How To Start A Successful eCommerce Business In 8 Easy Steps
Starting a business is always a challenge. And for those without much web experience, launching an online store can be daunting. With so many eCommerce platforms, marketing software programs, and hosting services competing for your attention, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
In the following article, we’ll cover the basic steps of setting up an online store, from finding a niche, to creating a business plan, to formatting your fledgling site.
For more in-depth information, I strongly recommend you download our free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store. In this book, we provide detailed advice for new online sellers and include a host of resources for beginners. It’s free to download–you just have to provide an email address.
But for a good overview of the topic, keep reading! By the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of how you should go about starting your own online business.
A Quick Word On Dropshipping
In recent years, dropshipping has been one of the biggest buzzwords in eCommerce. Dropshipping is a strategy that lets you sell products online without storing any of your own inventory. In the dropshipping business model, when a customer places an order, the seller goes directly to that product’s supplier and purchases the product using the customer’s shipping information. Then, the product is shipped directly from the supplier to the customer. Sellers do not warehouse any products, which reduces overhead expenses, although it often leads to longer shipping times. Dropshipping has its own pros and cons, and if you’d like a closer look I’d recommend you check out our articles on the subject: What Is Dropshipping & How Does It Work? and How To Start A Dropshipping Business.
In this article, we will not be discussing dropshipping. Rather, we will be focusing on more traditional online stores that warehouse their own products, and in some cases, even manufacturer their own products.
Table of Contents
7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Starting An eCommerce Business
As you prepare to set up an online store, you’ll have to make many decisions. If you are new to eCommerce, these decisions can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you haven’t taken the time to appropriately plan a few key elements of your site. We advise that before you begin setting up any aspect of your online store, you take some time to think through a few basic questions:
- Are you familiar with the current advantages and disadvantages of online selling?
- What is your target sales market?
- What is your brand’s personality?
- What can your competition teach you about online selling?
- What products should you sell?
- How much time do you want to devote to your online store?
- What is your budget for starting your business?
Answering these questions can help you visualize your online store. Identifying your target audience and your brand’s personality will help you create marketing campaigns that connect with your customers. Researching your competition can help you choose which products to sell and can reveal better ways to organize your website. And considering the time and resources you have on hand can help you set a realistic budget for software tools and professional support.
How To Start An eCommerce Business In 8 Steps
Now that you have a vision for your online store, it’s time to start taking action to get things set up! Follow these eight steps as you build your online store:
1. Find Your Niche
One of the biggest challenges of online selling is competing with major retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart. If you go head-to-head with these retailers, your brand new online store won’t have a chance to succeed. The best solution to this problem is to find a niche for your online store. Consider what your brand has to offer, and then find a smaller segment of customers who are receptive to your products and services.
By finding a niche for your store, you tap into a narrower market. This can help you develop brand loyalty and add value to your products, which can help your store compete with larger sellers.
So how do you find that niche?
It all starts with researching your competition. Check out other merchants who are selling products similar to yours. Make sure to take notes on what makes your competition successful. Then, determine what they could be doing better. The gap between what they’re doing now and what they could be doing is your niche.
As you search, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there room for me in this market?
- What makes my competition successful?
- What value can I add to this market?
- What makes my products or store unique?
When you’ve got a solid idea of what you want to sell and who you want to sell it to, you’re ready for the next step.
2. Make Your Business Official
Once you’ve determined your niche, you’ll need to handle the logistics of owning an online store. You’ll have to choose your business structure, apply for business permits and licenses, register a trade name, apply for an EIN, and register a domain name. Let’s take a look at what these logistics entail.
Choose Your Business Structure
Before you start selling, you need to decide on a business structure. Each business structure has different requirements for businesses and different rules regarding taxes and personal liabilities. You have likely heard of a few types of business structures–they include sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, non-profits, and cooperatives. Below, we will briefly explain each type of business structure. For more in-depth information, head over to our article Types Of Business Structures: The Complete Guide.
- Sole Proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is designed for self-employed business owners who do not have any employees. This is the easiest business structure to set up–in fact, you don’t have to do anything at all to register! You are just responsible for paying self-employment taxes throughout the year. The big disadvantage of a sole proprietorship is that business owners are personally liable for their business debts, which could put their personal assets in danger.
- Partnership: A partnership is like a sole proprietorship, except it is intended for businesses with two or more owners. Partnerships are easy to set up–some you have to register and some you don’t. Like with a sole proprietorship, partners are held personally liable for business debts. There a few different types of partnerships, each with different rules regarding liability: General Partnership, Limited Partnership, and Limited Liability Partnership.
