If you own a business and want to expand to reach more customers within and outside your locality, you need to create an online store. However, while starting your own online store is simple, scaling it and making sales is not.
Therefore, this article will show you how to create an online store and market to the right audience. It will also cover the benefits of owning an e-commerce business and the best ways to handle customer service and support.
- Online stores are indispensable to global retail, and they have more traffic than physical stores
- Before creating an e-commerce website, conduct market research to gather information about consumers’ needs and preferences
- A good product description provides accurate and detailed info at a glance and must be supported with quality images
- To increase the visibility of your online store and get buyers for your products, you must engage in marketing and promotion
- After creating an online store, you must continually optimize it to improve user experience, increase conversions, and boost sales
Why Is an Online Store Important?
There was a time having a brick-and-mortar store was all you needed for your business. However, online retail stores have become indispensable to global retail in the last few years. Owning an e-c0mmerce platform allows you to open your business 24/7, all year round, even when your physical store closes.
Also, online businesses have more traffic as thousands of people can place orders simultaneously from different locations. Finally, with an online store, customers will get more product information before buying. HostAdvice can help you create a website for your online store to grow your business and increase profits.
Is It Essential to Conduct Market Research When Creating Online Retail Stores?
Yes, when building an online store, you must conduct market research. Market research involves gathering information about consumers’ needs and preferences. Here’s what market research should contain:
A target audience consists of people in a standard demographic, sharing similar interests and behaviors. They are the ones that, when presented with a specific opportunity or problem, are likely to take action. Before creating an online store, you must gather and interpret information on the people likely to patronize your site’s products or services.
By doing this, you will be able to:
- Build a website that appeals to your target audience
- Know the demographics they fall into
- Determine their buying habits and interests
- Create marketing campaigns that will appeal to your target audience and cause them to buy from your site
Customer Needs and Preferences
The research should also contain the needs and preferences of the target customers. This includes customer UX, convenience, communication, service, sensory, time, and effort preferences. Also, note product selection, payment system, customer service, pricing, delivery options, etc.
Competition or competitive analysis involves identifying your competitors and gaining insight into their products, sales, and marketing. Before you create an e-commerce site, conduct a competition analysis to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. By doing this, you will know how to improve your products or services to meet customers’ needs and outshine competitors.
Product selection is a system of evaluating and procuring the products to sell on your e-commerce website. It is the foundation of online retail stores. Therefore, you must carefully select products your target audience wants to buy.
A Step-by-Step guide to Create an Online Store
After market research, creating an online store website is the next step. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to create an online shopping website.
Choose an E-Commerce Platform
Selecting an e-commerce platform is the first step to selling online. It is the control center of your business, where you take and fulfill orders. The e-commerce website is also where you market your products and provide customer support.
There are different types of e-commerce platforms to choose from, therefore consider the following factors before choosing:
- Accessible customer support
- Frictionless checkout point
- Web hosting
- Third-party tool integration
- Current and future needs
Visit HostAdvice to know about the best e-commerce platforms.
Select Domain Name and Hosting
Choosing a domain name and hosting provider is the next step after picking an e-commerce platform.
A domain name is the equivalent of your website’s physical address. Customers will use it instead of an internet protocol (IP) address to find your site.
Hosting involves renting or purchasing space to house a website on the World Wide Web. It is an online service that makes your e-commerce site always accessible. The following are some of the best hosting platforms for e-commerce businesses:
Customize the Website Design
The next step is customizing your website design to make it easily navigable for customers and for the best experience. Ensure the site is intuitive, easy to use, has the right footer and header texts, has clear images, etc. You can use a template or theme or create the design yourself. However, note that most platforms with pre-made themes offer both free and paid options.
Add a Payment Gateway
Finally, you have to choose and add a payment gateway on the online store site. A payment gateway is a technology e-commerce store owners use to accept debit or credit card payments from customers. There are several secured payment gateways to consider for your online business.
They include the following:
Product Listing and Management
Having understood how to create an online store website, you must know how to list and manage products correctly.
A well-listed and managed product ensures excellent customer experience. A perfect product listing page should include price, customer reviews, purchase options, images and videos, and a thorough description.
The following are factors to keep in mind when engaging in product listing and management:
Product Descriptions and Images
Product descriptions explain what a product is and why it’s worth purchasing. A good product description should be detailed, accurate, and have the correct information. It should contain the following:
- A written record of the number of sales for that product
- A list of the features in bullet points
- An instructional guide on how, when, and where to use the product
- The product measurement, if needed, material type and content
- The country where it was manufactured. Customers often determine a product’s quality based on the manufacturer’s location and the brand name.
