How to start an online store in 3 steps

Create, sell, share

So, you want to learn how to start an online store? The fact of the matter is there’s more to becoming an online seller than simply creating an e-commerce website.

online shopping on computer to represent how to start an online storeThis article highlights the three-step path for becoming a successful e-commerce merchant. First, you need a good business idea – something that is different from the competition. Then comes the easy part — creating an e-commerce website. And the last step is an iterative drive to grow your business and improve the lives of your customers. Ready to get started?

Step 1: Find and vet your idea

The first thing you need to start an online store is your business idea. The logistics of starting an e-commerce website to sell your products will come later, but first you need to identify a niche that you’re passionate about and uniquely qualified to differentiate yourself in.

For example, if you decide to sell T-shirts online because you have a passion for T-shirts, how would your shirts be different from all the other businesses that sell T-shirts online? It’s important to vet your idea to see if you can be successful in this niche. There are many ways to assess how your idea compares to other similar businesses out there. Here are a few:

Do your friends and family like it? Offer your product for free or for a steep discount to friends and family. See how they respond to your product. Do they love it? Do they want more of it, and would they be willing to pay for it if they saw your product in a market or in an online marketplace? Would they be willing to recommend it to others in their circles? This is a great way to refine your product idea before selling it to the public.

Can you raise money for it? Consider websites like Kickstarter, where you can list your product idea and raise money for it. Set a reasonable goal for fund-raising that is beyond what your friends and family can provide. You want to get honest feedback on your product from a larger circle than your immediate friends and family. Don’t shy away from marketing the idea well so that the larger circle can at least hear about your idea.

Can you get sell it on third-party platforms like Etsy? Another way to get quick feedback in an economical way is to list your products on third-party marketplaces like Etsy, eBay and Amazon. These platforms will most likely have thousands of customers who are actively looking for products like yours. But they probably also have hundreds of sellers in your product category. By listing your product on these platforms, you’ll get a good sense of where your product stands compared to the competition.

You will need to give these platforms a significant cut from your sales for listing fees and transaction fees. However, listing on third-party marketplaces can help you fine-tune your marketing messaging and product features to figure out what works best!

Note: You can skip this step and move straight into creating your dedicated online store if you have received positive feedback from friends or from your Kickstarter campaign. Either way, it’s still a good idea to circle back around and list your product on these third-party platforms as well. They could provide a supplementary source of revenue.

Step 2: Create your online store

Etsy, eBay and Amazon are great platforms for getting started, but on those websites you’re likely to be just one of hundreds of sellers in your product category. The next step is to create your own online store to manage your unique brand the way you want to.

How do you start an online store?

You’ll need to find a partner who can help you build an online store that includes a website plus a shopping cart plus e-commerce capabilities such as payments and shipping. Here’s why GoDaddy Online Store is a great choice:

  • Online Store is a one-stop-shop that makes it easy to build and run a customized web store — including a smooth end-user checkout experience with built-in payment processing tools (no merchant account required).  And you don’t need to be a technical wizard to do it.
  • It includes robust features, right off the bat. You’ll enjoy beautiful themes, credit card and PayPal payment processing, built-in SEO features to get traffic, a Facebook store, customer ratings and reviews, coupon codes, unlimited products, unlimited bandwidth and mobile-friendly templates.
  • Award-winning customer support, around the clock.

… all at a great price. You can even try it for free.

Step 3: Spread the word

Many small business owners think that once they have created an online store their job is done. In fact, that’s where the fun begins. Not everyone who creates an online store is successful in making it their primary source of income. But those who are successful have a few common characteristics:

They love their customers. Ask any successful online seller what they like about their business and they will have a ton of heart-warming customer stories on the tips of their tongues. They live for making their customers’ lives better!

They are scrappy and savvy marketers. The most successful online sellers have figured out a way to spread the word in their customer community. Some do it through social media marketing; some identify influencers in their community and have them promote their product; and some come up with clever viral marketing campaigns by promoting their products with special discounts. It’s all about trying various marketing tactics and adapting to what works.

This last step in the journey to becoming a successful online seller is an iterative process — an ongoing effort to keep on improving your product and the lives of your customers. Have fun with it!

Mukul Sheopory
A member of GoDaddy’s Presence and Commerce team, Mukul is a digital marketer passionate about helping small business owners succeed. He loves using data, design and research to improve product experiences. At GoDaddy, Mukul is focused on helping SMBs take their businesses to the next level by improving their online presence. Connect with Mukul on LinkedIn.