Got a great idea for an online shop, but not sure how to make it a reality? Want to start selling your arts and crafts online, but not sure about where to start?
Don’t worry – we’re here to help.
Whether you want to sell homemade greetings cards, large scale artwork, homemade jewellery or something completely different, it’s never been easier to kick off your own online shop.You never know – invest your time well and be clear on your goals and it could become a lucrative side business.
The timing is right to kick off your new venture, too. As social distancing is likely to be around for a while, this could be a great opportunity to use your extra time to invest in that ecommerce idea that’s been bubbling away for months (or years). Here’s how to get started.
- Choosing your products
- Securing a niche
- Deciding on the branding
- Finding customers
- Working out shipping costs
- Choosing a hosting website
- Deciding on your payment platform
- Getting extra help
If you’ve got an idea for an online shop already, that probably means you know (or at least have a rough outline) of what you’re going to sell on it. This could of course be anything – it entirely depends on your interests. Vintage fashion, arts and crafts, floristry services, second hand books… the list is, quite literally, endless.
If you’ve got an idea, it’s time to look into how selling your product might work. Here are some questions that you might want to ask yourself…
- Is my product solving a problem – and if not, can I make slight alterations so that it is?
- What are other online shops doing – especially the ones that sell a similar product to me?
- Is my product broad enough to attract a lot of people, or should I be very specific in order to try and tap into a niche?
The thing that you need to be most clear about is exactly what you want your shop to do. If you’re clear about the value of your product, that means the messaging on your site and your overall passion is much more likely to shine through. And if it does, you have a much greater chance of potential customers hitting that “buy now” button.
One term that you’re likely to hear a lot as you build your online shop is “unique selling point”, aka USP. This is the one thing that sets your offering out from the crowd, allowing it to tap into a unique need or market that other online shop owners might be overlooking.
It might seem strange at first, but having a clear niche that no one else is covering is much more likely to find you sales than if you’re selling a familiar product in a crowded market. After all, if you can cut out the competition people are more likely to find their way to you and go on to buy.
In order to establish what your USP is, try to sum up your product in one catchy sentence. Make sure it encapsulates exactly what it is and why it’s unique. Think of this as your elevator pitch to new customers, and use it whenever people ask you to describe what it is that you do. And make it as easy to understand as possible! No one likes to be confused, but if you’ve got a compelling topline for your online shop people are much more likely to understand and – crucially – visit it.
Your branding needs to be reflected in every aspect of messaging on your site. This means that your design, logo and copy (aka the words on your site) need to be eye-catching and clear enough so that the user immediately understands what your offering is. You need to ensure that these key aspects of your online shop compliment each other as well as getting your key message across.
Of course, this might not be the easiest thing to do – especially if you’re solely focused on the product and not used to crafting sales copy or designing a compelling user journey. Unless you have a background in user-focused design, SEO and/or content marketing, you might need to get some extra help here. More on that below…
An important one! You might have the best website in the world and a useful, beautiful and/or compelling product, but if no one can find your site you’re not going to make any sales.
There are lots of ways that you can market your online shop and increase your likelihood of getting customers through the (virtual) door. You’ll need to pay attention to all of the following:
Create pages on Facebook, Instagram and (if appropriate) Twitter, where you can start to build a following by posting images of your product and making sure you interact with similar brands. Social media can be one of the best ways that you can get in touch with customers, and lets them contact you easily too. Make sure you respond quickly and clearly, so they know that you’re a trustworthy site!
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the web strategy that determines how high you place within search engines such as Google. SEO is a constantly evolving medium, which means it can be hard to stay on top of its ever-changing nuances. The basics, though, include ensuring that the keywords that potential customers are searching for are included on your site. It’s important that, as you build your online shop, you pay attention to this.
PR might be something to think about further down the line, but when you do have the time to consider it it can be an incredibly useful tool. Successfully built your shop and want to advise others on doing the same? Got a niche that other people might be interested in learning about? Want to talk about launching your online shop during social distancing, and how the context helped your business? Make sure your profile is uploaded on places where journalists might be looking for comments for their pieces (like Cision) and ensure you’re always available for comment in news and feature stories. If people start seeing your business’ name in the press, and journalists start linking to your site in their stories, you’re onto a winner.
With a clear idea of what product or products you’re going to sell, you should be able to work out the rough weight of the package or packages that you’ll need to post out when you do start making sales. Once you know this, you can list domestic and international shipping prices or your website.
Of course, if it’s going to cost a huge amount of money to ship to the USA (for example) you might decide that it isn’t worth it and that you’re going to only sell within the UK. That’s totally ok – it’s your shop, after all!
Do you want to build your own site, thus giving yourself complete creative control? If so, a hosting site like WordPress or Squarespace might be a good idea. These giants of the industry have ecommerce plug-ins that you have total control over. They also have themes that you can select that will be specifically geared towards online shops, making the building and maintenance of your site fairly straightforward.
Of course, this might all seem like a bit of a hassle – especially if you’re not used to working with websites or designing things yourself. If that’s the case, look at sites like Etsy that can host your shop for you. The craft platform has millions of users, so hosting your shop here increases the likelihood of them finding you via a site they’re already using.
As you’re planning on selling items to the public through your online shop, you need to make sure the user experience (aka UX) is as seamless as possible. This is part of web design, and one aspect of your online shop that will need to pay close attention to it is the stage where people pay.
Luckily, there are various plug-ins and platforms that you can use to help create a seamless payment experience. Options include Stripe and Paypal, which are systems designed for easier ecommerce payments. If you’re planning on using a website for your online shop, you should look into whether these platforms will work for you.
Of course, you don’t have to use a website that you’ve built yourself. If you think building a site to host your online shop might be too much work or that you won’t have time to maintain, try an ecommerce option like Shopify instead. Shopify is a subscription service that lets you use its selling platform, so you don’t have to pay for web hosting yourself. Over a million businesses worldwide use it, so you can be reassured that it’s trustworthy and (equally as important) really works.
Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself. You should definitely think about designers, copywriters, SEO specialists and web developers who you can employ to help you out, especially in the beginning. Think about people you know within your wider network, but also look on sites like Fiverr for creatives in search of projects. Getting professionals on board will make your life easier and contribute towards making your online shop a success, even if there is an initial investment in the work that’s needed. We promise that it’s the easiest way to9 make your hard work pay off!
Have you successfully launched an online shop? We’d love to hear about how you did it. Let us know over on the forums.