Are you tired of devoting most of your time to your day job? Do you rather set your own hours and be your own boss? The best way to escape from the rat race is to start your own online business. However, 90% of people who want to start their online business fail because of a lack of confidence, persistence and faith. The main goal of this article is to help you get off your feet and provide you with the necessary motivation, knowledge and confidence to take the plunge. Let's see how to create a profitable online store now!
Starting an Online Shop Or Online Business Is Ideal Because…
- There is little or no overhead to maintain your website.
You don’t have to be physically present to make money. Your computer can take orders for you even while you sleep.
Most if not all of the back-end software is ready made for you. You do not have to be a programmer, all you have to do is to set things up and customize it.
You have to have goods to sell to the consumers in order to make money online. And of course, you have to have a storefront to sell goods. In this article, we will show you how to open your own online shop. Nowadays, running your own online business is easier than ever, thanks to the many services and free software available on the internet. In fact, you can start an online shop completely from scratch in less than an hour. In the meantime, let's see the different online shop options.
What Are The Different Online Shop Options?
When most people think of owning a store, selling and delivering physical goods is usually the first thing that comes to mind. However, shipping physical goods is only one of the many ways to make money with an online store.
Did you know that you can setup up your store such that all you have to do is take orders and have the manufacturer fulfill them for you? Have you ever stopped to consider selling informational products that require no shipping whatsoever?
There are various ways to make money with an online shop along with the pros and cons of each as follow:
Selling Physical Goods With Inventory
This is the most traditional way of making money via an online shop. You purchase physical goods from the manufacturer at a wholesale price, stock inventory and ship the goods directly to the end customer. It sounds like a hassle and it definitely can be troublesome at times, but the profit margins are extremely high compared to drop shipping.
It is because of the high margins that opening up a traditional online shop is one of the fastest ways to make a meaningful amount of money in a very short period of time. The negative aspect of opening a traditional store though is that it involves greater risk because you have to put some of your own money up front to purchase inventory.
Drop shipping is one of the easiest ways to start an online shop without ever having to worry about carrying inventory. Once you have set up an arrangement with a drop ship distributor, all you have to do is set up your online store and take orders. As orders are received, you simply pass the customer information along to the distributor who is then responsible for delivering the actual goods to the end customer. The profit you make is the difference between your selling price and the wholesale price you’ve negotiated with the vendor.
Drop shipping is one of the easiest ways to make money with very little physical effort on your part. Once you have your store setup, it can almost run on its own. The negative aspect of drop shipping is that the profit margins are fairly low compared to some of the other store options. The other disadvantage is that you are responsible for making the customer happy even though you have no control over order fulfillment. Managing customer support is one of the biggest challenges with drop shipping which is why it is essential to choose reliable manufacturers to work with.
Selling as an Affiliate
Becoming an affiliate is very similar to being a drop shipper except that you carry no responsibility whatsoever. All you have to do is to refer someone to a product or service. If that person makes a purchase, then you get a cut of the sale. Once the sale is made, you are out of the picture altogether. Being an affiliate is by far the lowest energy way to make money. Unfortunately, it also carries the lowest profit percentage.
Selling Your Own Goods
Not everyone has the intelligence, creativity and aptitude to sell their own goods created from scratch, but those that do so successfully make the most profits of them all. The hot ticket items to sell online these days are informational goods. Why? It’s because you don’t have to ship anything physical. You can deliver informational products with a simple download once payment is received.
If you have a special talent or possess knowledge that is scarce, selling your own goods is definitely the way to go. Best of all, you get to keep all of the profits.
If we were to evaluate the different types of stores based on effort and profitability using a table, here’s what it would look like.
Online Shop Type
Traditional Online Shop
As with all things, there’s a direct correlation between effort level and the amount of profit that you can make. With greater risk carries greater rewards and your decision should be based on your own situation. You also want to consider future scalability of your business. For example, even though drop shipping offers lower profit margins, running a drop shipping store is much easier to scale in the future since you don’t have to worry about inventory.
Get A Domain Name and Web Hosting
Should you host your own website and shopping cart when there are so many services available that will allow you to use their own proprietary shopping system for free? Why not just open an Ebay or Yahoo store? Why not just have an Amazon store?
Ask yourself another question, would you ever place your future and destiny in the hands of someone else who doesn’t share your same interests?
Register Your Domain
One of the most important aspects of your online shop is your domain name. Make sure you choose a domain name that is short, catchy and memorable with no dashes in the name.
