How to Start a Profitable Online Store in 6 Steps (+ Builders and Best Practices)

How to Start a Profitable Online Store in 6 Steps

Have you ever imagined what it would be like making hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit running an online store from your laptop?

Having the freedom to work from anywhere in the world and work as little or as many hours as you want? Is this something you’ve ever dreamed about?

If you answered yes to the above questions, the good news is that all this is possible. By starting a profitable online store, you could turn your dreams of making money working from your laptop a reality.

Today, the ecommerce industry holds numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs. Statista estimates that e-commerce sales will hit over $6.5 trillion by 2023, up from about $1.3 trillion in 2014.

Retail e-commerce sales worldwide from 2014 to 2023
Source: Statista

As more and more people get attracted to the convenience of online shopping, you can tap into this market and get a share of these profits by starting an online store.

If you’ve been thinking of starting a profitable online store but didn’t know how to go about it or where to start, you’re in the right place.

This guide will take you through the six key steps you need to follow to build a profitable online store.

Let’s jump in!

How To Start An Online Store

A lot of people have considered starting an online store, but most of them do not know how to go about it. Where do you start?

There are several approaches to starting an online store. Based on our own experience, we have developed a simple six step process that is very effective when it comes to starting a profitable online store.

Here are the six steps that you can follow to build an online store that is guaranteed to make you good money.

  • Step 1: Find the right product niche and find profitable products to sell within that niche.
  • Step 2: Find reliable vendors to supply you with these products at prices that allow you to make a profit.
  • Step 3: Pick a brand name for your online store and register a domain.
  • Step 4: Create your online store using a reliable online store builder.
  • Step 5: Set up your marketing and sales funnels to drive traffic to your online store and convert this traffic into buyers.
  • Step 6: Use ecommerce metrics and analytics to gain insights on how to optimize the performance of your online store and boost your revenue.

Below, let’s take a deeper look into each of these six steps.

Step 1: Find The Right Product Niche (And Profitable Product Ideas)

Imagine building an online store that sells anything and everything – beauty products, pet food, diet supplements, fitness gear, mountain biking equipment, apparel, you name it.

Since such an online shop doesn’t have a specific focus, in effect, you would be in competition with every other online store, from e-commerce giants like Amazon to small, niche specific online stores. 

Building a name for yourself and achieving success within such a broad market would be an uphill task.

It is a lot easier to set yourself apart and achieve success by focusing on a smaller niche that has more engaged customers.

Focus on a niche market is all about becoming the big fish within a small pond, rather than remaining a small fish in a larger pond, where the bigger fish can crush you any time.

A niche market is basically a small subset of a broader market segment. This subset is defined by a set of shared characteristics that are not shared by the broader market segment.

Here’s Joseph Kunz’s illustration of what constitutes a niche market.

Micro Niche Marketing
Source: KunzonPublishing.com

In this case, gardening is the main industry, gardening in a city is a smaller segment within that market, roof-top gardening in a city is a niche within that market segment, while roof-top gardening in New York City is a micro niche.

You can define a niche market by various factors, such as:

  • Price (discount, luxury, moderate, and so on)
  • Geolocation (the physical location of the customers you are targeting)
  • Demographics (gender, age, level of education, employment status, level of income, etc.)
  • Psychographics (preferences, attitudes, behaviors, and so on)
  • Quality (handmade, premium, economy, etc.)

Why You Need To Focus On A Specific Niche

On the face of it, focusing on a specific niche might seem counterintuitive.

After all, you want your online store to reach as many customers as possible, and niching down means you are going after a very small segment of the market. Why would you want to do that?

There are several reasons why you’ll be better off building an online store that’s focused on a specific niche. Here are a few…

  • Niching down provides better ROI: Focusing on a specific niche makes it easier for you to attract higher quality leads, which will in turn lead to more conversions and more sales.
  • Niche websites are easier to rank: Organic traffic from search engines will play a key role in the success of your online store. Generally, it is easier to rank your store for highly specific keywords than it is to rank for general keywords, where there is a lot of competition. For instance, it is easier to rank for “rooftop gardening in New York City” than it is to rank for “gardening.”
  • Lower competition: Focusing on a specific niche means that you’ll have less competition to deal with. This means it will be easier for you to attract customers and start making sales.
  • Greater authority: The low level of competition within a specific niche also means that it is easier for you to build a strong brand and position yourself as an authority within that niche. With a broader market, positioning yourself as an authority would be quite a huge challenge.

What To Look Out For When Choosing A Niche For Your Online Store

Simply choosing a specific niche is not enough. All niches are not equal. If you want to make money, you need to choose not just any niche, but a profitable niche. Question is, how do you do this?

There are a couple of things you should consider when choosing a niche for your online store, including…

Find A Niche You’re Passionate About

While passion does not influence profitability, it has an impact on your chances of success. Building a successful online store is not a walk in the park.

It will needs lots of work and energy, and in many cases, it might take a while before the money starts rolling in.

If you choose a niche you’re not passionate about, there’s a high chance that you might lose motivation before your online store gets off the ground.

If it’s something you’re passionate about, on the other hand, your passion will give you the motivation to keep pushing during the hard times.

Check If There’s Enough Market Demand Within The Niche

Choosing a niche that has enough market demand is very crucial when it comes to building a profitable online store. If the demand for your niche is too low, you’ll have a hard time making enough sales to sustain your business.

There are several ways of checking whether your chosen niche has enough demand. The first one is to use a keyword research tool to determine the number of searches the niche attracts. For this, I recommend using SEMrush.

For instance, let’s say you want your online shop to focus on the boating accessories niche. If you search for these keywords on SEMrush, here’s what you find. 

Keyword overview: bloating accessories
Source: SEMrush.

With 27.1k monthly searches, this is a niche that has tons of demand. You could even consider niching down even further, since this shows that this niche is quite big.

Generally, if a niche has over 1,000 monthly searches, this niche has enough demand to sustain your online store. If the monthly search volume is below 1,000, I recommend finding another niche.

Another way of checking whether a niche has enough demand is to go on Amazon and search for products related to that niche and check the number of reviews on these products.

If most of the products within that niche do not have over 100 reviews, this shows that there probably isn’t lots of demand for that niche.

If we search for products within the boating accessories niche on Amazon, we find that most of them have a high number of reviews. This reinforces our earlier finding that there’s lots of demand for this niche.

Amazon product review for finding product ideas
Source: Amazon

Check Whether The Niche Is Evergreen

Sometimes, a niche might have lots of demand, but that demand could be short-lived, either because that niche is currently trending, or because it is a seasonal niche.

If you build an online store around such a niche, you might be unable to make any sales a couple of months down the line.

To avoid this, you should check whether the niche is evergreen or trending. You can do this using Google Trends, or using a keyword research tool like SEMrush.

For instance, if you search for “boating accessories” on Google Trends, you’ll notice that this niche has had fairly consistent demand through the years.

Google Trends: bloating accessories demand
Source: Google Trends

On the other hand, if you search for a niche like “crypto wallets,” you’ll notice that the demand for this niche peaked in 2017 at the height of the cryptocurrency craze, and then dropped down. 

Google Trend crypto wallets interest
Source :Google Trends

If you had launched an online store selling crypto wallets, you’d have made lots of money in 2017, but you wouldn’t have enough sales to sustain your business the following year.

Check How Competitive The Market Is

Having some competition in the niche you are eying is a good sign. Competition shows that there is money to be made within the niche.

If you find a niche with zero competition, this could be because others have tried the niche and realized that it is not profitable.

That said, you should avoid niches with too much competition. Too much competition means that you’ll have a harder time breaking into the market and building your brand.

You can easily check the competition you are up against using SEMrush. To do this, you simply need to enter the domain of one of your competitors on the domain overview tab and you’ll get data about the top competitors within that niche.

