Step 2: Choose an online store builder
Once you’ve got something to sell, you’ll need to find a place to start selling it online. As we mentioned earlier, even if you’ve already got a physical location where you sell your wares, it’s important to have an online, omnichannel presence so you can reach your customers no matter where they might be.
There’s no shortage of online store builders on the market today—including WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and PrestaShop, to name a few—each one offering varying degrees of sophistication and its own unique set of features. So whether you’re the tech-savvy type who wants to be able to customize everything, or you’re just looking for an easy-to-use option that allows you to build an online store as quickly as possible, it’s important to research your options and find the one that makes the most sense for your business.
Note: If you’ve only got one item to sell (or you’d prefer to dip your toes in the e-commerce waters before making a big commitment), you might also want to consider Mailchimp landing pages as an option. Mailchimp offers an integration with Square payments so you can sell an item (and accept payments) directly from a landing page—with no e-commerce store required. It’s a great way to launch a new product, run a targeted promotion, or sell a limited edition item, while still giving shoppers a seamless buying experience.
Questions to ask before selecting an online store builder
No matter your technical proficiency or what type of stuff you’re planning to sell, there are a handful of questions that every potential online seller should be asking a store builder about how to start an online store.
1. Does it come with a domain and hosting?
A branded domain name and a web host are must-haves for any online store, which is why many store builders have started to offer these services to users. If you don’t already have a domain and host lined up for your new store, selecting a builder that provides them for you can be a real time-saver.
2. Does it connect with other marketplaces like Amazon or eBay?
Some merchants, especially sellers who already have an established brand identity, want the freedom to list their products across multiple sales channels. If your goal is to expand beyond a single branded online storefront, look for a builder that offers that type of scalability.
3. How does it handle inventory management and shipping?
If you’re selling a physical product, you’ll need access to tools that help you keep track of your inventory and ship stuff out to customers in a timely manner. Some store builders will have built-in solutions available to help you address those concerns, while others might require you to find and install plugins.
Social media sites—particularly Facebook and Instagram—have become critical marketing tools for online sellers. Be on the lookout for a store builder that makes it easy to promote and share your products across all of your social channels—it’s a great way to reach new audiences, build brand awareness, and drive sales.
Your relationship with customers shouldn’t begin and end when they exit your site or buy something from your store. As you’re growing your business, you’ll need tools like abandoned cart emails to remind people about stuff they leave in their shopping cart and order notification and confirmation messages to let shoppers know their order has been processed and is on its way.
6. If you answered “no” to questions 4 and 5, does it integrate with other apps or services that offer those features?
Your preferred store builder might not offer all of the features you need to both sell your products and manage your marketing—and that’s okay!
If you’re not able to find an all-in-one solution that makes sense for your business, there are other services on the market—like Mailchimp for example—that integrate with many store builders and will provide you with the tools you need to get the word out about your business and drive traffic to your online store. With Mailchimp, you can create Facebook, Instagram, and Google remarketing ads, send automated abandoned cart emails, create order notifications that match your brand, generate personalized product recommendations, and a whole lot more.