Aug 15, 2022
Kevin W. & Jordana A.
How to Start an Online Store in 2022: 6 Practical Steps to Get Profits
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all sectors of the economy, especially eCommerce. Between 2020 and 2021, 60% of the average share of internet users across 66 countries had embraced online shopping, a 7% jump from 2019.
With experts predicting that global eCommerce sales will hit $5.5 trillion in 2022, this is the right time to jump into the industry and build your own eCommerce store.
This article will walk you through the steps on how to start an online store. In the end, you will have all the knowledge you need to sell online and profit from your eCommerce business.
How to Start an Online Store – Video Tutorial
Check out how to start an online store with WooCommerce in under an hour:
Facts You Should Know Before Starting an Online Store
If you’re still not convinced that selling online is an excellent and profitable idea, we have other interesting statistics about the eCommerce industry to change your mind.
First, global eCommerce sales are projected to reach $7.4 trillion by 2025, showing steady growth since this year. It may correlate to the fact that 40.3% of customers have significantly decreased their visits to brick-and-mortar stores due to the pandemic.
So far, the electronics industry contributed to the largest share of global revenues in 2022 at $988.4 billion, followed by the 2021-winner – the fashion industry. Additionally, 64% of customers are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
As for upcoming eCommerce trends, expect to see a growing use of voice search and artificial intelligence for personalized shopping experiences. Sustainable eCommerce is also expected to rise in popularity, as 29% of customers actively avoid plastic packaging.
6 Steps to Start an Online Store and Start Selling Fast
It only takes six steps to start your own online store. Keep reading as we will go through each step and provide tips to make the entire process as easy as possible.
1. Decide on the Product to Sell
As the products you sell will depend on your online store’s niche, let’s decide on that business idea first.
The best place to start your business is to explore your passions and hobbies. Much like any other job, developing and growing your small business will be easier if it aligns with your interests. Alternatively, do some market research on popular niche markets with high demands.
Being specific about the niche market you want to pursue makes growing your business and audience base much easier in the long run. For example, if you’re going to start an online clothing store, decide whether you want to focus on apparel only or sell other fashion items like footwear and accessories.
Check out our article on online business ideas to start in 2022, where we cover potential business ideas that sell physical and digital products as well as a variety of different services.
If you’re torn between several potential niches, use the SWOT analysis method to measure each niche’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You can also analyze the competition within each niche to estimate the market’s expectations and trends.
After finding a niche, position yourself as your target market and try to identify their pain points. Doing so helps identify any market gap your competitors haven’t explored, creating a cost-effective opportunity to make money online.
Another way to find potential products to sell is to look into currently trending products. Leveraging viral trends allows you to reach broad target customers. However, it’s best to pick trending products that sell for quite some time, so you don’t have to deal with stock loss due to a downtrend.
Many product research tools are available online to help narrow down your options. Here are some of our recommendations:
- Trend Hunter ‒ showcases new and upcoming trends across different niches and industries.
- Google Trends ‒ offers insights into past and current trends throughout specific markets.
- Ecomhunt ‒ covers trending eCommerce products.
Beyond considering market trends and demands, it’s best to sell products that are easy to manage and ship from your home. Additionally, try to keep the shipping costs low and add them to the product prices. This marketing method can boost your sales as 73% of customers are more likely to purchase from stores that waive shipping costs.
You’d also want to sell products of high quality. Low-quality or cheap products invite customers to buy in large volumes, but their profit margins tend to be very low. On the other hand, high-quality products require a bigger investment to source, but they will generate more profit and boost your brand’s reputation in the long run.
2. Develop a Business Plan
A business plan outlines a business’s goals and ways to achieve them. Its purpose varies depending on the type, but it generally aims to help business owners steer their newly built eCommerce business towards accomplishing its objectives.
The most common type of business plan, called the traditional business plan, covers all business areas and both internal and external parties involved in the business process.
While there’s no fixed guideline on how to write a business plan, the standard type usually contains the following elements:
- Executive summary ‒ comprises of a business overview, market opportunities, financial projections, and growth milestones.
- Company description ‒ covers the company’s vision and mission.
- Market analysis ‒ defines the target market, trends, and competitive analysis.
