[THE ULTIMATE GUIDE] To start an online store from scratch

Yes, having an online store is attractive. It’s a very appealing business for several reasons:

  • The upfront investment is much less than with a physical store.
  • There are amazing tools that allow you to automate sales.
  • You don’t need to be at the office all the time, you can also work from home.

But the most important one is that it may be a very profitable business model. Although we have said “may be”
Success is not guaranteed, and we can tell you that there are high competitors in almost every sector.
That’s why, with this guide, we want to set a roadmap about what you have to do to open your store, as well as helping you lay a solid foundation for your e-commerce to get results as soon as possible.

If You´re still wondering whether or not to open an online store

Starting up any business, whether physical or virtual, involves risk.
It is true that in online business there is the great advantage that costs are much lower, but that does not mean that we go for it as if we were nuts.
A common mistake of many entrepreneurs is to focus on the whole technical part, forgetting the essential: selling.
Therefore, before you consider doing anything, you should analyze the viability of your business idea.
Let’s see what concepts you need to be clear about first:

  • Types of e-commerce:Did you know that there are more? In this post we explain all the types, it’s interesting that you read it because it is possible that you get new ideas. Click here to read the post.
  • What to sell:You may not yet know what product to sell or how to look for item ideas that might work well. Here is a post where we explain the 6 best-selling products on the Internet and another where we tell you how you can find product ideas.

This should help you find a business idea, but once you have it, it’s up to you to develop and validate it.
And to that end:

  • Value proposition: There are millions of stores on the Internet. Why should anyone buy from you? Your e-commerce should stand out, offering an added value that makes your business more attractive than the competence. Here we talk more about how to develop this idea.
  • Business plan:You have an idea, great, but are you clear about how you are going to reach customers? Who are your suppliers? What are the costs you are going to have? Who are your competitors? Being clear about all this will help you to see what difficulties you are going to encounter and to validate whether your idea is viable. Here you have all the information about how to do it.

Don’t get frustrated thinking about how long this is going to take, we assure you that doing your business plan right will greatly help your store run smoothly afterwards.
EXERCISE:Now we will propose an exercise that can open your eyes to see if your business is viable by checking how many people search on Google for one of your products per month.
That´s what the Ubersuggest tool is for:
keyword-shop-online
It’s very easy to use, just write the product you want to search, select the country and click the button.
keyword-result
As you can see, 2,400 people search this product per month in USA.
Analyzing the search volume for the products you want to sell helps you assess the possible demand you may have.

If you have already decided to open your e-commerce

So you balanced pros and cons and worked out the figures and you concluded that it is a good idea to open your e-commerce… congratulations and welcome!
Now it’s really time to roll up your sleeves and get down to business.
We are going point by point so that you can build your online business from scratch in complete safety.

1️⃣Find the best name for your business

If you think this is the easiest part, you might be disappointed.
Choosing a good name is essential to the success of your business, so give it the importance it deserves.

IMPORTANT: YOU MAY ALREADY KNOW FOR SURE YOUR NAME AND YOUR REASONS FOR CHOOSING IT, BUT EVEN SO, WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU GO OVER IT SINCE YOU MAY NOT HAVE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT ALL THE CRITERIA YOU SHOULD.

Whether you’re clear about it, or whether you’re in doubt because you can’t think of anything…
>> Click and read this article in which we explain the importance of your e-commerce name and the keys to choose it well (it also serves to validate the one you already have in mind). 

2️⃣Choose domain and hosting

Are you still having doubts about what a domain is and what a web hosting is? We’ll explain it, but if you already have it clear, you can skip this part.

  • What is a domain?: The domain is the unique and exclusive name that identifies the website and the one that users type in the navigation bar to reach your e-commerce. For example, your domain name could be www.myonlinestore. com (although not all websites start with www).
  • What is a web hosting?: The hosting is the space in which a website is hosted to be visible on the Internet. It’s really a physical space: when you pay your hosting provider, you are “renting” a space on the hard drive of their supercomputer (which is a web server) where your website is hosted.

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE

Imagine painting a picture and calling it “imanexceptionalartist.com.” The painting is your website and the title (imanexceptionalartist.com) is your domain.

But in order for your painting to be seen, you need to hang it somewhere, don’t you?
So you decide to rent a wall inside an art gallery. That space you rent is your hosting. 😉
Now that we’re clear on everything, we’re moving forward.
The first thing you have to keep in mind is that the domain name you have in mind may already be registered by someone else. So the first thing is to check this.
So as to do this you just have to enter a domain provider and write the name in the search engine. It will automatically tell you if it is available or not, and what it costs according to the different TLDs (.com, .es, .net, etc.)

