on specific months, for example Christmas jumpers or kid floats. This kind of niche can be profitable, but all orders/sales will happen around the same time with only a few sales made during the rest of the year.
A good strategy would be to combine products from different seasons but targeted at the same people (e.g., flip-flops and winter hats both made from recycled plastic).
Selling to someone who’s already bought something from you is easier than looking for new customers all the time.
For example, the wedding niche seems very attractive a priori, but customers usually don’t come back to shop for wedding dresses more than once. On the other hand, pet products or personal care items have great potential and a satisfied customer can return many times.
Shipping costs will play an important part in the success or failure of your online store. Prioritize small and lightweight products. The cost of shipping will be lower and you will be able to offer more competitive prices without losing your margin.
Choose a product niche of which you have prior knowledge or at least are interested in. This will make it easier for you to create valuable content and position yourself as an expert. If you pick a niche just because of its economic potential, it will be easier to lose interest.
Where to find good niches?
You don’t need advanced tools to find interesting niches. Google Trends, or Google’s own search engine are perfect places to start.
You can also look around Amazon, AliExpress or eBay. Take a look at the best seller section, is there any niche product? It might be interesting to investigate it in more detail.
Introducing something that is already successful in another country or giving it a different focus is a good idea. Visit websites such as Trustiu or Flippa and see which of the listed stores have the highest turnover. Evaluate all your ideas according to the elements above.
Step 2: Expectations and basic planning
Have you found a niche for your online store? Congratulations, from now on the decisions to be made will be easier.
To have an online store you need the following:
- Hosting: this is the webserver where the files that make up your online store are saved.
- Domain: the name of your store, it allows visitors to easily find the server where your online store is located. (e.g., www.myonlinestore.com)
- Content management system: the tool where you build the visible parts of your online store (homepage, categories, product pages)
- Order manager: the place where you receive and manage orders.
It is unrealistic to think that once your shop is online, you will start receiving orders without doing anything else. For your store to become successful, you will have to invest time in attracting visitors and managing orders.
A quick search online will reveal that there are many systems for building online stores. The key is to choose a platform that allows you to invest most of your time in getting customers.
In this sense, Webnode is a good choice. The platform includes all the elements mentioned above. Its philosophy is to simplify the technical aspects as much as possible so that you can focus your attention on those areas that generate value.
Because it allows you to create an online store in a matter of minutes, you can test your market niche and business model without having to invest a lot of time.
In the following steps we will tell you how to create and optimize your online store using Webnode – an online website builder offering all the necessary elements for creating a successful online store.
First of all, it is advisable to plan the general structure of your online store. Find paper and pencil and draw the layout of your shop’s pages.
Pay particular attention to the organization of the products in categories. You can organize your products according to the type of their use, who they are intended for, price or color. It all depends on the niche of your store and the number of products.
You can also create dynamic categories such as best-selling products and special offers.
- Find the balance between the smallest number of categories possible and an intuitive organization of your products. It should be possible to reach any category in less than 3 clicks.
- Limit the number of subcategories to a minimum. The simpler, the better.
- Keep around the same number of products within each category.
For example, if we were creating a shoe store, this could be its structure:
Of course, the fewer products you have, the easier it is to organize and manage your online store. Start small with a specialized niche and a limited number of products. Focusing your efforts in this way will allow you to be more efficient and attract more visibility than the big online stores.
Step 3: Design
Once you have defined the structure of your shop, it is time to start working with the online tool.
Go to Webnode.com and sign up.
The tool will show you various templates that will serve as a guide when creating your online store. All the templates are customizable, so don’t worry if there isn’t one that meets the exact criteria you’re looking for.
Do you like a template that’s not included in the Online store category? No problem, you can add an e-shop feature to any of the templates. If you want, you can have a website with both a blog and an online shop.
Using a template to create your online store has important advantages. The templates you see have been created by professional designers, so you can rest assured that the design of your online store meets all the professional standards.
This allows you to focus on the content of your online store instead of the “minor decisions” such as the font size for subtitles or the alignment of text on a particular page in your store. If you wish, you can just upload your products and be sure that the design and usability will work perfectly on computers, smartphones, as well as tablets.
Do you want full control over the design of your online store? Follow the tips below to get the best results and maintain a professional appearance.
- Less is more: the simpler website the better. When there’s too much going on, it’s more difficult to focus on just one part of the page. It can overwhelm potential buyers and make them leave the store. Find the balance between providing the necessary information and keeping your store design clear and simple.
- Visual hierarchy: Sort the elements from the most to the least important. You can play with sizes, positioning on a page or the contrast with the background. A good visual hierarchy helps direct buyer’s attention to where it matters.
- Text colour and typography: As far as text is concerned, functionality is more important than design. The font you choose should be easy to read and have optimal contrast against the background of the page.
