Plot your online business success!
Plan and Prepare for Your Online Success
Before opening an online store, make sure that you have a plan– or at least, a solid outline that can be developed.
Prioritize what you want to achieve with your store and consider your niche’s needs and wants, the best POD partners and products for your store, and a realistic operating budget.
You are in this game to create a website that is well-designed, user-friendly, and showcases your products to the best effect.
Building Your Online Store’s Foundation
Before opening an online store, it’s very important to do some homework and research. Ask yourself:
- Who is your niche?
- What will you sell that serves them? And, excites them?
- Is there anything trending now that I could apply in my niche?
- Which season is it? Are there any holidays approaching?
These are starting points that will guide your research and decision-making.
You will also have the tasks of setting up your business profile, choosing a domain name and hosting (your eCommerce platform), and designing your store.
Once you have your business profile set up, you can start to populate it with information about your store, its all-important policies, and your pricing and shipping profiles.
Make sure you have a clear understanding of the eCommerce platform you are using and the merchant account that will allow you to process payments. You should also acquire a PayPal business account in order to trade, as this is perhaps the most popular payment method globally.
Most eCommerce platforms offer multiple payment options to customers, including Stripe, Apple Pay, and Klarna. Investigate which actions you need to take in your store’s backend in order to facilitate these payment methods.
Your eCommerce platform in most cases will guide you in the setup of your payment pathways, or at least be available through their customer service or Live Chat feature to answer your questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them if you’re feeling stuck.
The lifeline that is Live Chat
Your Brand Identity – Choosing Your Domain Name
Your domain name is the bedrock of your brand. It should be relevant, somewhat catchy, and easy to remember.
Try to keep your domain name under 15 characters, and avoid the use of special characters such as hyphens or underscores. Nobody will likely ever remember them. Equally as important: ALWAYS go for a .com suffix. This will give your brand and store more global authority.
There are many domain name providers and hosts out there, so it is important to choose one that will fit your business and be easy for you to navigate.
Still, the average price of a domain will be under $10, so it’s not the time to be too cheap! A regular (not premium) domain is renewable annually, so that’s a less than $1 per month cost for this business element– which is more than reasonable.
The start of something beautiful
And, no, you do not have to plump for every upsell that pops up when you go to check out your brand-new domain! We absolutely recommend SSL certification— but only if your eCommerce platform does not have it built-in, as standard. Your site won’t register as ‘Secure’ without it, and that’s a big turn-off for online buyers. Don’t risk it.
You may also wish to pay a little extra for domain privacy, as it will be searchable under Whois for the business owner’s information. You probably like your privacy! Protect it.
What’s in a Logo?
Our best advice is to keep it simple! It might even be your store’s name in a bold font with no added elements. A simple, clean text logo that communicates solely through its font type is arresting, and will never go out of style. It doesn’t try too hard, and thereby lends trust to your site.
Take a good look online at other shops and see how they present their brand, and what mood they set. This will help to give you some ideas.
Designing Your Online Store
Once you have chosen a domain name and selected your eCommerce host, it is time to design your store. Here comes the fun part!
You can find many online store templates or create your own. Again, it will depend upon the eCommerce platform that you are using as to what your resources are.
Shopify, for instance, offers both free and paid themes. We recommend starting with a free theme, finding your feet business-wise, and then upgrading when you feel more confident and are making some sales. This would be one way of re-investing back into your business– and who doesn’t love to upgrade?
Make Your Online Store a Shopping Experience
Your goal is to create an online store that is visually appealing and easy to navigate. This will help you not only to attract customers but also to convert them into loyal, repeat buyers.
The most important aspect of designing your store is to be sure that it is easy for customers to find what they are looking for, so make sure your layout is easy to navigate and your products are presented clearly and attractively.
Always pay attention to your platform’s recommendations for banner and product image sizing and format. They’re there for a reason.
If any images are too large, they will not only be grainy or pixelated, this will negatively impact your website’s loading time, frustrating potential customers in the process. That is akin to turning customers away at your shop’s front door. Remember – first impressions count! You want your guests, or customers– to be able to wander in freely, and look around easily.
A welcoming, responsive online store = happy buyers!
Choose Your POD Printing Partners
You will of course need to decide upon your suppliers/printing partners.
The good news is, there are many out there from which to choose! And they’re all in competition with one another, which is even better news for you as a seller.
This translates to frequent catalog updates and special offers for you– and by extension, your customers. This will engage them at the first look, and keep them coming back to see what’s fresh and new.
Who Are the Main Players in Print-on-Demand Services?
Printify and Printful are the ‘Big Two’ in the print-on-demand eCom space. They aim to provide customers with unique print products and services.
Their easy-to-use interfaces and wide range of print products make them two of the most popular print-related startups on the market.
Some other POD suppliers are:
- Printed Mint
- Custom Cat
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and new providers do emerge from time to time.
Whichever one(s) you use, enjoy curating a product list that features only the items you truly wish to sell. This is when it really helps to know your target market and imagine what they are likely to buy! Maintain focus– and avoid selling products that are not relevant to your business or niche.
Beware the temptation of offering a smattering of ‘everything’ (the shotgun approach!) to try and please everyone. This will only water down your store’s impact and confuse potential buyers. You want– and need— a cohesive look in your store.
Opening an Online Store: Pulling it All Together
Take the time to create a detailed product description that provides buyers with all the information they need to make an informed purchase. This will help you to build trust and retain customers.
This is also the time to use keywords and tags in your descriptions, for better visibility in the market. Sprinkle them generously, and make them count!
Organize your online shop’s products into categories. This will help you whenever you need to make bulk edits, and also make it easy for shoppers to find the products for which they’re searching.
Categories will bring your store’s products into focus
Before listing your products, you should also decide on your profit margin(s), which may vary depending on the product. A 40% markup is a common industry standard, but research similar vendors in your niche to get an idea of competitive pricing bands.
Also, bear in mind that if you opt to offer free shipping across your store, this will mean increasing your margins to recoup actual shipping costs at the point of sale.
In summary, Print on Demand services are a great way to start an online business.
With these services, you can print products when and how you need them, without having to spend a lot of money upfront.
You can also set your own prices, which means you can make profits without having to invest a lot of money. Plus, you can control the quality of your products by paying attention to your suppliers’ feedback, often found on their websites.
No doubt, starting your own online business involves a lot to cover! In future posts, we will look more in-depth at printing providers, store design, and product presentation.
I hope that you’ll join me, and bring your entrepreneurial spirit!
To moving forward,
About the Author
Dani Sherman, CEO at EcomGemini
Dani's been immersed in the online space for the past several years, and she knows what it takes to establish a presence on multiple e-commerce platforms. She would like to help you get started with your own dreams of running a successful online business. Her weekly blog focuses on all things Print-On-Demand and eCommerce. So, check back often to see what's new, and to be inspired!