Online Store Building: A comprehensive checklist to create an awesome online store

Introduction

In the last article, we learned about what all things to consider before starting. In this, I will be giving you a step by step guide to set up an Online Store.

And what if I tell you, you can get an up and running eCommerce website for FREE without any prior coding knowledge?

Well, to be honest, it is not entirely free, but I can surely help you out with an eCommerce store  with minimum investment.

Now, this article is a basic guide or you may call a blueprint to set up an online store and I will be diving deep into each of them to give better insights.

Step 1: Choose a Profitable Niche

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This is the most fundamental setup you need to do to start with your online store. 

If the stuff that you are selling is not profitable then it’s a moot point to go ahead with the business. You would not want to lose money would you?

So first you have to figure out what you want to sell.

Now, I have mentioned this in the previous article. For your first online business, it helps if you already know stuff.

A good example would be, let’s say you’re a carpenter, you know what type of tools to use and what is the best quality of tools that are needed.

All you have to do it, connect with the manufacturer who builds such tools and ask him to supply them to your customers.

As simple as that. 

In the future posts, we will dive deep into this, we will also discuss on how to actually do research on tools that you don’t know about or at least find a guy who does.

Step 2: Choose a Platform to Build your Website

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Have you chosen your niche? 

Great, you have taken the first step. Next, you have to choose a platform online where you want to sell.

You can sell on Amazon or Facebook, Instagram or even have your own online store.

Now I like the last option much better. Because, in third party agencies like Amazon, eBay, FaceBook etc., you have certain restrictions.

You may not be allowed to sell everything you want. There are guidelines to follow and you have to pay a cut of your profits every time, because, let’s be honest, you are using their platform for business.

With your own store you don’t have that problem at all. You can sell whatever you want and pick whatever price you want below registered MRP (Maximum Retail Price).

Now to build your own store, you can hire a developer who can build a store for you using various coding languages to a and a designer with a sense of graphic design (like me ;-)) who can design your website to give it a professional look.

There is another simpler way.

That is to build an online store using various CMS (Content Management System) such as Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento or Woocommerce.

Now my personal favourite is Woocommerce (Why?)

Woocommerce powers more than 40% of the eCommerce website, the next CMS in the ranking are Shopify, Wix, Magento, followed by Prestashop. (Source)

There are many more platforms but let us stick with these for now.

My personal opinion is to go with woocommerce because the customisations are limitless. 

In others, you are bound by certain rules. But hey! If you are a guy who doesn’t want to hire any web designer then go ahead with shopify, sites look beautiful but the themes are kind of repetitive.

Step 3: Choose the Perfect Domain Name

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Once you have decided what platform to choose, you need to purchase the perfect domain for your website.

Now, it’s always a wise choice to go for a .com domain name.

If you want to sell your products inside your country you can pick a country-specific domain name (such as .in or .us or .uk etc.). But I would still recommend going for a .com domain name because you may wanna go international someday. Even if you don’t, your audience will remember a .com much easier than any other.

Now usually you’ll get a domain for 10 USD per year. 

You can get it easily from GoDaddy or NameCheap. They have got good customer service. It’s also good to just buy a domain from your hosting provider. That way you don’t have to go through the troubles of changing the nameservers.

There are certain instances where you do not get your required domain name, most probably because someone else has already purchased it. In that case you may have to reach out to that person and see if the person is ready to sell the domain.

You might have to spend quite some money on it if you really really want that domain, but you can always pick another one and almost all domains get updated at around the same 10USD cost.

Some domain finder tools that I use are InstantDomainSearch and LeanDomainSearch. Will discuss them in detail in some later section.

Now for picking the hosting for your eCommerce website, I would recommend going for a cloud hosting plan.

A cloud web hosting is a hosting where your website uses the virtual resources of several different servers to handle your website functionality. At a later point we will discuss why cloud hosting is best for eCommerce websites but here, you just have to know that the site load is balanced and the security is better optimized in the cloud plan.

Now, if you are a Shopify fan, you don’t need to purchase a cloud plan separately, because you will be using shopify servers which are really pretty good, but if you want to use them on wordpress, you should definitely pick a good web hosting platform.

Few of the highly recommended hosting plans are listed as follows:

WordPress recommends the following hosting plans for building websites.

