8 steps to open an online shop

A simple, functional piece of software can start an online store that will allow you to sell products. But how do you grow beyond the Minimum Viable Product and take your business to the next level? You can find step-by-step instructions here.

Choose your own niche and develop a business plan
Choose your domain name
Select your ecommerce website builder
Customize the look of your online store
Add products to your online store
Set up shipping
Market your online shop
Start your online shop

1. Choose your own niche and develop a business plan

The e-commerce market is very diverse. Even today's giants like Amazon started out as niche retailers. Conduct background research on ecommerce niches to identify your area of focus.

Conduct a SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It's a simple but effective way to evaluate different niche and product ideas.

2. Choose your domain name
Just like your business name, a domain name is your unique consumer identifier. Aside from directing them to your online store, the right domain name can also improve brand recall and awareness.

How to generate a domain name for your webshop:

1. Try to be unique.
"Exact match" domain names like used to be all the rage among small business owners because keyword-rich names made it easier to rank in search results. However, these are not ideal for most businesses. Instead, opt for a more unique name.

2. Don't use unfamiliar words or creative spellings.
On the other hand, don't get too creative when trying to put different words together. You might end up with something unintentionally offensive or inappropriately funny.

3. Be brief.
Keep your domain name under 12 characters. That's the perfect length to make it memorable and easy to type. You need similar social media handles for your website – they also need to be short.
3. Choose your ecommerce website builder

Web shops come in different types with different native features and extensions. To find the best choice for your business, create a prioritized list of requirements—a list of critically important features and the “nice-to-haves.” Then analyze different open source and SaaS solutions.

It might be tempting to start with the cheapest website builder. The downside is that you may need to migrate your ecommerce site later, which adds an extra layer of complexity. Think long-term, even if you're just building your first iteration.

4. Design the look of your online shop
Ecommerce website builders like BigCommerce offer a wide range of website themes organized by industry.

Choose a template that best suits your needs, then customize it to match your company's branding:

Customize fonts and text sizes
Add high quality visuals and brand assets
Configure your color scheme
Embed social media accounts and branded content
Experiment with different page layouts and product listing types

5. Add products to your online store
To make your store enjoyable and your products easy to find, set up your product category pages, write great product descriptions, and upload product images that sell.
6. Set up shipping
Next, you need to figure out how new products will reach customers. An effective e-commerce shipping strategy is critical, as 56% of consumers will stop buying from a retailer after a poor delivery experience. So be sure to sort all the ends.

7. Market your online shop
Every entrepreneur's worst nightmare is seeing zero active visitors in Google Analytics on launch day.

To ensure your new store is teeming with virtual visitors, you must:

Prioritize multiple ecommerce marketing channels.
Develop a pre-launch promotional strategy for them.

8. Start your online shop
After moving your website from stage to production, do a quick test run to make sure you're ready in terms of design, performance, and navigation.

Here is a quick checklist:

Review all call-to-actions and form titles on the homepage and landing pages.
Test your checkout experience.
Check payment processing integrations (credit cards, PayPal, Stripe, etc.).
Make sure all images are high resolution but well optimized.
Search for missing product descriptions, features, categories.
Check your site navigation.
Connect helpdesk email and/or helpdesk software.
Check that all links and forms work.
Make sure all taxes are set correctly.
Test your email marketing service provider.
Make sure all inventory is properly listed.
Try to see if coupon/promotional codes work.
Also, make sure your digital storefront works equally well on desktop and mobile.