How to set up your online store

Aug 10 2022 | PayPal Editorial Staff

These days, having an online presence is a fundamental element in running a successful business. Here, we show you how to go about creating an online store website.

Online shopping has been enjoying a significant boost in recent times. According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), online orders were up 70% in Asia Pacific during the first quarter of 2020 alone.1 So whether you are expanding your existing brick-and-mortar business or planning to start a new business from scratch, we’ll show you how and why you should set up your own online store in order to turn your small business into a resounding commercial success.

Why you need to get online

These are various major gains to be made from a well-designed, efficiently run online store:

  • Customer reach: depending on how ambitious your plans are, your business has the potential to supply or connect with customers from across the globe.
  • Credibility: if customers have heard of your product or service but can’t find it online, your business will appear dated – and your rivals with websites will stand to benefit instead. Conversely, if you have a clear, enticing, easy-to-navigate website that aces the competition, customer traffic will start to steer your way.
  • Building a brand: unlike selling your product in a location where it can be swallowed up by surrounding goods, your website gives you control over your branding and your advertising. For new customers visiting your website, this is your chance to make a striking, memorable first impression for all the right reasons. And signing your customers up to an online account provides you with the option to leverage data analytics which reveal invaluable information about their gender, age, location, relationship status and other details. In addition, viewing similar metrics like their purchasing decisions also allows you to track their shopping habits and thus, target them with specific messages and promotions likely to be of interest.2
  • Your online community: encouraging your customers to follow you on various social channels and share reviews and pictures builds brand loyalty and provides you with further detailed information for your future marketing.
  • Speed and convenience: your customers can shop online comfortably from home – whatever the time of day or night. This also means that you don’t have to be at the shop in person either so you can run your business from wherever you wish.
  • Pricing: if your business is run entirely online, you can save all the costs of running a physical store, allowing you to offer lower prices – and potentially a greater variety of merchandise, too.
  • Expanding internationally: with your own site, you can easily target and expand into additional markets by tailoring your content accordingly.
  • Payment: with a reputable and efficient online payment package, you can offer your customers a range of speedy online payment options in whatever currency they use. PayPal is designed to ensure that your receipts and payments are processed swiftly and without fuss.3,4,5

Identify and decide on your niche

If you are setting up a completely new venture, what is your business going to be? It’s likely to be connected to something you’re already interested in and know about. Many people launch their businesses from home crafts that they’ve been giving or selling to family and friends and now feel ready to trade commercially. A range of artistic, administrative and technical skills, from writing or graphic design to secretarial or IT skills can be turned into services to be sold online too. Online consultancy is a further option and so are educational courses in your specialist subject, either on a one-to-one- basis and/or through channels such as YouTube. The internet is awash with ideas for suggestions for online businesses, but you need to find the right one for your skills and resources.

Perhaps, counterintuitively, having an idea that nobody else is advertising may not necessarily ensure success. You may be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Jack Ma, but chances are that if your idea isn’t being marketed, there is a good reason for it. So it’s usually best to find out which products and services are doing well on the market and find your special place among them.6

One you’ve decided on an idea that you think could be profitable, you need to prepare seriously. The following are matters that need careful consideration:


Research. Research your subject thoroughly – and then take another look at it. However keen you are to get up and running, meticulous planning beforehand is the key to avoiding pitfalls and will give your business the best chance of success.

Market research. Do you know your market? Who are your potential customers? Are you supplying a niche product or service so you know who they will be? Or is your product more general, which will mean a wider search for customers? Are you targeting a particular gender, age group, educational level or geographic location? With its massive global reach, Facebook can give you a lot of in-depth information into the kind of people who are buying your type of products and you can help to draw up a profile of your ideal customer from its pages to get started.7

What price points do you intend to set for your goods or services? You may wish to engage market research professionals to test the water before you dive in, or you could check out crowdsourcing websites for opportunities to gauge opinion on your prospective market.

Keeping it legal. Ensure that you comply with legal requirements, such as any restrictions there may be on any of your products (particularly if you are operating internationally).

