How to make your independent online store (10 Steps Guide).

Posted on 08 Oct 2021 09:27 in Small Business Hacks
by ShimBi Labs

Since the pandemic, the number of small independent stores creating an online presence is increasing. An online store can help you promote your products, increase brand awareness and establish a loyal customer base. Check this step by step guide.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

 

Since the pandemic, the number of small independent stores creating an online presence is ever increasing. The primary reason is the Covid-19 pandemic, due to which more people are buying online. Not only buying online but buying almost everything online, which earlier was not considered to buy online such as agricultural toolsicecreams, in India sessional festive articles and deities!

 

Some of you may find the idea of opening an online store intimidating; however, the rewards to your business are well worth the time and work. Whether you're selling arts and crafts, high-end electronics, or even inverter batteries! An online store can help you promote your products, increase brand awareness and establish a loyal customer base.

 

Online Store is an easy, cost-effective way to reach a broad customer base.

 

The numbers surrounding the growth of online shopping say it all. Two years ago, the online retail market share was at 13.6 percent. That is to say that of every $100 spent by consumers, $13.60 was online. 

 

In 2021, e-commerce is expected to grow to $4.891 trillion in global e-commerce sales. This is a whopping 45.8 percent increase in the e-commerce market share in a matter of two years. The growth will continue and reach 21.8 percent by 2024—an 8.2 percentage point increase in half a decade.

 

E-COMMERCE SHARE OF RETAIL SALES (2019–2024)

 

But despite this stunning statistic, nearly half of American businesses still don’t have a website. There are 51 million small and medium-sized businesses in India, yet only 40% have an online presence. Not necessarily an online store.

 

This means now is the perfect time to start an online store.

 

Whether you already own a brick-and-mortar store and you’re looking to expand online, or you’re taking online first strategy, this guide will walk you through how to build an online store from start to finish.

 

Before we get into the specifics, We'd like to share some good news: creating an online store has never been easier than it is now, thanks to online store builders like Ninjin and several more online store builder options.

 

So are you ready to build an online store?

 

Here are 10 simple steps to build an Online Store. 

1. Find the perfect online store builder for you.
2. Choose the best plan for you.
3. Get a domain name for your store.
4. Pick storefront layout or template.
5. Customize your storefront
6. Add products.
7. Set up payment methods.
8. Set your shipping settings.
9. Set taxes and other charges.
10. Preview, test, and publish your online store.

 

1. Find the perfect online store builder for you.

An Online Store Builder is a web application that lets you create your own e-commerce website without any coding skills. All you need is an internet connection, a great business idea, and products to sell.

 

There are several online store builders available. Some are inexpensive, some are costly, some are simple to use, and some… aren’t.

 

Compare carefully, then choose the closest two that meet your needs and begin a free demo.

 

As a developer of Ninjin online store builder, we can say Ninjin is a revolutionary new e-commerce solution for your online store. Ninjin is fully featured out of the box, ready to use, and easy to operate. It requires no coding expertise, so it's perfect for anyone who wishes to start selling online.

 

2. Choose the best plan for you.

Once you've explored a few store builders and are satisfied with your choice, it's time to sign up for the appropriate plan. Different plans offer different features. As you might guess, the more you spend, the more you receive.

 

However, Shimbi Labs has decided to stick with a single plan with a 14-day trial period. A Premium plan that includes all features as well as Unlimited Products and Staff Users.

 

Ninjin offers the premium plan at $9.99 per month. That's less than a large Domino's pizza!

 

3. Get a domain name for your store.

A good domain name is key to launching a successful online store. It builds trust with customers and helps establish your brand.

 

It’s your first impression of your business. Your domain name (URL) is the first thing your visitors will see. A good domain name can make a positive and lasting impression.

 

For example https://www.nike.com

 

Domain name defines your brand. The right domain name can increase brand recognition.

 

The .com is the most common and well-known domain extension, but you’re not limited to it. Hundreds of new domain extensions could work well for unique website names. Such as .store, .design, .boutique, .auto, .clothing, .computer, .florist, .furniture, .gifts, .jewelry, .pizza and hundred more for a unique and modern website name.