- Organization and management team ‒ showcases the company’s business structure and stakeholders’ responsibilities.
- Products and services ‒ breaks down the products and services offered and how they can fulfill the market’s demands.
- Operations plan ‒ contains a breakdown of the daily operations and facility management.
- Marketing strategy ‒ focuses on your promotional plans and sales channels.
- Financial plan ‒ showcases your company’s feasibility and profitability.
- Appendix ‒ contains additional information to support previous elements, such as organizational charts and legal agreements.
A good business plan should be clear, concise, and realistic. Take time to research the market, competitors, and products and services you will sell online. If there are legal documents you should prepare, have a business lawyer draft and review them to ensure all legal obligations are met.
3. Pick a Platform
You can build an eCommerce site in several ways, such as coding from scratch, hiring a web developer, and using an eCommerce platform. For this tutorial, we’ll go with the latter since it’s the ideal method for up-and-coming small business owners.
When choosing an eCommerce platform, you have two options ‒ website builder vs CMS.
A site builder provides easy-to-use tools to simplify the website building process. The number of features and resources offered depends on the chosen pricing plan. The eCommerce platform takes care of the backend process for you, making it exceptionally beginner-friendly.
On the other hand, a content management system (CMS) helps to create and manage digital content. The eCommerce software gives more flexibility and control over your website’s customization and management. Consequently, it tends to have a steeper learning curve than a site builder.
In short, a site builder caters to small business owners who have little to no technical skills and don’t want to deal with the technicality of website building and management. If you prioritize scalability and ownership over your own online store, consider opting for a CMS.
Since WordPress is self-hosted, you will have to choose a web hosting plan and a domain name first. Some hosting companies include a domain name in their hosting plans so that you can get both at a lower price. Alternatively, purchase the domain name from a domain registrar.
Hostinger’s WordPress hosting includes one-year free domain registration. Unlike regular shared web hosting, this type of hosting’s servers and security features are specifically configured for WordPress sites, ensuring optimal performance and security. Each hosting plan also comes with pre-installed plugins and themes as well as expert-level tech support.
The best part is that our WordPress hosting offers the Auto Installer feature. As a result, the WordPress installation process takes just a few clicks.
Unlike WordPress, Zyro eCommerce is a hosted platform. As the online store builder includes free hosting and a one-year domain name in all pricing plans, you can start building your own site after purchasing a plan.
Zyro eCommerce offers two pricing options, the Business plan for $4.90/month and the Advanced Store plan for $15.90/month. The Business plan lets you sell up to 100 products and accept payments online through popular payment options, enough to get your eCommerce store off the ground.
Once your business grows, you can upgrade to the Advanced Store plan and unlock more product quotas and features, such as shipping and sales tax management and abandoned cart recovery.
After signing up for either plan, choose how you want to create your online store and start building. You can either work with one of the available templates, use the AI website generator to generate a custom-made template, or create your own store from scratch.
Zyro eCommerce provides a quick start guide to help you complete the online store building process. Click on each point and follow the steps to configure the required elements.
4. Design Your Online Store
One of the key elements of a successful online shop is its web design. A well-designed eCommerce store can attract online shoppers and provide an excellent user experience, leaving a positive first impression on your target audience.
When designing an effective website, make sure it has the following features:
- Ease of use ‒ all the features and elements are accessible.
- Organized structure ‒ the site should have a good navigation system that makes finding information easy for visitors.
- Readability ‒ the online store’s fonts and color schemes must reinforce an excellent reading experience.
- Aesthetic design ‒ make sure all your store’s web pages feature consistent design elements to maintain visual harmony and brand identity.
- Speed optimization ‒ all site elements must serve a purpose since having too many might increase page load time.
There are plenty of well-designed online businesses to take inspiration from. Check out our compilation of eCommerce website examples with fantastic designs to inspire you.
Apple, for example, showcases how a minimalist design works best for highlighting products. You can adapt this look to achieve an aesthetically pleasing appearance without using too many distracting elements.
Meanwhile, Smokehaus expertly uses website navigation to leave a positive first impression on visitors. Not many online stores have this element as the focal point of their web design, so this web design idea might help make yours stand out.
