10 things to remember when creating an online store

January 2 2022

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The e-commerce market exploded in recent years. Many entrepreneurs think about one of two paths: moving the company entirely online or creating an online store to be a second channel for generating sales. The question of how to create an online store is not that simple nowadays. This article will show you what are your main options and what steps to take to make running an online store truly beneficial.

How to create an online store?

Let’s just say it – today we have two main choices. You can create your own store or choose a marketplace platform. Marketplaces are giant websites that take care of the infrastructure for you to run your store. These are Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Walmart, or Google Express.

Both approaches have their own pros and cons and you need to remember them. The model itself, an online store, and the consequences of this decision are pretty serious in both cases.

What to remember when setting up an online store? 10 tips

Let’s break down the previously mentioned models and talk about them a little more. This article will tell you what to remember and give practical tips. Then I will share the pros and cons for both models. Unfortunately, not everything is that easy.

Tips that I share now I recommend using after you deal with models. You can learn how to set up an online store (from articles like this one), but the real challenge will be to run a store.

  1. Read about the pros and cons of running your own store or through a marketplace platform. You can also think about a hybrid model – running your own shop and selling on a marketplace at the same time. 
  2. Depending on the model you’ll adopt, choose the right software. The software for online sales is a must. Make sure that an engine you have chosen for e-commerce can do a few things. Handle projected sales (if you’ll operate on a larger scale) and be intuitive and easy to use (if you have a limited number of items and you will not have big traffic). When it comes to marketplace sales – choose the right software for support. For sales settlement but also for marketing.

You can choose between Shopzilla, Google Shopping, Bing Shopping, Nextag, and others. They will help you set up the business on the technological side. According to reports, these are chosen by the majority of businesses.

3. Choose the right marketing tools. Even the best merchandise needs support. In both models you will need solid marketing you help you generate sales. In both models, you will need a professional product description, ideas for marketing campaigns, promotions.

4. Pay attention to SEO and SEM. It’s also a must. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are two activities responsible for respectively: your online visibility and paid campaigns. The first one will create the brand and build relations with clients. The second one will help on a short distance when you need to boost sales or promote a given product.

No matter what the case it, you will need a solid partner. I recommend a proven performance marketing agency, and my Partner, Delante

5. Make sure you have a steady supply of your products. There’s nothing worse than an unhappy client that has chosen a product, maybe even paid for it, and then discovered that this product is unavailable at the moment.

Making a sale in retail, in a physical shop, and through an online store, differs. The client’s disappointment is immediate when it comes to the internet and much higher than in traditional forms of distribution. Here the client has multiple ways of buying a product. There are many different stores with similar or even the same items – everything is a click away.

It’s good to remember that, especially when making the first contact with a client. The first impression is everything. It’s about touchpoints, which are places when a client connects with a brand. More about touchpoints in my article for the “SME Magazine”, here (Polish only).

6. Build customer loyalty. We can put that in a marketing section but there’s a reason why I highlight this individually. Building loyalty, the need to come back to browse the offer, is the Holy Grail for every salesperson. There’s nothing worse than a window shopper and nothing more precious than a person who already bought something and comes back to search for something else. Maybe the current offer isn’t for him. Maybe the offer is too expensive at the moment. But the person comes back and this is what it’s all about.

You will learn more about building customer loyalty in my future article, stay tuned!

7. Build a performing order fulfillment and customer care departments. It’s not only about shipping. Make sure that both departments cooperate and have access to the same database and same tools. Thanks to that, the knowledge about customers, shipments, and patterns, alongside tracking and customer satisfaction levels will be evenly spread across the organization. You can build on that and utilize the knowledge in the future.

8. Rationally introduce new product categories. Customers bore easily. They have also needs and at least a fraction of your customer base will be very vocal about theirs. It’s not about being a Walmart or Amazon and selling everything. It’s about being agile and serving a customer. If you see that there’s a hole in your offer, fill it.

New merchandise means new storage space, launching a new product category, additional pressure on the fulfillment department to deliver on time, and finally additional spending on marketing. It’s worth investing in something new, though. As long as spending looks OK on paper, do it.

9. Don’t sell on the marketplace alone. What is a marketplace? The answer is later in the article. You will see that running a marketplace sale can generate a profit, but it comes at a cost. It also generates challenges and, especially in the long run, serious threats. 

10. Regularly adjust marketing and sales strategy and the selling model itself. It can sound trivial, but nothing states still. Consumer needs and behavioral patterns change on the spot. Before the COVID-19 situation, people were buying online in spades… or so we thought.

Now they are actually buying in spades, which burdens supply and logistic chains. Especially now, when a situation in many ports is complicated and containers wait in long queues to be unloaded. The remedy? It’s not about a larger number of containers and container ships, it’s about insufficient port infrastructure. It’s clearly visible in the United States when a major port of Lost Angeles generates a staggering amount of traffic… and also roadblocks.

I write about it because e-commerce means constant shifts and adjustments for customers. Making adjustments in sales, marketing, and thinking about where to sell and with what methods should be taken at least a few times a year

What is a marketplace?

Now about what is a marketplace. A lot of people think about migrating. Running a store in this model means serious profits, but also serious limitations, especially in a long run. But first things first.