 

You can buy a domain name through Ninjin or other domain booking sites like ask4domains.com. Alternatively, you can use your already book domain name and link it to your online store on Ninjin. 

 

4. Pick storefront layout or template.

With templates (sometimes known as themes), you can make your site look good without being a design expert or touching any code!

 

But in Ninjin, we use a different approach; we allow you to easily customize your website layout instead of using templates. A template can not bring personality to your brand. It forces you to customize your brand experience based on a template.

 

But layouts give you complete flexibility over how your items and UI elements appear. Layouts allow your brand to dominate the design and create a unique experience. 

 

How do you pick a suitable layout in Ninjin?

These three questions will help you to find out which layout is suitable for you:

  1. What features do you want your store to have?
  2. What style of homepage do you want?
  3. How do you want customers to move around your store?

 

They are valid for any other online store builder template selection too.

 

Let’s look at these in more detail…

 

> What features do you want your store to have?

Features are a crucial part of how to build an online store. Ask yourself what’s important to your online store: do you need a wishlist, site search, or different information pages like an about us page? What about advertisement banners or header banners on your homepage?

 

Think about what features your store needs, then make a list. Select desired modules to enable those futures in your store.

 

What style of homepage do you want?

Your homepage is the first thing your customers see. It’s like your shop window. Customers should be able to tell from one glance precisely what type of business you are.

 

The first thing your customers see is your homepage. 

It's similar to your storefront. Customers should be able to tell what type of business you are at first sight.

 

For example, stores selling luxury products should let stylish images do the talking. Stores selling more complicated products might want a simpler image accompanied by detailed text.

 

How do you want your customers to navigate your store?

Most shoppers will leave a website after 10-20 seconds. It’s important they can find what they’re looking for without any hassle.

 

A clean navigation bar is essential. It allows your customers to navigate your site quicker, resulting in more sales. A clumsy navigation system is like a road with a lot of potholes and no street signs. Customers will get frustrated because they will be unable to find what they are looking for.

 

Design your store navigation carefully. You may wish to ensure the most critical page comes first. Don’t include pages that aren’t important to your business.

 

Design your store's navigation with care. You may want to prioritize the most essential pages shown first. Pages that are unimportant to your business should not be included.

 

5. Customize your storefront

Once you are done with your layout selection and adjustments, head to your store’s admin theme section and start customizing. Customizing is easy, and you can change just about anything. 

 

This includes your:

Text size and font

Color scheme

Images

Positioning of products

Features

Connecting social media

 

See, everything is looking good in preview. Adjust, re-adjust things any time in the future too.

 

6. Add products

Now you’ve created a stylish online store with your choice of layout, theme, and features, it’s time to add your products.

 

Using an online store builder, you have great control over your product pages. The image above shows how you can combine style with minimalism to create a unique look.

 

Essential things you need on a product page:

Name

Price

Category

Weight

 

Some advance options:

The number of products you can upload

The number of options for each product (the same product but in a different size or color)

 

Ninjin lets you sell unlimited products.

 

Three key ingredients to make your product pages great that sells:

  1. Product descriptions
  2. Product images
  3. Product categories

 

Let’s take a look at them in detail.

 

1. How to write winning product descriptions?

 

Product descriptions must be convincing. Also, avoid jargon, clichés, and long sentences. 

 

Here’s an example of a good product description:

 

A thorough yet concise product description can mean the difference between a sale and a loss. 

 

SEO is another factor to consider when writing product descriptions. 

This is where you will appear in Google searches when people look for similar products to yours. The higher your ranking, the more visitors you'll get. The more traffic there is, the more sales there will be. 

 

Include some keywords related to your product in your descriptions. 

Assume you're selling vintage watches; include the words "vintage" and "watches" in the product title and description.

 

2. Take the best product images

Like the description, your images should accurately reflect what you’re selling. The success of any online store much depends on product photos. 

