Building an online store from scratch is an exciting endeavor. In addition to the services you already provide, you can sell products that resonate with your business and customer base. Even if this new opportunity starts as a side project, e-commerce can substantially increase your income and balance out all your hard work as a freelancer.
A clear online store strategy gives you the foundation to thrive as an e-commerce entrepreneur. For a successful launch, three crucial steps will guide you through the process of creating your new online brand.
1. Pick a Platform
There are plenty of options to choose from when you’re deciding where to host your shop. The right choice for you depends on the level of commitment, income and creative independence you want as an online retailer. I’d recommend choosing a platform that caters to an online store strategy. Companies that focus solely on e-commerce offer better resources for first-time shop owners, giving you the extra tools you need to succeed.
- Etsy — An artisan community that does the legwork for you. Instead of building your own website, you simply create a profile. Bonus: Their customer reach gives you an immediate audience.
- Big Cartel — Like Etsy, this e-commerce platform is beloved by shop owners. Big Cartel differentiates itself from other platforms through excellent customer service and websites built specifically to sell online. If you’d prefer a website over a profile, this is the place for you.
- Shopify — Online retailers love Shopify’s business tools and easy-to-use templates. It offers more customization than its competitors while specializing in online sales — unlike Squarespace and Wix. For business owners who want total control over shop design, this is your best bet.
2. Develop Your Site and Brand
Once you’ve selected the best platform, you’re ready to build your shop. First, think about your brand and mull over the following questions:
- Who’s my target customer?
- What do I sell?
- What are five adjectives that describe my business?
- Which price points offer me an acceptable profit margin, while still appealing to my customers?
- How do my products help people solve some of their pain points?
The answers to these questions serve as the blueprint to your shop. Although you may be tempted to create an extremely complex site, start out simple. Develop an easy-to-build design, copy and photos that highlight what you offer online. As your brand evolves, you can fine tune the website and add more components.
3. Launch the Store
Launching a store means more than pressing “live.” It also requires an online store strategy to build your customer base. Take a three-pronged approach: Share the new store through social media, email marketing and word-of-mouth in your pre-existing networks. Ask some friends for their feedback on your site. If their ideas resonate with you, make changes as you go.
And don’t forget the social launch, too — after all, no website is an island. Know where your audience lives, and fold a social media marketing strategy into your store strategy to communicate offers, sales, projects, processes and updates to your audience as they happen.
A proactive approach to online retail ensures that the hard work you put into the website helps build a following. As with all new endeavors, consistency is key. Make sure you always have merchandise available and regularly reach out to your audience through your chosen marketing channels. Then, watch the magic happen.