How to quickly create your first online store
In this article we focus on 7 steps to get you up and selling as quickly as possible, while avoiding some of the common pitfalls. We’ll also look at a couple of specific options that can accelerate your online launch.
1. Pick your products and decide on your audienceIt’s easy to overlook this step, especially if you already have a successful bricks-and-mortar business. Your best sellers in-store might not be best for online, however.
Here are some points to think about:
- Practical matters – How easy (and cheap) is it to pack and post your product? Think about weight, perishability, fragility, safety etc.
- Competition – There’s a lot of competition online. You may find it better to focus on niche products rather than be head-to-head with big-name competitors. Tools like Google AdWords can help you understand the popularity of different product searches.
- Customisation – Will you sell standard, ready-made products or will your customer need to interact with you on personalisation or customisation options?
2. Think of a name
Even if you have an existing, offline business, you’ll need a name for your store so that shoppers can find and recognise you. This is your domain name (for example, PayPal.com).
Consider these tips:
- Get the right extension – This is the “.com” or “.co.uk” piece. Country-specific domains like .co.uk can attract a domestic audience, while .com can be useful for international sales. These days you can also choose local extensions (like .london or .scot) and business-specific ones (such as .shop, .camera etc.)
- Keep your name short – Shorter names are more memorable.
- Make it easy to type – Quirky spellings and using numbers in place of letters may look cool, but they’re harder to remember and to type correctly.
- Think about keywords – What will your customers be searching for? If you specialise in premium quality dog food, it makes sense to put those words in your domain name.
3. Plan your processesAll the things that would happen in a high street shop need to happen in your online store. Shoppers need to explore your products, add them to a basket, check out and pay for them. Then you need to pack and send those goods and be able to handle any returns or queries promptly and efficiently. You also need to be able to measure your success. Thinking about these issues now will help you choose the best ecommerce platform for your needs.
Some areas to think about:
- Payments – How will customers pay? And, can you offer them a secure payment option that gives confidence. Payment is the point when many online transactions are abandoned, often due to a lack of trust or confidence. In fact, 1 in 4 online shoppers have abandoned a transaction because their preferred payment method wasn’t available.1
- Logistics – How will you pick, pack and post the products customers order? Some ecommerce platforms, like BigCommerce include integration with Royal Mail’s Click and Drop service to simplify your fulfilment process. Others, like Wix, help you offer multiple carriers and provide real-time delivery estimates.
- Integration – Do you need your new store to integrate with existing systems? For example, if you have a physical store with an epos (electronic point of sale) system, it might be helpful to have inventory updated across the two systems. Integration with your accounting system can save you time and errors.
4. Pick your platformWhen you’ve thought through the above, you’ll be in a great place to evaluate different platforms and select the one that best meets your specific needs. If you are new to ecommerce and want to get started quickly, then you might find it easier to work with a partner who can help you build your ecommerce site on an existing platform. There are plenty to choose from. Check out PayPal’s partner directory, here.
Take a little time to explore the tools offered by each. For example, Wix offers integration with the Modalyst drop-shipping platform. It also has tools to help you create online videos and to include common onsite features like customer reviews and chat. Working with a PayPal partner like Wix, BigCommerce and others can get you a professional-looking site while avoiding the time and hassle of doing it all yourself.
Let’s look BigCommerce's Essentials solution offer which helps you get online quickly by offering your first three months for free.2 Terms apply. See BigCommerce for full terms.
- PageBuilder tool to help you build and update your store with no coding required.
- Tools to help you drive higher sales conversions such as impage optimisation tools, one page checkout and shopping cart recovery.
- Leading shipping providers and payment partners like PayPal so you can strt selling locally and globally.
- 24/7 live support.
5. Populate your site
Once you’ve selected your platform and created your online store, you’ll need to populate it with products to sell. Again, many partner platforms like Wix provide easy-to-use tools to quickly upload (or update) your products in bulk. Try to make your products as eye-catching and appealing as possible. As PayPal seller James Washington says…
People shop with their eyes, especially in the evening, when we receive most of our orders. They’re not ploughing through the product descriptions every time. — James Washington, Founder of GadgetPark3
Our tips for an engaging online store:
- Professional images – Pictures are powerful, especially on small, smartphone screens that most people now favour. Use simple, uncluttered and professional product images.
- Descriptive text – Your words need to do the job of a helpful, in-store assistant. Always be accurate and be sure to include the keywords shoppers might search for. Make your language as sensory as you can. For example, is it wool, or is it “lovingly hand-crafted in 100% lambswool”?
- Additional information – Make it easy for shoppers to find important information like shipping costs and policies, your returns policy, and contact details.
- Trust signs – Display signs that will give shoppers confidence: trust badges like DigiCert or Trusted Shops, any professional or trade memberships you have, awards received, and familiar, trusted payment partners such as PayPal.
6. Test and launchBefore you go live, test your site thoroughly. Try some test purchases, explore your site on different devices, and ask friends to review your site with fresh eyes. Look out for broken links and simple things like spelling or grammatical errors that can dent customers’ confidence. Once you’re ready to launch, let everyone know about your new store.
7. Promote your new businessGoing live is just the start. Think about how to bring visitors to your new store.
Some great starting points include:
- Mailing lists – If you have marketing email lists of existing customers, send them a link to your online store.
- Social media – If you have social media accounts (for your business or personally), use them to tell your connections that your business is now online.
- SEO and SEM – Check out online resources for search engine optimisation (SEO, how to make your site more easily found) and search engine marketing (SEM, using paid online advertising to bring visitors to your store). Wix and other platforms provide SEO wizards and tools to help with this.
Ready to launch your first ecommerce store?It’s quicker and easier than ever to start selling online. It pays to spend just a couple of hours planning what you want and need from your new store. After that, you can be live and selling in just 24 hours. Here are some additional resources you may find useful:
- How to launch your online business – An article and ebook from the PayPal Business Resource Centre.
- PayPal Partner Directory – Find a partner to get you online quickly
- BigCommerce offer – Get online quickly with three months free.
- How to set up and Manage Your Online Store with Wix – A step-by-step guide to your first online store.
1PayPal (2018), People are 54% More Willing to Buy When a Business Accepts PayPal, (research conducted in 7 markets: US, UK, Germany, Australia, Italy, Spain and Brazil).
2This special, limited time offer was live at the time of posting this article (22 September 2020). The offer was created by BigCommerce and may end at a time of its choosing.
3PayPal customer case study.