So you want to start an online store. Maybe you’re totally new to retail, or maybe you already run a successful brick and mortar shop and you’re ready to take it online. In either case, there’s a lot to learn about ecommerce before you dive in, some of it you probably already know if you’re already in the biz.

This guide isn’t Retail 101. Our starting point is the moment you decide you’re ready to make ecommerce part of (or your entire!) business model. Read on to learn more about the critical decisions you’ll be making at this stage, like which type of platform is best for your store and how to effectively market to online buyers. If you’re not quite at this point yet and you’re looking for more of an overview of starting an ecommerce business, check out this post: How to start an ecommerce business in 7 simple steps.

Before you get started with your online store

A lot of the guides to launching an ecommerce business you’ll find online start by telling you to choose what you want to sell and research your market. That’s great advice, but we’re going to assume you’ve already done that and you’re ready to start taking tangible steps toward launching your store.

When you’re at the stage of choosing a hosting provider and putting the store’s design together, you should have already:

  • Registered your business name. The process for this varies from country to country, so follow the process for registering a new business in your country
  • Incorporated your business. Just like registering your business name, this process varies from country to country
  • Established a bank account for the business
  • Created a sales tax ID for your business and if necessary, a resale certificate
  • Obtained an ecommerce business license, which again, involves different processes in different cities, states and countries
  • Locked down social media handles for your store

Operating a business without the proper licensing and tax documents can land you in some legal and/or financial trouble at tax time. Do your future self a favor by doing everything “by the book” before you launch your store.

Another step to take at this stage is buying the domain name you’ll be using from a registrar like GoDaddy or Domain.com. You can also buy a domain through certain ecommerce platforms, like Shopify. If you’re considering creating your store through a platform like this, look into whether you can buy a domain through it.

Buying your domain through an ecommerce platform can make the process super easy, but it probably won’t get you the best price. Think of it as paying a premium for not having to deal with redirecting the domain name from the registrar to your store. Keep in mind that if you buy your domain from a registrar, then opt to use a platform like Shopify, you can always migrate your domain name to the platform.

When you’re shopping for a domain name, you’ll notice you have a few different extension options. Dot biz (.biz) is the “business” extension, but you shouldn’t choose it.

Here’s why: when people think of a website, they automatically think dot com (.com). Dot com is universally known and trusted, which is why it’s so valuable compared to other extensions. The dot com version of the domain you want will probably cost more than the dot biz version, but it’s an investment worth making.

If you mainly operate in countries with a specific domain extension, you can use these country-specific extensions to make your visitors feel “at home” straight away.

Ready to move forward and find a place to host your store? First, make sure your niche and business plan are crystal clear. Instead of going into business selling dog clothes, refine your niche and go into business selling sustainable dog clothes or quirky, fun dog clothes. Research how many other ecommerce stores are working in your specific niche, how they’re marketing themselves and how their markets respond to them. Before you hit the web, your niche might need some refining or retooling to ensure it’s optimized for max profit.

Will your online store be hosted, licensed or DIY?

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make when you start ecommerce business ventures is where and how your store will be hosted.

Let’s take a quick second to say that lots of ecommerce entrepreneurs run successful shops on Amazon, Etsy and eBay. But there’s a huge difference between having a seller’s account on one of these platforms and running a full-blown ecommerce business.

With platforms like Etsy and eBay, you have pretty limited options when it comes to customizing your shop and it feels more like you’re operating a vendor stall at a big, crowded flea market instead of managing your own free-standing store. They can be a great place for people doing ecommerce as a side hustle or somebody who’s just getting started, but when you’re really serious about building something that will fly high, you need a more comprehensive platform.

Hosted platforms

In terms of comprehensiveness, the next step up is building your store on a platform that handles hosting for you. Shopify, Squarespace, Wix stores and BigCartel are four platforms that do just that.

Each of these platforms makes it super easy to set up your store, no coding skills required. You can buy your domain through them and start setting up shop with just a few clicks. When you buy a website package, hosting is included, as are lots of ecommerce templates.

Building your ecommerce store on this type of platform is ideal if you’re not techy and you want a simple, all-in-the-box solution. By opting for this kind of setup, you agree to play by your chosen platform’s rules and you’re limited to that platform’s customization options. That’s not to say you can’t get a truly unique web store design to use on a hosted platform—you can—but it needs to be designed specifically to work with that platform and its limitations.

Article Provided By: 99 Designs

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