- Corporation: Corporations are more complicated and more expensive to set up than sole proprietorships or partnerships. However, they have a few advantages. The main advantage of corporations is that they turn a business into a separate legal entity from the owner. This makes them the business structure with the best liability protection for owners. It also means that corporations can continue on, even if the owner passes away. There are a few different types of corporations, each with their own advantages and disadvantages: C-corporations, S-corporations, B-corporations, and Close Corporations.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): A Limited Liability Company is a bit of a cross between a corporation and a sole proprietorship. LLCs have the advantage of offering some protection over the owners’ personal assets. In addition, there very few requirements for setting up an LLC, and they provide some tax benefits. That said, LLCs are often expensive and time-consuming to set up, which may turn away some sellers.
- Nonprofit: A nonprofit is an organization that serves a purpose other than making a profit. While nonprofits may occasionally make a profit, the primary goal of these organizations is to serve its members or to do charity work. Nonprofits benefit from a number of tax benefits. Organizations must meet many requirements to qualify as a nonprofit. This option is not the right business structure for most online stores.
- Cooperative: A cooperative organization (or a co-op) is an organization in which members are both customers and part-owners. In order to qualify as a co-op, organizations must meet a number of requirements, including allowing their members to vote on certain aspects of the business. While this is not a common choice for retailers, it is a possibility! REI is a popular outdoor gear retailer that is also a co-op.
Owners of new online stores are most likely to benefit from operating as a sole proprietorship or an LLC. Your choice depends on how large your business is (whether or not you have employees), and how much time and money you want to invest in registering your business. For more guidance on registering your business, check out the Small Business Administration’s webpage.
Learn What Business Permits & Licenses You Need
Required licenses and permits vary a lot depending on your business’s local laws. Look into your city, county, and state regulations to find out if there are any required permits or licenses that your business needs to apply for.
Register An Entity Name, DBA, Or Trademark
Different states have different requirements for registering an entity name, DBA (Doing Business As), or trademark. However, in general, most states follow this rule: If you’re planning on naming your business anything other than your full legal name, you need to register a business name. For more information, take a look at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website.
Apply For An EIN
EIN stands for Employer Identification Number, and it is a 9-digit business tax ID number that identifies your company to the IRS. An EIN is like your business’s Social Security Number. It is the number you use to file business taxes.
If you don’t have an EIN yet, it is easy to apply for one! The only requirements are that you are located inside the U.S. or a U.S.-owned territory and you have a taxpayer ID number (SSN or ITIN). You can apply for an EIN on the IRS’s website, and you’ll receive the EIN immediately. Here’s how to find your EIN if you already have one.
Register Your Domain Name
Your domain name is the web address (URL) that customers enter to find your online store. Choosing a good domain name is an important step as it can have a big impact on your band and on your site’s traffic.
Selecting a domain name is a lot like choosing a name for your store. In fact, it’s best if your domain and your store share the same name! Head on over to a domain service like GoDaddy or Yahoo Small Business to check the availability of a few different domain names. We also like 3dcart’s advice on picking a domain name that sets you apart from your competition–check it out if you need some ideas!
Domain names are fairly cheap. You should be able to purchase one for less than $20/year. Once you purchase a domain, you can transfer it over to whatever hosting service you choose. Keep in mind that if you already have your own website, you won’t need to buy an additional domain name. Just tack “/shop” onto the end of your existing URL.
3. Choose An eCommerce Platform
An eCommerce platform is software you use to build and operate your online store. Using an eCommerce platform, you can customize your storefront, add products, manage inventory, process orders, and create promotions and email marketing campaigns. This software is typically the heart of your online store. It is the admin panel you will likely spend the most time using, so it is incredibly important to choose a quality software app.
Picking The Right eCommerce Software
As you consider how you want to build your online store, you should ask yourself a few questions:
- Am I planning on adding a store to a pre-existing website, or do I need to build an entire site from scratch?
- What is my level of technical experience? Do I feel comfortable using APIs and HTML/CSS, or would I prefer for someone else to take care of the technicalities?
- Do I want to be able to customize every aspect of my store, or is ease of use more of a priority?
Sellers who prioritize ease of use should look for cloud-based eCommerce software. These platforms (often referred to as SaaS) are all-in-one selling solutions. They typically provide website builder tools (think Squarespace) that you can use to design an online store from scratch. Customer support and secure web hosting are also included. With cloud-based software, you typically sign up for a monthly subscription. Pricing ranges from about $30/month to $300/month.
