How to Start an Online Retail Business in 2020?

  • Date: 15 September 2020
  • reading time: 7 Minutes
  • Blogger: Alex Husar


online business
 

How to start making money by selling stuff online?

This is a question that you've perhaps asked yourself a hundred times but never found a good answer. Well, you've landed on the right page.

As a web developer who has been working on creating over 100 websites for companies of all sizes, I have a clear picture of what it takes to build an engaging eCommerce site with minimal costs. In this post, I will be happy to break down the process of building a retail business online into manageable chunks and share helpful tips on what you need to keep in mind.

start omline business

Step 1: Select a Niche

First and foremost, you need to have a clear understanding of which area you are planning to work in. Many startupers find deep preliminary analysis unwanted. How wrong they are!

Taking into account that nearly 20% of small businesses fail in their first year (according to the Fundera research ), entrepreneurs need to elaborate on a business plan before jumping to the website building.

Try to analyze the following factors to find out if a market is ready for the product you are going to sell.

Market demand. In order to check out if the demand for a product is high and get valuable insights on how often the item is searched by people, use Google Keyword Planner . The tool is free of charge, you need only a Google account.

gogle keyword planner

Current trend and competition. Every business plan starts with researching competitors. Feel free to make use of such tools as Google Trends and BuzzSumo to uncover insights and gain customers before your competitors do.

Your target audience. Analyze your product / service to define which group of people may see a need for them. Make the analysis as deep as possible taking into account such factors as age, location, gender, income and education level, occupation, etc.

Step 2: Your Own Inventory vs Dropshipping

Returning to the “what to sell” question, you have several options of how the selling process can be organized. Thus, you can become a retailer of products that are produced by someone else or choose dropshipping as a beneficial business model.

The major difference between these scenarios lies in who is responsible for all the processes: good manufacturing, its storage, packaging, shipping, customer support.

Becoming a retailer. This option means that you handle every single step except for product manufacturing. In a nutshell, you purchase products at wholesale prices from the manufacturer, store them in your own warehouse, sell them, package the order, then ship it to the buyer, and, when all is said and done, process all possible questions after the sale.

Opting for dropshipping. Being a dropshipper is a whole different story. This is how it works:

So, dropshipping as a business model has a plethora of advantages. First, it involves low startup and order fulfillment costs, enables business owners to test and sell more products with less risk, and above all, there is no need to pay for and maintain a warehouse.

Step 3: Choose a Domain Name

A domain name is a key element of any website. An URL is the first thing visitors see when landing on a site. So it is crucial to pick a domain name that works for your business not only to make a positive impression but also to increase brand recognition.

I want to give you some tips that I personally apply when helping my clients to pick the right URL:

  1. Try to add keywords in your domain to help your SEO ranking.
  2. Keep it short and easy. If your URL is hard to pronounce and type or you have to explain the spelling more than once to be understood, opt for another TLD.
  3. Avoid hyphenated domains.
  4. Use the most popular extensions (.com, .net, .org).
  5. Avoid the words with unclear spelling. For instance, “lose” and “loose” sound almost the same. These similar words can be incredibly confusing.
  6. Consider using niche keywords relevant to your business. The URL has to define your brand clearly meaning that if a user looks at your domain, they should get a clear understanding of what your site is about.
  7. Ensure it is memorable.
  8. Check if it’s not already used. Eliminate legal issues and stay away from the TLDs that have trademarks.
  9. Pay for the best domain names. Getting a domain name is associated with two costs: the cost of buying TLD and the cost of keeping it registered.
  10. Consider using domain generator tools such as Namemash, HostPapa, or others when stuck.

Step 4: Get Hosting That Makes Sense

One of the most common mistakes startups make is not giving much attention to selecting a proper web hosting package. Since page loading speed is among the prior Google page ranking factors, having a slow website will inevitably lead to a low position in search engine results and poor sales.

So, it is crucial to choose a solution that will meet your business requirements without overpaying. As such, the choice will significantly depend on the platform your site is powered by, as well as the number of visitors and the amount of traffic.

For small businesses, there are predominantly three hosting solutions:

  1. Shared hosting. This option is for small blogs and e-commerce websites based on WordPress, Wix, Bitrix, or other modest platforms.
  2. VPS hosting. This is a “happy medium” between shared and dedicated hostings. On the one part, it is still cheap, but on the other, VPS provides independence from hardware crashes, a good security level, and flexibility.
  3. Cloud and dedicated hosting. This solution is for highly-customized stores with a huge number of visitors, high seasonality, and large traffic volumes. With cloud and dedicated hosting, the client has full control over the environment, as well as the highest level of security of customers' data and checkouts are provided.