I’ll show you how this works using the “boating accessories” example. One of the top online stores in this niche is boatoutfitters.com, so this is what I’ll search for in SEMrush.

Scrolling down on the domain overview page shows the top competitors for boatoutfitters.com.

You can do this for any industry and SEMrush will give you the top competitors you’ll be up against.

Once you have identified your main competition, you can then decide if you’ll be able to compete against them, or if you need to find a different niche.

If the niche you’re considering is dominated by well-known brands, you’ll have a hard time breaking into that market, and in this case, you’re better off finding another niche.

Finding Profitable Product Ideas

Now that you have identified a profitable niche, the next thing you need to do is to find profitable ideas within that niche that you can sell on your online store.

There are three tools that I use to come up with ideas on what products to sell on an online store, which are:

Oberlo

Oberlo is an e-commerce solution that allows you to discover new products to sell in your store, find suppliers for these products, view and analyze insights about your shop and so on.

To find product ideas using Oberlo, you will need to first sign up for an account with them. 

After signing up for an account, log in to your Oberlo dashboard, click on “search products,” and then choose your preferred category. This will bring up a list of products within that niche.

Sort the results by order count and you will have a list of the top selling products within that niche.

Oberlo top selling products
Source: Oberlo

On the left hand side, you also have the option of narrowing down to various niches within that main category.

From these search results, you can then look for high demand products that would be suitable to sell on your online store.

Amazon

Another great way to find profitable product ideas is to browse through Amazon best sellers page. All the top performing products are listed here, with the list updated hourly.

Amazon.com Best Sellers page

Here, you can then select your chosen niche to find the best selling products within this niche. These will also give you an idea on what products you can sell on your store.

AliExpress

Finally, you can also find high demand products to sell by browsing through the AliExpress best sellers page. Just like Amazon, this is a list of the best performing products, and you can use this to come up with ideas on what to sell in your store.

To access the AliExpress best sellers page, simply choose the product category/niche you are interested in, and then scroll down to best sellers, or click on the bestseller tab.

Aliexpress bestsellers

Things To Keep In Mind When Deciding On What Products To Sell

Just because a product appears on the best sellers page, or because it has a high order count on Oberlo, this does not necessarily mean that it is a good product to sell on your store.

Researching the products on Oberlo, Amazon, and AliExpress should only be used to give you some ideas. As you research on these three platforms, you should create a spreadsheet with all the potential products you come across.

Once you have identified potential products you can sell in your store, you will need to carry out further research to identify those that are most suitable for your store. When performing this research, here are some of the things you need to keep in mind…

  • Price: Avoid products that are very lowly priced or too expensive. Excessively cheap products will make it impossible for you to make good margins, while expensive products might be harder to sell. Aim for products within the $50 – $200 range.
  • Solution-oriented products: You should opt for products that solve a big enough problem for your target market. The bigger the problem a product solves, the easier it is to sell.
  • Brand names: Avoid products that will require you to compete with a well-known brand.
  • Shipping costs: High shipping costs can greatly eat into your margins, and therefore, you should aim for products with low shipping costs. In most cases, this means aiming for relatively small products, since bulky products are more expensive to ship.
  • Value addition: Opt for products where you have opportunities to add value. For instance, if you find that one of the products you identified has some negative reviews, you can find ways to make improvements to the product and sell it on your store.

By the end of this step, you should have identified a niche for your online store and decided on the products you are going to sell in your store.

Step 2: Find Reliable Product Vendors (Even If You’re Dropshipping)

Now that you’ve decided on what products you’re going to sell on your online store, the next thing you need to do is to find reliable vendors to supply you with these products.

Vendors are your business partners, and therefore, choosing reliable vendors is very crucial to the success of your online store. Unreliable vendors can easily mess up your business with botched orders, low quality products, and so on.

Before you start looking for vendors for your online store, you should first determine the business model you are going to use and how you’re going to deliver your customers’ orders.

For instance, if your business model is based on dropshipping, you will need to find vendors who offer dropshipping services. Similarly, if you want your products to bear your own brand, you will need to find manufacturers who are willing to private label their products for you.

Below, let’s take a look at the different kinds of vendors you can work with depending on your business model.

Dropshippers

If you intend to dropship products to your customers, you will need to find vendors who offer dropshipping services.

Dropshipping is a business model where a customer places an order on your online store, but the order is fulfilled by your vendor. With this model, you don’t need to carry any inventory.

When a customer orders a product from your store, you simply forward the order to the vendor, who then delivers the order to the customer’s address. Your profit is the difference between what you charged the customer and what you paid to the vendor. 

Dropshipping is a great way to make money without any significant capital investment.

Dropshippers

How To Find Dropshipping Suppliers

There are several approaches you can use to find reliable dropshipping suppliers. Let’s check out some of them.

Reach Out To Manufacturers

With this approach, you simply reach out to the manufacturer of the product you want to sell and ask them to provide you with a list of their wholesale distributors. Once you have this list, you can then reach out to these wholesalers and enquire if they offer dropshipping services.

Use Oberlo

Oberlo is one of the top dropshipping marketplaces and is a great place for you to find dropshipping suppliers.

The best part about using Oberlo is that once you find a vendor, you can automatically add their products into your Shopify store directly from Oberlo. Any inventory and price changes will also be automatically updated on your store.

Use Google

You can also use good ol’ Google to find dropshippers for your online store. Simply search for your niche + dropshippers. For instance, if you are in the smartphone accessories niche, you can search for “smartphone accessories dropshippers”

If you opt for this approach, you should do your due diligence and thoroughly evaluate a dropshipper before ordering from them. You don’t want to end up ordering from an unreliable dropshipper, or worse, a scammer.

Dropshipper Directories

You can also find dropshippers from dropshipping directories. These are basically databases that contain the names and contact information of dropshippers, usually organized by niche or category. To access these databases, you have to pay a subscription fee.

Some good directories you can use to find reliable dropshippers include SaleHoo, Inventory Source, and Dropship Direct.

Order From The Competition

This is a clever approach that you can use if you’re having a hard time finding dropshipping suppliers. With this approach, you simply need to find a competing online store that uses a dropshipper and make a small order from them.

Once your order is delivered, you can then check the return address to find out the dropshipper who sent the package to you. 

I recommend using this approach only when you cannot find dropshipping suppliers through the other methods covered here.

Wholesalers

Wholesalers are businesses that buy products from manufacturers in bulk, and then sell them to retailers like you, who then sell the products to consumers at retail prices.

Wholesalers

Working with wholesalers works best if you plan on fulfilling your customers’ orders yourself. 

Unlike with dropshipping, where you only purchase a product after a customer has ordered it (which means you spend no money on inventory), you will need to raise money to purchase inventory upfront when working with a wholesaler.

You will also need storage space to keep your inventory. This can drive up the cost of starting your online store. 

The benefit of partnering with wholesalers is that you get to enjoy lower prices than you would with dropshippers, since you have to purchase a relatively large quantity of product at a time.

How To Find Wholesalers

There are several approaches you can use to find reliable product wholesalers. Let’s check out some of them.

Online Directories

Just like with dropshippers, you can easily find wholesalers by joining a wholesaler directory. Of course, you will need to pay to access the directory.

However, you can pay for one month’s subscription, find the right wholesalers for you, and then opt out of the directory.

Some reliable directories you can use to find good wholesalers include Oberlo, Wholesale Central, Worldwide Brands, and SaleHoo.

Trade Shows

Trade shows are events where wholesalers and manufacturers showcase their products to potential customers.

Trade shows are usually organized by industry, so what you simply need to do is to attend trade shows within the industry you are interested in, find wholesalers carrying the products you are interested in and talk with them about having them become suppliers for your online store.

