Running a business

How to Set Up an Online Store

During the ongoing pandemic, e-commerce sales have skyrocketed as more people than ever have hopped online to buy the things they need. In May of 2020, e-commerce sales had reached a record high of $3.9 billion, more than doubling sales from the same month in 2019.

With these stats in mind, it’s easy to see why establishing an online store is essential to the survival of small businesses at this time and for the future. Here’s how you can set up an e-commerce store now.

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Learn more about setting up an online store in the QuickBooks Start Your Business series:

Benefits of Setting Up an Online Store

Whether you’re moving your business online or setting up a new e-commerce website, there are certain advantages you will gain over operating a physical store location. Such benefits of starting an online store include:

  • Reaching a greater number of customers at any given time
  • Your store is open 24/7 to receive customers and client sales
  • Fewer overhead costs
  • Target audience segmented markets for the most significant effect
  • Fewer operating expenses for greater profits
  • Ability to manage your store from anywhere in the world

Building An Online Store

If you’re first starting out, you may wonder the best way to build an online store for free. There are a variety of options when it comes to website building and hosting services for online stores.

These website building and hosting services offer paid packages with comprehensive features and tools. However, many of these companies also offer free options for business owners just starting out. These free accounts typically come with a limited number of the most basic features, but they can still help you start an online store.

Such examples of free online store building tools for people just starting their e-commerce business include:

Square Online: This leading e-commerce platform provides a free plan for users to create an online store for free using the various comprehensive building and managing tools. However, Square will charge you a small fee per sales transaction, about 2.9%, so some expense is associated with this plan. Even so, this plan comes with local delivery, gift card capabilities, sales coupons, SSL payment security, SEO tools, and inventory management.

Webstarts: This e-commerce website tool offers a decent free plan with 1 GB of space for product listings, the ability to sell digital and physical items, with a variety of sage payment processing options.

Mozello: This company stands out for offering a free building tool with multilingual capabilities, SEO features, customizable delivery options and more. However, you will need to add-on SSL secure payment processing and encryption to ensure your customer’s financial information is protected.

WIX: This American e-commerce platform offers Canadians a quality website building tool that provides you with the freedom to create, manage, and develop your online presence. The free version of this platform comes with limited choices, and places ads on your site. To obtain an ad-free site, and gain access to further tools and features, you will need to purchase a monthly plan which is billed to you annually.

WordPress: One of the most well-known site-building tools, WordPress is free to use and comes with one of the most in-depth set of features and add-on tools that new users can quickly learn how to use. The free plan will net you up to 3 GB of space, essential features, and basic design customization- more than enough for new online store owners.

You will also want to take into account which platforms can easily integrate with your business’s internal software needs. If you use accounting software like QuickBooks Online to manage your books, consider these best e-commerce platforms to use with QuickBooks.

Decide Store Details

First and foremost, you will need to decide the details surrounding your new business. This will be one of the first steps in the process of setting up an online store. What will you call your business? What products or services will you sell? How will customers get in touch with you?

Outlining a business plan for your e-commerce business can help you hash out the details, providing you with a roadmap of sorts to help get the operations up and running. This information can also help you to start branding your business online and through various sales channels.


Choose Between Dropshipping or Inventory Holding

When selling merchandise and products online, you will need to consider how you will store and ship your inventory. Many e-commerce businesses have turned to drop shipping instead of stocking their own merchandise.

Dropshipping refers to the process whereby businesses sell products that they themselves do not store. These online stores accept customer orders but use a third-party provider to store and ship the products out. In contrast, other online businesses, and physical stores, will hold, manage, and deliver their own inventory.

Using dropshipping means these services will set up shipping requirements, delivering the products directly to your customers. Some examples of third-party providers for dropshipping include:

SaleHoo: This product and supplier hub offers online businesses the ability to research products and find trustworthy local and global suppliers for their dropshipping needs. SaleHoo offers a free trial of their services, with decent membership plans that provide training, a community forum, and unlimited support.

Inventory Source: This wholesale supplier and dropshipper directory brand offers users information on thousands of wholesalers and dropshippers, with full product descriptions and shipping rates, and it’s free to use!

CJDropshipping: This online marketplace and global supplier offers fast and efficient order processing with worldwide range shipping. It easily connects with Shopify accounts if you use their online store platform. There are no startup fees, monthly fees, or warehouse storage fees when using this service for your online business.

You will need to weigh up the pros and cons of either option before settling on an inventory management process that works for you. Find out more about managing inventories for online stores.

