Starting your own online shop (eCommerce store) is a fantastic way to supplement your income and it can be a lot of fun. Based on my own experience, I’ve complied a list of steps that you can take to start your own web-based store:
1. Decide what you’re going to sell and decide how it will be manufactured
Do you know what you want to sell? Are you going to make the goods yourself, have them manufactured in Australia or overseas, or are you going to buy existing products and re-sell them? If applicable, do you know how you will import the goods into Australia? Do you know what your minimum costs will be and do you have the funds to pay for them?
2. Test your market
Do you know if there is a market for your product? Do you know who your target market is? Do you know who your competitors are? Once you’ve paid to manufacture and import your goods, and then add mark-up and postage, will your prices be comparable to those of your competitors? And is there enough demand to support another business entering the marketplace? Does your product have a unique selling point (USP) that will set it apart from its competitors?
If possible, buy or make a small quantity of the goods that you plan to sell and try selling them on Gumtree, Ebay, or Facebook. Try experimenting with different prices and see how quickly they sell. Yes, might have to buy the items at retail and sell below cost, but that is preferable to investing time and money in goods that people aren’t going to buy!
Once you’ve confirmed that there is a market for your product, you can safely start making or ordering stock.
2. Choose and register your business name
Once you know what you’re going to sell, and you’ve confirmed that there is a market for them, you’ll need to choose a name for your business. It’s a good idea to choose something memorable, that preferably tells you something about the business. Avoid strange spellings or uncommon words because that makes it harder for people to find your business online. Check that your chosen name isn’t already registered, and check that your preferred domain names are available.
Once you’ve chosen your name, you’ll need to apply for an ABN (if you don’t already have one) and register your business name. At this stage it is a good idea to visit an accountant as they can help you set-up your business correctly and give you some information about your tax obligations.
3. Set-up your online store
When setting up your website there are a number of different options ranging from cheap to expensive:
- Web Design Agency (or Freelance Web Designer)
If you can afford to spend $5-$10k, arguably the best and safest option is to hire a reputable web design agency to design and develop your website for you. They will be able to design a website with conversion and SEO in mind, and they’ll be able to take care of then entire process from start to finish.
- eCommerce Solution
Another option is to create your own website using an ecommerce solution such as Shopify. This is a quick and easy way to get your website up and running as soon as possible, and no experience is required. You are charged a monthly fee, so in the long run these services usually end up costing you more, but you can always setup your website this way to begin with and go to a web agency later down the track.
- DIY Website
If you have some technical savvy or you’re prepared to learning, the cheapest option is to set up your ecommerce store yourself. You can use free CMS software such as WordPress along with a free ecommerce toolkit such as Woocommerce, however you will need to learn how to implement this software. There are also a lot of security considerations to take into account if you choose the DIY option. Ensure you have a SSL certificate and use a reputable payment gateway.
Not sure which option you should choose? Think of it this way, if you were to open a bricks-and-mortar version of your shop, what would you do? Would you rent a great looking shop in a great location and hire a professional to do the fit out? Or would a cheap warehouse be more suitable for your business? This might help to give you an idea of which option would work best for you.
4. Start marketing your online store
Now is the time to start implementing a multi-faceted marketing plan. This will be limited to your time and budget, but some suggestions include: Search Engine Optiomisation (SEO), Google Adwords, Social Media Marketing (SSM), blogging, and advertising through both traditional and digital channels.
5. Monitor your progress and continue to grow and develop your business
You can use free analytics software, such as Google Analytics, to monitor traffic to your website and track how people navigate the site. This will help to determine areas that you need to improve on. For example, if you’re getting lots of traffic to your website but your conversion figures are poor, maybe you need to redesign your homepage or have another look at your pricing.