How to Start an Online Store & why you should
(It's actually not as self-serving as you think)
Whenever I talk with someone about how to start an online store or whether it’s a good idea for them, I think back to when we were still trying to figure it out for ourselves & how we were going to feed our family. You may not believe it but it was full on struggle bus when we started ALP & we were desperate, so if you’re in the same position of not knowing if you’re going to be able to buy groceries next week (or today), keep your head up! You got this.
First off, how do you begin? With an idea – find a niche that you enjoy working in, whether it’s local services, virtual assistance, selling your artwork, dropshipping, social media management, or whatever it is you like to do, so long as that happens to be legal, and come up with a business plan. Who is your ideal customer & where do you find them? There’s a near certainty that your perfect customer is online & a very good chance that they’re on some online markets that you can use to begin as you work on how to start an online store (you see where this is going).
Let’s use Etsy as our online marketplace example – at the time of writing this post, Etsy claims nearly 36 million active buyers. Think about that for a second – if you had a product that Etsy allows for sale on their platform that appealed to a tenth of that number, that’s a potential 3.6 million customers. It costs 20 cents to list a product for sale on Etsy & very little in terms of sales fees, so you could have your Etsy shop opened up in no time, set your tags to optimize your product for Etsy search results & wait for your clientele to start engaging with you.
One thing that people prize in the marketplace is service
Of course it’s not going to be easy, is it? Etsy has some fierce competition with their 1.98 million sellers & Etsy shop owners can get pretty emotional with one another at times because they usually care deeply about what they’re offering & they don’t understand why potential customers might pass them by in favor of what appears to them as an inferior product. There are any number of reasons that might happen but one thing that people prize in the marketplace is service. It’s actually pretty easy to provide a much better customer service game than most competitors without disrespecting yourself by just treating your potential & current customers the way you’d like to be treated yourself. You don’t have to be pushy, sneaky, clever, begging, or anything like that … your customers are people just like you & they tend to prize the same kind of treatment.
So keeping up the customer service & treating people like human beings will get noticed, especially in a place like Etsy, where they track customer satisfaction in a variety of ways. Your shop will be thriving & pretty soon you’ll find yourself in a position where you need to make a decision on what to do next … what to do, what to do? I know! Let’s get back to that original question of how to start an online store – let’s set up your own website!
Yo dog, if business is doing that great why would I want to do that?
Funny you should ask, we were in this exact position so I can tell you exactly why & it should give you enough pause to realize the genuine need for your own website – you don’t own your Etsy shop, they do. Regardless of the platform, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Poshmark, Reddit, etc. you don’t actually own your account, it’s owned by the platform & they can essentially do as they please with it, even if it means having a negative effect on your account. So you really need a website that you have complete control over to ensure the future of your online business because that’s the only place you have peace of mind.
When Etsy started making changes to their search algorithm to make it smarter by incorporating AI into it, our Etsy sales t a n k e d
Our own Etsy shop has always done pretty well but when Etsy started making changes to their search algorithm to make it smarter by incorporating AI into it, our Etsy sales t a n k e d & if we’d not had our own website already set up & doing well in its own right, it would have been right back on the struggle bus instead of a bump in the road – we definitely weren’t the only ones, either, it was pretty widespread panic among Etsy shop owners when they were updating the system. We’ve since worked very, very hard to regain ground on our Etsy marketplace & have learned how to work with the fickle creature that it is in our own circle & to respond to changes as they occur.
This begs the question of why you might want to start on a marketplace like Etsy in the first place, if they can affect your livelihood that dramatically and by accident. Education is the shortest answer – you need to learn the ropes for your own online marketplace activities & a platform like Etsy is perfect for that with its minimal operating costs, robust infrastructure, & great customer visibility. Once you’ve proven that it can work for your needs, you’ll have a lot of handy knowledge about how to operate online that you can put to work when you … start an online store! Your own this time, though.
What type of online store should you open? It just depends!
So what type of online store should you open? Where should it be? What platform should you use? Wix? Squarespace? Shopify? WooCommerce? The answer, of course, is … it just depends! It depends on your business needs & where you need to take your business once you venture out on your own. Maybe you need to offer product pins or to be able to easily & automatically sync your new products with your Facebook Shop, maybe you need to easily be able to offer subscription-based products, maybe you need to rank in local search results. You can do all of that & more on a variety of platforms & while we definitely have our own opinion & preference on this, we think it’s an amazing & exciting opportunity for you once you get to this point, almost like starting a new job! You might not believe it, but it genuinely makes my pulse quicken to think about starting a new venture like that – it’s so satisfying!
Whatever you do & however you do it, we wish you all the success in the world & when the copycats come along & try to take a piece of your action, keep it classy!