You can learn how to start an online store the fast, easy way. Internet sales topped $300 billion in 2015. Online businesses are booming, and an online store is a great way to start your own business.

Learn How to Start an Online Store the Fast, Easy Way

If you thought you had to invest a lot of money into a website, warehouse and inventory to start your own online store, you may be surprised to learn that there are many ways to start an online store without heft investments. This step-by-step guide will help you start your very own online store.

Three Ways to Own an Online Store:

You can establish your online store in several ways:

  1. By using an all-inclusive solution such as Shopify or Bigcommerce;
  2. By creating your own online store and selling affiliate products;
  3. By creating your own online store and selling crafts or products purchased wholesale.

All-Inclusive Solutions: Shopify and Bigcommerce

Think of Shopify and Big Commerce like “online stores in a box.” Add products and a bank account, do the online work of setting up your store’s look and feel with their templates, and voila – instead online store.

  • Shopify offers all-inclusive website hosting, shopping carts and payment processing for a low monthly fee. You pay one fee, and they host your website, manage your shopping cart, and process payments for you. You’re responsible for finding products and adding them to your online store. Shopify has many templates to choose from for your online store, but you can’t customize them easily. For a new store owner, it really does make setting up an online store fast and easy.
  • Bigcommerce offers a similar solution on a cloud-based platform. With beautiful modern themes, a fast shopping cart and virtually no downtime, your online store will be up and running quickly with their solution. Bigcommerce is used by many larger ecommerce stores, so it may be more suitable for your company as it grows.

Each of these solutions can make establishing your online store quick and easy. You will need to have your business bank account and/or PayPal account established before using these services. It’s also wise to have a business credit card available to set up the hosting payments.

An Online Store with Affiliate Products

Affiliate sales gives you a percentage or commission every time you make a sale. Amazon Affiliates is perhaps the best-known, but there are many other affiliates out there. You will need to set up a website and/or blog, add product using HTML code provided by the affiliate, and set up your affiliate accounts.

Affiliate vendors typically prefer a blog or website with content surrounding their products. Think of a book review blog using Amazon Affiliates codes to sell books, or a recipe blog featuring Plow & Hearth affiliate codes to sell kitchen supplies. If you love blogging or writing, and you want to make extra money with online store, Affiliate Stores may be a great option.

Some affiliates to try include:

Establishing Your Own Online Store

If you’d like to establish your own store without using an ecommerce vendor solution like Shopify

, and Affiliates don’t have the earnings potential you seek, you can use the third option: setting up your own online store.

You’ll need:

  • Products to sell
  • A domain name
  • A webhost
  • Shopping cart and payment processor such as PayPal
  • Business bank account and credit card

[IMAGE: http://depositphotos.com/search/online-retail.html?77vkd6&qview=60118273]

Step One: Decide What to Sell

Your first step is to decide what to sell. You should pick products that are in high demand, but also products that you enjoy selling, believe in, and understand. You’re going to spend a lot of time working with these products, so they should be something you enjoy and can explain to other people easily.

Researching trends helps you find products that may sell well now and in the future. Google Trends offers a free research tool to gain insights into trending topics. Online magazines like Internet Retailer can also help you find your niche.  

If you’re purchasing products wholesale, you will need a Resale Certificate. These are available from your state’s department of taxation. Your Resale Certificate proves to wholesale vendors that you are a legitimate business which will resell their products, charge the appropriate sales tax, and report it to the state.
Step Two: Establish a Business Structure

If you’re running an ecommerce site, you will need to establish a business structure for legal and tax purposes. You can run an ecommerce site as a sole proprietor, LLC, or corporation. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has comprehensive information on each of these structures.

Even if you establish your business as a sole proprietor, you should do two things:

  1. Set up a separate business checking and PayPal account to receive and make payments under your business name;
  2. Establish an EIN (employer identification number) to safeguard your personal social security number.

An EIN serves as a tax identification number in much the same way that a social security number identifies an individual. Businesses such as LLCs and S-corporations should set up an EIN upon incorporation. Individuals can apply for an EIN with the IRS.

Step Three: Set Up a Retail Sales Tax Account

Yes, you will need to collect and report retail sales tax. Don’t skip this step, as you can get into a lot of hot water by forgetting it!

Sales tax laws for internet sales are governed at the state level. The state where your main business office is located is the state whose laws govern how you collect taxes, what to charge, and where to report them. The link above will take you to a chart of states, and you can click on each state to find information on sales tax for your state.
Step Four: Purchase a Domain Name

You will need to name your online store, and it’s a wise move to buy a domain name that reflects your store’s name. You may also wish to purchase descriptive URLS that include keywords describing the products sold in your store and redirecting or pointing them to your main store. You can buy domain names from your web hosting vendor or companies like GoDaddy.com.

Step Five:  Find a Web Host and Build Your Site

[link to the other article about building a website] Webhosts hold the files for your website, and serve or display them to customers who type the URL into their website browser. They are paid on a monthly or annual basis. Some provide you with templates to help you design your website, while others require you to build it from scratch. The easiest way is to find a webhost that provides free templates.

A good internet store includes the following pages:

  • Home Page
  • Shop
  • Policies (shipping, return policies, etc)
  • FAQ
  • Contact
  • About

Your shopping page should be the most robust and may include may subcategories based on which products you’re selling. Make sure that your products are arranged logically so that they are easy for customers to find.

Big, bold, beautiful and clear pictures are a must for online sales. Because consumers can’t touch the products in person, the more pictures you have, the better. Take your own photos, or ask the vendors you’re purchasing from wholesale if they have images you can use. Many do supply their retailers with image CDs or libraries with permission to use the pictures.

A clear return policy, shipping policy and other policies is vital to a good online business. You need to make sure that customers can find any information they have about your company and its products quickly and easily on your website. Contact information is also important so that any problems can be resolved quickly.

Step Six: Add a Shopping Cart and Payment Solution

The easiest independent shopping cart and payment solution to add to an internet store is PayPal. It’s accepted worldwide, processes credit cards for you, and provides free HTML code to make payment buttons and shopping cards for your site. Simply open your PayPal account, link it to your business bank account, and use the site’s tool to make your shopping cart solution, product sales buttons and more.

Step Seven: Shipping Solutions

A good internet website ships promptly. If you’re shipping products from your home, an easy way to ship is by using the U.S. Post Office’s package pickup and delivery service. You’ll need to buy a postage scale to weigh your packages. The post office provides Priority Mail boxes free of charge. You can have the mail carrier pick up your packages at your home or office by signing up for Package Pickup services on the U.S. Post Office’s website. UPS is another popular carrier, and especially cost effective for larger packages.

Packing materials can be purchased at any office supply store. Make sure you package products with plenty of cushioning to prevent breakages. Experiment with air bladders, packing peanuts and bubble wrap to see which cushions your products the best while providing the lightest package. The lighter the package, the less you’ll need to charge in shipping costs.s

Step Eight: Launch Your Site

Once you have all of the products purchased, the domain in place and the store built, it’s time to launch your website. Make sure to test your site in multiple browsers to ensure it works properly. Give your site a test run by ordering a product as if you were a customer and making sure that the entire checkout process, from start to finish, runs smoothly.

Now you’re set. The next step is, of course, to promote your new ecommerce site to customers to generate business. With hard work and good luck, you’ll be all set to make your internet shop a profitable enterprise.