Web pages also play an important role in building an excellent user experience and generating sales. Here are the essential pages your online store must have:
- Homepage ‒ as the top-level page and the face of your online business, it should contain information about what you sell and what makes your brand stand out. Make sure it has a menu bar that links to the second-level pages.
- Product Category ‒ if the products you sell fall in more than one product category, this page makes browsing through them a whole lot easier. For stores with multiple categories, consider creating a category overview page.
- Product Page ‒ as this page highlights an individual product, it should contain product descriptions and an Add To Cart button. You can also include reviews and comments sections on your product pages.
- Search Results ‒ allows customers to search for products without going through the product category page. Consider adding filtering options to help customers find the products most relevant to them.
- Login Page and Create Account ‒ gives customers the ability to create an account and save their order history and payment preferences. The login form doesn’t have to be on a standalone page, but it should be easily accessible.
- Shopping Cart ‒ displays all the products the customer wants to buy and shipping costs to their location. Suggest related products to cross-sell your customers. If you run promo deals, include the option to use their codes here.
- Checkout Page ‒ this is where the customer enters their payment information and reviews the products and shipping details before completing the checkout process.
- Order Confirmation ‒ you can use this page to display a thank you message and ways to modify the order if you allow it.
- FAQ ‒ provides answers to questions that have come up multiple times. Generally, the questions revolve around returns, exchanges, shipping, and company missions.
- Contact Us Page ‒ offer different ways to contact customer support. If you run a brick-and-mortar business or sell your products in online marketplaces, include the physical address and all your sales channels here.
Now that you know how your online business’s appearance can make or break its success, we’ll show you how to customize your online store in WordPress or Zyro.
A WordPress website’s look is determined by a group of files and stylesheets called a theme. WordPress has a massive collection of free themes on its official theme directory. Tons of premium WordPress themes are available on various online marketplaces at different prices.
Free themes featured on the WordPress theme directory are budget-friendly and legitimate, ideal for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to save money on other aspects of their online business.
However, the downside is that they tend to have limited features and no personalized support. You’re also likely to compete against other websites with a similar look.
On the other hand, premium WordPress themes offer extensive customization options, dedicated support, and frequent updates, albeit at higher costs. Having more features also means a steeper learning curve.
Check out our list of the best WordPress eCommerce themes to narrow down your options. We cover free and premium WordPress themes worth considering and features to look for in a theme.
After choosing, it’s finally time to install this WordPress theme for your online store. Keep in mind that you can only have one active theme at a time.
There are multiple ways you can customize a WordPress theme. The easiest way would be to use the built-in WordPress theme editor. If you’re using a premium theme, you might have access to WordPress page builder plugins like Divi.
Unlike WordPress, Zyro has all the available templates pre-installed. Hover over the templates and click Preview to compare their looks. Once you find the right template for your online store, select Start Building.
The Zyro editor uses the block system to represent website elements. Drag and drop the elements to rearrange them as needed, and the grid system will ensure that everything is arranged properly. Double-click the elements to change their text and formatting.
You can add new elements by clicking on the plus symbol on the menu bar on the left side of the page. Drag and drop the chosen element to the desired location and double-click to personalize it.
Since Zyro is an AI-based website builder, the platform offers user-friendly tools to simplify customization. The Zyro editor provides direct access to three of the seven AI tools via the menu bar ‒ AI Logo Maker, AI Writer, and AI Heatmap.
Click the Switch view button at the top to see how your online store will look on smaller screens. Select Preview to see the result, and click Publish website once you’re happy with your design.
5. Add the eCommerce Functionality to Your Online Store
Now that you have a website to work with, it’s time to add the eCommerce functionality. There’re no fixed rules for what functions an eCommerce website should have. That said, the following features help most online stores achieve their business goals:
- Catalog management ‒ include product pages, descriptions, and categories.
- Store management ‒ configure the payment options, sales taxes, and shipping options.
- Content management ‒ manage all the website content, including the web pages, blog posts, email messages, comments, and reviews.
- Customer management ‒ check customer accounts and view their transaction history.
- Order management ‒ view order details, including order status, billing address, and shipping information.
- Promotion management ‒ add discount codes, their requirements and expiry dates.