Use Google

You can also use Google to find wholesalers carrying the products you want to sell on your online store. Simply type in your niche/industry and wholesalers, and then go through the search results to identify good wholesalers.

Once again, you should exercise caution and conduct your due diligence before you pay a wholesaler to supply you with products.

Reach Out To Manufacturers

You can also reach out to manufacturers of the product you are interested in and ask them to direct you to their wholesale distributors. You can then get into a partnership and have these wholesalers become suppliers for your online store.

Manufacturers

You also have the option of purchasing products directly from manufacturers.

With this approach, you can make very huge margins, since you will purchase the products at the lowest prices and sell at retail prices. You are effectively cutting out the middleman.

Manufacturers

For you to purchase directly from the manufacturer, however, you need to have the financial muscle to purchase products in bulk, since manufacturers won’t sell in small quantities.

You also need to be very certain that your online store will generate enough sales to deplete your bulk order, otherwise you can easily find yourself sitting on thousands of products with no one to sell the products to.

When it comes to sourcing your products from manufacturers, you have the option of working with domestic or overseas manufacturers.

With domestic manufacturers, you get to enjoy fast shipping times, high manufacturing standards, easy communication, and marketing appeal, but then you have to contend with higher prices and less product choice.

With overseas manufacturers, on the other hand, you can enjoy lower costs, more manufacturers to choose from, and greater product variety, but then you will have to contend with longer shipping times, language barrier, and lower perceived value by your customers.

How To Find Manufacturers

Some of the approaches you can use to find manufacturers to supply your online store include…

Online Directories

This is one of the easiest ways of finding manufacturers for the products you are interested in. Simply join the directory, browse through the list of manufacturers and find those that you would like to work with.

Some online directories you can use to find manufacturers include Oberlo, AliExpress, Alibaba, Sourcify and Maker’s Row.

Trade Shows

You can also attend trade shows within your industry, look at the products various manufacturers have on display, and then choose a suitable manufacturer to work with.

What To Look For When Choosing A Supplier For Your Online Store

Choosing the right supplier is very crucial for the success of your online store. The question is, how do you tell apart a good supplier from a poor one? What factors should you consider when deciding whether to work with a supplier or not?

Here are some of the things you should look at when evaluating a supplier…

  • Product offerings: Do they have all the products and brands you are looking for? Do they have a clear catalogue that you can easily search through? Do they offer additional products that you might want to sell on your online store in future?
  • Product quality: You don’t want to sell low quality products on your online store, therefore you should only work with suppliers with high quality products. This means that you will have to test a supplier’s products first before making the decision to partner with them.
  • Reliable shipping: You should work with suppliers who will always deliver your orders on time, since late deliveries can hurt the reputation of your online store. Ideally, you should go for suppliers with good shipping practices, product tracking, and automated shipping alerts.
  • Price: Obviously, you want suppliers who will give you products at a low price, so that you can make a healthy margin. However, don’t compromise on other factors like reliability and quality for price. It is much better to make lower margins but work with a reliable supplier.
  • Stability: You don’t want to start partnering with a supplier, only to hear that they’ve closed shop a few months down the line. Therefore, you should go with suppliers who have been in business for a while (about 5 years or more).
  • Customer service: Finally, you should go with a supplier that offers great customer service. You want to be able to quickly reach someone in case something goes wrong and have them resolve your issue promptly. This is important if you want to keep your customers happy.

Step 3: Pick A Brand Name And Domain

Picking the right name for your online store is very important for your branding. Your brand name is the first thing about your business that customers encounter.

A good name can enhance your brand image and make your online store memorable, while the wrong name will leave customers confused and could lead to lost business.

While coming up with a good brand name seems like a simple thing to do, most seasoned entrepreneurs know that it is no walk in the park.

So, what makes a good brand name? Here are some tips on how to come up with a good brand name for your online store.

Go With A Short And Simple Name

Short names work better for businesses for several reasons, including…

  • They are easier to remember
  • They are easier to pronounce
  • They are easier to type on a browser
  • They fit better on your store’s header

Use A Descriptive Name

While it is possible to come up with a random name and build a strong brand around it, it is more advisable to come up with a name that gives potential customers an idea of what your online store is about.

For instance, if your online store is named “Vantix,” customers cannot really tell what you sell just by looking at the name of your store.

On the other hand, with a name like “Dexboots,” a potential customer can easily tell that you probably sell boots.

Go With Something Unique

If you want to build a strong brand, don’t choose names that sound like everyone else in the business. For instance, if you sell electronics, most of your competitors will have words like tech, electronics, and so on in their brand name.

Instead of doing what everyone else is doing, make your store unique by avoiding these common words within your industry. Find a way to describe what you deal in without resorting to industry clichés.

Think About Your Online Presence

Once you pick a name for your store, this is what you are going to use everywhere on the internet – on your website, on your social media pages, on online marketplaces, and so on.

Therefore, when picking a name for your store, you want to pick a name that you can use on all these places.

Once you pick a name, start by checking whether it is available as a domain. For instance, if your chosen name is Dexboots, check whether dexboots.com is available. You can do this by going to domain.com or bluehost.com and searching for this domain.

For instance, if I search for dexboots.com on domain.com, you can see that the domain is available.

Domain Search Domain.com
Source: domain.com

Once you have confirmed that your chosen name is available as a domain, the next thing you should do is to search for the name on various social media platforms to see if there are other businesses using the same name.

If there are other businesses using similar names, they could easily confuse your customers, and therefore, you should find a way of differentiating yourself from these other businesses.

Finally, you should also check if there are any businesses using similar names on marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay.

This is important because you want your chosen name to be available to you in case you decide to start selling your products on these marketplaces as well.

Avoid Numbers And Special Characters

When choosing your brand name, try to keep off names that include numbers and special characters.

First, numbers and special characters are harder for people to remember. In addition, you won’t be allowed to use special characters when registering your domain.

Pick A Future Proof Name

When choosing a brand name for your online store, don’t just think about today. Think about where your new business could be in future. Will you have added your product line or expanded to other markets? Some names could limit such expansion.

For example, let’s say that you’ve picked the name “dexboots” because you want to launch an online store that sells boots.

A few years down the line, your store is wildly successful, and you now want to expand to selling clothes as well. In this case, the word boots in your brand name could be limiting.

Therefore, when picking a brand name, you should pick a name that will remain relevant in future, a name that your online store can grow into.

How To Register Your Domain Name

Once you have settled on a brand name for your online store, the next step is to register it as a domain.

By registering it as a domain, your customers will be able to access your shop by typing the name and domain extension into their web browser.

For instance, if the name of your store is dexboots, customers will be able to access your store by typing dexboots.com into their web browsers.

I recommend registering your domain name either on Bluehost or domain.com.

To register your domain on Bluehost, start by clicking on this link to access the Bluehost homepage and then click on “Domains.”

Bluehost register domain for online store

Next, type the name you’ve chosen for your online store and hit “Search.”

Bluehost domain search

On the next page, you’ll find out whether the domain is available. If it is available, click on “Proceed.” You also have the option of unchecking the checkbox next to “Add Domain Privacy + Protection” if you want to keep your costs low.

Bluehost check out

Next, you’ll be asked if you want to sign up for hosting for your domain. With Bluehost, you can get 30 days of free trial hosting. To take up this offer, click on “Proceed with 30-day trial of hosting.”

Bluehost additional services

From there, provide your billing information and complete the purchase to register your domain.

Register with Bluehost

Registering your domain on domain.com follows a similar process. Click on this link to access the domain.com homepage. Type in your chosen brand name and hit the search button.

domain.com domain search for online shop
Source: domain.com

If your domain is available, click on “Continue.” If you want to keep your costs low, you can remove “Privacy + Protection,” though I recommend getting it if you can afford it. This will help keep your personal information safe.

