How to start an online store in 3 steps

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This post was originally published on May 23, 2019, and was updated on Sept. 17, 2021.

Why is it important to understand how to start an online store if commerce is your game? Where should we start?

We are living in the midst of a digital age. In today’s world, consumers are no longer bound by one particular geographical location — and this trend has only been accelerated by COVID-19.

Nowadays people have the power to connect with their peers, conduct research, consume content, and most importantly shop wherever they are in the world with a few swipes of a screen. And that means that in the current climate, if you’re an entrepreneur looking to grow your business, building an online store might be the best thing you ever do.

Why consider building an online store?

At present, over 2.14 billion active people shop online — and that’s on a global scale. Even earning a small slice of the ecommerce pie will see you in excellent commercial stead.

  • On average, men spend $220 per online transaction and women spend $151 per transaction. That’s a high-value average spend per customer.
  • The main reason people shop online is that they’re able to buy items or products 24/7, literally.
  • The market size of ecommerce online shopping is expected to reach 4 trillion by the end of 2021.
  • Globally, 49% of consumers shop for goods or services online more now than they did pre-COVID-19.
If you know how start an online store the right way, you’ll be able to boost your profits significantly and grow your business year after year.

 

With a little know-how, an excellent idea and a powerful ecommerce solution for building and maintaining your online store, you will reap great rewards.

Inspired? Great, let’s continue.

Related: Tips to boost sales in 2021 with Websites + Marketing

How to start an online store in 3 steps

It’s clear that if you’re a modern business, entering the ecommerce arena is a wise move. To help you start your digital journey, here’s our how-to guide to create an online store, broken down into three simple steps:

  1. Fine-tune your idea.
  2. Start your free trial and create your own online store.
  3. Promote your online store.

Let’s get started.

1. Fine-tune your idea

At this point, it’s likely that you know what you want to sell. Start fine-tuning your idea by deciding on a business name, conducting market research, and finding your audience.

Consider these questions: What makes your brand stand out from others in your niche? What particular pain points do you solve?

Choosing your business name and domain name

When it comes to naming your ecommerce business, choosing a name that is digestible, memorable, relevant, good for digital marketing purposes and will work well as a domain name is a must.

This comprehensive guide to naming a business will walk you through everything you need to know.

When choosing a domain, think .shop or .store for general ecommerce, or get more specific with .jewelry, .clothing, .coffee and more.

Go ahead, give it a try:

Market research for your product

The ecommerce game is competitive. What will make your venture stand apart?

There are a host of ways to assess how your idea compares to other similar businesses online. Here are the most important:

Do your friends and family think it’s worthwhile?

Group of friends on a mountain

Offer your products for free — or for a sizable discount — to friends and family. Monitor how they respond to your product.

  • Do they love it? If so, find out what features are most appealing to them.
  • Is there anything about your product they would change? Get details.
  • Did they enjoy their customer experience? What about your service made it shine?
  • Would they be willing to pay full price? What do they think your product is actually worth?
  • Would they be willing to recommend your product to others in their networks and become brand advocates?

Gathering this level of feedback and data is a brilliant way to refine your product idea before unleashing it on the public.

Another key aspect of market research is looking at your competitors. Signing to email subscriber lists and monitoring brand conversations via social media are effective ways to analyze the way your competitors are talking to your target audience as well as gaining an understanding of what they’re offering.

By gathering this market intelligence, you can find ways to offer more value to your target audience while filling in any product, service or content-based gaps your direct competitors have overlooked.

Find and define your target audience

In digital marketing, there’s a well-known saying: “If you’re talking to everybody, you’re not talking to anybody.”

Basically, if you don’t understand your target audience — or how to connect with them — your broad, generic content or brand messaging is likely to offer little value and as such, become overlooked.

When it comes to knowing how to start an online store the right way, understanding where to aim your efforts is essential.

Yet, despite the vital importance of identifying and focusing on a specific target audience, many ecommerce businesses struggle with this notion. When asked to describe their audience, a host of brands often answer in broad, vague, almost meaningless terms.

When you fail to define your target audience, your promotional efforts will suffer in the following ways:

  • You won’t be able to craft strong, authentic branding that resonates with potential customers.
  • Your marketing communications will be flat and uninspired.
  • You won’t be able to encourage customer loyalty, one of the cornerstones of any successful eCommerce business.
  • You will fail to stand out from the competition.
  • You won’t be able to improve your offerings as you won’t have an idea of how your products can address your customers’ specific pain points.