- SEO management ‒ optimize meta descriptions to improve your position on search engine result pages (SERP).
The following sections will cover how to turn your website into a full-fledged eCommerce store in WordPress and Zyro.
Create an Online Store With WooCommerce
While a theme determines how a WordPress site looks, a plugin adds or extends its functionality. To start an online store, you must first install all the relevant WordPress plugins.
Like themes, there are plenty of excellent WordPress eCommerce plugins in the plugin directory. We’ll be using WooCommerce as an example, as it’s free, popular, and has tons of add-ons for any business scale.
We have written a separate article covering how to set up a WordPress eCommerce store using WooCommerce in great detail. Here, we’ll show you how to configure the plugin and the basic functionality, such as setting up payment gateways and shipping options.
First, follow these steps to install and set up WooCommerce in WordPress:
- Install and activate WooCommerce.
- Click on the WooCommerce menu on the menu bar to start the setup wizard. The first step is to set up your store details. Once you’re done, click Continue.
- Next, check all the industries in which your eCommerce store operates, then select Continue.
- In the Product Type section, select the types of products you want to sell. Physical products include items you can ship, whereas Downloads cover digital products. Check the Subscriptions option if you’re going to create paywalls for exclusive content and products.
- Fill the Business details section with the number of products you want to display and clarify whether you’re currently selling them elsewhere.
- The last step is to choose a theme for your online store. Alternatively, complete the setup wizard using your current theme.
All the store’s customization options are accessible through the WooCommerce menu on the left side of your admin dashboard. If you go to the WooCommerce dashboard, you’ll see the “Get ready to start selling” guide, incoming messages, and the store’s stats overview.
Select the Add my products option from the quick guide or go to Products -> Add New from the menu bar to start listing your products on the online store.
If you only have a small number of products to sell, add them using a template or manually. Otherwise, import the products via a CSV file or WooCommerce’s migration extension.
Here’s an example of a product page built using a template. You can edit the metadata and the number of stocks of the existing product pages through the Products -> All Products menu. Navigate to Products -> Categories to manage product categories.
If the laws in your country of operation require you to charge sales tax, select the Set up tax option from the quick guide and pick a tax partner. Keep in mind that the WooCommerce Tax extension requires Jetpack to run. Alternatively, set up your sales tax manually.
Select the Set up shipping option to configure the shipping costs and label printing. Similar to WooCommerce Tax, the WooCommerce Shipping extension also requires Jetpack installation.
Finally, select the Get paid with WooCommerce Payments to set up the store’s payment gateways. The Jetpack-powered extension allows your online store to process transactions via major cards and popular payment processors, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
While WooCommerce is free, the eCommerce platform offers premium extensions and themes to enhance your online shopping experience. Consider investing in them and other WooCommerce supporting plugins as your online store grows.
Create an Online Store With Zyro
Zyro’s eCommerce functionality is automatically accessible when you purchase the Business or Advanced Store plan. Even though you don’t have to do any installation like WordPress, you still need to configure the store’s functions.
To access your admin dashboard, go to Store -> Manage Store from your Zyro editor.
This would be the time to set up your online store. First, you must name your online store. We recommend picking a catchy yet memorable business name that’s easy to spell as you’d want visitors to remember your store name.
Most importantly, make sure the business name you pick hasn’t been trademarked yet. Check the name’s availability on your country’s patent and official trademark website to avoid potential lawsuits.
If you need business name ideas, try brainstorming using Zyro’s AI Business Name Generator. Generate name ideas using keywords relevant to the industry your business operates in. Once you find the right name, add it to the account setup form and click Continue.
Finish the account setup process by selecting the store’s country of operation and currency, then click Continue.
Congratulations, you can now access the admin dashboard known as the store manager. However, the store’s setup process isn’t done, so let’s configure the rest of the eCommerce functions.
Here’s how to add payment gateways to your online store:
- Click Add Payment from the store manager dashboard.
- Select Actions -> Sort next to the chosen payment method.
- Drag and drop payment methods to re-order them.
Keep in mind that the chosen payment method can only process payments if its currency matches the currency in your store account.
Next, configure the shipping method and rate by following these steps:
- Go to the Shipping menu from the store manager dashboard.