Domain.com domain search

Next, choose if you want to purchase any domain add-ons, such as G-Suite, Website Builder or web hosting. After selecting your preferred add-ons, click on “Proceed to Billing.

Domain.com add-ons

Provide your billing information to complete the purchase and register your domain.

Register your domain with domain.com

Now that you have chosen and registered a domain for your online store, it’s time to move to actually building the store.

Step 4: Create Your Online Store Using An Online Store Builder

You have two options when it comes to building your online store – using an online store builder, or building the store from scratch on WordPress.

Building your store from scratch requires some coding skills, so I will focus on building your store using an online store builder, because this is something anyone can do, regardless of your technical skills.

An online store builder is a piece of software that automates the process of building your online store using a drag and drop interface. This allows anyone to build an online store, even if they don’t have any advanced tech skills.

Most online store builders also come with predesigned templates that make the process of building your own store a breeze. Simply pick a suitable template, customize it to suit your store, and you’re good to go.

Best Ecommerce Platforms For Building Your Online Store

Choosing the right online store builder is very crucial to the success of your online store. It affects the look and functionality of your store, how customers will interact with the store, your payment options, and so on.

With more than a dozen great online store builders to pick from, choosing the right one for you can be quite a challenge. 

Below, let’s check out 5 of the best ecommerce platforms you can use to build your online store.

1. Wix – Best Ecommerce Platform For Beginners.

Wix eCommerce

Wix is an amazingly user-friendly online store builder, which makes it a great option for beginners. It comes with a drag and drop builder that anyone can use to customize the layout of their online store and add product pages.

Wix handles web hosting for you and comes with SEO-optimized components to boost your store’s search performance. In addition, Wix doesn’t take any commission from your sales.

The only downside of using Wix is that once you build your store using one template, switching to another template will require you to build your store from scratch once again. This means that you need to pick the right template right from the start.

2. Shopify – Best Ecommerce Platform For Highly Customized Online Stores.

Shopify - homepage

This is the most popular platform for building online stores. The beauty of using Shopify comes from the fact that it is highly customizable. With Shopify, you can build any kind of online store that you can imagine. Like Wix, Shopify also comes with an easy-to-use drag and drop builder.

In addition, Shopify acts as a one-stop shop for everything you need to run your online store – hosting, SEO, marketing, you name it. Everything can be done from within the platform. Shopify also makes it amazingly simple to integrate your online store with Facebook.

3. Squarespace – Best Online Store Builder For Integrating Your Online Store With Social Media.

Squarespace

Squarespace is an online store builder whose core focus is on the marketing aspect of your business, and particularly marketing on social media. It comes with a wide range of tools that make it possible for you to integrate your store with all social media platforms.

Squarespace also comes with lots of beautiful predesigned templates that take most of the work out of building your store. You will find a suitable template regardless of the kind of store you want to build. A lot of people also love the fact that their prices are quite reasonable.

4. BigCommerce – Best Ecommerce Platform For Building Scalable Online Stores.

BigCommerce homepage

BigCommerce is a great option for those looking for a platform that will allow them to build a scalable online store. It comes with a great set of features that allow you to grow your store as your business expands.

BigCommerce also allows you to integrate your online store with most social media platforms. You also have the freedom to pick a payment gateway of your own choice. The best part is that BigCommerce doesn’t charge any transaction fees on your sales.

The downside is that BigCommerce has very advanced features that can be quite complicated to use, which makes it unsuitable for beginners. It’s also not ideal when you’re just starting with a small online store.

5. Weebly – Best Online Store Builder For Small, Simple Stores.

Weebly homepage

Weebly is a rapidly growing online store builder that is super easy to use and that allows you to sell all kinds of products on your store, including service-based products.

Weebly is particularly good for beginners. It provides them with a diverse set of tools that they can use to build a professional online store, while at the same time keeping everything simple enough. 

It also comes with a ton of apps that you can use to quickly expand the functionality of your online store.

Owing to its simplicity, Weebly works best for small businesses that are just starting out. It is not a very suitable option for big online stores.

Which Ecommerce Platform Should You Use?

Based on our experience, we recommend that you build your online store using either Wix or Shopify. These two are the top online store builders on the market today.

If you are building a small online store, don’t have a huge budget, and want a platform that is simple to use, go with Wix. I

f, on the other hand, you are building a larger store, have a much bigger budget, and want a platform that gives you unlimited customization options, go with Shopify.

Pick A Suitable Ecommerce Template

Once you have chosen a suitable platform that you are going to use to build your online store, the next step is to pick a suitable ecommerce template for your store.

Templates are basically predesigned store layouts that you can pick and apply to your store. If you apply a specific template to your store, your store will resemble that template. You can then customize the template and change the colors, text, images, and so on.

All the top ecommerce platforms come with a wide variety of beautifully designed templates to choose from.

If you’re using Shopify, all you need to do is to visit the Shopify theme store, browse through the available themes and find one that works for you, and install it on your store.

Shopify themes

When searching for a suitable template on the Shopify theme store, you have the option of sorting through the themes by price, number of products supported by the theme, layout style, product page style, homepage style, navigation style, and even by industry.

Aside from the themes on the Shopify theme store, you can also find themes on other theme marketplaces like ThemeForest and install them on your online store.

The process is quite similar if you are using Wix. Simply go to the Wix templates page and find a template that is suitable for your store. You also have the option of sorting through the templates by category, such as home décor, arts & crafts, jewelry & accessories, and so on.

Wix templates

What To Look For When Choosing An Ecommerce Template

While look and feel have an influence when it comes to choosing an ecommerce template, they should not be the only things you look at. 

Here are the other key things you should look at when choosing an ecommerce template for your online store…

  • Does the template support the features you want on your store?
  • Is the template responsive? Does it work well with mobile devices?
  • Does the template have SEO optimized components?
  • How customizable is the template?
  • How easy is it to navigate through the template?
  • Does the template have reliable customer/technical support (for premium templates)?

If a template has elegant design that suits your brand, has all the features you want to have on your store, is mobile responsive, SEO friendly, easy to navigate, highly customizable and offers reliable customer support, you have a winner.

Customize Your Ecommerce Template

After choosing a template that will work best for your online store, you will need to customize it to reflect your brand.

When you install a template right off the marketplace, it comes prefilled with content, images, color schemes, and so on.

Since these are not aligned with your brand, or even the kind of products you want to sell on your store, you need to change them before launching your store.

Some of the things you might want to change when customizing your ecommerce template include…

  • The color scheme
  • Font style and size
  • Some theme features
  • Images
  • How products are positioned on the theme

You can also customize your template by adding some apps and plugins to increase the functionality of your online store.

Add Products To Your Store

Once you are done customizing your template to suit your online store, it’s now time to start adding products to your online store. After all, it’s the products that make the store.

A good product page should provide the following information:

  • Product name
  • Product description
  • Product image
  • Price
  • Other details (such as size, weight, and so on)

Here’s an example of an effective product page from Rocky Mountain Soap Co.

Rocky Mountain Soap

You can see that this product page provides the name of the product, the description, an image of the product and the price. It also provides additional information like the product ingredients, information on how to use the product, and even shipping information.

While you can include all this information on your product pages, there are two key elements that make or break a product page. The two are:

  • Product description
  • Product images

Get these two right and your customers will gladly give you their money. If you get them wrong, you’ll have such a hard time making sales, even if you have the best products. Below, let’s check out what you need to do to nail each of these elements.

How To Write Product Descriptions That Sell

Your product description plays a very huge role when it comes to selling your product. This is what convinces an undecided customer to purchase your product, even when they have their doubts.

