How to start an online shop for free in 2018

Over the past few months, we have received an immense number of requests to share our insights on how to start an online shop. If you have the slightest experience of setting out to open an online store on your own, then you have an idea of all the things that can (and will!) go wrong.

start an online shop

So, for the next few weeks, keep an eye on this blog entry (or register for our newsletter!) to ensure that you stay on track with the successful launch of your eshop!

Here’s our roadmap:

  • The first chapter is on inventory,
  • …then, there is more practical information such as domain name idea and considerations, web hosting, SSL certificates,
  • …followed by the ultimate Platform vs Online Builders face-off.
  • We then pick up everything you need to know about eshop design to get started, such as choosing a template or setting product categories,
  • …over to working out payment options and shipping fees for your eshop.
  • Aaand, yes, you’ve been waiting for it…! We crown it all off with the Email Marketing setup; the full suite of Moosend’s platform features, from all things email deliverability, to Editor, our top subject line tools, website tracking, drip campaigns and templates. Last but not least…insane list building strategies!

Let’s get going!

Before you start an online shop: Have you considered everything about your inventory?

Before releasing your eshop into the wild, and well before making decisions about its design, take the time to consider your inventory and its potential. Make a forecast regarding what you will be achieving. At this stage, we will quickly go over a few considerations (which you can explore further in your own time), your decisions to which will shape your eshop design and launch.

Your inventory is, arguably, the most important asset of your business. Essentially, it represents a highly-valued category, particularly due to its centrality for the company’s profit/loss status.

What will your eshop look like in 5 months’ time? If you are starting out as a single-brand eshop, are you keeping it that way? Is there any chance of your diversifying your merchandise and turning your eshop into a concept store. you could be launching “lovemytshirts.com”, whereas if you are launching a concept store, we could be looking at “Dukeandduchessconceptstore.com”, full of different brands. The latter type of inventory allows for more flexibility in case you decide to pivot along the way. By pivot, I don’t mean switching to basketball shoes of course. That would be a long distance to cover. Even in basketball shoes. Right. Next one.

At this point you’ve probably made up your mind about your inventory, but I would just like to ask you a couple of questions – it’ll be a load off my chest, to ensure that what I’m doing here is worth your while.

How many of these questions can you answer?

1. What is your primary target market? This doesn’t mean that you are selling to a single country. You should have your mission and vision aligned with the culture of your primary target market. Then, run a SWOT analysis before you decide that this is the right market for you, and implement the STP method to discover whether you are on track to launch your Marketing plan.

Avoid the mistake of determining the size of the entire market as your target market at all costs. For example, if your business sells sugar in various shapes and colors, you can’t possible say that “Everyone likes sugar, so my target market is virtually the population. Minus fitness fans, and people with health problems, obviously.”. Because, obviously, NOT!

You see, even out of a 3.000.000 (potential) market:

a) you can’t reach out to all of them unless your advertising budget is insane,

b) even if you did, how many would go to the trouble of visiting your eshop, browsing the various categories, ordering sugar, and then agree to pay shipping costs and wait to get their items? It would be design-conscious people, interior designers, fashion stylists/home decorators, or photographers, probably – not the entire population. I hope this example helps!

2. If you scale your business, what will that mean in terms of inventory? What needs will you then have to cover for? Do you have an action plan? If your eshop primarily serves customers of a specific country it might be worth considering setting up an inventory over there to reduce shipping fees and make your offering even more attractive. Scaling your business also depends on the type of business bank account you chose to use. Fundera’s guide on choosing the best bank account for your small business is a must read.

3. Are you going to package products with your team to save space or are you going to have stuff delivered by your suppliers? Keep in mind that the latter goes hand in hand with longer delivery times and might influence customer experience on your eshop… which reflects all back to you.

Before you start an online shop: Choosing your domain name

Any domain name ideas already?

Before deciding on a domain name, here’s the main things to consider:

  1. Think ahead: Take all the names you have in mind and run them through the platforms you will be signing up for. Check the availability of the name(s) you are considering. For example, if your domain name concept is something like “lovemytshirts.com”, check your username is available on Facebook. Repeat for the rest of the platforms. Also, keep in mind that the inspired domain name you have chosen might be copyrighted or, worse, trademarked.
  2. Keep it short and easy-to type: Avoid short forms or any other kind of spelling that might interfere with brand recall from your audience. For example, “udunnome.com” deriving from “you don’t know me” is everything you should not do!
  3. Use signifiers: Add the type of business you are in, which will serve as a keyword describing your business. If you run a local business, then it’s probably best that you add your location to the domain name.
  4. Be smart with punctuation: A huge no-no is using hyphens, dash or underscore in your name. This can have users mistype your domain.
  5. Break through the clutter: Don’t settle for anything less than originality (whatsoever)! Spend those extra minutes, hours, or days to come up with the perfect domain name! It’ll stick around for a while!