Choose A Web Hosting
When you first launch your online shop, you aren’t really going to need a powerful web hosting. Initially, you aren’t going to be attracting enough customers to bring a shared hosting account down. (Although there is an exception to this rule depending on the shopping cart software you choose. More on this in a future article). As a result when you are first starting out, your main focus should be on reliability, support and saving some cash.
Look for the following attributes in your potential web hosting providers:
Are they cheap?
Do they offer the features that I need to run my online shop.
Do they have good technical support?
Are they reliable? Do they have a decent up-time?
Do they load one machine down with too many users?
In any case, selecting a domain and web hosting provider isn’t a big deal. You can sign up for very little money and start your store for practically nothing.
Find Goods to Sell Online
Finding products to sell online is where many people get stuck when trying to start an online business. There are 3 main issues to deal with:
- What to sell?
Do you want to sell physical products?
Do you want to sell software or informational goods?
Considering products that meet the following characteristics:
- The product should not be fragile and easy to ship
The product should not take up much physical space
The product should be timeless. Product such as electronics will lose its value the longer they stay on the shelves
The product’s inherent value should be ambiguous. For example, electronics goods have a set value that everyone is aware of. On the contrary, keepsakes and informational goods are much harder to place a price tag on.
Can You Make Money?
The second problem is determining whether you can actually make money selling your product. The key is to not get too hung up on any given idea because if the target market is not big enough, your product may not be worth selling.
1st Step: Write down in great detail what your target customer is like. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your target market:
- What demographic are you targeting? For example, what age group, income level, gender, sex, education level, race are the most likely to purchase from your store.
Is your customer more likely to buy from you during certain times of the year? For example if you run a flower shop, are your customers more likely to make purchases during Valentine’s Day?
Why would a customer purchase your products? Do you offer a product that is special and appeals to only a small segment of the population?
Why would a customer buy your product online as opposed to a brick and mortar store?
2nd Step: Figure Out The Average Selling Cost of Your Products
If you are selling physical goods, the best place to determine price is to look at your competitors pricing as a baseline. Depending on how your products compare, add or subtract a percentage to this price depending on what you think you can actually charge in your online store. You can also look on Ebay to determine how much your goods would sell for on the open market. Make a best guess regarding the quantities that would be purchased for any given transaction.
3rd Step: Figure Out The Size Of Your Market
Now that you have the details of your ideal customer written down, its time to figure out how many of these people who fit your customer profile exist in the world. There are several ways to do this. One way is to check the census data for your targeted customer. For example, if you wanted to sell diving equipments , you might want to check to see how many people go diving in a given year. If you can’t find a statistic that applies to your business from the census bureau, try doing searches on Google for the statistics you need. If you still can’t find your desired statistic, try and extrapolate with a similar product or service in order to make a best estimate.
4th Step: Calculate Your Market Size
Take the market size number that you calculated above and multiply it by your average selling cost. This number is how much you could possibly make if you owned 100% of the market. Assuming that you can grab only a very small percentage of this market, is this number large enough to sustain your business and provide an ample growth path? If the answer is no, it’s time to punt. Otherwise continue reading below.
5th Step: Check Your Keywords
Assuming your market potential is large enough, you should then check the frequency with which your product search terms appear on the search engines. Pick three to four of your main targeted search terms and use a keyword tool such as keyword tracker or Google’s keyword tool to determine the frequency that people search for your items. Depending on your business, it is very likely that 75% or more of your visits will come directly from search engines which makes this exercise an excellent indicator of overall store traffic.
Take these aggregate numbers that you get from these tools and assume a conservative number for the click through rate and conversion ratio. The click through rate is the frequency with which someone will actually click on your ad or link within a search engine. The conversion ratio is the percentage likelihood of someone buying something once they’ve clicked onto your site. A good conservative rule of thumb is to choose a click through rate of about 1-2% and a conversion ratio of 1-2%.
By multiplying the number of times your keywords come up in search per day by the click through rate and by the conversion ratio, you can approximate how much product that you can sell in a given day. Take this number and multiply it by your average selling price and you now have a decent guess regarding how much money you can make in a given day.
6th Step: Figure Out Your Costs
Grab your favorite spreadsheet program and write down every possible operating cost that you can think of. Make sure you are conservative in your estimates so that your numbers reflect the worst case scenario that you can think of. Don’t underestimate your marketing costs either. Especially in the beginning, you will be blowing tons of marketing dollars until you settle down on a marketing strategy that works.
