Whether you're working solo selling hand-knitted scarves or creating an online store for a supermarket chain, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are four tips to help you build an online retail store.
1. Choose a Niche
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you're going to sell. Many independent retailers sell hand-crafted items very successfully online. Small businesses benefit from the expanded retail opportunities of online stores and larger retailers can use it as an alternative option for people who can't get to a physical store. You need to know where you fit in here. Then, figure out your audience. This will depend on what you're selling. For example, if you're creating an online store for a chain of pet stores, you'll be focusing on drawing pet owners as customers. Once you decide on a niche, you can plan out customer support, marketing and pricing.
2. Organize Your Inventory
Decide how you're going to store and ship your products when people buy them. Independent retailers often ship products themselves through USPS or other shipping services. Small business and large retailers have to decide whether to store their own inventory or use a dropshipping method. Dropshipping is the process of hiring a third-party distributor to store and ship your inventory. Using this method, you can avoid storage costs and you won't have to pack and ship inventory on your own. However, with this method you're held accountable for any issues fulfilling customer orders. If the product isn't delivered or needs to be returned, the supply chain can be difficult for the customer to retrace and send the product back, too. If you're working out of your home, dropshipping can be advantageous, but if you're creating an online store for a chain, taking care of fulfillment in-house may be the more beneficial option.
3. Build a Website and Organize Payment Processing
Once you have your product inventory and shipping methods down, it's time to begin designing the website. Consider the domain name you want to use. Large retailers and small businesses have an advantage here because they can utilize their brand name, which should already be copyrighted. If you're starting from scratch, you may have to spend some time researching and brainstorming to come up with an original domain name to register.
Then, choose a website. You can build one from scratch or host your store on an online store building site. Creating your own will help your online store be unique, but if you're just starting out it can be helpful to leverage the pre-existing themes and templates.
After choosing a website to host your store on, you'll need to upload your product information and organize payment processing. Design and build a checkout page and online shopping cart. If you want to, you can set up a choice for customers to make an account or check out as a guest. Then, enable whatever payment methods you want, such as credit cards and gift cards. Lastly, set up your shipping page, with shipping rates and receipt delivery methods.
4. Customize the Website
Once your basic online store is built, you can customize to your style and specifications. You can build product category pages to aid customers in navigating your website and add filtering options. You should also list the information about each product you sell. For example, if you sell Nutra Thrive pet nutritional supplements, you can include Nutra Thrive reviews, pictures of the products, nutritional information and pricing.
You can also customize your store as you would any website. Choose colors, font styles and graphics that fit your brand and style. Some hosting websites have pre-existing styles and templates to choose from, but if you build your website from scratch it's a good idea to learn some coding to help your customizations.
Online retail stores are incredibly versatile. You can create your own or sell through a parent website. There are options to ship your product yourself or work with a supplier. How you build your online store is up to you.