Selling your product online can be a challenging process. This is especially true if you are trying to open a store with no money.
Luckily, we are living in a world where technology is advancing quickly, and access to free and open-source tools is on the rise. Access to free tools means that opening an online store is easier than ever and doesn’t have to cost much.
#1. Selecting a Hosting Provider
Before you can open your store, you need to choose between a fully hosted solution or self-hosted. If you are on a budget, then self-hosting is probably the better option.
Shop around for a competitive web hosting provider with reasonable pricing, flexible plans, and no long term lock-in.
#2. The Right Domain Name is Essential
Once you have your hosting online, you will need to order a domain name. This would typically include your business name or brand and reflect the character of your online store.
Almost every hosting provider will allow you to order a domain name through them but be sure to check their pricing against the competition to make sure you are getting good value.
Since a shop will capture personal information, you might need to order an SSL certificate from your hosting provider. These are not usually expensive.
If you don’t have one, customers are likely to be turned away because most expect to see the padlock next to your website in their browser.
#3. Installing Your Website Software
There are various options to choose from, but the leader is still WordPress. WordPress is free and open-source which is an excellent fit for startups with challenging budgets.
WordPress is easy to install, and some hosting providers will even install it for you.
Now that you have the basic platform installed search for a theme and apply it to your site.
Themes can be found for free by a simple web search, or you can opt for a paid theme which might include some additional benefits including store-ready features and useful plugins with full support.
If you elect for a paid theme, ensure that it includes a shop plugin so that you don’t have to get this separately.
#4. Selecting the Right Shop Option
If you chose a paid theme with a shop includes that’s excellent and you can move on, but if you are doing this manually then you have a few options to consider when it comes to your shop platform.
You need to think about what features your shop needs, here are some to consider:
- Inventory Management
- Payment providers
- Digital and Physical good support
- Shipping requirements
- Discount codes
Once you know what features you need in your shop, its time to select your shop platform.
WooCommerce meets most business requirements and doesn’t cost anything to get up and running.
If you want to integrate into other systems (such as accounting, shipping and payment platforms) then you will probably need to purchase a plugin.
However, for most basic requirements, the WordPress WooCommerce plugin is a natural choice.
#5. Customize Your Store
Now that you have all the components installed, it is time to alter the look and feel of the store to attract your buyers. Most themes have a way to change color and layout on the site.
And WooCommerce lets you customize various product details.
You can also use a number of helpful plugins like Widget Options, which is compatible with WooCommerce, to completely control how your products appear on the page.
Ensure that you have your contact page, terms, and conditions and other pages such as privacy and returns policy clearly displayed in your store.
You will also need to set up your global shipping and payment options from your store plugin.
#6. Load in Your Products
Make sure to use excellent quality product images and descriptions in your store. Low-resolution pictures will not go down to well to your prospective buyers. Also, consider setting up Social Media and YouTube accounts to showcase your products. You can link to these accounts form your product pages to give your customers more information.
#7. Marketing is Essential
Now that you have everything ready to launch, consider using an email marketing solution such as MailChimp to email your customers about exclusive offers, new products, and engaging industry news.
Publish links to your new shop on all your social media accounts and encourage your connections to share this with some of the following ideas:
- Offering Discount Codes
- Prize Draws
- Referral / Commission
#8. Don’t Forget About Backup and Security
Since you will be holding customer data on your site, you will need to be aware of the legal requirements for holding this. There is likely a requirement to take reasonable measures to protect it, and you will want to make regular backups in case any of the data gets lost or damaged.
Search online for WordPress and WooCommerce backup solutions or at least export all of your transactions frequently.
For security, there are various malware and firewall security plugins for WordPress that will help you here. Make sure that your SSL certificate is working too!
Building an online shop isn’t difficult if you have the right steps so we have summarised them here for your convenience:
- Select a Hosting Provider
- Choose a Domain Name
- Install Website Software
- Select a Shop Platform
- Customize the store
- Load in your Products\
- Marketing is essential
- Don’t forget about backup and security