A marketplace is an online platform that in one place gathers offers from many, many vendors. It can offer products under its own brand (Amazon is famous for it) or sell products other companies put on the website. Marketplace offers an infrastructure to attract as many companies as possible. It can vary depending on approach but a marketplace can be the space for one industry only or a platform with many different goods.

E-commerce platforms became a basis for an omnichannel strategy. Thinking about them as a place where only small and medium-sized companies sell their products, is a wrong approach. Big companies also enter marketplaces. They gain two things – sales volume and brand recognition. As I will show you later, not without a price, though.

How does a marketplace really work?

On the marketplace platform, every transaction is run through a place’s operator or an owner. Then they are realized with retail vendors that sell products on the marketplace.

A marketplace’s owner is responsible for:

  • accepting new vendors and activation of their accounts
  • administrating the platform and enforcing the rules of the marketplace
  • administrating the software infrastructure, updating the marketplace on hardware and software levels
  • taking care of security; enforcing the safety and updating procedures
  • enhancing the platform to be even more attractive for old and new vendors and buyers alike

The vendor on the marketplace is responsible for:

  • selling the goods for a percentage of the income or in a subscription model
  • keeping offers current and with good descriptions that reflect the items the best possible way
  • taking care of customers – through email, phone, etc. Also, for taking care of complaints and warranties
  • shipping the goods

It’s not hard to see that a marketplace owner has a lot do to, much more than a vendor. You could think that infrastructure, financial, and operations activities cost time and money and the vendor is responsible only for selling and counting profits. In reality, it’s not that simple – it’s a landmine.

Most of the topic is covered in my article about how to run an online store and compete with Amazon. I seriously recommend reading this material. You will find much information that companies offering marketplace sales support, don’t ever mention.

How to set up an online store on a marketplace?

Naturally, it depends on the platform itself. Surely there are differences, but there are similarities as well. Generally speaking, you will need:

  • a verified marketplace account
  • your store on one of the previously mentioned platforms to setup stores
  • integration of your store with the marketplace (there are many tools you can use with that)
  • an internet domain for your store
  • a hosting account for the files
  • an SSL certificate for processing online payments
  • installed and configured a content management system (CMS) for the website
  • hooking it all up and overall linking into one organism

What else do you have to remember?

It’s not the end. If you’re thinking about how to run an online store and what to think about, these few tips are for you. To all previously mentioned issues, you should also add topics mentioned below. You should:

  • create a shop statue (shop rules)
  • create visual branding for the shop
  • think about how the protection of personal information will affect business operations in your company and how to mitigate risk
  • have product photos
  • implement payment methods

Running an online shop means taking care of details. Lots of details. You can buy a graphical template for the store or you can pay an artist to make it for you. I recommend Tomek Banach, an artist who cooperates with me. He will create a unique vibe. The second solution will be more expensive but also more profitable in the long run. Made especially for you, it will generate more revenue.

If not a marketplace, then what?

In an essence – your own store that won’t be a part of a giant’s ecosystem. I will repeat some of the cons of this model:

  • you generate revenue but you work for the platform’s credibility (not your own)
  • there’s a risk that if something sells really well, the platform will copy that and introduce a similar product under its own brand (Amazon is famous for it)
  • platforms have marketing budgets that are far out of reach for everyone else. If a platform decides it wants to compete with you and not to support you by offering the marketplace access, you will never win because they have more money and money generates scale
  • you need to invest in an additional person to support this channel
  • you need to invest in additional SEO (yes, for the marketplace alone)
  • you always need to be on the lookout for quality norms created by the marketplace

You can find more in the article called “Your online store or Amazon? How retails companies can compete with a technological giant”. It’s on my blog, look for the link in the previous section of the current article. Read it and then think about that – is additional revenue worth the risk and worth playing by someone else’s rules?

Sales can be built organically and powered by ongoing efforts. Marketplace platforms ultimately lead to market monopoly. On one hand, they are perfect for the buyer (among others: because of the customer service standards and promotion of fast shipping), on the other hand, they are a burden for vendors (high commissions, strict regulations that can force a vendor out of the platform, quality standards). 

Yes, quality standards are important, even necessary. The good aspect of these marketplace platforms is that many companies fight on quality, shipping time, and overall customer service features. The problem is that the only ones that are happy about it are the customers and the platforms themselves. For many others, especially smaller stores, running such a platform means additional work. Especially business operations-wise.

If you wonder how to run an online store and what option will be better, I recommend the creation of your own, fully independent store. There are some risks but it’s my professional option that they far outweigh long-term cooperation with the giants. If you want to know, how can it look like in practice, think about scaling your store. The growth of online stores is one of my professional passions. I will be happy to help.

O Autorze

Jarosław Ścislak

Pracowałem nad brandingiem, rebrandingiem, skalowaniem biznesu i strategiami contentowymi dla wielu firm. Tworzyłem strategie marketingowe, contentowe, budowałem od zera działy marketingu, szkoliłem juniorów. Mogę skutecznie pomóc. Poprzez tworzenie kluczowych procesów i integrację ich w jeden ekosystem sprawię, że Twoja firma będzie pracowała dla Ciebie, a nie na odwrót. Część usług które widzisz w mojej ofercie (np. rozwój sklepów e-commerce w opozycji do platform e-commerce) wprowadziłem na rynek jako pierwszy w Polsce.