On the other hand, if you would prefer to have a lot of control over your site (and you have a decent amount of technical experience under your belt), open-source software might be the best choice. Open-source software is downloadable software that is typically available for free. You download this software and install it on a server on your own. Then, you can use it to build your online store. Open-source software is typically much more customizable than cloud-based software, but it is also much more difficult to use.
Here at Merchant Maverick, we specialize in helping you find the right software for your business. Take a look at our shopping cart comparison page to get a rough idea of which software you should consider, and then head over to our reviews for more in-depth information. For now, take a look at a brief overview of a few of our favorite eCommerce software:
Shopify is easily one of the biggest names in eCommerce software. This cloud-based solution prioritizes ease of use and allows sellers to build a full online store from the ground up in very little time. Shopify is available as a monthly subscription with plans ranging from $29/month to $299/month. Shopify also charges transaction fees (0.5% to 2.0%) for merchants who do not use their in-house payment solution. Shopify comes with all of the features online sellers need, including a drag-and-drop design editor, numerous integrations and payment solutions, and built-in shipping software. One disadvantage of Shopify is that it is not very customizable in terms of features. That said, Shopify is an excellent solution for many online sellers, from startups to large online stores.
BigCommerce is another cloud-based solution that allows users to build an entire online store from scratch. BigCommerce is a feature-rich solution that comes with particularly strong features for tax and shipping calculations. BigCommerce is easy to use, and it allows you to customize some elements of your site’s design without working in the HTML or CSS. Like most all-in-one solutions, BigCommerce is available as a monthly subscription. Pricing ranges from $30/month to $300/month. BigCommerce is slightly different from Shopify in its pricing plans. Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce does not charge any additional transaction fees. However, BigCommerce does place revenue caps on their pricing plans. That means that once you hit a certain sales mark, you are bumped up to the next pricing tier. This may be a disadvantage for some sellers. However, all in all, we think BigCommerce is a strong option for many merchants.
Like the previous two platforms, 3dcart is cloud-based eCommerce software. When you use 3dcart, you gain access to web hosting and security, customer service, and 3dcart’s extensive feature set. 3dcart is billed monthly, and pricing plans range from $19/month to $229/month. 3dcart does not charge any transaction fees, but like BigCommerce they do set revenue caps on their pricing plans. Once you hit that annual revenue marker, you must move up to the next pricing level. 3dcart is a bit more difficult to use than the other two options we present here. The admin panel takes a bit longer to figure out, and 3dcart has limited design tools available. If your business could benefit from an advanced feature set, and you don’t mind overcoming a moderate learning curve, 3dcart might be a good option for you.
4. Create Your eCommerce Selling Policies
Before opening your online store, you have to make some decisions about policy. You should decide how you’ll accept payments, and you should also create a few policies around shipping costs and returns.
Choose Which Payments Methods To Accept
In order to accept payments online, you need a payment processor. Selecting the right payment processor can be a challenging task. In fact, payment processing is so complex that we’ve written an entire (free) eBook on the matter: The Beginner’s Guide to Payment Processing. I strongly recommend you check out the advice in this guide. However, for a broad overview of payment processing, keep reading.
When it comes to payment processing, you have two options: sign up for a merchant account or integrate a Payment Service Provider (PSP). Here are the differences between the two:
- Merchant Account: A merchant account is a business account that you set up with a processing bank. This account lets you receive payment from online credit and debit card transactions. The benefit to merchant accounts is that during the set-up process, you can negotiate your contract terms for lower rates. In order to properly transfer payment data to your merchant account, you also have to set up a payment gateway between your eCommerce software and your account.
- Payment Service Provider: A PSP is a service like PayPal, Stripe, and Square. These services process your payments in exchange for a cut of the transaction. Many of these services offer free, pre-built gateways for the most popular eCommerce platforms. PSPs tend to be easier to set up and are often better for smaller sellers. The trouble with PSPs, however, is that you can’t negotiate your rates. What’s more, PSPs are the less stable payment option–merchants occasionally have services revoked and funds withheld without much (or any) advance notice.
As you begin researching your options, I recommend starting with our preferred providers. From there, you can decide which service best fits your business’s size and needs.