Related: Why a target audience matters and how to find yours

How to define your target audience

Woman kneeling in front of row of archery targets

To help you avoid such calamities, defining your target audience is essential. That said, here’s a practical outline of how to classify your target audience in a specific, value-driven way that gets results, based on certain characteristics you should focus on:

  • Demographics: Statistical data relating to your audience
  • Professional details: Information concerning jobs, competencies and places of work
  • Psychographics: Metrics and details based on personality traits and innate qualities
  • Goals: Descriptions of what your audience is looking to accomplish
  • Challenges: Pain points and problems your audience faces on a regular basis
  • Influences: Media and impressions your audience typically encounters
  • Buying process: How your target audience makes purchasing decisions
  • Behaviors: An extension of ‘Buying Process’ with a wider scope, looking at how your target consumers interact across all channels and touchpoints including mobile apps and social media.

The more you drill down into these facets of information, the better and more targeted your marketing will be. Plus, if you’d like to know your audience on an even deeper level, here’s a practical guide to defining buyer personas for your reading pleasure.

2. Start your free trial and create your own online store

Once you’ve considered all of the key ingredients of a successful web-based ecommerce business, it’s time to start thinking about making it happen, in a practical sense.

The simplest and fastest way to get your online shop up and running is by using a templated ecommerce store.

With this option, you get it all in one quick install. An ecommerce website package includes an online shop website template (aka website theme), product pages, shopping cart, payment processing feature and hosting for the site.

Instead of building your store piece by piece, you can install the whole store at once.

GoDaddy’s Online Store includes all of these essentials plus award-winning customer support, tools for integrating with online marketplaces, Facebook and Google Analytics, and more. Bonus: You can start for free.

Let’s take a look at a step-by-step blueprint to help you create an online store using GoDaddy’s intuitive ecommerce website builder.

Start your free trial

To take that first small but essential step in making your online store a reality, sign up for your free trial.

GoDaddy Online Store landing page with free trial button

Set up your account and define your settings

Once you click on the Start for Free button, you’ll enter your business category to get the ball rolling and shape the direction of your brand new easy ecommerce website.

Pop up window to choose a category during GoDaddy Online Store setup

To help you get started, refer to:

Choose your template

With your framework (the foundations and fundamentals of your online store) firmly in place, the next step is choosing your website’s overall appearance by selecting a template from a range of eye-catching options. Once you’ve selected your theme, you can change the font and color of your page and customize it to your satisfaction.

Theme selection page in GoDaddy Online Store

Build online store pages: product pages and more

Here’s where you start building your site out beyond the home page. You can start with the home page and reorder or remove any of the elements. Then, go through and do the same to the other default pages: About Us, Shop and Contact Us.

With Online Store the Home, Shop and About Us pages are automatically listed with suggested fields, but you can easily customize each page to your liking and add new pages.

Options for adding new pages in GoDaddy Online Store

Fundamentally, a compelling ecommerce product page offers an intuitive, navigable and satisfying user experience (UX), so be sure to keep it simple and test your pages with people you trust.

You don’t want to launch your site, only to find that no one can figure out how to find your products.

Update ecommerce website settings

Once your easy ecommerce site has materialized — filled with dazzling product pages, images, colors, fonts and user-friendly functionality — you’ll need to update your site settings to make those all-important final touches prior to going live.

GoDaddy Online Store settings page

Once you’ve entered the settings section of your account, you’ll need to consider the following elements and update them to your particular preferences:

  1. Update all of your business contact information so that it’s present and correct.
  2. Settle on your domain name by using your existing one, buying a domain name or using the free domain name.
  3. Optimize all of your pages for SEO purposes by using the platform’s in-built SEO tools.
  4. Link all of your active social media accounts to your online store.
  5. If necessary, set up site cookies and traffic notifications, in addition to Favicon, Facebook Pixel and Pinterest meta tags. You can do this according to your own personal preference.

If you need extra help with any of these elements, be sure to check out GoDaddy’s dedicated help page for Online Store.

Manage your store: shipping, payment options, etc

Now, before the big launch, there’s one final thing you need to do — and it’s critical — if you want to make any money, that is. Yes, you might have guessed it. You need to add products and set up your payment methods.

To get to these settings, click on the Store icon under the Website settings tab. This will take you to a new screen.

GoDaddy Online Store options screen

From there, you’ll find a new page that has all your product-related options, like adding a product, adding payment options, shipping and more.

GoDaddy Online Store setup options

Products

Adding a product is simple. Upload an image, and include the name, description, price, tax category and other basic information. Once you save it, your product will be in the Shop section (under Pages) of the Online Store.

Adding a new product on GoDaddy Online Store

Related: How to create a compelling ecommerce product page

Payments

Next, you’ll want to be sure to set up your payment options. With GoDaddy Online Store, you have the option to use GoDaddy Payments, PayPal, Square, Stripe and offline payments.

Online Store payment options

Once you’ve set up your preferred payment offerings, select your shipping options to fulfill your orders. Click on the payment type you want to add and you’ll be redirected to a form that will take all of the information.

