There’s a galore of articles on the web about theories and strategies on how to launch an online shop and make it a successful business that makes money.
And while these are a great source of knowledge and insights, once you get to the point of actually doing something with your ideas and strategies, you realise – you are on your own.
It’s like everybody is guarding a big secret.
There are no practical actionable guides out there to straightforwardly help you build your online shop in the real world with real tools.
So, we put one together!
We tried to compile the essentials for going from ZERO to a completely functional online shop with all the basics covered, without overwhelming the fresh online entrepreneur spirit with too many variables.
This is the first in a series of three increasingly advanced practical guides. So, if you feel like you are ready for more and this here is way too basic, check out how to grow your online shop and how to conquer the world with your online shop.
Now, let’s kickstart the launch of your online shop!
STEP 1: Choose a name and domain for your online shop
Finding the perfect name and domain for your online shop can be quite time-consuming, especially in a world where all good ones seem to be already taken!
This is where NameMesh and SquadHelp can become true lifesavers. You can use both for some great brainstorming.
NameMesh will give you plenty of great instant suggestions based on your keywords while checking for domain and social media name availability in real time.
If you still get stuck, surfing around SquadHelp can give you some much-needed inspiration. And if your budget allows, you can even let those guys do all the hard lifting for you and order a ready baked bespoke name and domain combo right off their site.
Keep in mind the naming basics for any online business and you will be done in no time:
- Make sure your name is as short as possible (or just very memorable)
- Make sure that it is easy and unambiguous to spell
- When at all possible, get one that is still available with the domain extension you want. When in doubt, always go for .com, you can never really go wrong with .com – it’s trustworthy and an available .com domain means there will be no confused Google searches with higher ranking domains with similar names (and no possible legal action against you for trying to steal someone’s trademarks).
STEP 2: Decide on your branding basics
For sure you already have the “feeling” and “mojo” of your new brand pinned down in your mind and soul. However, to translate that from ether to paper is usually a really demanding and at times frustrating task.
Coolors lets you scroll through beautiful colour schemes with just a click on the space bar. You can keep colours you like and discard others to find new matches, even import colours from a photo and skim them for possible combinations. It’s a relaxing and entertaining way to help you with a major decision on your site’s design – the colour ambience.
Canva is a great tool for anything to do with creating graphics for your online shop. Starting from the logo, all the way to social media posts, business cards and online ads. The best part is that it is super easy to use, so your precious time will not be spent to learn the interface, but on the important job of creating your online shops’ image.
And of course, if design is not your thing or time is scarce (which it always is), you can always pop onto Fiverr and find someone to help you out!
STEP 3: Select your eCommerce platform
There is an abundance of offer of eCommerce platforms and while our list has quite some choice, there are many more out there. We, unfortunately, cannot make the decision about which is the “best” solution for you, since there are a lot of nuances to consider, and “best” is a very subjective term here.
But what we can do is give you some basic facts. From there, just have a look around and see what speaks to you the most. Here they are:
Top eCommerce platforms:
- PrestaShop is the most widely used eCommerce platform in Western Europe, originally from the country better known for cheese and wine, France. In Spain it is a strong market leader, running about half of the active online shops on the market. It is tried-and-tested and comes with a lot of available add-ons on their marketplace. Being that big also means that there are a lot of third party developers ready to give you a hand whenever you need it.
- Shopify is a stable of eCommerce for quite some time now and with a little bit of getting used to it is quite manageable without any help from developers. It comes with its own app store to cater for your every possible need and a lot of resources on the web starting from tutorials to experts for hire.
- WooCommerce is the most widely used eCommerce platform in the world as a whole. Which makes sense, since it’s a plugin for WordPress, the CMS that powers over 8 million websites and holds over 80% of the CMS market. If you already know your way around WordPress, WooCommerce is the logical step into the online shop arena. Being the biggest also means there is no lack of possible features, customizations and helpful hands when needed.
- Magento is usually the go-to solution for online shops who want a more flexible option in order to build a completely custom site. This usually means also that it’s a solution for shops that do not mind spending some extra resources on hiring developers to create and maintain it all.
- Squarespace is originally a content management system that also started offering eCommerce solutions and has done it with great success, even surpassing Shopify with market share. No doubt thanks to its easy user interface and nice sleek and modern feel of its designs.
- OleoShop is another strong local Spanish solution that comes with a visual drag-and-drop user interface, which can make anyone feel like a designer and a developer, all at the same time. And who would not love a tool that makes you feel smart and talented!
- Xopie is the local Spanish branch of the French Oxatis, which is well known in its home market. Xopie offers a Saas solution that is focused on giving you a great design and offering marketing optimizations from day one, to help you maximize your sales in an effortless way.
- TLG Commerce is the premium service that dominates the bespoke online shops market in Spain. They are behind the stores of big brands like Volkswagen, Lacoste, Media Markt, Punto Blanco and so on. With years of experience, they likely offer the most trustworthy completely hands-off online shop creation experience in Spain.
STEP 4: Lay the basics of good SEO
SEO will be your never-ending quest now that you are in the online retail business. The rules for this pursuit are set by the all-powerful Google, so there is really no better place to start than… Google.
The Google SEO Starter Guide is a compilation of the basic ideas behind their algorithm and AI and it is a great starting point for understanding the bottom-line of what-the-whole-fuss-is-about.
SEO can feel in the beginning like an inaccessible alien landscape, but in the essence of it are quite simple concepts:
- Make a clean, fast and user-friendly site that works great on all devices (especially mobile). And make it search engine friendly – meaning, make sure a machine can understand everything on your site when it reads it (this is why images need titles and alternate texts, the text needs to be structured logically, hierarchy needs to be clear, onsite links pointing to important content etc. etc).
