Follow These 5 Steps to Set Up Your Online Store
After you figure out what it is you want to make and sell, follow these simple steps for setting up an online store that will bring in customers and make you a profit!
1. DO A LITTLE RESEARCH
Before you can sell a product to a single customer, find out:
- Who is your competition?
- How much, on average, do similar products sell for?
- Who will be your target market?
- What makes your product stand out?
- What kind of superior value can you offer customers?
Finding these answers will give you a huge boost toward success. You’ll know your product inside and out so you can answer customer (and potential investor) questions. You’ll be able to position your product in a way that optimizes bringing in new customers and keeping existing ones. And you’ll understand how pricing works so you can price your product accordingly.
2. WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
Smart young entrepreneurs don’t just dive in and start a business without a plan. Doing so is a guaranteed path to frustration and failure.
Writing a business plan may sound like a lot of dull, time-consuming work. You already know what you want to sell. What more do you need?
Business plans don’t have to be fancy or complicated, and they definitely shouldn’t take a lot of time or effort. Start with the absolute minimum. If you need more, do more.
At the very least, your business plan must include:
- Your idea
- Your target customer
- Startup cost, including production budget
- Your main competition
- A basic timeline of goals and milestones
- Some marketing ideas
As you move forward with your small business, there will be no shortage of challenges you’ll face. Having a business plan to guide you will help you stay focused and on track for success.
3. CHOOSE YOUR MARKETPLACE
With so many online store options to choose from, how do you know which one is best for you? Let’s examine 3 popular choices and what they offer:
Get started for as little as $1/month
Millions of resources for new young entrepreneurs, including a Shopify community
No set-up fees
The $1/month plan includes a 2.9% + $0.30 fee for each online credit card transaction. You’ll need to upgrade to a fancier monthly plan to lower that fee.
Some users claim the interface is clunky
Few built-in features
Etsy is a well-established, known quantity so you’re likely to get more visitors to your shop
Easy to set up and use
They focus on seller education
Listing fees per item
High transaction fees (starts at 6.5%)
It’s about as well-known and popular as an online marketplace can possibly be
Two words: international sales
No need to build a website or online shop
Heavy competition unless you sell something totally unique
High fees ($0.99 fee per item sold, plus more fees on top of that)
Clunky fulfillment process for sellers unless you’re willing to pay more
We highly recommend looking carefully at any online marketplace you consider. Note any transaction fees, monthly costs, credit card fees, fulfillment processes, and customer service for sellers. Read online reviews. Choose the option that’s right for you now. You can always change or upgrade later.
4. CREATE MARKETING AND CUSTOMER SERVICE PLANS
Like business plans, marketing plans don’t have to be overly fancy or complicated. A marketing plan is simply the way you will advertise your product and store. There are several ways you can market yourself without spending tons of money:
- Social media
- Flyers around town (like shop windows)
- Partnering with other shops and sites (you tag me and I’ll tag you)
- Utilizing SEO best practices on your website
Remember, in the beginning customers will only trickle in. Your first customers may be friends and family who want to support you. (Yay!) Bringing in regular customers could take days, weeks, or months. Following a marketing plan will help keep you sane through the slow times. Have faith in the process.
Once you get going though, word-of-mouth will become one of your best marketing tools. People like the security of shopping somewhere that’s recommended by a trusted friend. If my bestie likes it, it must be good, right?
This is where your customer service plan comes in.
Make your online store easy to navigate. Make sure you optimize your store for both big screens like PCs and laptops as well as smaller screens like phones. Most website builders do this automatically.
Respond to customers on social media. Even if they go off on a vicious rant, respond with peace and gentleness. Thank customers who give you compliments.
Increase the chances that new customers will become regulars by offering exclusive benefits like referral discounts and VIP access.
Give your customers the best value for their money. This means quick and reliable shipping, professional packaging, and timely responses to questions or requests for refunds. They should be able to add products to their shopping carts and check out with just a few clicks.
Stay on top of your inventory. Consistently being out of a product your customers want is a huge turn-off. They likely won’t come back.
5. START SELLING!
What are you waiting for? You’ve done the legwork, now it’s time to get your online shop up and running! All the hard work you put in before launching will make running your shop easier and more efficient.
Before you know it, you’ll be the successful young entrepreneur you always dreamed of being! We can’t wait to see you on the cover of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 issue!
Find out more about the Kantner Foundation’s commitment to young entrepreneurs, including our college scholarships for high school students, by clicking here.