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING YOUR DOMAIN AND HOSTING?

First of all, you don’t have to hire them from the same supplier, although it’s easier if you do everything with one.
There are numerous domain (and hosting) providers on the market.
Here is a list of domain registrars in Spain, they all work in a similar way and with similar prices. Choose the one that suits you best (but our advice is to avoid those that claim to be the cheapest).
If you are outside Spain, the best known are GoDaddy and Namecheap, but you can choose that you feel confident with.
Domains are purchased for one year (although there is an option to contract for more), and after that time they must be renewed. It is not a very high investment, you can have your domain from €10 per year (if you hire it for more years, it can be cheaper).

IMPORTANT: FORGET ABOUT FREE DOMAINS AND THE LIKE, THAT’S JUST A SOURCE OF PROBLEMS. 😉

Let’s see the hosting part for your website.
We have talked in the blog about the best hostings and their cost for an e-commerce, with all the considerations you must take into account to choose yours.
Continuing to work out the figures, you can find hostings from €15 a month. The hosting, like the domain, is also renewed annually.
If you have just started, you can use a shared hosting (the less powerful ones), but if you already have more web traffic, better choose a VPS server.
Si acabas de empezar, puedes tirar de un hosting compartido (los menos potentes), pero si ya tienes más tráfico, mejor elige un servidor VPS.
For a shared hosting -You have options ranging from €6 ($4) to €10 ($8) per month.

IMPORTANT: AS WITH DOMAINS, AVOID OFFERS FROM PROVIDERS WHO GIVE YOU FREE HOSTING IF YOU BUY THE DOMAIN WITH THEM. A SERIOUS PROJECT IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH A FREE HOSTING, YOUR WEB WILL ALWAYS BE DOWN AND YOU MAY HAVE SECURITY PROBLEMS. IT’S GOING TO CAUSE A LOT OF TROUBLE.

For a VPS – We would start from €15 and €25 ($12 and $23).
If you have a great deal of web traffic, it’s best the option of a managed VPS server (the provider manages the performance of the server). That would be €50 per month on average.

3️⃣ Choose the most suitable CMS platform for your business

You don’t have to be a programming genius to have an online store anymore.
Technology has greatly democratized the business world, and now you only need to choose the CMS platform that best suits your needs.
Are you still lost on this subject? Let’s take it slow:
A CMS (Content Management System) is a software for creating and managing web pages. In this article we expand on the best known CMS, but take note of the main ones (and their prices):

  • WordPress’ WooCommerce: It is not really a CMS platform, but a free plugin.
  • Shopify: Leader in the USA because it is very easy to use. The basic package starts at €30 per month.
  • PrestaShop: Less intuitive than the previous two, but more powerful, and still free.
  • Magento: The basic package is free and the most suitable if you have many items in your store. Be careful, it is the most complicated to use.

And now the million dollar question: do you set up the store yourself or do you hire a developer?
If you choose WooCommerce or Shopify you can try to do it yourself, but with PrestaShop and Magento (unless you are a developer), we recommend hiring a professional (here is a post where we indicate what a budget should include).

4️⃣ Images and texts on the web (copywriting)

If you finally set up the store by hiring a professional, you must clarify whether the images and texts on the website are included (usually not), so you must pay special attention to this issue.
But first, keep one thing in mind:

IMPORTANT: TAKE CARE OF THE IMAGES AND TEXTS IN YOUR STORE, BECAUSE THIS IS THE FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOU. IF YOUR CONTENT HAS POOR QUALITY, YOUR CUSTOMERS WILL ASSOCIATE THAT TO YOUR STORE AS WELL.

Let’s start with images first

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IMAGES?

Think you’re going to use different kinds of images:

  • Web:those that will appear on the home page, the “about us” page, etc.
  • Products:you can get them from your supplier, take them yourself or hire a photographer.
  • Posts: here you have more freedom, it is usual to get images from photobanks.

As we said before, your website and products’ photos must be impeccable.
If customers, when accessing your website, have the feeling it is neglected, it is most likely they will leave. Be careful with this.

IMPORTANT: IF YOU ARE TAKING THE PHOTOS YOURSELF, READ THIS POST WHERE WE EXPLAIN how to take good pictures.