To help you do so, here are a couple of essential resources to reference as you set up your online store:

Pro tip: Feeling a bit lost? Click on the Next Steps button at the top right of the dashboard and you’ll receive a tailored list of steps you’ll want to take to make your ecommerce website a success.

Shipping

GoDaddy Online Store shipping options

Calculate the cost of shipping your products, and select a shipping method (free, flat rate or weight-based) that will best serve your customers and business.

Related: Top-notch shipping tips for your online store

Taxes

Don’t forget about taxes when you sell online. Talk to an accountant to determine whether or not you need to charge tax on your online sales.

Related: When are business taxes due and how can you prepare now?

Term of service and conditions

Clearly post a refunds and terms of service policy on your website and prompt users to agree to it before they make a purchase. This is essential as it will showcase your brand’s transparency while helping you avoid any costly consumer conflicts of interests later down the line.

Related: Returns and refunds policy templates for online shopping sites

Coupon codes

Within your store, you have options for creating coupons for discounted rates or on individual products. Explore how you can use coupons to reward new or loyal customers.

Customer reviews

GoDaddy’s Online Store includes a review feature. More than half of customers read reviews before making a purchase, so encourage your happy customers to leave reviews after their purchases.

Related: Generate reviews — 8 ways to get more product reviews

Tips: Important elements of an ecommerce website

While there are only a few essential elements that you must have to create an online store, there are many other components that will help you get the most out of your ecommerce shop.

Product details and photos

Don’t just post product pages and hope your items will sell. Instead, create interesting and useful product detail pages with sales copy that lists benefits, features and specifications. And be sure to include photos that show the product in detail.

The best product descriptions inspire, engage, address specific pain points and, most importantly, tell a story.

Related: How to write product descriptions to increase sales

CTA on every page

Calls-to-action (CTAs) are critical elements for ecommerce websites.

There are a variety of CTAs, but the ultimate goal is to move a prospect down the sales funnel. This can be anything from getting a lead (newsletter signup CTAs are great for that) to turning a lead into a customer (buy-one-get-one CTAs can do the trick).

Related: 8 costly call-to-action mistakes you’re making on your website

Publish your store

If you’ve added everything we’ve mentioned here, then it’s time to take your site live. GoDaddy’s Online Store makes this simple, with a simple click of a button.

Publish button for GoDaddy Online Store

Ready to get started with your own online store? Sign up for your free ecommerce site builder today!

3. Promote your online store

Black and white letterboard with the word “Sale”

The third and final element of our how to start an online store guide comes in the form of promotion or marketing.

Once you’ve fine-tuned your idea and actually created your online store, it’s time to shout about it to your target audience.

Here we’re going to explain how to promote an online store, expand your reach, and enjoy the profit-boosting success you no doubt deserve.

There are a host of avenues you can take when marketing your online store to prospective buyers, from connecting your website to popular third-party vendors to social media, email marketing and more.

But, before we delve into these all-important areas, it’s important to reiterate the importance of spreading the word about your online store.

Why you need to promote your online store

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 to make  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. Others identify influencers in their community and have them promote their product. Some business owners 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.

 

Related: 5 marketing lessons from businesses thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic

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. And here we’re going to give you more essential advice on how to promote an online store.

Connect with online marketplaces

As mentioned earlier, connecting your online store to renowned ecommerce marketplaces is an excellent way of enhancing your profit-making potential while expanding your promotional reach.

If you appear in more online shopping spaces, more consumers will be able to interact with your brand messaging, explore your products, and buy stuff from you.

GoDaddy Online Store makes it easy to integrate your website with popular marketplaces including Amazon, Walmart, Google, eBay, Walmart and Etsy.

Related: Sell your products on Amazon, Etsy, eBay and Google using Websites + Marketing Marketplaces

Build an email marketing list

Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is still one of the most effective promotional methods available to today’s ecommerce brands. If you’re just starting your journey into ecommerce entrepreneurship, you might not have the capital to spend on a host of pricey promotions. But, as you’ll no doubt know by now, promoting your online store is essential if you want to be a success.

To ensure your emails get read and help to boost your store’s bottom line, you will need to build a targeted email list of willing recipients that are open to receiving your communications. While this can prove tricky at first, once you’ve learned the fundamentals and found a little momentum, you will be cooking with gas.

To help you do just that, GoDaddy’s Online Store includes email marketing functionality built-in for free. To get started, take a look at this walkthrough.

Related: Websites + Marketing — Enhanced email marketing features for your business

Embrace social media marketing

Person holding phone with various social media icons displayed

As one of the world’s most influential communication-based mediums, social media marketing is key to getting eyes on your online store.

Getting it right is essential if you want to promote your ecommerce business effectively.