Images are equally important when making a product description. Therefore, use high-quality visuals. Also, photos help the customers visualize the product, and they are prone to return the product that doesn’t match the image viewed. You can use a flat product, on-model, mannequins, or lifestyle images on your e-c0mmerce website.
Inventory management involves sourcing, storing, and tracking stock sales. It also involves knowing what you sold, what is left, when to restock, and how many orders to place. This way, your products are well-listed and tracked, and you never run out of stock.
Also, do the following for inventory management:
- Keep an inventory of safety stock to avoid panic buying
- Use past purchases to determine the products you want to buy more and those to reduce
- Balance your inventory by avoiding understocking or overstocking
- Use a kitting technique to sell products you overstocked or are close to their expiry date. For instance, you can make a buy two get one free offer.
- Effectively manage your storage space or warehouse to avoid running out of where to store your products. Effective space management also ensures you can quickly locate items.
- Invest in an inventory management system. Examples are Shopify inventory software, WooCommerce inventory management, QuickBooks inventory management, etc.
Order Management and Shipping
E-commerce order management focuses on the backend process for managing and fulfilling customer orders. It covers order routing and printing shipping labels to update customers on their orders, product returns, and subscription management.
With an efficient order management and shipping system, you will provide a seamless shopping experience for buyers. Examples of order management systems are QuickBooks Commerce, Brightpearl, Freestyle Solutions, etc.
Product Pricing and Promotions
When setting up an online store, you must pay close attention to product pricing. Your prices must be at the industry rate (competitive) because you will lose customers if it is too high. However, if it is too low, you will lose money. So, what do you do?
Use the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for your pricing strategy or cost-plus pricing method. Also, offer discounts or coupon codes to attract customers to your e-commerce website during promotions.
Marketing and Promotion of an Online Store
After listing and setting up an effective product management system, you must market and promote your site’s products. Below are the relevant steps to take.
Search engine optimization involves ranking your website and product pages on search engines like Google and Bing. A well-optimized site has several benefits, from more visibility to enhanced user experience. It also increases sales, which is the bottom line for every online business.
When optimizing your e-commerce site or product page, pay attention to the following:
- Write for your customers, and not bots
- Focus on benefits and features
- Use the proper SEO keyword
- Place keyword strategically, and avoid keyword stuffing
- Avoid long-length texts, focusing more on buyer awareness
- Include a clear call to action
Unlike SEO, email marketing focuses on reaching each customer or prospect in a personalized way. It is an excellent avenue to promote the products on your site, interact, and get feedback from existing customers. Send newsletters, special offers, coupon codes, etc.
When sending a welcome email, you can include either of the preceding. Also, personalize the emails using the customer’s name, and ensure the email is responsive and well-designed.
Social Media Marketing
Billions of people globally use social media, making it one of the most sought-after platforms for marketing. You can use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok to promote your products and engage with customers. Ensure you create captivating content, post regularly and at peak periods, and respond to comments immediately.
Influencer marketing involves collaborating with someone with a large social media following to market your site products using their page. Influencer marketing has grown in the past few years, with businesses spending over $4 billion on influencer marketers in 2022.
Also, on average, companies make $6.50 in revenue for every dollar invested in influencer marketing. Therefore, it is a lucrative means of marketing your online store. However, ensure you work with an influencer in your niche whose audience is your target customers.
Paid advertising is another way to market your online store and products. It involves bidding to get your ad in front of internet users. There are different types of paid advertising, including paid search ads, display ads, social media ads, remarketing ads, etc. Also, paid ads give instant results, are measurable, cost-effective, and increase visibility.
Customer Service and Support
Any successful online store has excellent customer service, and yours should, too. When customers have access to what they need and have their issues quickly resolved, they will patronize you again. But if they don’t, they will go to your competitors with better customer service.
Here’s what to remember for creating your customer service and support for your online store:
Provide Customer Support Using Multiple Channels
Customer service involves providing communication services to customers before, during, or after the exchange of goods and services. Part of running a profitable online store is having appropriate customer support. Being there always when your customers need you will breed trust, appreciation, and consistency in their patronage.
Thankfully, there are different customer service channels for your e-commerce store. These include the following:
A live chat is one of the fast and most convenient ways to communicate with customers. There is no need to call numbers or wait in long queues; it is available 24 hours a day. Also, customers can chat with live support agents during work hours and leave their messages with chatbots when the agents close.
Emails are another way to provide customer support. It is a direct communication channel and appeals to customers because they know what to expect. You can list your email on your website or add it to a contact form. Also, ensure you respond to messages within 24 hours.
Social media networks are one of the key ways brands engage with consumers. So, it is unsurprising that they are one of the means for effective customer service. You can use social media to address negative comments about your online store and build stronger customer relationships.