Writing a convincing product description is no small task. However, here are some pointers that will help you create winning product descriptions that are designed to sell your products:

  • Use natural language and tone: Your product description should sound like someone having a conversation with a friend. This means that you should use simple language, short sentences, avoid meaningless clichés, and maintain a friendly tone.
  • Avoid bland phrases: Phrases like “excellent product quality” or “best in the market” do little when it comes to convincing someone to make a purchase. No one describes their product as low or average quality, and therefore, customers won’t believe such phrases. If you have to use such a phrase in your product description, follow up by explaining what makes your product the best in the market.
  • Focus on benefits, rather than features: Customers don’t care much for the features on your product. What they care about is how the product will improve their life. A car with an amphibious mode means nothing to me if I don’t live anywhere near a water body. Therefore, instead of talking about your product’s features, talk about the benefits that your customer will gain from these features.
  • Make your product description easy to scan: Today, people have very short attention spans. Your customers won’t spend 10 minutes reading your product description. Therefore, you want to make the description very easy for them to scan through. You can do this by making your paragraphs short, using bullet points, highlighting the key points, and using lots of white space.
  • Optimize for search engines: Finally, don’t forget to optimize your product descriptions for search engines. A lot of people find products through search. Optimizing your product descriptions allows you to drive organic search traffic to your products. The most effective way of optimizing your product descriptions for search is to include relevant keywords in your product descriptions.

Use Professional Images That Sell Your Products

Unlike with physical stores, customers shopping from an online store don’t have the luxury of seeing and touching the actual product they want to purchase.

They have to make their purchase decision based on the image of the product. This is why having stunning, professional images is very important if you want to make sales.

Here are some pointers you can use to improve your product images and boost the conversion of your product pages:

  • Use high quality images: Use sharp, clear images that have good lighting and a good background. Your images should look professional and present the product as close to its real-life appearance as possible.
  • Use photos that show the product in use: Sometimes, customers are not aware that they need a product. Showing it in use makes them realize that a product can solve problems they didn’t know they had. Photos of a product in use can also explain how a product works. For instance, this image of a pineapple slicer explains how the product works. Without the image, it would be very difficult to explain how this product works.
Amazon product photo example
Source: Amazon
  • Use photos that convey a sense of scale: One problem with buying a product online is that it’s difficult for customers to tell its size. A good way to help them determine the size is to take a photo of the product in close proximity to an object with a known standard size. This helps the customer to determine the actual size of the object. For instance, this photo of a teacup yorkie leaning on a beer can helps convey the small size of this puppy.
Product photo showing product size
Source: Sell.com
  • Show the product from all angles: If possible, take photos of your product from all angles so that potential customers have a clear idea of how the product looks from all sides.
  • Use same size images: Always use similar dimensions for all your product photos. This will give your online store a consistent look and make it come across as more professional.
  • Optimize your images: The larger your product images, the more time your product pages will take time to load. Increased load time can result in people abandoning your site. To avoid this, compress your images to reduce their size and increase your site’s load speed.
  • Don’t mislead your customers: Finally, avoid using photos that could mislead your potential customers. For instance, if you are selling flowers, you might be tempted to take photos of the flowers in a vase to make them look more appealing. Unfortunately, this could mislead some buyers into assuming that the flowers come with the vase. Such customers will be highly disappointed when they receive the flowers without the vase. 

Set Up Your Shipping Settings

Now that your products are up, it’s time to think about how these products will get to your customers. Here are the things you need to know when setting up shipping settings for your online store:

  • Shipping origin: This is the address you will be shipping products from. This can either be the address of your warehouse, or the address of your fulfilment provider.
  • Shipping zones: The cost of shipping will vary depending on the zone you are shipping to. You can configure your online store to charge you customers different shipping rates depending on the zone they’re located in.
  • Shipping options: This defines how you are going to charge your customers for shipping. Some of the options you have available here include free shipping (no cost to the customer), flat rate shipping (same shipping cost regardless of product or location), real time quotes (shipping cost is calculated based on order size, weight, and destination) and rate by order price (shipping cost varies depending on value of order).

Set Up Payment Settings

Before you can start selling your products to your customers, you also need to think about how you are going to collect payments from customers.

There are three main ways of collecting payments on your online store:

  • Simplified credit card payment processing: This allows you to integrate the payment gateway with your store’s checkout. This way, customers can complete their purchase without having to leave your store. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify allow you to integrate their payment gateway with your store.
  • Payment gateway packages: With this approach, you use an API to connect your store’s checkout to a payment processor. This means that your customers will be momentarily redirected from your store to the payment processor, and then redirected back after making the payment.
  • Merchant account and payment gateway: With this approach, you get into partnership with a bank that will collect payments on your behalf. The money is deposited directly to your bank account.

When it comes to setting up payment options for your online store, it is advisable to set up multiple payment options.

All your customers have their own favorite payment options, and some of them might abandon your cart if they realize that you do not accept their preferred payment option.

To avoid this, it is best to provide multiple payment options, allowing customers to use whatever option they are most comfortable with.

When setting up your payment options, it is also important to make sure that your online store has an SSL certificate. Online shoppers are usually wary about providing their payment details on an insecure site, and might abandon your store if they feel it is insecure.

An SSL certificate keeps user data encrypted and thus makes your store more secure. This makes shoppers feel safer when making a purchase from your online store.

You can tell whether your store has an SSL certificate by checking your address bar. Sites with SSL certificates use https instead of http and have a padlock next to the URL.

https instead of http

Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and Wix come with an inbuilt SSL certificate, therefore this is something you don’t need to worry about if you used either of them to build your online store.

Test And Launch Your Online Store

Your online store is now ready to go live and start accepting customers. Before you hit publish, however, there is one more thing you need to do – testing your store.

In the process of setting up your store, you might have overlooked something, and if you launch without testing, you might spend a lot of effort marketing your store, only to realize that something doesn’t work as it should, resulting in lost sales and a negative experience for your very first customers.

Testing is basically going through your store like a customer would and checking to make sure that everything does what it’s supposed to do. Some of the things you should watch out for when testing your store include:

  • Does your store display correctly on different devices and browsers?
  • Do items get added to the shopping cart correctly?
  • Does your chosen shipping option work correctly?
  • Do the product links work?
  • Does the checkout process work correctly?
  • Does the content look okay?
  • Do all the available payment methods work?
  • How easy is it to navigate through the store?

If everything looks okay, you can go ahead and publish your online store and move on to the next step – finding customers for your online store.

Step 5: Build Your Marketing And Sales Funnel

Having your online store up and running counts for little if you don’t find a way to drive traffic to your store and convert this traffic into customers. So, how do you get people to visit your store and purchase your products?

There are dozens of strategies that you can use to attract traffic to your online store and convert this traffic into paying customers.

Based on our experience, we have found that there are three strategies that are particularly effective for marketing an online store. These three are:

Let’s take a more detailed look at each of these strategies and how you can use them to grow your online store.

How To Use SEO To Grow Your Online Store

Think of the last time you wanted to purchase something like a phone, a laptop, or even a TV set.

You probably went on Google and searched for the best TV sets within a certain budget, determined the most suitable TV for you, and then ordered it from one of the websites that came up during your search.

