5 Actionable Steps for Starting an Online Shop to Support Your Store

Dana Mia Kim
dana mia kim
Guest Contributor

Whether its introductions to new markets, acquiring new customers or nurturing existing customers, online stores can greatly complement brick-and-mortar store portfolios, and a few actionable steps can greatly increase effectiveness.

An online store can be a great way to start a business or to expand on an existing one, especially for those with existing brick-and-mortar stores. With the Internet’s reach not being limited to a certain space or location, it’s definitely a landscape worth checking out and trying for yourself.

But like with any business, it still takes some solid planning and execution to make it work best. Here are our top steps into setting up an online store for your business and how to make it a success.

Set up and design your online shop

There are various ways that you can set up your online shop, and there are various pros and cons for each. You can either register for your own domain and a hosting service, then build your shop from the ground up; use an established e-commerce platform; or even start a rudimentary shop in social media platforms.

After choosing your preferred platform, it’s time to decide on the design of your online shop. Here are some important features to keep in mind:

  • Fonts and color scheme. It’s ideal to choose one to two plain fonts and color schemes that you think would be a great identifier or moodmaker for your shop. It’s more than recommended to use your stores’ existing fonts and color schemes so the branding stays throughout.
  • The navigation system should be clear and simple, and should be consistent throughout. It should also be easy to access even when on mobile devices.
  • Graphics and multimedia. Feel free to use audio or video if they help enhance your message, but if the platform you choose doesn’t give you the liberty of adding these or if you don’t have the time, money or effort to make one, it’s perfectly fine to use images. Also, keep in mind that your products would need high-quality visuals – especially for clothes.
  • Opt-in offer. This is perfect for email marketing (which is highly recommended). Opt-in offers can come in many forms – from popups to full page splashes that can be scrolled.
  • Easy shopping experience. Don’t make it difficult for your customers to get to the checkout or access their cart. There should be no more than two clicks separating potential customers and the checkout.

Get some traffic

Traffic is one of the greatest factors that will influence the success of your online shop. But while you may have a good following for your brick-and-mortar store that are more than willing to visit your website from time to time, the whole point of having an online store is reaching a market that extends far beyond where your stores are currently located.

Getting this kind of traffic organically may be a little hard, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any other option available for you. Here are some recommended ways you can drive traffic to your website:

  • Pay Per Click (PPC) – Buying traffic from Google AdWords is the quickest way you can gather traffic and can give you thousands of visitors at only a fraction of the cost but it’s also the most unforgiving should you get it wrong. It takes some work and studying to master it, but the pay-off is great when you do.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – This is the effort into getting your website as one of the most relevant, if not the most, for keywords you want to be attached to your online shop. It can give you a steady stream of free traffic and thousands of visitors, but it does take some work and time to get it flowing. It is dependent on content you have on your website plus some knowledge on what Google is looking for based on its algorithms.

Be an expert

In the previous point, we touched upon the power of content for driving traffic when coupled with SEO. But the power of content doesn’t just lie in how it can help you rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). It can also help you drive more traffic simply by appearing as an expert for your niche for topics browsers are concerned about that are related to your business. Great content is the key to this.

Let’s say you are a clothing store that sells top fashion items for female millennials. What you can do is let people know that you can help them decide on what clothes to wear, what item goes with another, the best occasions to pull of certain pieces of clothing, etc.

Investigate the common problems of your target market that need addressing and build upon from there. After all, people come to the Internet to learn something, and this is your ticket into getting more traffic – and therefore more sales – for your online shop. And when you’ve created your content – which can be anything from an article, an infographic, a presentation, or even a video – you can promote and spread it out to online article directories and even social media.

Use the power of email marketing

In the first step that we gave, we mentioned about opt-in offers that you can present to your potential customers in exchange for their email address. The list of everyone who signed up for these offers is your best asset, as they’re the people that want to hear from you and want to receive emails about your business. This is a great relationship-building tool for creating a loyal fanbase for your business.

Plan your email marketing around the premise of giving the people what they want when they signed up for your newsletters. Offers, exclusive discounts, updates on the newest items or content – almost anything that can be of value to them is welcome. It all boils down to what you can offer and how you offer it to them in your email marketing.

Get on social media

Social media, without a doubt, is one of the most powerful tools that any business can utilize nowadays. In fact, not using it is detrimental to the success of any business! And with the updates and tools that have popped up in recent years, social media has become more than just a simple website that connects people together.

Facebook, in particular, has an extensive Facebook Advertising sub-platform that can help any eCommerce entrepreneur apart from the advantages of a business page. Out of all the social media platforms today, it has the biggest advantages for businesses, but Twitter for Business and Instagram Business do not fall far behind. Jennifer Fong even states that with Facebook’s recent changes with its algorithm, brands without an advertising budget won’t get much visibility.

With the proper customization and strategic postings and placements, social media can drive organic traffic to your website, give you more credibility for your SEO efforts, and of course, expand your following by letting you interact with your niche and gather information on their preferences and behavior, all of which can be used to upgrade your online shop as well.

What other steps did we miss? What step do you feel would be the most successful for your online shop in the near future?

About the writer: Dana Kim is a former business consultant turned online marketer. She has worked within several industries, including retail, hospitality and fitness, helping her to gain knowledge and experience in these fields.

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.