eCommerce Blog / How to set up an online store

How to set up an online store

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

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:

  • E-commerce software – this is the most important decision you will have to make. The software that you choose will manage your inventory, display the products and take the customer through checkout. You need to spend some time reading up on and trialling software before you buy. Trialling is especially important as it’s often difficult to foresee potential problems until your site gets busier 6-12 months down the line. By that stage, it’s almost impossible to change software without starting your entire business from scratch!

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:

  • A reliable web host – there is nothing worse than having your server goes down because a major promotion has caused a customer surge! Web host reliability is a crucial aspect of the success of your online store. People won’t wait around if pages take ages to load, or error messages appear after they have entered important details and the connection fails! You must be sure that your web host is capable of coping with traffic fluctuations, large file size uploads and more. Also look at server hard drive space, customer support, allowable data transfer, and whether or not they offer a secure server.
  • Payment processing capability – there are more choices than ever for payment processing these days. The two main options are: (a) setting up your own merchant account and (b) creating a Paypal account. For new businesses, Paypal is a much cheaper option. Paypal has also established a fantastic reputation as being simple and safe, so can be sure your customers will feel secure when you provide this option.

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!

  • Payment security – You need to look at securing your server with encryption (SSL) to protect your customers' sensitive information. Making online payments still makes people nervous and they need to know their information is safe. If your web host doesn’t offer this, you will have to get your own, which will cost in the region of $100 to $350 a year. It’s also essential to write a privacy policy to include on your site to give customers extra reassurance.

  • A toll-free number – this is a great way of encouraging Internet-shy customers nervous of buying online to purchase off your site. Many people feel much more secure paying over the telephone than over the web and you’ll find the small cost of a free phone is worthwhile.

A Turnkey store

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:

Marketing and Advertising

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.


Comments (3)

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Akram Ali Shaikh on 9:20 11 Oct
Dear Sir, We want start on line business how ? please inform all information and how much we spend? Regards Akram Ali Shaikh
jennokada on 20:17 20 May
Is Salehoo considered a turnkey store?
Melissa Johnson on 14:54 22 May
Hi, Jennifer!

SaleHoo Stores has everything you need to get an online store up and running, but you'll still have to do some of the setup work yourself. That's separate from the SaleHoo directory of suppliers.

If you have questions about any of SaleHoo's features or what it takes to get started, feel free to reach out to our support team at any time!
Steven Ukpai on 10:45 25 Aug
How much money does it cost me to set up online business. And how do i start as i am not really good in computer.

Melissa Johnson on 16:21 27 Aug
Hi, Steven --

These are some complicated questions, but I'll answer as best I can:

1. Your costs are minimal, especially if you're dropshipping. For example, if you dropship products on eBay, you only pay the listing fees. When an item sells, you take the money from the buyer and use that to place the order with the dropship supplier. If you have your own website, you typically can expect to pay the cost of a domain and webhosting. Some e-commerce setups offer everything you need for a monthly fee. You might want to also set aside a small budget for advertising, to get traffic to a site.

For more information about dropshipping, check out our guide here:
Our seller training center also has extensive lessons covering everything you need to get started with selling online:

2. How to get started depends on what sort of business you want. The steps for an eBay store are different than an online store with your own domain. Again, I suggest checking out the lessons in the seller training center. They'll walk you through the essentials. If you have other questions, you can always post on the forum: The support staff and other members there will be happy to answer your questions and point you on the right path.

Something to consider if you really do struggle with technology is outsourcing some of the work to others. You can find people to set up your online store for you -- this option is going to cost a bit more, but if you have some startup capital, it might be a viable option for you.

I also don't suggest rushing into an online business without first doing some research. Figure out what you want to sell and then investigate whether it's really viable. For example, Apple products are a hot commodity, but it's almost impossible for small sellers to get into the niche -- and profit margins are incredibly low. Accessories for Apple products, on the other hand, are much more feasible.

Our Salehoo Market Research Lab can help you with finding potential products to sell ( but there are a lot of other ways to do research. You'll find good resources on this in the seller training center, too. =)

The final issue is actually sourcing goods. A good wholesale or dropshipping supplier is your best bet. You can google some of them, but it's difficult to tell the honest businesses from the shady ones just by looking at them. A directory (like ours) screens every supplier to verify their legitimacy, so it's a great deal safer than just choosing a wholesaler you found on Google. Before you start working with a supplier on a large-scale level, you should also consider doing a test order to see what the quality of products are and how customer service is.

I hope that helps somewhat! If you have any other questions, you can always contact support ( or post on the forum.

Good luck!


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