Setting up an online store is a great way to start making money online , or to expand an existing business.
However, creating an online business can be confusing for those who are new to selling on the web. Not only are there some very important set-up factors, but Internet marketing is a completely different ball-game to marketing a brick and mortar store. And it’s your marketing that will make or break your business.
When setting up your store, the first question you need to consider is whether you will design your own online store, or go with a turnkey option.
Designing your own store isn’t easy. There is a lot of hard work involved putting together a site that treads the fine line between form and functionality. Alternatively, you can hire a designer to create the basic design and add the finishing touches yourself. Just be sure to shop around if you choose this option. Top web design companies often charge in the tens of thousands to a website, when the same result can often be achieved for a more affordable $500 to $2000.
If you choose to create your own store, you will need to consider:
To be sure that you are investing in a quality product, it is a fantastic idea to ask around and see what other software people are using and recommend. Referrals are one of the best ways to ensure you are making the correct decision.
Some e-commerce software to check out:
Larger businesses will prefer to set up their own merchant accounts. While merchant accounts can easily cost a couple of thousand dollars to set up depending on the supplier, you have more control overall.
Whatever solution you choose, just remember that the more straightforward the system is the better. A two step payment process will endear you to your customers far more than an eight-step one requiring vast amounts of detail!
A turnkey store is the perfect solution for anyone who wants to minimize risk and focus on the product they are selling.
With a turnkey store, all the aspects of building a store are taken care of for you. All you have to do is load up your product catalog along with a few other vital pieces of information, and you are ready to begin. Additionally, many stores offer packaged deals that include built-in marketing and data analysis tools. Turnkey stores are usually web-based, meaning you don’t have to store anything on your own computer. All you need is an Internet connection.
Prices for turnkey stores range from $600 to $10,000 per year, depending on whether you want a basic operation or a top-of-the-range super store. But don’t be alarmed, you can get a perfectly functional store at the cheaper end of the market. As long as you can afford at least $70/month, then you will be able to find something easily.
Many people are initially overwhelmed when they start researching turnkey stores. And with good reason - you’ll find that the choice is endless when you start looking. To help narrow down the options, it helps if you decide at the outset whether you want an all-in-one solution or a mix-and-match solution where you select different applications for each component. Many sellers go for the all-in-one option simply because it is easier to buy and easier to use. If you purchase separate applications, you’ll have to be a lot more knowledgeable about what exactly is required from the outset.
There is also the option of getting a turnkey store complete with products. For example, you can purchase an Amazon store and promote Amazon’s products for a referral fee.
Turnkey stores to check out include:
With so many new stores starting every day, marketing is everything.
The key to success is driving targeted traffic to your store, rather than using a scattergun approach.
To begin with, you should expect marketing to take up a large proportion of your time. Then, as your business grows, one of the first things you should do is hire someone to keep on top of your marketing for you. The Internet is an extremely competitive environment and you can’t afford to drop the ball.
Some of the most effective marketing techniques include:
Search engine optimization – this is more complex that I have room for here, but suffice it to say that search engine optimization involves optimizing the keywords and meta tags in your site. More on this is later posts.
Listing your site in free and paid web directories - The best directory is Yahoo, which will set you back $299. However, you should also submit to the smaller and cheaper web directories as well.
Google adwords and Yahoo search marketing – otherwise known as pay per click advertising, this is a fantastic way of getting targeted traffic to your site.
Affiliate marketing – Affiliate marketing works well because you only have to pay for success. Affiliates promote your site using adwords, websites and other techniques. Whenever someone makes a purchase as a result of an affiliates promotion, you pay the affiliate a percentage of the sale price.
Link exchanges – Work on exchanging links with related sites to increase your Google page ranking. This is especially important during the first few months of your site’s existence.
Local advertising – trends indicate that an increasing number people are looking to support their local communities by buying locally. Going walkabout in your community and personally handing out flyers is one of the most effective ways to advertise. Associating a face with a brand name is a sure-fire way of making sure that people remember your site.
Promotions: online and off. Try offering free shipping, discounts on multiple purchases, giveaways…anything you can to get people to start getting in the habit of using your site.