An online store is the most rewarding venture you can start as an entrepreneur.
You get to be your own boss, set your own hours, and create your own products. Plus, you get to help people all over the world by sharing your products with them.
But it’s no secret that starting an online shop comes with its challenges, especially if you have no prior experience. That’s why nearly a quarter of new businesses close after their first year in operation. By the fifth year, the business failure rate reaches 56.8%.
To help improve your chances of success, we’ve put together 18 essential tips for opening an online store. These tips will help set you and your online business up for success.
18 tips for opening a successful online store
- Find a gap in the market
- Validate your products
- Use a free ecommerce website builder
- Know who your ideal customer is
- Invest in great website design
- Optimize your product pages
- Create a solid marketing plan
- Take amazing product photos
- Create an About Us page
- Set up your email marketing
- Market your business on social media
- Invest in search engine optimization (SEO)
- Make a return policy
- Set up a blog
- Set up business tools
- Offer excellent customer support
- Partner with other brands
- Offer free shipping
1. Find a gap in the market
The first step to starting any business is to find a need and fill it. When it comes to starting an online store, you need to find a niche that isn’t being served or is underserved. This can be done by conducting market research, looking at trends, or even talking to potential customers.
You’ll be tempted to jump in without researching competitors or running a market evaluation. Take the time to develop a good unique selling proposition and understand how you’ll provide value in a competitive market.
Online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy will always be competitors, but there are also hundreds of smaller brands you’ll be competing with.
Read more: How To Find Your Niche in 6 Steps
2. Validate your products
Prior to investing time and money into creating a product, it’s important to validate its demand.
Validating product ideas can reduce the risk of failure and increase the chances of success. It allows you to assess whether a product will meet a need or be in high demand before investing time and money.
One way to validate product ideas is by getting feedback in the early stages of development. Customer feedback helps you assess customer needs and make changes to the product before it goes to market. Customers can also provide feedback on pricing, packaging, and marketing ideas, which are invaluable to the success of your online store.
Read more: 8 Ways To Validate Your Product Idea
3. Use a free ecommerce website builder
An ecommerce website builder is a cost-effective way to open an online store. You can create a professional-looking website without having to hire a web designer or spending much money upfront.
Website builders are easy to use, even without technical experience. You can typically create a website in just a few hours with a good ecommerce platform like Shopify.
Ecommerce website builders provide everything you need to launch and operate your online store, including:
With an ecommerce website builder, you can scale your small business as big as you want. There are no limits on the number of products you can sell or the amount of traffic your website can receive. You can also accept various payment methods like credit cards, Shop Pay, and PayPal without any complicated setup.
Action: Use Shopify’s fully customizable website builder to create a stunning website in minutes. You don’t need coding skills and can easily get web hosting and a domain name after you’re done designing.
4. Know who your ideal customer is
To be successful, you need to know some things about your ideal customer. Who are they? What do they like? What do they need? When you know who your target customer is, you can create merchandise, content, and marketing strategies that appeal to them.
For example, if your target customer is a busy entrepreneur, you might sell products that make their life easier, like organization tools, time-saving appliances, or stylish yet comfortable clothes.
5. Invest in great website design
Website design is critical for the success of your ecommerce business. Half of consumers believe a website design is important to a company’s brand. With the rise of mobile online shopping, you also want to ensure your website is mobile friendly.
You want to invest in web design for three reasons:
- Your website is the first thing a customer sees when visiting your store. If it’s not well designed, it will turn 42% of customers away, and they won’t bother to come back.
- Websites have a major impact on conversion rates. Good web design helps customers find what they need effortlessly, which increases sales.
The Shopify Themes Store hosts more than 100 paid and free themes, each with its own styles and features. You can choose from themes created by world-renowned designers, including Happy Cog, Clearleft, and Pixel Union.
Every high-quality theme is customizable and user friendly, and allows you to preview your storefront as you make changes to it.
6. Optimize your product pages
The best way to earn more ecommerce sales is by investing in your product pages. A product page shows shoppers what a product looks like, shares useful information about it, and convinces them to buy. Clean design, captivating product descriptions, and customer testimonials are all features to include in your product pages.
Get inspired: Product Pages: 16 Beautiful Product Product Page Designs
7. Create a solid marketing plan
Behind every successful online store is a marketing plan. Planning helps you maximize your marketing spend and track your tactics, goals, and costs. Without one, you’re just throwing spaghetti at a wall hoping for something to stick.
Use this template to stay on track—and on budget—as you prepare for another year of creative campaigns and experimental ideas.
8. Take amazing product photos
Take high-resolution product photos when opening your online store. It will help people perceive your products as high quality and can increase sales.
You can take the perfect product photos on a smartphone. Or, use an entry-level professional camera like a Nike D3500. If you’re taking photos at home, be sure to take them in a well-lit area. Your photos should be in focus, highlighting key product features, and should show the product from a variety of angles.
9. Create an About Us page
Your potential customers want to know who you are, what you stand for, and your story. So make sure to create an About Us page that tells visitors all about your brand. Be sure to include a professional headshot, company history, mission statement, and other relevant information.
