With the internet as big and far reaching as it is today everyone should start thinking about having some sort of online presence in order to keep up with the changing methods of buying and selling. In order to create an online store there are a few steps you need to keep in mind and you should be able to start bringing in sales from all around the country and possibly even the world if you're interested in that.
1. Come up with a name. If you already want to create an online store chances are good that you already have a name for your store but is it a good name? A name needs to be memorable and instantly tell your customer what you are about and what you sell. With a brick and mortar store you can afford a little mystery as people are more likely to wander in out of sheer curiosity. With the internet being all about instant gratification though the user tends to get frustrated and just click away; why try to figure out your store when they can go to one that gives them exactly what they need? To create an online store is to create an online presence, and to be most effective the user needs to know what that presence stands for and is capable of doing.
2. Select your products. Now that you have a name picked out you have to figure out what it is you are going to sell once you create an online store. There are many different options in this step as you can sell things you made or things others made. You can personally own the product or go through a drop shipper that handles all the shipping and products. In my experience the most successful online stores are those that offer something unique to the user base; a product that is either unique or highly thought after. When you create an online store you need to place this at the top of your last and have a plan for how you are going to obtain your products and how much you plan on selling them for, this will make the process go along a lot smoother .
3. Figure out design, color, etc. Just as important as your name is your design and color palette. A store with a very muddy or too busy palette can bomb even if you have the worlds coolest name. Think of it in terms of a real life store again. If you go to a store and are immediately bombarded with bright colors and flashing lights, unless you're in Las Vegas chances are you will not stick around. You have to keep this in mind when you create an online store as you no longer have the physical act of entering a store it is a purely visual experience. You want to try to stick with all muted pastel colors or all vibrant colored colors. With computer monitors across the nation showing information differently you need to make your color design as cohesive as possible so it looks as similar as possible from one monitor to the next so you have some sort of quality control on what the viewer is seeing.
4. Choose a hosting service. This is a critical step in the process to create an online store as this can make or break your success. You need to pick a hosting company that best fits you and your needs. Most E-Commerce solutions offer a wide variety of hosting packages and different perks with each package so make sure you do your research. One thing to always keep in mind is whether or not they are pleasant to work with because if your site should go down for any reason or you want to make changes you can not figure out on your own you will need to call them. So I recommend before before choosing one for sure you should call all the potential providers and have a talk with them. If they are friendly and informative I'd move them to the top of the list, but if you get shuffled around on the phone or never actually talk to a real person I'd move them to the bottom of the list. The hosting provider is in essence your partner when you create an online store and you need to make sure you partner will be there for you and have your best interest at heart.
5. Market your store. Once you've got the store up and running you have to out some work into it; This is the stage where most stores start to fail. A person purchases inventory and gets the store going but expects people to just find their store and the products to start flying off the shelves. To create an online store is easy, but to successfully run an online store is bit trickier. Make sure you get your store out there. Find relevant blog posts or become a trusted member of a forum relevant to your products. If people do not know your store exists they can not very well buy from it. One method that can help when first starting out is to spend a little money each month of Pay Per Click ads; While they may not be the cheapest way to market, they help when an online store is first starting out. After you create an online store you can also look to much cheaper methods in your local area. Make a batch of T-Shirts with your logo on and website on it and get friends and family to wear them or get permission to hand them out at local athletic events. Anything you can do to get your store name and website out there can potentially bring in new customers both by direct contact and by word of mouth.
6. Perform standard upkeep on the store. Once you start to get customers coming in and a little revenue flowing make sure you do not start to relax too much, yes the hard parts over but you still have to keep future customers happy and to do that you have to stay active with the store. If I go to an online store and it does not look like the products or anything has been updated recently I generally do not buy anything from there because who's to say the person is even still in business in real life? It's very easy for an online store to fall through the cracks and still be up even though the physical store has closed down. For this reason you need to constantly be updating things and make your customers feel like you care about the store because if you do not then why should they? An easy way to do this is to attach a blog to the store that you update every few days with either news about your products and plans or just little tidbits about your days; This will help form a sort of community around your store and you'll start to notice regulars commenting on articles.
7. Start planning for longevity. What I mean here is that once you've put all this hard work into your store, starting moving product and have a small community you need to start planning what you can do next to keep them coming back. With a physical store the reliability and reluctance to go searching for new places keeps customers coming back but with online stores and the ability to find a product almost anywhere online you have to make your store extremely welcoming and cozy to get people coming back. Think about promotions you can offer to customers who post most frequently in your blog, or ways you can improve your store with a new look or wider variety of products, just do not let the store get stagnant. After you create an online store it is a full time job to keep it up and running and to maintain success, but there is no other feeling like it as you are your own boss while all the failure belongs to you, every ounce of the success belongs to you as well and that's a really great feeling.