This is how most people make their purchases. Actually, 51% of online store owners list organic search as their number one source of traffic

traffic sources and paid acquisition
Source: uDroppy

Without focusing on search traffic, you would be missing out on lots of potential sales and allowing your competitors to gain an edge over your store. Here are three reasons why SEO is very crucial for online stores:

  • SEO puts you in front of potential customers: Optimizing your online store for search puts your store and products in front of potential customers who wouldn’t have otherwise found you. If people can’t find you through search, you are invisible to them.
  • SEO is a fairly inexpensive way of growing your business: Unlike most other sources of traffic, you don’t have to pay for traffic when using SEO. You get to attract high quality traffic for free. However, there might be some costs associated with SEO, such as the cost of the time spent optimizing your store, or the cost of hiring a SEO expert.
  • SEO is a long term investment: A lot of traffic sources are pay-to-play. They’ll drive traffic to your store as long as you’re paying, but the traffic will dry off as soon as you stop paying. With SEO, it’s the complete opposite. If you optimize your store today, you will continue attracting traffic to your store for years to come with no extra effort.

So, how do you optimize your online store for search traffic?

Here are three things you can do to boost your online store’s SEO and attract tons of free traffic:

Research Your Keywords

SEO is inseparable from keyword research. Before optimizing your store, you need to identify the keywords that you are optimizing for. Keywords are the exact words and phrases that potential customers use to search for products related to what you are selling.

For instance, if you sell backpacks, some of the keywords potential customers will be using to find products like yours include “backpacks,” “nike backpacks,” “laptop backpack,” “travel backpack,” “school backpack,” “leather backpack,” and so on. 

Being aware of these keywords will allow you to put your business in front of the right kind of audience.

So, how do you identify the keywords that your target audience are using to find products related to yours?

To do this, you need access to a keyword research tool. My top recommendation for performing keyword research is SEMrush.

All you need to do to find relevant keywords is to plug in a seed word related to your niche into SEMrush, and the tool will provide you with information about the search volume of the keyword, the keyword difficulty, trends for the keyword, and even other related keywords that you might want to target.

For instance, let’s say you sell fishing accessories. Plugging this seed phrase into SEMrush will give you this:

keyword research fishing accessories

You can quickly tell the number of people searching for the phrase “fishing accessories”, the cost per click for the keyword, the keyword difficulty, how the keyword has been trending, keyword variations, related keywords, and even questions related to the keyword.

When performing your keyword research, you want to identify keywords that meet the following criteria:

  • Significant search volume: You should aim for keywords that a significant number of people are searching for every month. Low search volume will translate to low traffic. What’s the point of ranking for a keyword that only a handful of people are searching for?
  • Relatively low keyword difficulty: Keyword difficulty indicates how difficult it is to rank for that keyword. You should aim for keywords that have a relatively low keyword difficulty, since it will be easier for you to rank on the first page for this keyword.
  • Buyer intent: Since your objective is to sell products, you should aim for keywords that show that a searcher is closer to making a purchase. For instance, someone searching for “best android smartphone” is probably still researching their options and comparing various devices. On the other hand, someone searching for “Samsung Galaxy S20 price” is probably looking for the best deal for this particular phone, and are more likely to buy the phone if they find a good deal.

The keywords you identify here are what you are going to use in the next two steps.

Create Stellar Content

Now that you have identified your keywords, the next step is to create high quality content around these keywords.

To do this, you will need to add a blog to your online store. At this point, you might be wondering how blogging is related to your online store. Is this really necessary to boost your sales?

Here’s how blogging helps you to drive content to your online store:

  • You create high quality content around the keywords you identified above.
  • Someone searching for these keywords comes across your blog content.
  • They read the content and it educates them about the product they are interested in and answers their questions about the product. By so doing, you have already created trust with them.
  • After educating them about the product, you direct them to the product page on your online store where they make the purchase.

Don’t believe that blogging can be such an effective sales tool? Well, what if I told you that 60% of consumers rely on blogs in the early stages of their buying process?

Role in consumers buying process
Source: Oberlo

By ignoring blogging, you are missing out on a chance to attract and nurture these potential customers.

The key to using blogging to attract potential customers to your online store is to focus on educative and informative content, rather than focusing solely on promotional content. You should also make sure that your blog content is optimized for relevant keywords in order to attract the right kind of traffic.

Optimize Your Product Pages

To boost your store’s SEO, you also need to make sure your product pages are optimized. Here are a couple of things you can do to optimize your product pages:

  • Use the keywords you identified in the relevant places – in the page URL, in the product title, in the page title tag and meta tag, and in the product description.
  • Make sure that your title tags are well descriptive of the product.
  • Use the keywords in the alt text of your product images.
  • Improve page speed to decrease bounce rate.
  • Link the product page to other relevant pages on your store.

Using Email Marketing To Grow Your Online Store

Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels for driving sales to your online store

Email marketing allows you to convert visitors who’re simply browsing through your store into buyers, and turn current customers into repeat buyers by building nurturing your relationship with them and giving them incentives for becoming repeat buyers.

Here are a few reasons why email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing channels:

  • 59% of consumers prefer receiving communication from brands via email compared to any other channel.
  • 68% of millennials have had their purchase decisions influenced by promotional emails.
  • Email delivers the highest ROI compared to all other marketing channels. Every $1 you spend on email marketing will bring you about $42, which translates to 4,200% ROI
Email continues to deliver a strong return on investment-oberlo
Source: Oberlo

How To Grow Your Email List

Before you can start marketing your online store via email, you need to first collect your visitors’ email addresses. The best way to do this is to add an optin form to your online store

This way, even people who are just browsing through your store without any intention to purchase at that particular time can leave you their email address, allowing you to contact them in future with your offers and promotions.

You can also add an optin form to your social media pages, such that your followers can join your email list even if they have not visited your store. This works particularly well with Facebook.

To get as many people as possible to sign up to your email list, you need to offer a sign up incentive. For instance, you could promise your subscribers a discount on their first purchase, or access to exclusive deals.

What Emails Should You Send To Your Subscribers?

Once you have started building your email list, you might find yourself wondering what kind of emails to send to your subscribers. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of email marketing content ideas. 

Here are the different kinds of emails that you can send to your subscribers:

  • New products: Have you just started selling some new products in your store? Send out an email to your subscribers and let them know that they can now purchase these products on your store.
  • Holiday and seasonal promotions: Having sales and promotions during the holidays or a certain season. Email your subscribers and encourage them to take advantage of the sale.
  • Special discounts: You can also reward your loyal customers by emailing them special discounts that are available exclusively for them. Such offers can help boost your customer loyalty.
  • Promote your blog posts: You can also use your email list to drive traffic to your blog. Whenever you publish a new post on your blog, shoot your subscribers an email and ask them to check out the post.
  • Milestone emails: Is your business celebrating a milestone? Why not make your subscribers a part of your journey by sharing your milestones with them? For instance, if you are celebrating one year of being in business, you can announce your celebration to your subscribers and give them a special offer to celebrate the milestone.
  • Bringing back users: Did a customer abandon their shopping cart? Shoot them an email to remind them to complete the purchase, and even through in a discount as an incentive. Has a customer spent so long without making a purchase from your store? Email them and encourage them to check out your latest offers.

Email Marketing Tips To Boost Your Success

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your email marketing efforts and quickly grow your business:

  • Segment your lists: Instead of sending out the same email to everyone in your list, break down your email list into different segments of subscribers with similar characteristics. This allows you to send out emails that are highly relevant to your subscribers.
  • Personalize your emails: In addition to segmenting your list, you should also personalize your emails. You want the customer to feel like you are speaking to them directly. For instance, addressing your subscriber by their name makes them feel that this email was meant for them specifically and not anyone else.
  • Watch your email frequency: People don’t like receiving too many emails from brands. Therefore, don’t bombard your customers with too many emails. Only send out emails when you want to share something that will add value to your subscriber’s lives.
  • Optimize your emails for mobile: Most people read their emails on mobile devices than desktop. Actually, according to a report by Movable Ink, 66% of emails are opened on mobile devices. If your emails are not optimized for mobile, you are losing out on an opportunity to reach more of your subscribers.
  • Create a newsletter calendar: Instead of sending out emails randomly, create an email calendar to plan when you will send out your email newsletters. This allows you to prepare for your emails well in advance and prevents you from missing out on promotional opportunities.
  • Pick the right email marketing platform: If you want your email marketing efforts to be effective, you need access to the right email marketing platform. Based on our experience, we recommend using either ConvertKit or Constant Contact to manage your email marketing campaigns.