- Try to create content that is fascinating to human beings, but easily understandable to computers;
- And don’t forget SEO is also done off your site (think links back to your site, social media, community, influencers etc.).
Once done with the SEO Starter Guide, go and get your Google Search Console set up. Play around with it a bit to see what exactly it can do for you and learn tips and tricks from their tutorials to help you get the most of it.
STEP 5: Choose how you get paid
There are a lot of different ways to set up payment for your online shops. Usually, your eCommerce platform already comes with a bunch of them incorporated and all you need to do is select the one that catches your eye.
Your main concern here should be that your clients recognize and trust the payment provider you use, so you don’t scare anyone away with a dodgy check-out page. Like always, speed and convenience of the payment process play a big role in customer satisfaction.
Popular providers often differ per country and location, but there are a few that the whole world knows and trusts. Stripe and Paypal are two giants that you can (almost) never go wrong with, no matter where in the world you are selling.
One factor to keep in mind is that the payment platforms take a percentage on each transaction that can differ significantly between providers, ranging from 1% to more than 3.5-4% of the amount.
It is very important to also get informed about the exact fees conditions and the “fine print”, since the percentages can also vary based on the payment card types and payment methods, country or location of your shoppers, or the issuer of the payment cards. For example, there are providers that might charge you up to double the standard rate for all VISA business cards compared to the standard rate of VISA personal cards.
Depending on your clients’ profile these details can make a big difference when choosing your payment provider.
You should also keep in mind that there are providers (like Paypal) who are well known and loved by shoppers, but that can give rise to problems with fraudulent clients, since they almost always side with the end customer, no matter how clear the case.
And finally, do not overlook the mandatory deposit conditions, which the providers keep in order to cover the risk of returns and potential frauds. On some payment platforms, these deposits can be excessively high, causing you to have thousands or even tens of thousands of revenue stuck in the payment providers account, without any possibility to permanently retrieve it, until you choose to end the contract with them.
STEP 6: Have a solid fulfilment process
Even though the main goal for your online shop is to reach as many shoppers and to sell as many items as possible, you can’t just concentrate on making the sale.
You also have to set up the process to actually deliver it!
Quick, efficient and accurate order delivery is an absolute must to ensure a positive shopping experience. This, in turn, leads to return customers, word of mouth recommendations and increased sales… so, in fact, taking care of the order fulfilment process is also part of increasing sales.
Nevertheless, delivery is often one of the most overlooked and neglected aspects of running an online shop. This is surprising, especially since the order fulfilment process will be one of the most time consuming daily tasks you have to deal with.
There are shops that after months and years of operating still manage everything to do with deliveries and returns in a most inefficient way, just because they never knew any better. It is painful to see how online shops enter orders manually into courier’s websites day after day. Or how after having hundreds or even thousands of monthly orders they still have no way of knowing a delivery has gone wrong before getting that angry call from their customers. Or how the process to make returns involves still emails and phone calls to customer support lines. Ouch!
But it does not have to be that way. You can set yourself up with a solution that can save you time and money while guiding your workflow the same way the giants of the industry do it.
Enter Outvio, your one-stop solution for everything to do with order management, shipping, tracking and offering online returns. It will enable you to manage the whole fulfilment process like a pro from day one and save you tons of time and money. Everything that the likes of Amazon, Zara and Zalando have had to spend months and years and tens of thousands of euros developing, you can have with just a click of a button, for FREE.
STEP 7: Do not forget customer support
Even though an online shop seems like a remote-controlled hands-off business, the truth is that you will have to deal with a lot of customers in person.
They always seem to come up with some surprisingly urgent queries!
Up to 80% of these queries will have to do with “where is my package” and “how can I return it”. Now, if you are all set up with Outvio from Step 6, these queries will just solve themselves like magic through its end-customer tracking and returns portal without you lifting a finger. Meaning, your workload will be significantly reduced.
However, there still will remain that other 20 % of queries not related to fulfilment.
Being available and easily reachable is a major indicator of trustworthiness. You need to make it as easy as possible for your customer to talk with you because it will increase your sales, give you much-needed insights and feedback and help you connect with your shoppers on a personal level. All this can be good both for your soul and your bottom-line.
This is why, if there is only one communication channel you set up in the beginning, let it be onsite chat!
Once again, there are many and varied options available for different tastes and preferences. We would like to highlight 3 of the ones that have caught our eye: Tawk.to, Zendesk and ClickDesk. See which one fits your needs the best and set it up for your site. It will definitely be one of the key factors of making your customers happy and your shop successful.
STEP 8: Start collecting analytics data
The only way to grow and get better at things is to learn from your successes and failures.
But how do you know what works and what not for your online business?
Well, this is why there are tons of analytics tools out there that are designed to show you how exactly visitors reach your site, what they do there, where they drop off and from which paths will they most definitely reach the checkout page.
To begin with, just set yourself up with Google Analytics. This is a great place to start because it is free, and it has loads of data on the traffic you get.
Like with any new tool it will take some practice and snooping around to get the most out of it, but it will help you understand the principals of analytics and how to use them.
Once you have a clear idea regarding what kind of information you want and how would you like it presented, check out our next guides on how to grow your online shop and how to conquer the world with your online shop, to get some more advanced analytics tools recommendations.
So there you have it.
Follow our 8 steps and take advantage of the tools available for setting up your online shop like a pro. Be consistent and methodical, learn from what works and discard what doesn’t, and we guarantee, that even if you won’t become the next Amazon, you will be able to run your new online shop with the same efficiency as if you were.