- Responsive design: A high percentage of visitors will use smartphones to enter and shop in your online store. Although Webnode offers templates that perfectly fit any device, don’t forget to check how your store looks on smartphones.
- Visual Aids: Use small clues to draw attention to calls to action, forms or purchase buttons. Arrows and pictures of people looking or pointing to where you want your visitors to go work very well.
Step 4: Content and Multimedia
Once you have chosen a template and took care of design, it’s time to add content. This is the most important part of any online store, blog or website.
In general, when we buy a product we go through these stages:
Discovery >> Interest >> Selection >> Purchase
The content of your online store has to help the visitor advance through this shopping process. When working on the content of your store, think about the stage the visitor is currently in and how that particular content will help move the potential customer forward in their shopping process.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy and each phase requires a different type of content. For example:
- Discovery: The objective is to show visitors the benefits of the product you’re selling. This can be done through blog articles or videos. A good strategy is to compile a list of questions that people search for on Google about the products you sell. In our shoe store example, we could create an article about how to choose the right shoes if you’d like to take up running or explain why hiking through the mountains in tennis shoes is not a good idea.
- Interest: At this stage, the visitor probably already has some idea about the advantages of your product. It’s time to present your brand and provide more information about the product itself. This concerns the content on the product pages, information about your company, tutorials on how to use your product and product reviews. To our imaginary shoe store we could add a page introducing ourselves as specialists on running and hiking shoes, insert a video to the product page explaining their advantages or make a tutorial on how to keep these shoes in good shape.
- Selection: By now, the customer has almost definitely decided to buy your product. This is the moment to define exactly which product (if there are several similar products) and where to make the purchase. The product pages are vital for this objective and if the product is complex, it is a good idea to add a side-by-side comparison.Continuing with our example, we can provide a comparison of shoes according to the type of the runner, include detailed information on a product page and explain the price and shipping costs.
- Purchase: It would be a shame to lose the sale at this ultimate moment. At this point in the process, the most important thing is to build trust. Making a purchase online, especially in a new store, requires a vote of confidence. Every potential customer will have similar questions: Is it safe to pay here? Will they send me the product? What if it’s not what I expected?
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to build trust:
- Clear contact information: Show who you are and how to contact you. It’s very important to include a phone number so your customers can talk to someone if there is a problem.
- Shipping and return policy: Explain how the shipment works and how long it takes for the product to arrive. The possibility of returning the purchased product if it is not what you expected also generates a lot of confidence and often the benefits of this practice exceed their costs.
- Payment methods: Describe the payment methods and how secure they are. With a Webnode-based website, you can highlight elements such as HTTPS, external payment gateways or the option to pay with PayPal
- Opinions of former customers: We are social beings. Proving that someone else has shopped here and was satisfied will help persuade more people to trust your store.
When creating your online store, it is normal to first focus on the main pages (product pages, categories, brand pages). As soon as you can, try to build trust and create content also for those visitors who are in the Discovery and Interest phase of the purchase process.
Product Pages play an important role within your online store. Their content is relevant for visitors in multiple phases of the shopping process. Be sure to pay special attention to them and follow the tips below to get the most out of your product pages.
Structure: The structure can differ, depending on the product itself. In general, a good product page includes generic information first and the details later. A good structure would be:
- Product name
- Transparent purchase and shipping price
- Basic description
- Product benefits: What will the user gain from using the product
- Characteristics and functionalities
- Tutorial/Maintenance instructions or a video
- Other buyers’ opinions
- Brand Information
- Related products
Writing style: Present the product in a natural, clear and concise way. Use short words and phrases. They make reading easier along with short paragraphs, subtitles and lists (e.g., of benefits, functions and features). Use bold text or italics to highlight important ideas.
SEO: Keep SEO in mind when working on the product pages. Include the words that potential customers type in Google to search for the product.
A very common mistake is copying the manufacturer’s product descriptions. Many stores that sell the same products then have the exact same content, making it more difficult to position the product pages in Google.
Call to Action: Every product page should include a clear “call to action”. In case of product pages, the desired action is usually to buy something, but it can also be to fill out a form or contact the sales team.
In any case, there’s no need to come up with something special. “Add to cart” or “Buy now” is more than enough. Webnode even adds a buy button to all the product pages by default.
Images and video
Although we are growing used to shopping online, online stores face a serious disadvantage compared to physical ones – potential customers can’t directly touch the products.
To overcome this obstacle, images and videos on the product pages are very important. It is highly recommended to use professional images taken from different angles. If you can’t, try to light the product properly by using a good camera.
The images have a great influence over the decision to purchase. After all, sight is the only sense we can use in an online store.
Video is one of the best ways to present a product in more detail.
The more professional a video is the better. However, its quality is not as important as the images on the product page. We are getting used to seeing amateur product demonstrations on YouTube.