Create A Refund & Return Policy
It’s incredibly important that you create a clear policy surrounding refunds and returns. Customers are very wary of online stores, and they look to return policies as they evaluate whether or not to make a purchase. In fact, according to stats from Narvar’s Consumer Report 2018, 69% of shoppers are deterred from shopping online if they have to pay for return shipping. That’s a large percentage of your customer base!
No matter what you decide on return shipping and refunds, it’s crucial that you make that policy very clear on multiple pages throughout your online store. Add your return policy to your product pages, your FAQs, and your checkout. Make sure that every customer has a chance to read the policy. You don’t want to surprise customers post-purchase if you have a strict policy of no refunds. If you allow returns, you can use that policy to motivate customers to buy.
Determine Your Shipping Strategy
During this time, you should also consider which shipping policies you want to implement. Setting prices for shipping can be complex, and different sellers use different strategies to price their shipping. Here are a few of the routes you can take:
- Flat-Rate Shipping: In a flat-rate shipping strategy, vendors calculate the average cost of shipping a product. They might do this by averaging all their shipping expenses for the past few months, or they might estimate the cost of shipping for items by category. Then, vendors use that average cost as the flat-rate shipping cost for their products. This model works best for sellers who have products of similar weights and sizes (a clothing retailer, for example) rather than merchants with a large variety of products (like a furniture retailer). Flat-rate pricing allows you to easily set shipping rates for your products, and it has the advantage of being predictable for your customers. However, there is a risk that you might lose money on shipping costs, depending on actual shipping expenses.
- Free Shipping: There is, of course, no such thing as free shipping. Most vendors who offer free shipping to their customers mark up their products to include the cost of shipping. This can give customers the sense that they’re getting a good deal (shipping is free!), but it also makes your products seem more costly, which may deter some buyers. If you’re thinking about going this route, it might be good to test it out on a few products first to see what happens to your sales. Another way to offer free shipping is to include free shipping once customers reach a certain order total. Make sure the order total you choose allows you enough room in your profit margins to make up the cost of shipping.
- Real-Time Calculated Shipping Rates: Depending on your eCommerce software’s features, you may have the ability to include real-time calculated rates on your checkout pages. Real-time rates rely on integration with your chosen shipping carriers, as well as product weight, dimensions, and shipping addresses to calculate the actual cost of postage for a shipment. Then, you can charge your customers for the actual cost of shipping. In order to use real-time shipping rates, you need to have all of your product weights and dimensions input into your software. You should also make sure you have things set up properly with each shipping carrier you use.
No matter what shipping strategy you choose, we highly recommend you set up an account with a shipping app like ShippingEasy or ShipStation. Shipping software can simplify your order fulfillment processes by quickly calculating and comparing shipping rates between different services and providers. You can purchase and print postage within the software. For more advice on shipping, check out our article, The Best Shipping Software For 2020, as well as our comparison of the three most popular shipping carriers: USPS vs UPS vs FedEx: Which Shipping Carrier Is Best?
5. Set Up Your Online Store
Once you’ve selected an eCommerce platform and gotten some policies in place, it’s time to start setting up your online store. You’ll start by choosing a design and filling your site with products. Then, you’ll need to spend some time optimizing your site for online traffic and conversions. Let’s take a closer look.
Choose A Template For Your Online Store
The first step to designing the look of your online store is selecting a template. A template (sometimes called theme) is a pre-made layout that you can use for your website. These templates are often available for free, although some designs cost up to $200. Templates are essentially the starting point for your online store.
As you browse through your options, you should look for a template that has a clean design and a modern appeal. It should have an image-focused home page and clear navigational tools, such as a header, a footer, and a search bar.
You should also look for a template that you can easily adjust. If you are planning to use your eCommerce software’s design tools, make sure the design you choose is compatible with those tools. Or, if you plan to adjust the HTML/CSS of a template, take a look at that code first. See that it is logically written, and that it will be easy to customize.
When you’re able to customize your template, you should prioritize organization and navigation. It is crucial that your customers are able to quickly and easily locate the products they’re looking for. You should also work to place your most important information (promotions, contact information, and featured products) “above the fold,” meaning on the top section of your website. That way, customers can view all of the most important information on your online store before they even scroll down.
If you choose a quality design template and customize that template while keeping organization at the forefront of your mind, you’re sure to have a winning site.
Add Your Inventory
Now that you’ve chosen a design for your online store, it’s finally time to create your product listings!
Add your products, and take the time to write thorough product descriptions for each item. Use descriptive language, including information about product materials and dimensions. We also recommend that you include your refund policy and estimated shipping times on your product page in order to inspire more confidence in your customers.
