The Ecommerce Blueprint to Build Your Own Online Store
Every year, the world of ecommerce experiences more growth as businesses both new and old decide to expand their operations onto the internet. It’s easy to see the logic behind this decision: Selling online lets you reach millions of new customers and grow your business like never before.
Some retailers start out selling a product they first designed and created in their garage. Others choose to source products from elsewhere, contacting distributors to build an inventory. Regardless of which path you take, you’ll need to follow the same steps for setting up your online store. This can seem like a monumental task, but this article will break it down for you so you can start selling online right away.
What You Need to Sell Online
As a starting point, picture your online store as if it’s a brick-and-mortar store. Obviously, to run a store you need products, a storefront, and a means to take payment. On the internet there’s not much difference, except your storefront is a website instead of a physical structure and you’ll need a few additional considerations, like shipping and added security for taking payments online. Let’s lay these out.
Do you know what you want to sell? If not, consider your own interests and knowledge. You’ll be able to put more energy into your business, and serve your customers better, if you sell something you’re passionate about. You can also do some market research to discover the most popular, best-selling products in your country or region. If you find something that sells well that you also have a passion for, even better!
Next, unless you’re going to make your products yourself, you’ll need to source your products from a supplier. Look for distributors or manufacturers to work with, or depending on your industry, look for local crafters or artisans who need a retailer to sell their products to the public.
2. An Ecommerce Website
Your ecommerce website will serve as your online storefront and the hub of your business’s online presence. It will include product pages, company information, and an online shopping cart to enable you to process orders from your customers.
There are a few ways you can go about creating your ecommerce website, but the easiest is to go with a complete shopping cart platform that includes everything you need to sell online, including built-in security, inventory management, customizable themes to design your storefront, and existing connections with payment gateways. If these features are included out of the box, you can get your first sale a lot sooner than if you tried to set up everything on your own.
If the ecommerce platform you use integrates with ReadyCloud, even better. You’ll be able to make use of powerful features like ReadyShipper, ReadyReturns, and ReadyCloud CRM with ease.
3. A Way to Accept Payments
To accept payments online, you need a merchant account and a payment gateway. The easiest method to obtain these is to sign-up through your shopping cart software provider, as this ensures you’ll be using a payment gateway that’s fully supported by your online store. If you already have a merchant account with a provider integrated with your shopping cart software, you’ll only need to activate the payment gateway in your online store’s dashboard.
4. Supplies for Shipping
Unless you’re exclusively going to sell digital downloads, you’ll need shipping materials such as boxes, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts. The degree of padding you need will depend on the type of products you sell and how fragile they are, but everything you ship should be packed with care regardless. Customers don’t often forget a purchase that arrives damaged!
For the actual shipping, you can use ReadyShipper to secure good rates from multiple carriers and print labels quickly right from your desktop. This saves a ton of time and effort, which you’ll be thankful for when your sales start to take off and you find yourself shipping more and more packages.
How to Start Selling Online
So now that you know what you need to get started, what’s the next step? It’s time to build an online store for your business. If you use 3dcart, everything you need is at your fingertips and you can create your ecommerce website in a few steps.
1. Define Your Basic Settings
Start with the most basic settings you can find in your control panel, like your store name and logo, location, time zone, and other company information. More complex settings like for product pages may need another look after you’ve added some products and have some idea what these settings affect. For now, just start with the basics, and be sure to save your changes.
2. Add Products to Your Store
Now is a good time to add a few products to your online store, so you can get a better sense of what your pages will look like when you start previewing themes. 3dcart does let you mass-upload products with a CSV file, but first you should add some manually to learn how it works.
When adding a product, you’ll need to add information like the product name, item details and description, quantity in stock, cost (to you), and price (for the customer). You also need at least one high-quality image to help your customers decide.
3. Choose a Responsive Theme
“Responsive” means a website will adapt for viewing on tablets and smartphones, a must for selling online today. The theme or template you choose for your online store should not only be responsive, but also match the general “flavor” of your business. If you’re using 3dcart, you can customize your theme to any extent you desire, so you won’t be stuck with something that doesn’t fit your brand.
4. Setup Your Payment Methods
We brushed on this one earlier; you can use a preconfigured payment method or connect to another one supported by your ecommerce software. 3dcart has integrations with more than 100 payment gateways, so you have access to all the best. You don’t need all of them, just the ones that work for your business. You need to be able to accept credit cards at the very least, and other options like eChecks, PayPal, Amazon Pay, and Apple Pay are all worth looking at. The latter three in particular are extremely popular.
5. Set up Tax
On 3dcart, fields for tax specifications are also found under your payment settings, so you can easily define tax rules to be applied to your sales when needed. All you need to know is the percentage of tax that must be charged, and you can add different tax rates for as many different regions as you need to.
6. Set up Shipping
For shipping, you have several options for carriers, including USPS, FedEx, and UPS; with 3dcart, real-time rates will be displayed to your customers as they shop. Decide which carriers to use, and enter your business information in your “Shipping Settings.” If you want to automate shipping as much as possible, you can use ReadyShipper to handle everything from label printing to customer updates, plus you get special rates with carriers.
How to Open for Business
Now that everything is set up, conduct some testing to make sure it all looks and works how it should. If it does, you’re ready to go live. The next step is to connect your online store to a domain name where it can be easily found. The quickest way to do this is to inform your ecommerce platform provider that you’re ready to launch.
You can start marketing before or after your site is live. If before, setup a “Grand Opening” date and spread the word via social media or other methods. One idea is to offer a special discount to the first 50 customers who buy from your store. 3dcart gives you all kinds of promotional and coupon tools to use as you see fit, so you can use your imagination while coming up with offers.
Once your store is open, expand your marketing efforts with email newsletters, social media and paid advertising. If your budget can’t handle much, it’s fine to start small and hold off on paying for ads until you can afford it.
You’ll also need to optimize your online store for search engines. This can be time-consuming as well, but at least with 3dcart you can automate some SEO features and setup others without too much technical knowledge. If it still defeats you, 3dcart does have SEO experts on staff available to help you out.
Gonzalo Gil is the founder and CEO of 3dcart. In 1996 he incorporated Infomart 2000, and in 2001 he single-handedly conceived and developed 3dcart version 1.0 as an affordable and highly customized shopping cart solution. Today, he is largely responsible for the vision and day-to-day operations of 3dcart.