Step 5: Payment methods and shipping options
Once you have convinced a visitor to press the buy button, you need him to be able to complete the order easily. If there is a problem, some customers will try to contact you, but the vast majority will simply go to another online store and you will lose the sale.
If you use Webnode to create your online store, you don’t have to worry about how the payment process works. The system is designed by experts to make shopping easier. Among other things:
- A customer doesn’t have to register to make the purchase
- It shows the steps of the process in the checkout
- It is compatible with smartphones and other devices
- It includes the boxes to be checked in accordance with the GDPR.
However, there are still two elements that you have to set up according to the characteristics of your business – payment methods and shipping options.
Although the most used payment methods differ depending on the country, these three are widely popular all over the world: Cash on Delivery, Bank Transfer and Credit Card payment.
- Cash on delivery offers customers the maximum security. You pay once you have the product in your hands. Although it usually comes with an added cost, many are willing to pay it for the increased security. It is possible that some of the customers who choose this method then decide not to pay, but the shop has to cover the shipping costs anyway. In this case, what’s secure for the customer is insecure for the shop. It is a good idea to include this payment method in the online store and if customers often choose not to pay when they receive the product, you can deactivate the method.
- Bank transfer allows you to avoid the anxiety that many people feel about using their credit card on the internet. The disadvantage is that the shipment occurs a bit later, once the store receives the money in the account.
- The credit card allows the store to receive the money on the spot and the shipment takes place as quickly as possible. As with any business, the store has an increased cost in the form of a commission or a flat rate.
In addition to these 3 options, other external payment gateways such as PayPal or Stripe are very common. They both allow the buyer to benefit from the speed of the credit card without the need to share its details with the online store.
As you can see, each form of payment has its advantages and disadvantages. Offering several forms of payment makes a lot of people happy, offering too many options can mislead the buyer. Make sure you find the balance.
The implementation of credit card payment gateways is a little more complicated. Usually you need to cooperate with your bank to get a special account with virtual POS or use intermediaries like Stripe or PayPal.
In Webnode, the implementation of credit cards is done through both Stripe and PayPal. The exact service and transaction fees vary by country, but Stripe usually comes out as cheaper. However, the PayPal brand is well known all over the world and there will buyers who feel more secure shopping with PayPal. It is therefore recommended to add both payment methods to your online shop.
Logistics are crucial for every online store. Not only do they influence the cost of sales, but also the shopping experience. Receiving the product in a week simply doesn’t feel the same as getting it the next day.
Approximately 25% of your turnover will go to the company providing the logistics. You must take into account that this company will also be perceived as the face of your company when a customer receives the product.
Therefore, along with the product niche, you are going to sell, the choice of the logistics company is one of the most important decisions for the success of your online store.
How to choose a logistics company for your store
First of all, you have to take into account your organizational model and the characteristics of the products you ship.
Drop shipping or e-fulfillment
Behind these strange words hides the organizational model of your store.
Drop shipping means that the products are in the supplier’s warehouse. After the sale, the transport company collects them there and takes care of packaging and shipping. In this model you are an intermediary – when you receive an order, you buy the item from the supplier and the transport company takes care of the shipping.
E-fulfillment means that you take care of storing and packaging the product when you receive an order. The transport company collects it from your warehouse and takes it to the customer. This is the case of online stores that sell handmade products.
Type of product
As you know, heavier products are more expensive to ship. Companies also take into account the dimensions of the packaged product. Calculate the average weight and dimensions of the products you sell to use this information later.
If the product is fragile or perishable and needs special shipping conditions you should also take this into account.
Number of monthly orders
Try to estimate in advance how many sales you can make. The shipping companies will offer you a lower price per order if you’ll send more shipments. If you manage to sell more items than you estimated within the first months, you can ask the transport company to update the price per shipment.
Destination of the shipments
We usually receive orders from within one country. However, it is possible that sending products to certain areas of the country will be more expensive. This is the case of the Canary Islands in Spain or large countries such as Mexico. Decide in advance if you want to accept orders from abroad or from these areas with higher shipping costs.
Once you have these details, contact several transport providers such as Local Post Office, FedEx, GLS, UPS and they’ll give you a price list. Be sure to negotiate with them, sometimes they can offer lower prices than they have in the list or provide special conditions for stores that are just starting up.
Since the price per order depends largely on the number of shipments, it is best to limit the number of carrier options in your online store. This way you can concentrate the largest amount of orders on one transport company and get a better price per shipment.
A good idea is to let customers choose between normal shipping and express shipping. Shipping companies have different prices for urgent shipments. Although it is possible to offer one company for urgent orders and another for normal orders you will be able to get a better price if you use the same one (again by concentrating more orders in one company).
As you can see, the costs of your online store do not cover merely the products, you should also take into account the commission for card payment and shipping fees.