Your About Us page should be designed to match the overall style of your website. Use the same fonts, colors, and imagery to make it feel like a cohesive part of your site.
Get inspired: 20 About Us Page Examples With Templates
10. Set up your email marketing
Email is one of the most consistently effective channels for acquiring new customers. And while channels like search can take a while to generate organic traffic, email marketing can start working right away. That’s why you should invest in building an email list to promote your store.
There’s no need to spend all your time writing and sending emails. Make it easy on yourself by setting up a collection of automated email marketing campaigns designed to increase your revenue.
There are many options available, such as:
- Emailing new subscribers and offering them an incentive to shop
- Emailing new customers a post-sale email to upsell and delight
- Emailing visitors who abandoned their cart and reminding them to finish their purchase
Action: Use Shopify Email to send branded emails, built for commerce, easily. Build faster with vetted email templates and get detailed insights into your email campaigns within one platform.
11. Market your business on social media
When you’re ready to start promoting your online store, create social media accounts on the platforms your target audience uses most.
Then, post engaging content that will get people interested in your products. Use high-quality images, helpful tips, and eye-catching calls to action to get the most engagement.
Some top social media sites for ecommerce brands:
- Facebook: The world’s largest social media site is also a great place to connect with potential customers.
- Instagram: A visually focused platform where you can share images and short videos of your products in action.
- Twitter: A fast-paced social media site where you can share news, product updates, and promotional content.
- Pinterest: A popular platform for product discovery, where people can save images.
- TikTok: The newest social media platform that’s gaining popularity quickly. It’s perfect for sharing short videos of your products and behind-the-scenes content.
12. Invest in search engine optimization (SEO)
Although it takes a while to get going, search engines offer one of the few opportunities to build predictable, compounding web traffic.
An effective search strategy involves several steps, including forming a keyword strategy, conducting more granular keyword research, optimizing your site architecture and performance (e.g., category pages), and building links back to your website.
It’s an uphill battle, but it’s one you can fight in the background as your store starts to gain traction.
Learn more: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce SEO
13. Make a return policy
A return policy helps to build trust with potential customers and can increase sales. Be sure to include clear instructions on how to return an item, what types of items can be returned, and how long customers have to return an item. You should also include your contact information in case customers have any questions.
Learn more: How To Write a Return Policy (+ Free Template)
14. Set up a blog
Blogging is a great way to promote your ecommerce site. With the right approach, blogging can effectively drive traffic and promote the lifestyle around your products. One study by HubSpot found that the more you blog, the more traffic your website gets.
Use your own blog to drive traffic and promote your products. When done effectively, blogging drives search engine traffic, attracts customers, and captures the attention of the media and high-profile bloggers who could write about you.
Get inspired: 15 Blog Examples To Inspire Your Own Successful Blog
15. Set up business tools
The Shopify App Store is full of sales and marketing tools that can help you manage and grow a profitable online store.
There are apps to help with everything from accounting to email marketing to social media. You can take advantage of hundreds of free Shopify apps, or pay for premium plug-ins to get even more features and expand your store’s functionality.
16. Offer excellent customer support
Offering excellent customer service is one of the best ways to differentiate your business from the competition. You can offer customer support through live chat, email, phone, or social media.
Be sure to respond to customer inquiries quickly and efficiently. You can also offer excellent customer service by providing helpful resources on your website, like product guides, size charts, and FAQ pages.
17. Partner with other brands
Partnering with other brands and influencers is a great way to promote your online store. You can partner with complementary brands to cross-promote each other’s products.
For example, you could partner with a baby food company or mom influencer if you sell baby clothes. Or, if you sell home décor, you could collaborate with a furniture company.
Read more: How To Find Successful Brand Collaborations
Find influencers to drive sales with Shopify Collabs
Shopify Collabs makes it easy to partner with creators, promote your products, reach new customers, grow your sales, and track affiliate campaign performance all from Shopify admin.
18. Offer free shipping
Free shipping creates loyalty among customers who appreciate not having to pay for shipping costs. If you can offer free shipping without losing money, it could be a great marketing strategy for your ecommerce store.
Start your online business today
Now that you know how to start your own online store, it’s time to get to it! Use this checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases, then get out there and start selling.
Ready to create your business? Start your free trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
Online store tips FAQ
Is it profitable to start an online store?
It can be, but there are no guarantees. It depends on many factors, including the type of product you sell, the size and reach of your target market, your business model, and your marketing strategy.
How much money do I need to open an online store?
There is no set amount, as it varies depending on the products you sell and your business model. A good rule of thumb is to have enough money saved up to cover the cost of inventory, shipping, and six months’ worth of operating expenses.
What are the benefits of opening an online store?
There are many benefits, including the ability to reach a global market, the potential for increased profits, and the convenience of 24/7 operation. You can also encounter some risks, like the potential for low sales, the need for a significant investment of time and money, and the possibility of scams and cyberattacks.
What types of products should I sell online?
The best types of products to sell online are those that are popular and in demand, like beauty products or clothing. You should also consider the shipping costs and ease of shipping when choosing products to sell.