But apart from that, you have to take into account another issue: the images you upload to your web must be optimized.
By optimized we mean that you should trim and compress them so their weight is as little as possible. Why?
Because if not, they slow down the web too much.
And that is a problem for SEO and for the user (think that normally a person does not wait more than 2 seconds for a website to load). If it takes longer, this person will go to another web page.
So you should obtain the best image quality with the least weight, to reduce your store’s loading time as much as possible.
The good news is that doing it is very simple, and even more considering that in this tutorial we explain how to optimize images step by step (and with free tools).

AND WHAT ABOUT TEXTS?

First and foremost, make sure you understand that your store texts are very important. As much as the design or any other part of the website.
Yes, it is important that the page looks nice, but if a customer does not understand what you are selling or why it is good, it will not matter whether it is a spectacular website or not. Therefore, be very careful with writing anything.
When we talk about website texts, it is usual to refer to the “copy” of the website, because “copy” is the diminutive of “copywriting” (the art of writing to sell).
That’s why we tell you not to write anything, you must know that texts influence sales.

IMPORTANT: NORMALLY THE TEXTS OF YOUR WEBSITE ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE INITIAL BUDGET GIVEN BY THE AGENCY OR THE PROFESSIONAL WHO DESIGNS YOUR STORE, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE YOU ARE OFFERED THIS ADDED SERVICE.

If not, you will have to find a professional (a copywriter) to write the texts for you.
Think that the average price of the text on the home page and the “About us” page is usually around €450, but there are the product cards as well, which we are going to talk about next.

THE PRODUCT CARDS

The first thing you have to take into account, and which is very important, is the following:

  • Never put texts that your provider gives you –  Thousands of stores will have the same ones, so Google could penalize you for duplicate content.
  • The product cards sell –They are in charge of getting the final customer to buy. You can’t afford to neglect them.

But of course, what should you do if you have a lot of products? Your budget would go through the roof, right?
In that case, you can try to negotiate with the copywriter for a card package to make it cheaper. And if there are a lot of them, plan the work in different months so that you can distribute the expense.
DIY option? Read this post and make the product cards yourself.

5️⃣Legal requirements an e-commerce must meet

Yes, maybe you’ve been advised to set everything up without paying attention to the paperwork you need, and then, “if it works out for you,” it can be fixed.
Although it is common, we do not recommend that at all.
It’s a nuisance to do the paperwork and have to pay for things before you start receiving orders, but the alternative is to get caught and sanctioned.
Believe us, a sanction can ruin your project even if you’re “doing well”, it’s not worth the risk.

6️⃣Payment platforms

This is all very well, but you are still missing something indispensable: have you thought about how your customer is going to pay you?
There are many methods of payment, and it is important you include the most used ones in your store as it will facilitate the transaction (anything that facilitates this point will help you sell more).
But keep in mind that this will be an extra (but indispensable) expense:

  • TPV virtual: the cost depends on each bank, but it is approximately €25 per month if you bill less than €1,000 per month.
  • PayPal: you get commissions according to the amount of the purchase, the general fee for receiving payments is 4% plus €0.30
  • Stripe: it allows payments with any card and its commission is 1.4% + €0.25

>>> Click here to read our special article with the different payment options available.

You’re open… now what? How to win customers

No, we warned you beforehand that creating your e-commerce and waiting for customers to arrive will not work.
The reality is that the work really starts now, because that’s when the hardest part begins: getting customers.
Now you have the challenge of attracting people into your store. But be aware they have to be potential customers, not just anyone.
Let’s look at the main strategies for achieving this.

✅Work on Google positioning

The web positioning of a store refers to the possibility of attracting visits from the Google search engine (the most used by a landslide).
EXAMPLE- Imagine you have a sneakers store. We go back to Ubersuggest and write “sneakers.”
ubersuggestion-shop-online
This tool tells us that 301,000 people a month google sneakers.
The image below refers to the results you see on Google after searching for “sneakers” (the ads that appear before have been removed).

Where do you think the 301,000 people looking for sneakers are going to click first?
In the first result.
In other words, the content that is positioned above by this keyword will receive about 301,000 potential customers in your store.
Is SEO important or not? 😉
How much does it cost to hire the SEO of an e-commerce? It depends.
The rates are usually estimated according to the work hours that a project takes and are related to:

  • The size of the store:the more categories and products, the more SEO work.
  • The market you are targetings:domestic sales are not positioned the same as abroad, for example, or if you focus on a micro-niche.
  • The On Page and Off Page SEO strategy: links always make the budget more expensive, but they position faster.