One way to make your products stand out is to take your own product images. When you use the images provided by your manufacturer or supplier, you run the risk of hurting your site’s search engine results status. These images are also not always the best representations of your products. If you can, hire a professional to do your product photography, or if that is not in the budget, check out Shopify’s recommendations for DIY product photography.
Price Your Products
Setting prices for your products can be a big challenge. There are so many elements to consider, but the primary challenge sellers face is keeping their prices competitive while protecting their profit margins. Sellers decide on product pricing in a number of ways. Here are just a couple:
- Cost-Based Pricing: Cost-based pricing is a method that sellers use to ensure they make a profit on every product they sell. In order to establish cost-based pricing, you need to estimate the cost of each product you sell. Consider the cost of manufacturing that product (or purchasing it from a supplier), and add in any taxes and shipping that you pay for, as well as the associated overhead expenses like warehousing and marketing. Once you’ve estimated the total cost of each product, add on a percentage of that amount as your profit.
- Competition-Based Pricing: In this pricing model, sellers scope out the competition with the intention of meeting or beating their product prices. The advantage of this model is that you potentially make your product more attractive to buyers, but there is a risk of lowering your prices too low and actually losing money on sales.
No matter what pricing method you choose, we recommend that you always consider the overall cost of your products. As long as you’re selling your items for more than they cost you, you’re on the right track.
Don’t Forget SEO
Google can be your best friend or your worst enemy. How you set up your store plays a very big role in how well your site performs on Google’s result pages. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and I don’t pretend to know it all. Instead, I’ll refer you to Neil Patel, who is well known for his extensive SEO knowledge.
But first, let’s take a look at a few basic ways you can improve your site’s SEO during the setup process:
- Use Memorable URLs: Write custom URLs that are real words, not just a jumble of letters and numbers. If you’re selling handmade shoes, for example, a good product URL would be www.yourstore.com/mens/shoes/handmade-mens-shoes-joey-model.
- Write Original Product Descriptions & Metadata: Writing your own product descriptions doesn’t just give your customers a better idea of what your products are like, it also boosts your SEO. Search engines love original content, so make sure to extend that practice into your meta-descriptions and title tags as well.
- Consider Maintaining A Blog: A blog can do your business a lot of good. Not only does a blog help build your brand identity, but also it helps you rank higher with search engines. A blog gives you the opportunity to consistently add fresh content to your site, showing search engines that your site is active and providing new keywords for them to grab onto.
Make Your Store Mobile-Friendly
More importantly, you should ensure your web design is mobile-friendly, meaning that your site automatically adapts to all screen sizes whether they’re desktop screens, mobile phones, or tablets. These days, 64% of all online shopping traffic comes from mobile devices, and it’s crucial that you provide a good browsing experience for these mobile users.
Fortunately, most design templates offered by cloud-based eCommerce software are already mobile-friendly. You won’t need to do anything to set up your site for mobile browsing. If you’re using an open-source software, however, design templates are less predictable. Often there are dozens of design companies contributing to open-source software’s template options, and all of these design companies have their own standards and practices. If you are choosing a template from a third-party design company, you should double-check to make sure it uses a mobile-friendly (also called mobile-responsive) design.
Secure Your Site
Finally, you need to ensure that customers’ payment information is secure on your site. If you’ve chosen to subscribe to a hosted platform, this should be pretty easy. Most hosted platforms supply their users with a free, shared 128-bit or 256-bit SSL certificate.
Merchants who use an open-source platform, however, have to do a bit more work. These merchants must purchase their own SSL certificates (which typically start at $80/year) and follow their platform’s best practices to make sure everything is as secure as possible. What’s more, they have to stay on top of security updates and install patches as they are released.
6. Use The Tools Of The Trade
Most eCommerce software apps offer a range of integrations that you can use to expand the features available to you. As you peruse your software’s app marketplace, you should consider integrating with software in a few different categories. In particular, you should look for tools to manage your SEO, customer relationships, and accounting.
SEO Tools For eCommerce
Adding SEO tools to your eCommerce platform can help you monitor your site’s performance on search engines, and they give you tools to improve your site’s rankings. Here are a few tools to look into:
- Google Search Console: Google Search Console is a free tool that allows you to monitor your site’s performance in Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
- Moz: Moz is software that helps you run site audits, conduct keyword research, and perform SERP analysis.