 

Here are a few pointers 

  • Always use high-quality pictures and avoid using blurry or small photos. 
  • Make sure your customers can see your products from all angles by offering 360-degree image views. 
  • Include photographs of product variations so that customers can see the product in different colors, sizes, and patterns.

 

Learn more on how to up your sales with professional-looking photographs- Simple hacks in this blog.

 

3. Product Categories

Product categories are different areas your products can sit in, making it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for on your store. Examples of categories include men’s, women’s, accessories, new in, and sale. 

 

The easiest way to create category ideas is to ask yourself: what would you want if you landed on your site? We recommend limiting yourself to no more than five categories. Any more, and you risk confusing your customers with an overabundance of options.

 

7. Set up payment methods

Next, you need to set up your payment method. This is a crucial part of converting a browser into a buyer. 

 

This is made simple for you by e-commerce website builders. They optimize the process to get started right away with the best (and most effective) payment options. 

 

Ecommerce website builders assist by connecting you directly to multiple payment options such as PayPal, Visa, Apple Pay, and Mastercard.

 

How to choose the best payment method?

Find out where your customers are from. If you have customers from different countries, make sure you meet each nationality’s needs. Shoppers in Canada, for example, have different payment preferences from shoppers in Texas.

 

What about security?

Security is a big worry for online shoppers. But you can take all their worries away if you make your site secure. And it’s easier than you think!

 

Online store builders sort this out for you with SSL certificates.

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It encrypts your users’ data, making their online shopping experience with you totally secure.

Most e-commerce platforms include this in their plans.

 

So, what does this look like? Here is a store created using Ninjin. You can see the green padlock circled in the top left corner:

 

Image

 

Ecommerce platforms take care of your store’s security. Customers will feel safe spending their money on your site.

 

This has two essential benefits for your business:

  • Customers will feel safe shopping on your store.
  • Google will reward your store with higher rankings.

 

Ninjin, for example, comes with inbuilt SSL Security and gives you access to over 10 payment gateways. These include Visa, Master Card, Amex, PayPal, and many other local payments.

 

How much are these payment options going to cost?

Different payment methods come with different fees and charges.

Make sure you’re clear on exactly how much you’ll be paying and what you’ll be paying for.

 

Credit card fees are unavoidable. They’re levied by the card provider (Amex, for example) and then passed on by the builders.

The general charge for using payment processors varies, typically from around 1% to 3% + some additional fix charges per transaction. GST or VAT may also apply to transaction fees.

 

Step 8: Sort out your shipping settings.

You’ve added products and payment options for customers to buy them. Next up is making sure you can deliver those products. To understand how to build an online store, you need to know how shipping options work.

 

Different e-commerce website builders provide various shipping options. To begin shipping products, you’ll need to add an origin address.

 

What is your shipping origin address?

 This is important if you ship products from an address that’s not your office. You should input a separate shipping origin to ensure shipping rates and taxes are correct.

 

Once you’ve added your address, you can print shipping labels and get quotes.

 

What shipping zones do you want to ship to?

Shipping rates vary between the countries and regions (zones) you ship to. Online store builders let you charge different rates to customers depending on which zone they’re in.

 

For example, if you’re a US-based store, you can charge cheaper shipping to customers in a state closer to your distribution center. Your store builder admin page will show which zones you ship to, along with all of your individual shipping rates.

 

What are the different shipping options?

 Once you’ve set up where you want to ship products, you can decide how you deliver them. It boils down to understanding the available types of shipping:

 

Free shipping

If you can afford it, free shipping is a fantastic selling point.

 

Offer free shipping over a certain order amount. This could offset the costs to you of offering free shipping and top up your average order value.

 

Free shipping works best when selling luxury items.

 

Flat rate

Offer the same shipping rate, no matter the product. Flat rate shipping is handy for marketing.

 

Suitable for stores that sell lots of similar items.

 

Real-time shipping rates

Calculate shipping prices by factors including order size, weight, and destination. Customers like this option because it’s honest and transparent.

