From Product to Shipping: The Complete Guide to Running An Online Shop
Here at Fill My Money Box, we’re all about making small businesses work online.
Now, one of the best ways to start developing an online income is through ecommerce. Setting up an online store has never been easier, and it doesn’t take long to start bringing money in.
Best of all, it gives you a chance to work on something you’re passionate about.
If you love making jewellery, you could turn it into a full-time business. An online store is the best way to indulge your passions, and make a living from it.
Have you ever wanted to start an online shop, but felt confused about where to start?
Don’t worry, it’s much easier than you think.
Today, we’ll show the simple ways to navigate the tricky industry, and start your business. This is a long-read, so grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and let’s start planning your future!
Before we get stuck in, we’d love to hear from any existing ecommerce owners. Please share your tips and ideas in the comment section at the end.
Choosing a product
The first stage is choosing the right product or product range to sell. If you’re just getting started, we strongly advise starting small. You only need a product range of two or three things to start with.
After all, studies show that customers are often overwhelmed by too many choices. Sales actually increase when you decrease the range. The hard part is choosing something that will actually sell. The trick is finding a niche area to exploit. What products are missing from the market, and how can you capitalize?
DIY jewellery products (image credit)
DIY or Wholesale?
Once you’ve got a rough idea of your product or product range, you’ve got a choice to make.
Will you make the product yourself, or make deals with wholesalers? The DIY route is perfect for those with crafty skills.
Perhaps you make bespoke jewellery or personal gift cards. If you take a look at Etsy, you’ll see fantastic examples of DIY e commerce.
The alternative is outsourcing your manufacturing to the pros. In other words, connecting with wholesalers. These are giant companies that sell products at discount prices in bulk.
Let’s say you’ve decided to sell snowboards. You’ll contact a snowboard wholesaler, and bulk buy a huge amount of boards to sell on your site.
Now you’ve made a decision about your product, it’s time to do a little market research. This research will help you hone the product further, and make little tweaks to help optimize the sales. The first step is looking at your competition.
What are your rivals creating, and how are they connecting with their audience? Using this information, you can find a niche to exploit. Find the gaps in the market, and tweak your product to fill it.
Next, conduct some audience research within your target market. How can you change your product or range to suit them better?
The last part of the early business strategy is making a plan. You wouldn’t set off on a road trip without a map, so don’t start a business without a plan!
Your business plan is a strategy document that outlines your goals, targets, and path.
How will you grow your business?
How much money do you need to get started?
When will you start making a profit?
It’s a simple document you can refer back to on regular occasions.
Building The Online Store
Which platform to use?
It’s finally time to set up your online presence, and build your online home. But, where do you start?
There are tons of options here, each with their unique benefits. The simple option is setting up a stall at an existing marketplace.
In other words, set up shop on Etsy, Amazon or eBay. There’s an instant audience, and all the tricky mechanics are taken care of.
However, if you want real success, you need your own site. That means using Shopify to create a fully functional e commerce website.
You can also use WordPress and a simple plugin called WooCommerce.
Domain name and email
You want your store to look professional, right? So, you need a professional address and email. This means creating a www.my-business.com website.
You can use a domain name service like GoDaddy or 1-2-3-Reg to see if your preferred name is available.
These domains are super cheap, and you can get up and running within the day.
If you’re using any of the services I suggested above, you should have a solid payment gateway built in.
Make sure the gateway accepts all major credit cards and PayPal.Optimize your payment methods if you want to make the most sales. It’s also crucial that your payment process is secure.
Get an SSL certificate to show customers that your payment system is secure.
If you’ve followed my advice, you’ll now have a fully functioning store with fantastic products and a killer website. That’s the easy bit!
The hard part is getting customers onto your website. With so much competition out there, it’s your job to get your business noticed. SEO is the first place to start, and it’s all about getting picked up by Google.
After all, you want your snowboard shop to pop up when people search for ‘snowboards’, right? Start by filling your site with optimized keywords so that Google knows what you do.
Next try to secure lots of links back to your store from authority websites and blogs. This shows Google that you are a useful and respected website.
Social media has become incredibly powerful for online stores. Start by setting up a Facebook and Twitter account.
Use them to create a small community of shoppers and customers. Share pictures of your new products, and offer them exclusive discounts.
It’s all about shaping loyalty, and attracting a new audience. Instagram and Pinterest are also particularly useful for ecommerce owners.
Share content with your followers, and encourage them to share it with their friends. With every post, drive traffic back to your site, and encourage new sales.
I won’t lie, it takes a while to see results from organic SEO and social media strategies. That’s where advertising comes in very handy indeed.
You can instantly reach thousands of potential customers with a carefully crafted advert. Try using Google and Facebook ads to attract new customers.
Carefully input your target audience, and use fantastic images to capture their attention. It does cost a little money, but you’ll see an instant return on investment.
Remember, you’ve got to spend money to make money!
The last stage of the process is your deliveries. It’s also the most time-consuming stage of the journey. That’s why I always advise shop owners to automate their system.
From the second an order comes through, your system should generate an address sticker. It should notify the customer, and give them an estimated delivery date.
The more you can automate, the faster you can deliver.
Once your product is out for delivery, tracking is the single most important thing you can do. First of all, it’s crucial for customer service.
Customers like to know where their product is, and when to expect it. It’s also great for you. If there’s a holdup, you know exactly where the problem is, and you can chase it up. More importantly, you can track the average speed of delivery, and use this to improve your service.
GPS trackers can monitor the efficiency and speed of your logistics, so you’re always in control. You can learn more at GPSTrackingGroup.com, and make sure your deliveries are always on time.
Eventually, your online store will grow into an online empire! At this point, you’ll begin to think about warehouse management.
You’ll have so much stock, it requires an enormous storage and delivery centre.
At this point, you’ll need an impeccable, efficient system to keep everything running smoothly.
The fundamentals of a good delivery service revolve around communication.
I firmly believe that communicating with your customer is the most important aspect at play. From the moment they order a product, your company should stay with them every step of the way.
Let them know their order is confirmed. Let them know when it leaves the warehouse, and inform them when to expect the delivery.
Inside the company, make sure all deliveries are communicated throughout the team.
At the end of the day, your job is all about customer satisfaction. If they receive the product quickly and with good service, they’re happy.
However, this is the minimum they expect from you. So, to truly excel in this world, you’ve got to exceed expectations. You’ve got to go above and beyond!
Perhaps that means including a personal note to each customer. Perhaps it means including a discount on their next purchase. It could be as simple as unique packaging.
Do whatever it takes to exceed expectations.
Phew! That’s all for now, folks.
I hope you enjoyed this in-depth guide to starting an online store.
What e commerce empire would you start?