With the introduction of live chats and social media, phone support might appear outdated, but it is not. If you have older customers, they will prefer the human connection provided by a phone. This is because they can talk to a customer service agent in real-time, ask questions, and receive answers.
Handle Returns and Refunds Effectively
It is not uncommon for customers to want to return a delivered product and request a refund. Therefore, you must have a clear return policy stating the steps customers must take to return a product and get their money back. In addition, a return and refund policy must:
- Have a clear deadline, avoiding ambiguous and legalistic language
- State whether you accept returns through shipment or in a physical store if you have one
- State how to print the return label
- State who will pay for the shipping of the returned product
Resolve Customer Disputes and Complaints Quickly
As mentioned, you must promptly reply to customer complaints and resolve disputes efficiently. Creating a customer management system (CMS) will make attending to your customers’ needs easier as they come in. There are several e-commerce CMS systems to streamline the customer service system. Examples are Adobe Commerce, Drupal, BigCommerce, WordPress, Joomla, Umbraco, etc.
Analytics and Optimization of Online Store
Analytics and optimization helps you track your online store’s performance and identify areas you need to improve on. Here’s how to conduct analytics and optimization:
Monitor Website Traffic
Web traffic monitoring involves analyzing your site’s visitors. There are manual and automated ways of monitoring web traffic. You can get primary data like the number of visitors at a particular time, the device they use, the action they perform, and the time spent.
Monitoring web traffic will increase website performance, optimize user experience, and budget advertising. You can use different tools to monitor website traffic, including Google Analytics, Ahrefs, SemRush, Kissmetrics, etc.
Measure Conversion Rate
A conversion rate documents the number of users who have completed a desired action on your website. This could be viewing the landing page, clicking on a product, or getting to the checkout. You can calculate your online store’s conversion rate by dividing the number of conversions by the total ad interactions that can be tracked to a conversion within the same time.
Thankfully, you don’t have to do it yourself. You can use tools like Google Analytics to track and calculate your conversion rate. Tracking conversion rate lets you know how a campaign performed and what you need for better optimization.
Analyze Customer Behavior and Preferences
- Behaviors and preferences are different for each person, and analyzing the two lets you know what every customer wants and needs. Customer behavior analysis also shows how each person interacts with your online store. When examining customer behavior, do the following:
- Divide your customers into segments
- Identify the selling points for each segment. That is, why are they buying your products and what informs their decision.
- Gather as much information as possible, focusing on qualitative data
- Check for trends and valuable insights in the qualitative data
- Use the information to make changes
- Analyze your result
Continue Optimizing the Online Store
It’s one thing to create an e-commerce store, another to market, promote, and optimize it. But that’s not all; you must keep optimizing the store. Frequently review your website and make necessary changes to improve user experience, increase conversions, and boost sales.
You might have to use more keywords, increase the website speed, test different layouts, and optimize images. All this ensures your e-commerce store remains on top of search engine result pages.
Benefits of Having an Online Store
There are numerous benefits of having your own online store. They include the following:
The world became a global village long ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic boosted the use of e-commerce platforms. More people are shopping online, and the number will keep increasing. So, if you want to reach more customers, expand your business globally, and make more sales, create an online store.
It doesn’t cost much money to set up an online store, unlike a brick-and-mortar shop. You don’t need to rent a space or hire staff to attend to customers. All you need is a website and money to buy the products you want to sell.
Also, you can use an e-commerce website builder to create your site, and there are several free options, like WordPress. HostAdvice has helpful resources on how to create an online store with WordPress.
One reason e-commerce thrives is that people can shop from the comfort of their homes or wherever they are. All shoppers must do is select what they want, add to their cart, pay at checkout, and receive the delivery to their homes. Also, they can shop with their phones without using a PC, so ensure your site is mobile-friendly.
Unlike physical shops that have a closing time, online stores are open 24 hours, 365 days a year. So, irrespective of where your customers are and the difference in time zones, they can shop whenever they want.
With the use of SEO tools and other digital marketing strategies, you can increase the visibility and reach of your business. Plus, the more visible you are, the more traffic your site gets, and the greater the chances of converting visitors to paying and repeat customers.
Creating an online store is easy, costs little, and is an effective way to increase your customer base and make more sales. There are also several benefits, like increasing accessibility and convenience.
However, you must constantly optimize your site, market and promote your products, and have a compelling product listing and management system. With all these and the right strategies in place, HostAdvice will help you create a successful and profitable store.
Next Steps: What Now?
- Step by Step Guide To Setting Up An e-Commerce Site
- Things an Online Store Should Consider Before Choosing a Website Provider
- The Challenges of eCommerce and How to Overcome Them
- What is e-commerce? An Introductory Guide