Beginner’s guide to selling online

April 27, 2023

With the state of the world right now, selling online is essential. Many of you may already have an online store–if so, we’ve got you covered with tips on how to improve the online store you’ve already got. But for those of you who have hitherto only sold from physical shops, or those of you who are only just beginning your journey into retail–we’re here for you! This is your guide to starting your first online shop. There’s always the option of hiring a company or a developer to build your online shop for you, if you have the funds for it. But for those of you who would rather learn yourself and save costs, here is your comprehensive guide to starting your first online shop!

1. Get a site builder

First things first. There are several platforms to choose from, such as WordPress or Wix. We recommend WordPress, simply because it’s free with little external costs, and because it’s open-source so you can customize it the way you want. You can install design plugins such as Elementor which makes it easy to build your own site. For a more in-depth guide on how to use WooCommerce, click here. However, if you want something even more user-friendly, Wix may be a better option for you.

2. Pick a hosting service for your website.

There are many options, such as Nexcess, which works well with WooCommerce. No matter what hosting service you opt for, there will be a cost for your domain name and for the hosting service. Shared hosting–meaning your site is hosted on the same server as other websites–tends to be the least expensive option. However, if you’d like a heavier site you may want to opt for dedicated hosting, meaning your site has a server all to itself! Hosting services have a variety of different plans with varying prices, so check them out and see which one works best for you. 

3. Pick a theme for your online store.

Themes do the groundwork of design for you–your pages are already laid out, you simply have to fill in the blanks. The main thing to consider when choosing a theme is the style of your pages–what features you want to display on your pages, and how you want your shoppers to navigate your page. Look through the themes your eCommerce builder offers, and see which one suits you best.

4. Once you’ve picked a theme, you can start to customize it.

Choose color schemes, fonts, images, and other features to style your pages. Depending on your Site Builder, you can add all kinds of different features such as embedding your social media posts or reviews from external sources on your page.

5. Next, add your products.

The main information you need to start with is name, price, and descriptions. Depending on what eCommerce platform you go with, the number of products or the number of variations (colors, sizes, etc.) may be limited. Product images are also extremely important for online sales, so it’s a good idea to have high-quality photographs of your products.

6. Set up a payment method so you start selling online.

If you opt for WordPress, some payment methods are already included such as Stripe or Paypal. Other e-commerce platforms may be more limited.

7. Set up shipping.

Shipping rates depend on your business and the types of products you sell–you can have a fixed shipping rate, or depending on weight, size, or price of the product being shipped, or the location the products are being shipped to. Most eCommerce sites have partnerships with different couriers, such as FedEx or USPS to make your life easier.

Then… well, you’re all done! Have a look through your new eCommerce site, maybe even test a few sales to make sure everything is running smoothly. If all is well, push your site live and start selling!

A few bonus tips to enhance your online store: 

  • Have Shipping and Return information easily accessible on your site. Customers won’t be as likely to shop with you if they don’t know your policies on shipping and returns!
  • If you plan to have a physical shop in the future, it’s a good idea to have a point of sale software that links with your online store, such as Oliver POS, which is completely free. 
  • Have excellent customer service. During times like these, customer service is more important than ever. Be quick to respond, and do whatever you can to make their experience the best it can possibly be. Customer service is the best way to build up your brand, and to build loyal customers–the foundation of your retail business!
  • If your customers have a great experience with your shop, offer them an incentive to leave a review. Give them a discount on their next purchase to leave a few words on your site. Reviews go a long way!
  • Get an SSL Certificate for more secure payments, and to come across as more legitimate and professional to your customers.
  • Ship Internationally. If you can, of course. That way, you won’t miss out on any customers!
  • Social Media. Make a Facebook or Instagram page for your online store. This is helpful for marketing and expanding your brand, but you can also use these platforms to sell! Product images on your social media pages can be linked to your online store to make it easy peasy for your customers to shop with you.

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