Fulfilment method. This is the means of getting your orders from your warehouse to your customers. So if you are selling physical products, you will need a place to store them and a process for shipping them out. Alternatively, you can consider a dropship model, whereby you don’t keep any stock yourself, but buy it from a third party – usually a wholesaler or manufacturer – who is responsible for processing the shipment.8

Play the devil’s advocate. While it’s important to be optimistic about your chances of success in your new venture, be ruthless in assessing the obstacles. From your research, look at all the pitfalls that could derail your business and work out how to avoid them.

Draw up a business plan. A business plan will outline what your business is, how it is going to be profitable and the operating plans you have for its future development. Set specific, feasible and regular targets so you know at any time whether you are meeting your financial and other goals. This should be a continuous progress. Your business plan should include factors such as:

  • A description of your business, including the product and/or services provided; your staffing requirements, if any, your prospective customers; an analysis of the competition; and the USP (Unique Selling Point/s) that will give you a competitive advantage.
  • Financial goals, to include your sales figures, expected profits, cash flow and return on investment.
  • Financial requirements: your initial capital requirements (with details of collateral on any loans) and plans for development.
  • Your marketing and sales plan (see below).
  • The legal status of your business – are you a sole trader, partnership or limited company etc.9, 10, 11

Devise a marketing plan. Having done your market research and built up a credible profile of your ideal customer, it helps to use a mix of social media content – on sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, depending on what you are offering, to keep your product and messaging in their sight. Set the goals you want to achieve from this and test them regularly against results.

  • Use social media to drive visitors to your site, but ensure that all your messages support your strategy, so you are not wasting your time, words and images on information that is not going to build brand awareness and ultimately drive sales.
  • Consider collaborating with other businesses that could mutually benefit from joint promotions. Likewise a genuine influencer could greatly enhance your brand’s profile.
  • Keep your social media news up to date and engaging. Find interesting and apt snippets to share. Ask a question to elicit responses from your followers and get a conversation going. Hold community events and write about them with lots of photos. Hold competitions and provide giveaways. Make your followers and customers an aspirational community, not merely buyers of your product. And while you’re on social media, keep the sales posts discreet.
  • Let your products speak for themselves – always display them in the most appealing and impressive way you can. And a touch of humour can play well, if appropriate: a well-placed joke – but only a really good one – could go viral and get your brand noticed way beyond its normal channels.
  • Ensure that your customer service is sympathetic – and prompt. Slow responses to queries and complaints will have your customers abandoning your site, stopping only to leave an embarrassing complaint as a warning to others.
  • Every piece of information you gather should be tailored to gaining consumer data and feedback to analyse and use for future business development.12


How to measure results with KPIs

Key Performance Indicators – known as KPIs – are the method of testing the performance of your business against your targets in various areas. They are used in businesses from the sole trader to the multinationals, where they are carried out in each different department. As you start to gather information on how your online store is progressing, you need to set specific targets and evidence-based methods of measuring them. It is crucial that each KPI has a meaningful, quantifiable outcome and that your KPIs act as a regular gauge on your business development. You will probably first want to set up goals for your sales and marketing. Understand why you have chosen each KPI and what you will do with the information. Note where your data originated so you can compare like with like in the future.

Sales: major data for your sales will include: measuring the target you set yourself for the value of sales from new customers within a certain time frame; the number of deals closed; your repeat sales revenue. And on the less positive side, the number of abandoned shopping carts and the number of goods returned. Analyse how these can be improved to better support your business model and increase your revenue.

Marketing: measure your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) ranking – the more keywords you use in your website content, the better chance your website has of rising up the pages of the search engines; the amount spent on marketing over a specific time and how your marketing campaigns correlated with your sales revenue; the number of visitors who follow links to your site (the click through rate).