Step 5: Decide Which Platform to Use

There are over 370 e-commerce platforms that can be used as a foundation for your future online retail website. To make things clear, I would like to compare the most popular ones:

  1. Wix
  2. WordPress (and its plugin WooCommerce)
  3. BigCommerce
  4. Kartra
  5. Shopify
  6. Magento.
  7. Wix And WordPress

Wix and WordPress

are easy-to-use website builders that provide the opportunity to build stores without outsourcing. Thanks to the easily modifiable themes consisting of drag-and-drop blocks, one can construct and modify a website with little to no coding skills. These platforms are both perfect matches for small businesses and startups.

Kartra

Kartra is another all-inclusive platform that helps business owners to create professional-looking websites that serve their audience, and, consequently, make money in return. Kartra is a so-called funnel builder meaning that this platform assists you in putting all the funnel pieces together in such a way that you don’t need to worry about the technical aspects of your marketing and sales processes.

The platform provides in-built checkout tools, forms, tons of page templates, as well as a helpdesk for fostering customer support. Besides, it provides its users with dedicated video hosting, as well as a super-cool affiliate management system.

The greatest part about this awesome platform is the ability to integrate the Karta Pages into WordPress CRM. This enables entrepreneurs to use Kartra’s templates. forms, and other tools on their WP websites.

kartra

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is more comprehensive than the previous two and is treated as an all-in-one SaaS platform for building full-scale e-commerce websites. The platform is PCI compliant and has flexible APIs for easy integrations with other solutions (including custom ones).

The platform is used by a plethora of well-known brands such as Toyota, Camelback, and others. The greatest part about BigCommerce is that it comes with everything you may need to launch a successful online store: themes, hosting, apps, basic integrations, payment gateways, blogging features.

Shopify

Shopify is another great alternative that is a good option for both small and large businesses. This is a self-hosted platform meaning that the platform takes care of hosting worries for you. It has three monthly plans each of which provides its own features and opportunities. Even though Shopify offers a high level of customization, it can’t bring the same level of flexibility as Magento can provide.

Magento

Thanks to the flexible architecture, Magento scales as your business grows. With this CMS, you are free to customize your site whatever you want to make it stand out among competitors. However, Magento is expensive: the average budget for a basic M2 website lies within the $22,000-50,000 range. Besides, the platform is hard for experienced developers - it requires strong coding skills, the cognizance of Magento’s architecture, as well as the knowledge of ReactJS or PWA Studio (if you want to turn your store into a PWA).

 Starting Out With WordPress

Assuming that your business is a startup or a petite company, the best solution would be a combo of WordPress and WooCommerce that are offered along with hosting packages. Besides, an SSL certificate and a dedicated IP are pre-installed in the platforms’ functionality.

Below I’ll go into some simple steps that have to be done in order to set up a store with WooCommerce.

Install WordPress

The installation process takes less than 10 minutes and can be deployed with little to no coding skills. For this purpose, you can either install the platform manually by using this guide or leverage some web host offering tools to install WP automatically.

Pick Up a Theme

Feel free to choose a theme from the Appearance tab. You can find free and paid layouts in the official WooCommerce theme store.

woocommerce

Activate WooCommerce

Now you want to add e-commerce functionality to your WP website with its free Woocommerce extension. In order to activate the module right from the dashboard, go to Dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Search Plugins. Alternatively, you can create a free WooCommerce account and then connect it to your site.

Craft Your Product Database and Catalogues

When creating your catalog, give extra time to the product pages as they matter most. For instance, add pictures of great quality but don’t forget to optimize them so that their size doesn't affect the website performance. Make sure you give all the necessary data on the products, avoid duplicate content, and fill out meta-data properly for each page.

Wrapping out, launching a store isn't rocket science. Indeed, even if you have zero experience in web development and aren't very techy, it is not that hard. Without a doubt, the process requires detailed planning and some thinking, as well as investment and resources to be spent on increasing brand awareness, growing your product inventory and customer database, and improving online presence. But at the end of that, you will have a fast, appealing, and successful online store.

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  • Blogger: Alex Husar
  • CTO at Onilab
  • Alex Husar, a CTO at  Onilab  with 8+ years of experience in Magento and Salesforce. He graduated from Czech Technical University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Computer Software Engineering. Alex’s expertise includes both full-stack dev skills and a strong ability to provide project-critical guidance to the whole team.
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