 

Suitable for stores that sell products with different weights and large size items that would be expensive to ship for free, as you can cover your costs without charging too much.

 

Store or local pickup

Invite customers to pick up their orders as an additional option. This is great for offering the personal, face-to-face business experience.

 

Suitable for stores selling large products with limited shelf life or stores with a recognizable local presence.

 

Rate by order price

For example, offer reduced shipping if customers spend a certain amount. It’s a great way to reward high-value customers.

 

Suitable for stores with expensive items or lots of loyal customers.

 

Shipping Services

By using online store builders, you can offer customers different levels of shipping. If a customer wants, they can pay more to have their order delivered faster.

 

Step 9: Set taxes and other charges.

It's time for now to do the most important and bit legal settings - Tax settings. You can sure take the help of your accountant or CPA to ensure you are entering the correct rates and including the right kind of taxes to stay compliant with tax authorities. 

 

Step 10: Preview, test… and publish your online store

Now that your store is ready and you have added products, set up your payment, shipping, and sorted out your store’s settings.

 

You’re very nearly there…

But there’s one crucial step to go before you’ve finished creating your online store: testing it.

 

Ecommerce website builders make it very easy to test and preview your online store before publishing. Trying your store is the best way to make sure you’re satisfying your customers’ needs.

 

When previewing and testing your store, here are the key things to check:

 

  1. Does your checkout work?
  2. Orders work across all payment methods.
  3. Your shipping options and charges are correct and visible.
  4. The items and price in your cart are correct.
  5. Discounts/promotions apply.
  6. Taxes show once a shopper enters their location.
  7. The simplest way to test your checkout is to place an order and then immediately refund yourself. This is also an excellent chance to try the refund process, as well as your email notifications.

 

Do your store’s functions work?

  1. Next up is making sure your store actually works.
  2. Make sure any clickable button or link is working.
  3. Your navigation bar should be easy to maneuver. It should feel like sailing around a calm lake, not swerving around potholed roads with lots of dead ends!

Ask friends and family to test your site and get some feedback.

 

Have you checked your store’s content?

Many merchants make the mistake of launching an online store that’s full of content errors. This makes your store look amateurish.

Go through your store with a fine-toothed comb and check for poor spelling and grammar. This is also a good opportunity to check all your pictures – make sure they’re all optimized for site speed and accurately promote the product.

 

Does your store work on mobile?

We are in 2021; mobile commerce today is more than 60% of all e-commerce sales. In short, your site must work perfectly no matter what device your customer is using.

 

This is one of the most significant benefits of using an online store builder. They make it easy to check what your store looks like on different devices and how it functions.

 

Your store needs to be responsive on mobile, tablet, and desktop. You can test this in your builder’s preview mode and toggle to the mobile icon to start experimenting.

 

Have you tested your store on different browsers?

Your customers won’t only use different devices – they’ll use different browsers too. Online store builders support most major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, so you should be fine.

 

Just take five minutes to check and make sure!

 

Finally, sort out your store’s settings.

Before you hit publish, the last thing to do is double-check your store’s settings! Without proper settings, your store won’t be able to run correctly.

 

Head to the Store Settings section of your platform and fill out your preferences for each of the following:

  • Language: select the language your customers will see onsite
  • Currency: choose your preferred currency
  • Timezone: setting the correct timezone helps track your orders
  • Address: display your contact information
  • Store Name: as it’ll appear on your store’s emails, homepage, and online searches
  • Contact Details: a public phone number and a customer-facing email address
  • Order settings: set whether to add the tax to your product price or not
  • Product settings: you can decide which information to display to the customers, like product weight or rating

 

Ask your online store builder’s support team if you’re unsure what these and other more obscure settings mean.

 

Happy online sellling!

If you have any questions or queries, write to us, or ask in the comment section.

          


About the author

ShimBi Labs        
Established in 2005, Shimbi Labs was born with the idea of developing simple, powerful yet affordable software. At Shimbi Labs, we create beautiful software to solve business problems.


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