Be wary of anyone who gives you a standard price before asking you about the peculiarities of your project
Ask for several budgets specifying what you need and don’t just choose by price. For you to have a reference, it is not usually less than €500 per month, although it will depend on the size of the store

IS ALL THIS CONFUSING TO YOU?

You might want to read these posts:

✅Create a content blog

Having a blog is very much related to the previous point, because we are talking about SEO, although now at the writing level.
When you create a blog, the goal is to attract qualified traffic to your store thanks to the content being positioned on Google. People who search for information and are attracted to your website by the quality of your articles.
But what content should you publish to attract this type of reader?
Keywords are the basis of SEO.
Keywords are the MOST common terms and sentences with which users express their search intentions.
Discovering which are the most searched keywords is what will allow you to know which are the topics (and products) that users want to buy the most. For example, “sneakers” is a keyword, and those 301,000 people, the monthly search volume.
Because if nobody searches for certain keyword, we are not interested in positioning it as it will not attract visitors.
But now we are left with the most important thing, how to write texts to position them.
>>>Click here to read our SEO Writing Tutorial and get visits by writing optimized post for Google
What, you don’t have time to start writing?
Once again, there is an alternative: to hire a specialized writer.
The “paying” option is like everything else: the more experience the writer has, the higher the fee is.
In any case, as a general rule, be suspicious if it is under €0.07/word; with this price a quality service cannot be guaranteed.

3️⃣ Share your content on social networks

Although the content will be positioned in the search engine, another way to get visits is to share your content on social networks.
But beware, because sharing only your content can bore your community, to solve this, it is very important: content curation.
Content curation consists in finding and selecting the most relevant material on a topic and sharing it strategically with your audience.
That way you don’t have to write, but share texts you like.
There are numerous tools to help you locate and classify articles:

  • Feedly: The most popular feed aggregator or RSS, it allows you to read the content of all the websites and blogs you choose from the same site, even through its extension for Chrome or Firefox. It sorts by category to access at a glance only what interests you.
  • Pocket: It is also an extension that saves and archives content that you find on the net. It is usually used in combination with Feedly.
  • Evernote: It is not a specific content curation tool, but a system to organize the information you find and have it always in hand.
  • Instapaper: It allows you to add notes, underline and add comments to the texts and content you archive.
  • Buzzsumo: You introduce a topic and it returns the most shared results on social networks in the time frame you set.
  • Linkedin y Facebook: More specifically, the groups of these social networks. It searches for the ones most related to your topic and you will find a lot of information and articles totally free. 😉

You can use these tools not only for content curation, but also to collect ideas for your blog.

4️⃣ SEM or paid advertising

SEO, creating contents and social networks are the most common ways to generate traffic to your site, but these are not the only ones, there is also advertising.
In this case you have to bear in mind that we are talking about a way of attracting paying visits.
Let’s see the main ones:

These are currently the most used ad platforms.Should you use them all? No, only the ones your potential customers are in.

A special tool that will help you sell more

Throughout this guide we have explained all the steps you must take to create your online store and how to get potential customers.
But maybe there’s something you haven’t thought of: and when that person comes to your website, what?
If users don’t know what to do or how to find what they are looking for, they will go to another website. Yeah, that’s tough.
The problem is that, when opening a store, it is very normal to get confused with the web structure or not clear about which menu is the best. In fact, it is very normal to find stores with 50,000 categories and subcategories that make the customer get lost.
Solution?
Use a professional search engine (and we emphasize the professional one because the one that usually comes by default doesn’t work well).
We explain why:

  • Your customers find what they want right away – Forget about losing customers because they get lost looking.
  • They help you get out the stock – Or the products you are most interested in selling, since you can decide in which order you want to show the products (the first ones will always be the ones that sell the most).
  • They understand even spelling mistakes or synonyms – It does not matter if they look for a refrigerator instead of a fridge, the search engine will take them to what they want.
  • Related offers – Customers look for a paddle racket, and in the search engine they will find an offer to buy a pack of balls and overgrip. Direct increase of your average checkout.

But the most important thing is not that, but:

Using a professional search engine like Doofinder can increase sales by 10% to 15%.

And the best thing is that you can try it for free for a whole month (and without inserting your credit card).
>>Click here to use our professional search engine for free<<