- Zyro sets the shipping destination to Everywhere in the world by default. Click Add shipping region and enter the desired countries one by one. Select the cross mark symbol next to the label if you want to omit a country from the list. Click Save.
- Click the Add option on the Shipping options section and enter the shipping name and rate. Select Add Conditions to determine the order price range for each shipping option. Click Save once you’re done.
Here are the steps to add products to your product page:
- Navigate to Products from the store manager dashboard and click Add Product.
- Drag and drop product images to the appointed space. Zyro supports files in JPG, PNG, and SVG formats with a maximum size of 15 MB.
- Pick the type of product you want to display and enter its title and subtitle. The product title appears under the title, highlighting important information about the product.
- Add the product’s price, sale price, and SKU. You can enable the Track quantity option to make tracking your store inventory easier.
- Click Save to keep the changes.
6. Market Your Online Store and Get Your First Sale
Now that your online store is ready to launch, it’s time to promote it.
There are many eCommerce marketing strategies to implement in your new online business. We will cover the most popular marketing strategies for the B2C business model and provide useful tips to help you get started.
Search Engine Optimization
As the name implies, search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing web pages to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERP). The closer your eCommerce website gets to the search engines’ first page, the more people will see and visit it.
The SEO marketing strategy can be divided into four categories ‒ on-page SEO, off-page SEO, technical SEO, and local SEO.
For this tutorial, we have compiled a list of the essential SEO practices to apply to your online store to drive results:
- Title tags ‒ create concise, well-written titles for your web pages. Make sure to include target keywords to drive traffic to each page and help visitors understand your website content better.
- Image alt text ‒ while alt text is meant to help visually-impaired visitors understand images better, search engines crawl it like any other website content. Therefore, optimizing them with keywords increases their chance of appearing in image search results.
- Meta description ‒ this website element refers to pages’ short description that appears on SERPs along with the title tag and URL. It should contain relevant keywords and accurately describe the page’s content to generate clicks.
- URL structure ‒ adding keywords to URLs is a good SEO strategy. Use hyphens to separate words and keep URLs short and relevant to the pages they represent.
- Page load speed ‒ Google recommends keeping page load time under two seconds. Check out our article on how to speed up a WordPress website if you choose to build your online store on this CMS. Zyro automatically optimizes all image files you upload.
- Mobile-friendly ‒ choose a mobile-friendly website theme to ensure an optimal mobile user experience. You can run your website through the Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to measure its mobile-friendliness.
Additionally, choose one of the best WordPress SEO plugins to expand the online store’s SEO functionality. As for Zyro users, the online store builder already equips built-in SEO tools for optimizing each web page.
This marketing strategy focuses on creating valuable content to engage your target audience. The idea is to write informative content that answers visitors’ questions or solves their problems.
Content marketing is a good strategy for building trust with your audience and establishing your brand as the industry’s leader. It also requires a lower budget compared to other marketing strategies, making it ideal for small businesses with a limited marketing budget.
Here are a couple of tips to kick-start your content marketing effort:
- Know your target audience. By knowing your audience’s interests and preferences, you can choose content ideas that attract the right crowd, allowing you to build a solid audience base.
- Write about topics with audience potential. You can use Google autocomplete predictions or keyword research tools to find popular target keywords you can write about.
- Use evergreen content. As it stays relevant over time, this type of content has a better chance of ranking in SERPs and generating traffic for years. It’s also effective for attracting authorized backlinks and boosting the web page’s SEO.
- Optimize your content for search engines. Incorporate keywords relevant to the chosen topic in your content. However, avoid keyword stuffing as it can harm your web page’s search rankings and make the content unreadable.
- Use internal linking to connect multiple topics. Doing so can improve page authority, dwell time, and website navigation, contributing to your SEO efforts.
- Maintain a consistent posting schedule. It encourages audience engagement and prompts search engines to crawl your pages more frequently, driving traffic to your new content.
- Promote your content. You can share your content on social media and include it in newsletters. The more people read your posts, the higher your chance of turning visitors into customers.
Both WordPress and Zyro have built-in blogging functionality, so you can start writing content once you’re ready and even start making money from your blog.