Consider Terms and Conditions

Like any other business, you will have to determine the procedures and processes and terms and conditions associated with your store’s operations. What will your return policy be? What about your exchange and refund policies? How will you deliver your products to customers, and will you offer various delivery options?

Drawing up a set of terms and conditions for your e-commerce business is essential to your store’s smooth running once it is set up and open online. Learn more about the ins and outs of writing terms and conditions for e-commerce stores.

Pick an Online Store Builder

As previously touched upon, when building a small business website, you’ll want to consider the free options available to you for these website building and hosting services. Such services allow you to build a website and store the web files on their platform.

Look for a service that offers these must-have features for your e-commerce platform:

  • Intuitive User Interface: If you’re just starting, you may not have the experience or skills to use in-depth coding and website building tools. Therefore, by picking an e-commerce platform that offers an easy-to-use interface and learning experience, it will take less time to familiarize yourself with the platform’s functionality.
  • Mobile-friendly: The use of smartphones for e-commerce purposes has steadily been on the rise for years now. In the age of smartphones, the majority of shoppers are now using their mobile devices for shopping, making a mobile friendly site a must. On top of high use of mobile devices, search engines are providing higher search visibility to websites with a mobile-friendly layout over desktop only sites.
  • Online Payment Processing: An online store must have the ability to receive and take payments from customers. So you will want to find a platform that offers online payment processing for various payment methods, such as PayPal, bank transfers, credit cards, and the like.
  • Free Domain Registration: You will need to buy and register a custom domain name for your business, which is the website’s URL. Yearly subscriptions can be purchased, but some e-commerce platforms will offer a free domain registration voucher upon signing up for their paid plans.
  • SEO Capabilities: Search engine optimization had become an integral part of creating an online presence and running an e-commerce business. Optimizing your store and content using built-in SEO tools can increase your products’ and site’s search visibility.

Build a Custom Online Store

The downside of using pre-made templates is that you wind up paying fees to the platform in perpetuity. Plus, you have relatively little customization capabilities over the store’s appearance and functionality. The platform owner may make changes that you aren’t happy with, and some modules of the platform may work better than others.

By creating an e-commerce website from scratch, you can set things up exactly to your preferences and create a brand experience you have more control over. It’s more of a hassle compared to the other options, but it’s also not as hard as you might think. There are many prebuilt components, and you can choose the best one from each category rather than settling with what comes in an e-commerce platform package.

You will need a web domain, web hosting, a dedicated IP address, SSL certificate, shopping cart system, and payment gateway. There are various web-hosting companies offering these items in package deals, so you can simply buy the package from them.

This option gives you the most freedom and control over your store, but it can also be more time-consuming and expensive in the beginning. That’s because you may need to hire and supervise coders, designers, writers, and others as they build your site from scratch. And you may require their help to make changes. All of this could be worth the cost if you’re trying to deliver a bespoke experience, though.

If you already have a website and you’re eager to get going, you might want to start by integrating an e-commerce platform into your website. That gets you up and running and generating revenue in a matter of days instead of weeks or months while you build a more customized site.

Write Engaging Content

Like social media marketing, your website will benefit significantly by publishing high-quality content. Writing engaging content for the web has become an essential way businesses can stand out from their competitors. For that reason, creating a blog within your website store has become a best practice. The more people interacting with your content, the more traffic will be generated for your e-commerce website.

Provide a Secure Checkout System

Both brick and mortar retail locations and online stores need a secure payment system for processing customer payments. These systems and software use encrypted services to protect the financial information of companies and customers using payment gateways in person and through an e-commerce store.

When setting up an online store, you will have to choose an online payment processing provider to safeguard your business and your customers’ credit card information and bank details. When choosing a provider, keep in mind the transaction fees attached to using a payment gateway before settling on one. Overall, you will want to provide your customers with quick and easy checkout experiences from placing products in their shopping cart to paying for receiving said products.

Manage Your Store With the Right Software

Building an e-commerce website and maintaining an online store can sound overwhelming when there are so many things you have to consider. However, with the right software and tools, you can take control of your business’s finances and manage your operations successfully.

Use QuickBooks Online alongside your e-commerce website to track expenses and revenue, manage bills and payments, and run financial reports to determine how well your online store is doing throughout the year. Try it free today and join the millions of small businesses worldwide that have improved their operations and services.

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Next: Best E-commerce Platforms that Integrate with QuickBooks>>



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