Customer service: each interaction between your customer and the company whether queries or complaints is known as a support ticket. You need to monitor how many support tickets are logged in a specific period; the amount of time needed to deal with the query/complaint; your customer satisfaction score; customer retention, e.g. if your customer is spending more with your business than they cost to acquire, then they are profitable to you.13

How to build an eCommerce website step by step

So you’ve done your homework, and you’re convinced that your plans are commercially viable and have now reached the final hurdle before your business goes live – setting up your website. For a small business just starting up, the simplest and most economical method is to buy an off-the-shelf platform from an online website builder, which is effectively a package of templates, which can be customised to fit your individual business needs. These will guide you through the set-up steps below and can then help you with the functions your website will need once you’re up and running, such as accepting payments and organising your shipments, providing automated marketing that will follow up on customer visits with messages, plus managing your accounting and more.

If you don’t want to code a site from scratch or hire a developer to do it, online website builders can be your best bet. Alternatively, if you have somebody on your team with technical skills, you can start with a clean slate and benefit from the greater flexibility that brings. If you already have a web page, you can opt for the minimum change of simply integrating a dedicated eCommerce platform in it instead.14 Whichever of these is applicable to your needs and resources, your website will first need to set up the basics. Here’s some advice from PayPal on how to set up your site:

  • You need a name for your online store so shoppers know where to find you. If you have an offline store already – fine. If not, it helps to keep your name short; it will be easier to remember.
  • Your domain name. This is the suffix on your address, such as or If you want to attract international trade, simply .com could be better.
  • Make it easy to type – you don’t want customers making mistakes.
  • Most importantly, you need a secure payment system to keep your transactions secure for you and your customer.
  • You may wish to consider a PageBuilder tool to help you build and update your store with no coding required.
  • There are tools to help you drive higher sales conversions such as image optimisation tools, one-page checkout and shopping cart recovery.
  • Leading shipping providers and payment partners like PayPal so you can start selling locally and globally.
  • 24/7 live support.15

First impressions

It takes only 0.05 seconds for visitors to form an opinion about your website. Indeed, 75% of visitors rate a company’s credibility based on its web design.16 In other words, your landing page has to be attractive and equally engaging to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Make your branding stand out and provide a warm welcome to your page. Engage your readers with who you are, what your product is – and what makes it special. Have quality images of your products available to your visitors as soon as they click on to your site. If you can afford it, short videos are a welcome bonus on websites.

Optimising the payment process

According to PayPal’s studies, one in five consumers abandoned a purchase because their preferred payment method wasn’t available.17 PayPal Checkout supports a wide selection of credit/debit cards and alternative payment methods (such as mobile wallets) and is used by millions of consumers across the world. Here’s why:

  • The option for customers to pay with PayPal helps to increase conversions at checkout.
  • If customers don’t have a PayPal account, they can simply pay with their debit or credit card.
  • PayPal supports over 100 currencies across the world, eliminating currency conversion hassles when you are selling to international customers.

Setting up PayPal Checkout is simple. Once you’ve set up your account online, it can be incorporated into your website design. When you get paid, the money goes through to your account and you can then transfer it to your bank account or spend it online.

But there’s more. Checkout’s Smart Payment Buttons feature gives merchants a variety of ways to customise your payment buttons on the checkout page. You can choose the size, colour, and shape of not just your PayPal checkout button, but also buttons for other, multiple alternative payment methods. You can have the button layout horizontal or vertical and the language that appears on them. So when a customer pays from their mobile and the system recognises their preferred method of payment, they’ll be guided automatically to that option to speed up their payment. Find out how you can integrate PayPal Checkout into your website – and get ready to celebrate your very first sale!


1 OECD,, July 2020.
2 Forbes,, February 2020.
3,, May 2019.
4 PayPal,
5 Shopify,, March 2018.
6 The Balance Small Business,, February 2019.
7 Shopify,, March 2018.
8 Shopify,, March 2018.
9 Indeed,
10 Entrepreneur Europe,
11 MV Organizing,, May 2021.
12 Shopify,, March 2018.
13 G2,
14 Fresh Egg,
15 PayPal,
16 Forbes,, April 2018.
17 PayPal,

The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. The information in this article does not constitute legal, financial, IT, business or investment advice of any kind and is not a substitute for any professional advice. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, IT and legal advice before making any business decision.

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