Building an online business seems simple at first glance, a website, credit card processing, and you’re all set. As with any company, however, the reality is more complicated once you get into the practicalities of how to start an online store. Step-by-step checklists can help you work through the process. By taking the time to get all of your ducks in order and building a solid foundation, you can set your company up for success in Canada’s rapidly expanding ecommerce market.
Write a Business Plan
A business plan describes your company, its goals, and likely opportunities. It forces you to organize your ideas, analyze the market, and identify your competitive advantage to determine how to open an internet store that meets current consumer demand. The plan should also include financial forecasts, sales and traffic targets, a marketing plan, and a description of operations.
Choose a Business Name and Purchase a Domain
Come up with an ideal name for your business, and purchase a matching domain name through a company such as GoDaddy or Web Hosting Canada. Be prepared to be flexible with the name you may find that all matching domains are taken, or that another business has a strikingly similar title. Make adjustments until you find a unique name with an available URL.
Choose a Structure
One of the most important parts of the how to start an online store step-by-step process is picking a structure. Depending on your situation, you might pick a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or co-operative.
Register the Business
Using your company’s chosen structure, you must register the business to get a federal Business Number and CRA program accounts, including corporation income tax, GST/HST, payroll deductions, and import-export. Use the Business Registration Online tool, then register the business in your province. British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Ontario have online tools; for other regions, check with your provincial or territorial business registrar for instructions.
Purchase a Hosting Plan
Using the projected sales from your business plan, estimate web traffic to your online store in the first year. Then, purchase a web hosting plan with the server space and speed to keep your site up and running under your highest projected visitor levels. When you’re just learning how to start an online store, it’s also worth investigating the hosting company’s data security measures, uptime performance, backup procedures, and scalability.
Design a Logo
Turn your business name into a logo that is legible at small and large sizes. Choose colors and logo marks that match your vision for the company. Since your logo appears on virtually every business document and website, it’s worth your money to work with a professional graphic designer when starting an online store.
Build a Website
As you determine how to start an e-store, understand your website is the most crucial component. Work with a graphic designer and a web developer to build a beautiful, bug-free site that protects customer data, allows easy ordering, and is set up for updating and scaling down the road. If you’re an experienced coder, save money by building your own site; use trusted platforms such as Shopify for easy ordering and credit card processing, then connect the credit card processing system to your business bank account.
When you’re excited to start selling, these beginning stages of business-building can feel draining, but they’re crucial for longevity. With a plan and a solid online framework, you can start selecting products, building inventory, and creating listings with confidence.