8 Steps to Building a Thriving Online Business [Step-by-Step Guide]

September 25, 2020
The game has changed. Covid-19 has transformed the way most industries conduct business, none more so than the Retail industry. Fortunately, building an online store in 2020 is now easier than ever - if you know what you're doing. Below are the eight key steps you need to get your business thriving online.
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Did you know that global retail eCommerce sales are expected to reach $4.9 trillion – yes, trillion – by 2021?

Buying online has become the new norm and that represents a major opportunity for anyone with a good business idea and the willingness to put in the work in order to create a successful online store.

To avoid going down the rabbit hole of launching the wrong way and wasting invaluable time and money, it’s critical to do your research and planning from the outset. And what exactly does that entail, you ask?

In short, there are eight steps that anyone looking to get into eCommerce needs to take, and we’ll get to that soon.

First, however, there are four things you need to have before you even start thinking about building your online store:

  • A business idea. Call us ‘captain obvious’, but unless you have a clear and profitable business idea, one that you put a lot of thought into, you’ll have a hard time achieving long-term success.

? Pro tip: Don’t just write down an idea – create a comprehensive business plan. This will help you make consistent decisions during the store building process.

  • A brand name. A good brand name is simple, unique, meaningful, and easy to remember. Make sure yours ticks all the boxes before you settle on it.
  • A logo. Just like your name, your visual branding should be unique, memorable, and striking. If web design isn’t your forte, don’t worry: you can easily outsource this task on platforms like UpWork and Fiverr, or even use a logo design website.
  • Products or services. Lastly, whatever you’re going to sell needs to be ready to go. After all, you don’t want to make a poor first impression by keeping customers waiting from the get-go.

Once you have these four elements prepared, you’re ready to start building your online store:

Step #1: Choose the Right Online Store Platform

Just like the name suggests, an online store platform is a software that allows you to create an online store, providing you with all the tools you might need to manage and grow it. One quick google search is enough to understand that there are countless options when it comes to this type of platform.

On one hand, that’s great news, as it means that no matter what your goals, needs, and budget are, you’ll most likely find a good fit for your business. On the other hand, it can make the choosing process a bit trickier, particularly for beginners – but that’s exactly what here to help you with.

Although every online store platform out there has its pros and cons, if we had to choose two to recommend to our readers, we’d say:

Shopify is the number eCommerce platform and it’s quite versatile, as it works for small businesses just as well as it does for large corporations. It is easy to use, offers many modern templates, and allows you to handle large product ranges.

Wix is a general website building tool, but its e-commerce features make it a strong competitor to Shopify as an online store platform. Besides being beginner-friendly and including many striking templates, it is an affordable option (it even has a free plan).

? Pro tip: Having a hard time deciding which online store platform is right for you? Take our quiz to find out!

Step #2: Create a Domain Name For Your Online Store

Once you choose the right platform for you, one of the first things you’ll have to do is pick and buy your domain, which begs the question…

What makes a good website domain?

  • Short. You want people to remember your URL, and the shorter you make it, the more memorable it will be.
  • Branded. Remember when you created your unique brand name? Well, your domain will be heavily inspired by it, as being on brand is almost mandatory.
  • Easy to type (and pronounce). Once again, in order for customers and prospects to memorize your website, your domain needs to be easy to type. This means no complicated words and, if you can avoid it, no hyphens or numbers. It should also be easy to pronounce – after all, word-of-mouth is still incredibly powerful!
  • Optimised. As you’ll soon learn, SEO plays a big role in how successful your online store is, so you should take every opportunity you can to optimize your website. When it comes to your domain, you can do it by including a relevant keyword (only, if it makes sense!).

✍️ A good example: Look at our URL. It’s short, easy to type and pronounce, on-brand, and it includes a relevant keyword, “online store”.

Step #3: Choose a Theme and Customize It

Any online store platform that you subscribe to will have several templates to choose from, and some might even make your life easier, by letting you know which industry each template is a good fit for.
Either way, to pick the right template, you’ll need to consider the features you want your store to offer, the type of user experience you want to provide, and the overall vibe you want your website to have.
Once you’ve made your final decision, it’s pivotal that you customize it, so that it looks unique, even though it is a premade template.
In other words, you’ll need to add your:

  • Logo
  • Colour palette
  • Font and text size
  • Branded visuals

Besides this, you’ll have to of course add all your products/services, making sure to include a product title, description, and image or video.

Step #4: Choose a Payment Gateway for Your Online Store

Now we’re starting to get a little bit more technical, but don’t worry, your e-commerce platform will provide you with the features and, most likely, educational resources, to help you take steps like this one.
What you want when choosing a payment gateway is to:

  • Ensure your online customers have an excellent buying experience,

while also,

  • Making a decision that has minimal impact on your bottom line.

? Pro tip: Now more than ever, consumers value their safety online, so it’s a great idea to apply fraud prevention measures, by asking for their CVV and postal code.

Step #5: Establish Shipping Integrations

This fifth step only applies if you offer physical products, and it’s crucial because it’s how you can ensure that every item you sell reaches its destination.
The main aspects you’ll have to plan here are:

  • Shipping zones and rates. Where will you ship to and how much will it cost the customer, depending on where they are?
  • Shipping options. What’s the flat rate? Will you offer customers the option to pick up their product in a physical location? Will you offer free shipping over a certain order amount?
  • Shipping services. Who will you hire to handle your deliveries?

? Pro tip: Make sure to include a page on your website detailing your shipping policies. This way, the customer will know exactly what to expect when they buy from you.

Step #6: Set Up Taxes

As a business, you’ll have to pay taxes to the government and yes, we know this step can be slightly daunting, but as you get more experience as a business owner, you’ll get the hang of it.
Once again, most online store platforms include features that help you handle the financial aspect of your company.

? Pro tip: Remember Fiverr, the freelance marketplace we mentioned before? If you’re not sure about your tax situation, you can also hire financial consultants there!

Step #7: Test Your Online Store

After taking care of the previous six steps, your online store will most likely be ready to launch, but not so fast! You want to start this new entrepreneurial venture on the right foot, and by putting out a website that doesn’t work properly, you’ll be doing the exact opposite.
Thankfully, it’s easy to avoid doing so. All you need to do is test, test, test, and answer questions like:

  • Are there any typos in your content?
  • Does your checkout process work?
  • Are there any broken links?
  • Is your website speed up to par?
  • Is your website mobile-friendly?
  • Did you create all the important pages (besides the product/service ones), such as Privacy Policy, Contact Us, and Shipping Policies?

Step #8: Launch Your Online Store and Promote It

Once you know that your online store is on point, the big moment arrives…You can finally launch it!

However, the work doesn’t end there. Now, you’ll have to understand how you can reach your target audience and introduce your brand to them. Three marketing channels that most businesses rely on in order to do so are:

  • SEO

One of your goals as an online shop owner is for your website to pop up on the first page of Google, which is what your SEO efforts will help you achieve.

? Pro tip: A good e-commerce platform offers SEO features, which is something to remember if you don’t know much about the topic.

  • Email Marketing

Building a contact list and sending them exclusive content and deals is an excellent way of developing meaningful connections with your audience. Plus, it doesn’t cost much!

  • Social Media

How many new brands have you discovered on Facebook or Instagram, when their paid ads appeared on your feed? Paid advertising has become one of the main marketing tools of today, and one that every small business out there should look into.

Ready to create your online store? Keep up with our blog to learn more about all things e-commerce!

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