Social media has become a staple of our daily lives — a way to connect (or reconnect) with friends and family, share pieces of our lives with our followers, and “spy” on others. Social sites like Twitter and Facebook help us stay abreast of the latest trends. LinkedIn has become a go-to source for job hunters and recruiters alike. And image-based sites such as Pinterest and Instagram feed us with visual inspiration 24/7. But, until fairly recently, social media wasn’t a must-have marketing tool for business.

That changed.

Social networking can make companies more accessible for customers, give them viral exposure, and revolutionize the way businesses market their products.

For businesses that sell products online, getting social offers additional perks — from a free way to offer incentives to an organic means for building buzz about specific products.

With a little bit of know-how, online sellers can use social media to take ecommerce sales to new heights.

Related: How to create a social media strategy for the new normal

Offer incentives

Customers love a good deal, and word-of-mouth (or social sharing) helps promote your products/services more effectively than paid ads. How? Because people trust and want what their friends are talking about.

A simple and affordable way to increase your social following and draw new visitors to your online store is through giveaways and discounts.

By offering new followers a 15% discount for liking your page, for example, or by hosting a giveaway where contestants share a picture/post from your site to get entered to win a prize, you can quickly develop loyal customers and viral success.

Related: Email marketing coupons — Best practices for driving sales with discounts

Engage with your customers

People love talking about products and services they’ve used. Whether a customer’s experiences are good or bad, your business’s social profile is a place where they can go to engage and share their feedback about the products they use.

The one-on-one interaction can give incredible insight into what you’re doing right, and what needs improvement.

 

Remember, it’s important to keep the social in social media! Don’t be THAT business that’s constantly pushing products. Take the opportunity to connect with your customers and find ways to promote through conversation.

Related: The best tips for responding to reviews online

Use share buttons

A great way to promote your products online is by adding share buttons to your product pages and home page. The buttons allow customers and social visitors to showcase their interest in your products on their own social profiles.

Whether they’re sharing their recent purchases, sending a gift idea to their mom through Facebook messenger, or adding a product to their Pinterest pinboard — they are marketing for you.

Now that you have three easy ways to leverage social media to boost eCommerce sales, it’s time you get socializing! It’s a commonly known fact that social networking sites are where people spend a large chunk of their time — and so should your business.

Related: A beginner’s guide to social media for small business

Share customer testimonials and positive reviews

Person showing a thumbs-up sign

In today’s world, consumers trust the thoughts, feelings and opinions of their peers over adverts or promotional messaging. That said, customer testimonials and genuine positive reviews are like promotional golddust for your eCommerce business.

Customer testimonials are priceless quotes or snippets that are generally short, snappy and to the point.

 

As they take up little physical space, it’s easy to add testimonials to your website or use them in print collateral and email outreach.

To unlock the full potential of using positive reviews and testimonials for your business, check out our dedicated guide, complete with case studies.

Explore discounts and coupons

The final recommendation for promoting an online store is offering deals and discounts. We’ve mentioned this a few times already, but it’s especially important when spreading the word about products or services.

By offering coupons, deals and discounts, you’ll be able to boost your levels of engagement and attract prospects to your brand.

You can get incredibly creative with discounts and coupons, using them in your various marketing communications. The sky really is the limit!

Manage online business listings

If your business is locally based, be sure to keep your business listings updated. To get people to your site (and in your store if you have a physical location), you’ll need to ensure people can find you in a local search.

Make sure your contact information is accurate on all platforms, including your website, social media pages, Yelp, Google and wherever else visitors will search for your store.

Tip: It’s never a bad idea to add a map to the Contact page on your ecommerce website. This will make your user experience (UX) offerings all the more seamless while incentivizing your prospects to check you out!

Conclusion and next steps

“eCommerce is not an industry; eCommerce is a tactic.” ~Tobias Lutke

An ecommerce website can open a large, new frontier for your business. You will be able to sell to millions around the world instead of the thousands in your neighborhood. You will be able to tap into a billion-dollar market. And, you will be able to give your business an opportunity to expand and grow with minimal risk and low investment costs. And, now is the time to strike.

Once you’ve fine-tuned your idea with a great name and thorough market testing, an easy ecommerce website is just a few steps away.

Start with a free trial of GoDaddy Online Store.

Begin with a few products that you showcase on your ecommerce site with stellar photos and product descriptions. Prompt store visitors to take action with compelling CTAs and authentic customer testimonials and reviews. Make it easy for customers to pay via various methods. Offer multiple shipping options — including free shipping.

These are the basics that will get your online store up and running.

Then you can focus on expanding your product line and growing your business through digital marketing techniques such as email marketing, social media and online business listings.

Now that you know how to create an online store, get going and make those dreams a reality.