To determine your potential marketing costs, take the keywords that you are targeting and use Google’s Adwords keyword tool to determine how much they will cost to make it on the front page of search. Determine how many click through you are willing to pay for at a given cost and estimate how much it will cost you monthly to advertise.
Does It All Add Up?
By subtracting your costs from how much you calculated that you can make, you can make a good guess as to what your profit potential will be. Is this number too large or too small? Only you can decide. Regardless, if this number isn’t large enough for you to make a decent living, its time to go back to the drawing board.
Finally, the biggest problem is that even if you manage to choose a product or a set of products you want to sell, where the heck are you going to source your products from? How and where do you contact the manufacturer so you can get wholesale pricing?
Do you want to deal with only domestic/local vendors?
Dealing with domestic vendors is much easier because everything is familiar to you. It is much easier to contact your vendors because they are in a similar time zone and they speak the same language.
Do you want the absolute lowest cost for your products?
If you want the absolute best deal for your products, then you might want to consider looking in China to source your items. These days, you’ll find that most things are made and sourced from China. Why? It’s because they offer the best prices. However, it can be a major hassle to import items into your home country. If you do manage to get the process down however, the profit margins are unbeatable.
Do you want to carry inventory or drop ship?
Drop shipping is great since you don’t have to carry inventory, but you are still responsible for making sure that your customer is happy and satisfied with the purchase. As a result, you have to make sure that the vendors you choose are absolutely reliable. If you choose to drop ship, handling returns can be a major hassle. Even worse, you’ll sometimes have to deal with irate customers even though you were not at fault. Deciding to drop ship also limits your choice of vendors.
Now that you are aware of your product sourcing options, the best way to find vendors is to attend wholesale trade shows. For example, if you are interested in importing products from China, you can check out the China Import And Export Fair Website. If you are interested in wholesale fairs in Thailand, you can check out various trade show websites such as Wholesale Central.
Going to trade shows is ideal because all of the vendors are aggregated in one location. You can set up appointments to meet multiple vendors in a single day. They will have samples of their merchandise available for you to see. This is especially important when dealing with overseas vendors because obtaining samples can sometimes take months.
Select A Shopping Cart
Selecting a good shopping cart is challenging, it's easy to overlook the choice of shopping cart software. Your customers are concerned with the quality of the user experience you provide and shopping carts are a big part of that experience. Therefore, consider the following points before you make your decision.
- Understand what shopping carts can do
Find out the shopping cart gives what kind of support
Find out the shopping cart marketing features
Find out the shopping cart is customizable or not
Select A Payment Gateway
Your online shop is worthless if you cannot accept payments from your end customers. There are many different ways to accept payment. For example, you can accept payments through Paypal, Google Checkout or even check/money orders. But despite the many payment choices available, the most important one is the ability to accept credit cards online. For an online shop, paying by credit card is an absolute requirement.
There are 3 main ways to take credit cards online.
- Virtual terminal---when orders come in via phone or web, you then manually enter in the credit card information on a secure terminal. This is not a viable option in the long run if you need a a fully automated online store
Process Credit Cards On A Third Party Website---a link from your online shop during checkout that takes the customer away from your site to the payment vendor's website such as Paypal. The customer then enters in their credit card number on your vendor’s website where the payment is processed. The customer is then redirected back to your online shop once the transaction is complete. The main disadvantage of this free solution is that processing credit cards is roundabout and confuses customers.
Process Credit Cards Directly On Your Store---the best way to process credit cards is to have a merchant account with a gateway and process credit cards directly from your online shop. It might be more of a hassle to setup and it might cost you a bit more upfront, but it’s worth it. The ability to process credit cards without a customer having to physically leave your website will not only lend credibility to your store but it will increase conversions as well.
Get A Great Design
Most online shop owner look at the out of the box template and think to themselves, “I’m not a web designer, how am I going to create a professional looking store front?”. The good news is that you don’t really have to be a designer to obtain a great looking store or website.There are many beautiful looking store templates for sale at very reasonable prices.
Once you have purchased your template, you still have to tinker with the following things
- create your own unique store header
Store header is a banner that goes across the top of your online shop. You may use Photoshop or any popular image editing software to create your own unique brand.
- choose the colors to suit your style
All of the professional templates offer the ability to tweak the store colors via the CSS style sheet. Basically, there is one single file that outlines the fonts and colors used for various parts of the store. Tweaking your color scheme is just a matter of editing the file and loading up your web page to see the difference. It takes a bit of time to get things right, but it’s not difficult at all. In many cases, the default color scheme is more than adequate.