It can be frustrating for the customer to see one price on the product page and another at the time of payment. It may be more profitable to raise the price on the product page and avoid price increases within the payment gateway.
Another good option is to include the cost of the payment method in the price of the product and add the cost of shipping in the payment gateway. In any case, with Webnode you can test and see what is most profitable for your shop.
Step 6: Promotion
It is unrealistic to think that as soon as you publish your online store, sales will come on their own. To be successful, you will have to spend most of your time attracting visitors.
This is where the main advantage of platforms like Webnode comes in. By saving you the hours spent on maintenance and programming you can maximize the time spent promoting your business – an activity that has a high impact on sales.
There are two main ways to promote a store and get visitors interested in your products. PPC (Pay per click) or SEO (Search engine optimization).
- PPC: Promote your store among the paid results on Google or Bing when a visitor searches for your product.
- SEO: Create the content on the topics your customers are looking for before they buy something to offer your products later.
While PPC provides immediate results, SEO works better in the long term. It is highly recommended to start with a PPC campaign when the store is ready, either on Google, Bing or Facebook. Then you can start working on SEO. This way, you will be able to attract visits from the very beginning.
Google Analytics implementation and conversion target
As soon as you can, add Google Analytics to your online store. This way you can find out how people come to your shop, which pages are the most visited or which products are bought most often.
Add the Google Analytics code to your Webnode store by following these steps. Then set your conversion target (Sales) so you can see what works and what doesn’t:
- In Google Analytics click on Administration (bottom right corner).
- Select Targets and click on New Target.
- Enter your target’s name (For example Purchase).
- Choose the destination type.
- In the target details, choose Regular Expression and then insert “order-complete” (without quotation marks). This is the default address of the “Order Completed” page on Webnode.
- If you want, add a monetary value to the target.
- Click on Save.
Once this is done, you will be able to see sales reports in your Google Analytics account when someone buys a product. You will also know if organic traffic brings in more sales than paid traffic or which are the most successful landing pages.
PPC (Pay per click)
Unlike SEO, which requires some work, with a PPC campaign you can get your products in front of potential customers much faster.
These types of payment campaigns are called PPC because you usually pay per click, in some cases there are also campaigns that are paid for impressions or even conversions.
Before you start a campaign, make sure you can measure the purchases. In Webnode, you can add Google Ads and Facebook Ads code through the Settings section and you can also add any other platform as an HTML code directly to the “Order Completed” page.
Follow these tips if you decide to start a PPC campaign for your online store:
Start with the basics and expand slowly
You can start with a few dollar budget at the beginning. Invest this budget in the products that sell the most (or that you expect to sell the most) and in the geographical areas that are easiest and cheaper to ship the products to.
The objective is that the cost of the campaign + cost of the product + cost of shipping is lower by a sufficient margin than the profit on sales. As long as this is the case, you can continue to increase the budget, the number of products you promote and the channels where you advertise the products (Google, Facebook, Bing, YouTube…)
Use a good landing page
Do not use your online store’s homepage in your ads. The more specific the landing page is, the better. You can use a well-developed product page or another specific page.
Make the most of your target audience’s information
If you have a niche product, it will be easier to target your ads to a relevant audience. Facebook is a good option for this. Following the example of our shoe store, we could advertise the products to people who like running or hiking.
Create a good ad
Whether it’s a written or a graphic ad, make sure it’s attractive. Include the benefits of your product, good pictures and a real price.
Manage your campaigns actively
Keep an eye on your campaigns while they’re running. Make sure you optimize them to reach the most relevant audience possible. If you’re placing text ads on Google or Bing, be sure to look at the search terms your ads are showing for and add negative keywords.
One type of campaign that works very well is remarketing. People who have been in your store but decided not to buy anything already know your brand and have shown interest. Remind them to finish their purchase.
SEO (Search engine optimization)
SEO means optimizing your online store so that Google and other search engines show it in their organic results. This type of traffic is free, but it requires a certain amount of time and work. The best way to position an online store in search engines is to create content, for example via a blog. Webnode makes it very easy to add a blog to your shop.
At the beginning, it is very difficult for your shop to appear for generic terms like “Shoes” because there are other websites and established online stores already occupying these positions. For this reason, it is best to create content for more specific terms that answer the questions a potential customer might have before buying your product. In the example of our shoe store, we could write an article about how to choose the right shoes for running, or how to take care of the hiking boots.
You can use sites like answerthepublic to find the questions people have about your product. Over time, once you have enough content and web traffic, your online store will begin to position itself on more broader terms.
SEO requires some commitment, but in the long term it is a free source of visits that you cannot afford to miss. Visit Webnode’s SEO guide for more information on how to position your website.
We hope that these tips will make it easier to start selling online. Do you have any questions about how to optimize your online store or want to share a strategy that worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments below.