- SEMRush: Use SEMRush to evaluate your search rankings, compare your site with your competitors’ sites, and more.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software plays an important role in marketing your online store. CRM software can help you store and track customer data and acquire new leads. You can use the data you gather from CRM software to plan effective marketing campaigns, and you can use available help desk tools to provide your customers with quality customer support.
Keeping good records is an important part of filing accurate business taxes, but without the right software it can be a huge challenge. We recommend looking through your eCommerce software’s app marketplace for integrations with accounting software that can make record-keeping easier.
A solid integration with a high quality accounting software lets you transfer sales information, order details, and inventory from your eCommerce platform to your accounting records, which makes it easier to track expenses and earning.
Two of our favorite accounting software are Quickbooks and Xero. We even offer a complete guide to teach you how to set up your Xero account, should you choose that platform.
7. Market Your New Online Store
Now that you have everything set up, it’s time to get customers into your online store! There are a variety of ways you can go about marketing your online store. Here are a few of the best methods:
- Email Marketing: Even with the rise of social media, email isn’t going away any time soon! Use promotions and free downloadable content to build an email list. Then, look into subscribing to an email marketing software. A good email marketing system, like MailChimp or Constant Contact, lets you design and automatically send out strategic email campaigns. Use these campaigns to re-target past customers and increase conversions.
- Social Media: Use social media to expand your audience. Create accounts on all of the popular platforms, and then use those accounts to engage your customers. Depending on your target audience, you might also consider sponsoring a few social media influencers to run advertisements for you.
- Word Of Mouth: Use referral promotions (Refer a friend, get 50% off!) to encourage your current customers to bring their friends to your website.
- Physical Storefront: If you currently operate a brick and mortar location, you can use signage at your store to tell customers about your new online ordering options.
- Online Advertisements: Consider purchasing pay-per-click advertisements on Google or running a Facebook ad campaign. You can also create advertisements for YouTube or sponsor a podcast that has the same target audience.
The sky is the limit when it comes to ways you can market your online store. Whatever methods you choose, make sure they are sustainable in the long run, and that you can maintain a good return on investment.
8. Keep Researching & Improving
It’s likely that at the beginning of your journey into online selling, you will be one person wearing multiple hats. You’ll be CEO, Head of Sales, Graphic Designer, Web Developer, and Bookkeeper.
It’s important that during this time (even as you’re busy with a hundred other aspects of your business), you keep researching ways to improve your store. Here are a couple of things you can do:
- Read: There are plenty of excellent websites out there that provide quality information on new developments in eCommerce as well as ways to improve your online store. A couple of our favorites are Practical Ecommerce and My Wife Quit Her Job. Read up on SEO, HTML/CSS coding, digital trends, internet laws, etc.
- Get Feedback: Tap into your connections and current customer base to get feedback from site users. You can also find user information in your sitewide analytics.
We know you value research (you made it to the end of this article after all). Keep it up and you’ll be well prepared as you enter the eCommerce industry.
How Much Does Starting An eCommerce Business Cost?
The cost of starting an online store varies from business to business. That said, there are a few basic expenses that you can plan for. Here’s a quick breakdown of the expenses that you should keep in mind moving forward:
- eCommerce Software: Cloud-based software typically costs between $30/month and $300/month. In this monthly subscription, you pay for web hosting, security, web design tools, and online store tools. Open-source software, on the other hand, is typically free to download, although you have to pay for web hosting, security, and technical support on your own.
- Payment Processing: Most payment processors charge around 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction on eCommerce payments.
- Domain Name: Domain names are typically inexpensive, costing about $10-$20/year.
- SSL certificate: Most cloud-based software includes a free SSL certificate for your first year on the plan. If it isn’t included, you can purchase your own for around $80-$200/year.
- Integrations: The cost of integrations varies dramatically depending on the software you want to integrate. Fortunately, many popular options offer free plans for beginners.
- Expert Help: You should also budget for any professionals you need to hire or contract. This could include a professional photographer to do your product photography or a software expert to help you customize your design and add integrations.
Getting Your Online Store Up & Running
By now, you should have a better idea of how to begin your online store. You’re equipped with resources to help you find a niche for your business, select high-quality eCommerce software, and start developing a successful online store.
There is so much more that we couldn’t cover here, including site organization, order processing, and growth strategies. While we didn’t have room in this article, you can find all of that advice and more in our free, downloadable eBook: The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store.
Hopefully, this article has given you a sense of calm as you approach the challenging world of online selling. You’re already off to a great start!