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How to Create an Online Store in 8 Steps

Want to know how to create an online store? In this article, we break down the eight key steps to building an online store.
How to Create an Online store - Guidant Blog.

Online stores are big business. During the pandemic, smaller-scale online store traffic skyrocketed nearly 100 percent. This strength builds on the earlier success of online mega-stores such as Amazon. Ultimately, shopping online has become widespread, with customers enjoying the ease and convenience of shopping from their own homes.

Whether you’re new to the world of e-commerce and starting an online store or working to enhance an established e-commerce business, it’s important to remember that online retail is very competitive and demands careful planning.

In this blog, we’ll guide you through the crucial steps in building an online store and ensuring a strong start in the digital marketplace. We’ll also provide essential insights and practical tips to help boost business in an existing online storefront if you currently have one.

How to Create an Online Store in 8 Steps

Man looking at an online store at his desk. (How to Create an Online Store- Guidant Blog.)

Here are the fundamental elements that set the foundation for e-commerce business success:

1. Select the Right Platform

Platforms exist behind the customer-facing web page that viewers see. In selecting one, you are laying the foundation for building an online store.

An e-commerce platform facilitates communication and a smooth experience between your store and customers. It ensures that customers can see the products, choose them, pay for them, and have them delivered. The platform also facilitates communication between you and order fulfillment.

It’s a good idea to review several different platforms to familiarize yourself with their features and navigability. Some platforms are relatively easy to set up and customize yourself. Most have reasonably monthly charges, but be sure to choose one that’s the most affordable for your particular business.

The following are common e-commerce platforms for retail:

2. Design a User-Friendly Website

Image of a desktop computer with different designs. (How to Create an Online Store- Guidant Blog.)

Websites are key to starting an online store. They need to clearly convey what your business is and what it offers, along with prices. You can either design your website yourself using website builders or hire a website designer.

In either case, think through the elements you need, such as:

  • An About page, sharing your company’s story.
    Craft a compelling About page that highlights your company’s history, mission, and values to build a strong connection with your customers. Share the journey and vision that set your business apart from competitors.
  • A search function.
    Implement a robust search function to help customers quickly find the products they need. Reducing the time spent searching enhances user experience and increases the likelihood of purchase.
  • Product categories by product type so customers can easily see the range of offerings.
    Organize your products into clear, intuitive categories to make it easier for customers to browse and discover what you offer. This improves navigation and helps customers find products relevant to their interests quickly.
  • Explanations of shipping tiers and prices.
    Provide detailed information about your shipping options, including costs and delivery times, so customers can make informed decisions at checkout. Transparency in shipping policies can reduce cart abandonment and build trust.
  • A map to your brick-and-mortar store, if you have one.
    Include a map with locations and contact information for any physical stores you operate, making it easy for customers to visit in person. This can drive foot traffic and enhance the omnichannel shopping experience.
  • Testimonials from satisfied customers.
    Showcase positive reviews and testimonials from happy customers to build credibility and trust. Social proof is a powerful tool that can influence potential buyers and reassure them of the quality of your products and services.
  • Videos or images demonstrating your products.
    Use high-quality videos and images to demonstrate your products in action, highlighting key features and benefits. Visual content can engage customers more effectively than text alone and help them make confident purchasing decisions.

Websites need to be intuitively obvious to use and seamless to access. It’s a good idea to have friends, family or a professional user experience company use the prototype and give you feedback on the ease of shopping and navigating through the side.

Design matters in website creation, of course! Your look online conveys a sense of your industry, sector and products. If your small business is in fashion, the site can be colorful and breezy, with music and videos showing how your clothes look on people. If you are selling a cleaning service, the site could show orderly, calm, and lovely rooms.

3. Optimize Product Listings

Product listings need to convey all the relevant information to customers in a brief, concise way. They can include the product’s name, a brief description, images, specifications, consumer choices (colors, sizes), customer reviews, and testimonials — everything the customer needs to know. You can also include a call to action or other conversion elements to incentivize customers to place the product in their shopping cart.