To learn more about how to use email marketing to grow your online store, check out our beginners’ guide to successful email marketing

Using Paid Advertising To Grow Your Online Store

Paid advertising is a great way of quickly driving traffic to your online store.

However, paid advertising should only be used once your store has gained some traction, and once you have tested your sales funnels and ensured that your funnels convert effectively. 

If you use paid advertising without testing your funnel, you could end up losing money by sending traffic to your online store but failing to convert this traffic into paying customers.

Here are the steps to follow when using paid advertising to grow your online store:

  • Determine what paid channel you’ll focus on: The first thing you need to do is to decide on the paid channel you are going to use to promote your online store. Some options here include Facebook, Google AdWords, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and so on. Your choice here will depend on the channel where your target audience spends most of their time.
  • Create a landing page: Once people click on your paid ad, they should be directed to a landing page where you’ll then collect their email addresses. To increase the chances of people sharing their email addresses, you need to have a valuable optin bribe to give them an incentive to sign up.
  • Promote your products using email marketing: Now that you have collected their email addresses, you can add them into your email list and target them with promotional emails that will help convert them into paying customers.

Another effective way to use paid advertising is to direct people to a webinar registration page instead of a standard landing page. This works particularly well if you have unique products that you need to educate your customers about.

If you choose to use this approach, your paid ad will be linked to your webinar registration page. After people have registered for the webinar, add them to an email campaign that will remind them to attend the webinar.

From there, go ahead and host the webinar and educate the attendees on the benefits of your product, and how your product will transform their lives. Conclude the webinar by encouraging them to purchase the product. You can even give a special discount to those who make a purchase directly from the webinar.

If you choose to use a webinar to promote and sell your product, we recommend hosting your webinar using Webinarjam. We have been using Webinarjam for all our webinars, and we love the fact that it is very easy to use, and the fact that it allows us to host up to 5,000 webinar attendees at a time.

Step 6: Find Optimization Potential Using Ecommerce Metrics And Analytics

Clever online store owners know that launching and marketing their online store is only half the battle. They know that the key to keeping an online store profitable is to constantly find ways to optimize the performance of their store.

Before you can optimize the performance of your store, however, you need a way of knowing how your store is performing currently. This is where metrics come in. Metrics are standards of measurement that are used to measure and compare performance.

Watching your online store metrics helps you to gain insights on areas of your store that you need to improve, and areas that are already performing well that you can enhance.

There are dozens of ecommerce metrics that you can measure and track, and the problem is, not all of them are really useful. So, the question is, which ecommerce metrics should you track in order to optimize the performance of your online store?

Below are 13 metrics you should keep your eye on.

Subscription Rate

Email is one of the most effective channels for marketing your online store, which is why you should focus on building your email list from the very first day you launch your online store.

This metric measures the number of people who opt in to your email list as a percentage of the total number of people who visit your store.

A high subscription rate is a healthy sign, since it means that a lot of those visiting your store are opting into your email list, giving you a chance to promote your products to them.

If your subscription rate is low, you can boost it by:

  • Adding an optin bribe to incentivize your visitors to sign up to your list
  • Using clear and highly-visible Calls-To-Action to encourage visitors to subscribe.
  • Reduce the number of fields on your optin form.
  • Leveraging pop-up forms to increase subscriptions.

Customer Acquisition Cost

If you are spending money to acquire new customers, you should be tracking how much it costs you to acquire each new customer. Why is this important?

Your customer acquisition cost affects the profitability of your online store. For your store to be profitable, your customer acquisition costs need to be lower than your customer lifetime value, and preferably lower than your average order value. 

A customer acquisition cost that is lower than your average order value will allow you to profit on each new customer you acquire.

It’s good to note that what constitutes a good customer acquisition cost will vary by industry. Here’s a graph showing different customer acquisition costs for various industries.

Customer acquisition cost
Source: DemandJump

Organic Traffic

Organic search is the greatest source of traffic for most online stores. Therefore, even if you might be attracting traffic to your store through other means, you need to track how much traffic you are attracting organically.

If you notice that your organic traffic numbers are low, you can give them a boost by:

  • Optimizing your home page and product pages for relevant keywords.
  • Performing on-page optimization on your product pages.
  • Making sure your online store is optimized for mobile.
  • Increasing your store’s load speed.
  • Adding a blog to your store and updating it with fresh content regularly.

To learn more about how to attract more organic traffic to your store, check out our beginner’s guide to search engine optimization.

Revenue By Traffic Source

The traffic to your online store will come from a lot of different sources – organic search, social media, email, paid ads, direct traffic, guest blogging, and so on. 

All these sources of traffic are not equal. Some could be sending higher quality traffic than others. Measuring your revenue by traffic source allows you to find out which traffic sources are driving the highest revenue.

For instance, you might notice that people coming to your store from Facebook are more likely to make a purchase than those coming to your store from Google.

Measuring your revenue by traffic allows you to focus on traffic sources that are driving the highest revenue and do away with sources that do not drive sales. 

For instance, if most of the customers coming from Facebook end up making a purchase, you can double down on your efforts to attract more traffic from Facebook. For example, you could increase your Facebook advertising budget. 

If, on the other hand, most of the people coming from your paid ads do not end up making a purchase, this shows that you are wasting your money on ads. The best course of action in this case would be to stop your paid ad campaigns.

Cart Abandonment Rate

This metric measures the number of people who add an item to their shopping cart (indicating purchase intent), but then abandon your store without going through with the purchase. 

According to SaleCycle, the average cart abandonment rate is 76.9%.

 Abandonment rates by industry
Source: SaleCycle

Tracking cart abandonment rate allows you to figure out if there’s something wrong with your online store. Some of the reasons why people could be abandoning their shopping carts include:

  • Lack of a suitable payment option for them.
  • Expensive shipping costs.
  • Unexpected costs.
  • They just wanted to compare prices.
  • They experienced a technical issue that prevented them from making the purchase.

If you notice that your cart abandonment rate is too high, here are a couple of things you can do to get more people to go through with their purchase:

  • Make it easier for your customers to navigate between product pages and their shopping cart.
  • Make it easier for your customers to save their shopping cart.
  • Improve your page load speed.
  • Target abandoners with emails encouraging them to complete their purchase.
  • Use exit-intent popups to encourage the customer to go through with their purchase.
  • Make sure that the cart is visible to the customer at all times.

Checkout Abandonment Rate

This metric is closely related to the previous one but is a little bit more specific. Checkout abandonment rate measures the number of people who begin the checkout process, but then do not complete the purchase.

Here are a couple of reasons why people might abandon your store during the checkout process.

Reasons for Abandonment during checkout
Source: SaleCycle

You can reduce your checkout abandonment rate by:

  • Providing multiple payment options
  • Making your checkout process shorter and faster.
  • Making the call to action buttons on your checkout page more visible.
  • Allowing customers to checkout without having to create an account.
  • Making sure the customer is aware of all costs right from the start.
  • Eliminating the customer’s risk by offering a money-back guarantee.
  • Using urgency to push the customer to make the purchase.
  • Adding trust signals to reassure the customer of the safety of their financial information.

Customer Engagement Rate

This metric measures how visitors are interacting with your online store. By tracking this metric, you can find out things like:

  • How much time people are spending on your product pages.
  • The number of visitors who return to your site after visiting it before.
  • The areas on your product pages that drive the most clicks.
  • How likely visitors are to share your store or products on social media.