Social Media Marketing
Two-thirds of shoppers today have made online purchases via social media. With most online shoppers being active on social media, leveraging social media platforms can help expand your reach and generate more sales.
Like content marketing, social media marketing is also cost-effective. Therefore, it’s suitable for small businesses wanting to improve customer engagement and loyalty.
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Follow these tips to boost your social media marketing efforts:
- Pick the right social media platforms. It’s best to focus your efforts on one or two platforms with the same demographics as your target audience.
- Use the business version. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram include useful analytics and marketing tools in their business versions.
- Personalize your posts. Doing so ensures your content is valuable and relevant to your target audience, encouraging them to follow and share your posts.
- Engage your audience. Use the platforms to answer existing customers’ questions, invite discussions on topics that interest your followers, run flash sales, and encourage user-generated content.
Check out our article on the best WordPress social media plugins for adding the social sharing functionality to WordPress eCommerce stores. Meanwhile, Zyro users can encourage social sharing by adding the social icons element to their product pages or other relevant web pages.
Email marketing helps you communicate with customers through email messages. This marketing strategy has a return on investment of $36 for every $1 spent, which explains why 80% of marketers prefer email marketing over social media.
To start off, you need to build an email list. Set up a contact form where visitors can sign up for your newsletter. Consider offering rewards like single-use coupon codes to encourage participation.
Email marketing’s goal might be generating online sales and promoting your brand, but your emails don’t have to be sales-related. Our newsletter, for example, contains backlinks to our educational blog posts.
You can send your subscribers updates about the store’s latest promos, hold a competition of user-generated content, or product guides. Feel free to create a poll on your website to find out what your audience wants to see in the newsletters.
Don’t forget to install one of the WordPress newsletter plugins to run this marketing strategy on your store. If Zyro powers your online store, you can integrate it with Mailchimp to set up newsletters.
If you have extra money to spare, running paid advertising is arguably the fastest way to drive traffic. This online marketing strategy involves buying ad space through paid advertising platforms and circulating your ads across multiple websites and social media channels.
Today’s biggest paid marketing channels include Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, TikTok Ads, and Google Ads. Like social media marketing, we recommend doing your research on each platform’s demographics first to achieve optimal investment returns.
Affiliate marketing helps you sell products through affiliate links. You partner with affiliates and commission them based on the number of sales or clicks they make through their affiliate link.
You can start by creating an affiliate marketing page on your website and reaching out to creators to partner with you. Take inspiration from popular affiliate marketing programs to get started.
Preparing for Your Store Launch?
Give our website launch guide article a read to make sure you have done all the necessary steps before launching your eCommerce website.
As more people shop online to fulfill their needs, this might be the perfect time to start an online store. Many eCommerce platforms and tools are accessible today, allowing aspiring entrepreneurs to jump into the industry without coding from scratch.
Here’s a recap of the steps on how to start an online store:
- Decide on the product to sell.
- Develop a business plan.
- Pick an eCommerce platform.
- Design your online store.
- Add the eCommerce functionality to your online store.
- Market your online store and generate your first sale.
We hope this article helped take your business online and bring in revenues. See you at the top and good luck!
How to Create an Online Store FAQ
This section will answer the most frequently asked questions about developing an online store.
Can I Start an Online Store for Free?
There are eCommerce platforms that offer free plans, but they come with limited resources and features. The same issue applies to hosting providers and domain registrars that give away free hosting and domain names. To build a sufficient online store, you will need to invest in the process.
How Much Do I Need to Start an Online Store?
If you build your entire business site around WordPress, all that’s left to buy are hosting and a domain name. Hostinger’s Premium Shared Hosting plan costs $2.99/month and includes a free domain name, reducing your starting costs.
How Do I Source Products to Sell on My Online Store?
Dropshipping is the easiest way to start, as you don’t have to worry about production, inventory, and shipping costs. Alternatively, create your own products and develop a private label, where you get to control every aspect of your business from start to finish.
What Is the Best eCommerce Platform?
Many eCommerce platforms offer different sets of tools to streamline your website development process, so it’s best to do your research first. Check out our article on the best eCommerce platforms if you need help narrowing down your options.