4. Craft Compelling Product Descriptions

Product descriptions are copy that both informs customers about the product and is part of your marketing strategy. Aim for short, concise copy that includes details customers need to know, such as quality, functions, ingredients, technical details, measurements and similar information. If you’re selling jewelry, for example, you can let readers know if the stones are opals, garnets or quartzite.

Product descriptions can also market the products by letting customers know what other consumers have purchased the most or information about price points, such as “our #1 seller!” or “our most budget-friendly product.”

5. Set Up Secure Payment Systems

Person completing payment on their mobile device. (How to Create an Online Store- Guidant Blog.)

Payment systems facilitate the transfer of money from the customer’s account to your ecommerce business. You need to review the payment systems to make sure they meet your needs in terms of flexibility, time from purchase to payment to your account, scalability, and user experience. The one you choose also needs to integrate seamlessly with your point-of-sale system and accounting software.

Make sure your payment system complies with a security standard widely recognized as an industry leader, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

The payment options can affect the size of your customer base. The wider the number of options you offer for secure payment, the larger the customer base can be. Common payment methods for online stores are:

  • Credit Card
  • PayPal
  • Venmo
  • Stripe
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Amazon Pay
  • ACH payments (where customers enter their bank account information securely)

Some platforms, such as Shopify, also offer their own payment systems.

6. Build a Seamless Customer Experience

A seamless customer experience is one in which the user of your site encounters no hitches in their research and buying process. They can research products, think about the purchases and buy without any delay, errors or problems.

Many business analysts expand this definition of seamlessness to include factors that make customers come back, such as tracking their buying preferences and behaviors and sending notifications or incentivizing them to shop with discount offers or other marketing techniques.

Just as a physical store owner walks around and checks the condition of the store and morale of employees, an owner of an online store should evaluate the user experience periodically, through soliciting customer feedback or other methods. The average customer spends less than a minute looking at a web page. User experiences that are confusing, cause delays or are otherwise not seamless can drive customers away and create poor word of mouth and reviews.

7. Set Up Effective Inventory Management

Person scanning and managing inventory. (How to Create an Online Store- Guidant Blog.)

Few things turn customers off more than finding a product on a website, getting excited about it, starting (or completing!) the order process and then… finding the product is out of stock. Not only that, but it’s a lost sale for you.

The path out of such a scenario is effective inventory management. Whether you keep your inventory in a warehouse or a spare bedroom, keep orderly and complete inventory records. Invest in software that enables you to track the levels of remaining stock, advises on reorder times, and creates sales patterns to analyze. When you’re low on stock, reorder from vendors. Keep your online space up to date, with product descriptions and availability that match real world availability.

Use your sales records to drive optimal inventory management. Your popular products should always be in stock. Indifferent or poor sellers should periodically be rotated out or discontinued.

8. Ensure Effective Fulfillment

In brick-and-mortar businesses, customers take physical products home. In online stores, an outside service usually delivers it. Fulfillment refers to preparing and delivering a customer’s order. The activities can include obtaining the inventory, keeping it until the individual shipment goes out, preparing the package, shipping the package, and processing returns.

Fulfillment is often done through shippers such as FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Post Office (USPS). When choosing your fulfillment services, consider any special packaging or warehousing needs your target audience and product needs. For jewelry or glassware, for example, the packaging needs to ensure that the products will be safely packaged and arrive unbroken.

You also need to consider the shipping costs to you and your target market. Review several different fulfillment suppliers to ensure that you are getting the optimal deal.

Guidant Financial Can Help

Guidant Financial offers multiple services to small businesses, including small digital businesses. In fact, we’ve helped over 30,000 small business owners get the funding and support they need to be successful.

We specialize in debt-free financing with Rollovers for Business Startups (ROBS) and are happy to consult on other financing options, such as loans. We also offer services including Payroll and Bookkeeping and Tax. We can help you maximize income and cut costs, both key elements in small business optimization. Contact us today to discuss your plans and how we can help make them happen!

Call us today at 425-289-3200 for a free, no-pressure business consultation to get started — or pre-qualify in minutes for business financing now!

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