Finding out this information is important because it helps you to identify and interpret the reasons behind customer behavior. You can then use this information to increase customer conversions.

Average Order Value

This metric measures the average amount of money your customers spend when checking out of your store. Measuring your average order value allows you to determine the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. 

For instance, if you are spending $50 on marketing to acquire one customer, but then your average order value is just $40, you could actually be losing money.

You can increase your average order value by:

  • Increasing the price of your products
  • Bundling products together and selling them as a package.
  • Offering free shipping for purchases above a certain order value.
  • Upselling products that go together with the product the customer is purchasing.
  • Selling add-ons
  • Offering discounts for orders above a certain order value.
  • Creating a loyalty program.

Sales Conversion Rate

This metric measures the number of people who make a purchase as a percentage of the total number of people who visit your site. Tracking this metric is crucial because it helps you to figure how much traffic you need to attract in order to reach your sales targets.

For instance, if your sales conversion rate is 5%, this means that for every 100 people that visit your store, 5 will make a purchase. Let’s assume your average order value is $50. In this case, to make sales worth $10,000, all you need to do is to find a way to bring 4,000 people to your store.

MarketingSherpa reports that an average sales conversion rate of 1% – 5% is fair, and anything above that is excellent.

Customer Lifetime Value

This metric measures the total amount a customer spends on your store for the entire duration that you retain them as a customer

Keeping track of this metric is important because it helps you determine how much you should spend on acquiring a new customer, and how much effort you should put into retaining them.

To increase your customer lifetime value, you simply need to find out ways to increase your average order value, maintain your relationship with your customers for a long period of time, and encourage them to make repeat purchases.

Purchase Frequency

This metric tracks the average number of purchases that an individual customer makes within a certain period of time. In most cases, purchase frequency is measured annually.

Purchase frequency is calculated by dividing the total number of purchases made within a certain period by the total number of unique customers who made purchases within that period.

purchase frequency equation
Source: Smile.io

A high purchase frequency helps boost the lifetime customer value of your customers. You can increase your customers’ purchase frequency by:

  • Encouraging product subscriptions: This involves getting a subscription package for a product, whereby the customer will have the product delivered to them every month. This works particularly well with products that are used on a regular basis, such as beauty products and consumable products.
  • Following up with customers after their purchase: Once a customer has purchased something from you, follow up with them to thank them for the purchase. Once they’ve had a chance to use the product, you can then email them and let them know about accessories that go well with the product.
  • Remarketing related products: Once a customer has made a purchase, you can target them with promotions for other related products that are frequently bought together with whatever they have purchased. For instance, if a customer purchased a DSLR camera, you can then promote a lens kit or tripod stand to them. 
  • Sending seasonal promotions: People are typically more willing to make purchases during holiday seasons. By targeting your customers with offers and discounts during holiday seasons and other special days, you can get them to make more purchases and boost their purchase frequency.

Best Performing Products And Categories

It is inevitable that some products and product categories will sell more compared to others. Identifying the best products and categories allows you to put more effort into promoting these fast-moving products.

For instance, if you notice that a certain product is in high demand during a certain season, you can feature this product on your homepage and give it more exposure, leading to even more sales.

Net Promoter Score

This metric measures how satisfied customers are with your products and your brand. The Net Promoter Score is based on a survey that asks your customers to rate on a scale of 1 – 10 how likely they are to recommend your products and brand to their friends, and to give a reason for their rating.

You can use tools like Promoter.io, Nicereply and Customer.guru to serve the Net Promoter survey to customers visiting your store.

You can then reach out the customers based on their survey response and find ways to build and enhance your relationship with them.

For instance, if a visitor gives a low score (not very likely to recommend your brand), you can reach out to them and find out what they dislike about your brand and what you can do to earn their loyalty. This is a great opportunity for you to collect customer feedback and use it to improve your business.

Similarly, if a visitor gives a high score (very likely to recommend your brand), you can reach out to them, thank them for being such raving fans of your brand, and reward them with discounts and offers to make them even more loyal to your brand.  

By tracking these 13 key metrics, you will be able to identify how well your online store is performing, and gain insights on how you can optimize your store’s performance and boost your profitability. 

Starting An Online Shop FAQ

What is the best online store builder to start?

While there are dozens of online store builders to pick from, the best online store builder for beginners are Wix and Shopify. If you have a small budget and want to start with a small, simple store, I recommend using Wix. On the other hand, if you have a larger budget, want to start a large online store, and are looking for lots of customization options, I recommend using Shopify.  

How can I make an online store profitable quickly?

To make an online store profitable quickly, you should start by picking the right niche and the right products. Next, you need to find reliable suppliers for these products. From there, you will need to build your online store with a good and reliable ecommerce platform

Finally, you will need to market your online store aggressively and constantly find ways to optimize its performance. If you follow these steps, you can go from scratch to having a profitable online store within a couple of months.

What things should I focus on when starting my online shop?

Here are 10 things you should focus on when starting your online shop:

1. Researching the market and understanding your target audience.
2. Picking the right niche and products.
3. Picking the right business model for your online shop – dropshipping, self-fulfillment, or third party fulfillment.
4. Finding reliable suppliers.
5. Finding a good brand name for your online shop.
6. Securing your domain name.
7. Finding the right ecommerce platform to build your online shop.
8. Determining the best shipping option for delivering order to your customers.
9. Building your email list.
10. Driving traffic to your online shop.

Which is the cheapest ecommerce platform?

The cheapest and most reliable ecommerce platform you can use to build your online store is Wix. Unlike all the other ecommerce platforms covered within this guide, Wix comes with an unlimited free plan that allows you to build your online store and sell your products for as long as you wish without paying a dime.

However, the free plan comes with a lot of limitations, and if you want to build a professional looking online store, I recommend going for their business basic plan, which costs just $17 per month.  

However, the free plan comes with a lot of limitations, and if you want to build a professional looking online store, I recommend going for their business basic plan, which costs just $17 per month.  

Do online store builders charge transaction fees?

Some online store builders charge transaction fees in addition to the monthly subscription fees, while others only charge a subscription fee to use the platform. 

For instance, platforms like Shopify and Wix charge a small transaction fee in addition to the fee you have to pay to use the platform. 

A platform like BigCommerce, on the other hand, does not charge any transaction fees. They only charge a monthly subscription fee to use their services.

How long does it take to create an online store? 

The length of time it takes to build an online store will depend on the kind of store you are building, the platform you are using to build the store, and even the number of products you need to add on your store.

If you are using an online store builder, you can have your online store ready within a couple of hours, or a few days at most. If you are building your online store from scratch using WordPress, on the other hand, you might need a couple of weeks to get the store up and running, depending on your coding skills.

Similarly, if you need to add hundreds of products to your store, it will definitely take you much longer to complete your store compared to someone who is building a small store with just 10 products. 

Ready To Get Your Fair Ecommerce Share And Open Your Online Shop?

With the ecommerce industry set to be worth over $6.5 trillion within the next couple of years, entrepreneurs are set to rake in big returns from the industry.

The good news is that you can also get your fair share of these trillions by starting your online shop today, regardless of your skills, experience, or financial situation.

In this guide, we have given you all the information you need to start your own profitable online store and get started on your journey to financial freedom. It’s now up to you to go out and implement everything you have learnt in this guide.

Here is a recap of the six steps you need to follow to build your own profitable online store:

  1. Find the right niche and profitable products to sell.
  2. Find reliable product vendors.
  3. Pick a brand name and register your domain.
  4. Create your online store using an online store builder.
  5. Build your marketing and sales funnel.
  6. Leverage metrics and analytics to find ways to optimize the performance of your online store.
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Martin Luenendonk
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