  1. Site Ground
  2. Blue Host

Though, the one I personally recommend is WPX Hosting. Mainly because of their powerful hosting and custom CDN. It hardly costs 30 USD a month and its totally worth the money.

You can learn a lot more about it. Just check out the embedded video below.

Step 4: Install WordPress

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Once you have purchased the domain and hosting, all you have to do is log in to your cPanel through the hosting account.

Once you are in the cPanel there are a couple of things you have to do, (i) install the SSL certificate and (ii) install wordpress.

In order to install an SSL certificate, just head over to cpanel and search for SSL/TLS status and click the same option. You’ll be able to see a number of domains and subdomains. Just select them all and click on autorun SSL certificate.

That will add an SSL certificate to your domain.

Then you will have to enter a software installer and select wordpress.

Select your domain name, enter your admin username and password and install it.

BOOM! You have your wordpress website installed.

Few more sub-steps to go before you start making your store.

(i) Go to your settings in the dashboard and click ‘Permalinks’. In this section, change the permalinks format to ‘Post Title’. It helps with optimizing your store for the search engines.

(ii) Head over to the privacy tab and make your site private. This is done so that any “wrong” SEO juices to the search engines.

Step 5: Install the appropriate Theme and START Designing

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For this step, I highly recommend you to contact a web designer who can build a professional website for you. Like me. You can hire me for it, or if you know someone who can build it pretty well, go ahead and contact them.

But if you really want your website to look professional I suggest you buy premade themes from ThemeForest. I like the Flatsome Theme. It hardly costs 60 USD and it is totally worth the investment.

If you want to go with the free version I suggest you get WPAstra Themes which have really good premade templates to work on.

Step 6: Installing appropriate Plugins and WordPress builders

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With the Astra Themes or whatever theme you purchase,  you might have to install a couple more plugins, (i) Elementor and (ii) Ultimate Addons for Elementor and (iii) woocommerce

You can start designing your own website, and I will be posting shortly how to design awesome professional online stores and get them up and running.

But for a short intro to all of them, Elementor is an awesome page builder which lets you customize almost anything on your website. It’s easy to use with all sorts of animation features. I will be launching a full tutorial on elementor soon.

Ultimate Addons for Elementor is another product of Brainstorm Force, the same guys who built the Astra Themes. The plugin adds extra features to Elementor for its customization in Astra Theme.

If you are interested in WordPress, you must definitely have come across the term Woocommerce.


Well Woocommerce is a plugin that adds shop and cart functionality to your online store.

I’d rather say, woocommerce makes a website, an online store.

Apart from this there are several others such as contact form7, RankMath, W3 Cache, iSecurity & Site Reviews. But we will discuss all that at a later section.

Step 7: Configure Woocommerce – Add Products, Payment and Shipping

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Okay Once you have installed and activated woocommerce, it is time to configure it.

Once activated, woocommerce will take you through a setup wizard where you can add business details, payment options, shipping options and rates and if you want, some complementary plugins.

You can have paypal as well as stripe payment gateways installed.

After the successful setup of woocommerce, you can go ahead and start adding products.

To add products, you just have to go to the products bar in your dashboard and click on ‘add new’.

From here on you can add product titles, description, and pictures relevant to your product.

You can add Simple products, Grouped Products, Affiliate Products, Variable Products, Downloadable as well as Virtual Products.

Step 8: Add Content that converts

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One of the most important aspects of your online store is writing a good copy. Many people come and ask me what is the use of written words in the world of videos and pictures.

Let me tell you this, a person who is really looking for your product will definitely read every detail of it.

Videos and pictures help grab attention, text is what converts them.

So make sure you write everything about the product that is needed by the customer.

It also helps to add an FAQ section where the customers clarify their most common doubts.

Step 9: Bring in Customers – Market your Store

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Now that you are life, all you need is to market your website, bring in customers and make money from sales.

Here are a few strategies that you can adapt.

  1. Content Marketing: Include a blog section and write articles about your blog. This will improve your SEO and help bring free traffic. Also optimize your product description to fit searched keywords in your niche. That’ll do it.
  2. Social Media Marketing. Invest some money in Facebook Ads or LinkedIN ads wherever your audience hangs out. If you spend a dollar on an ad and get 10 dollars in return, you are highly profitable. 

Conclusion

These steps are just a basic guidance for making an online store. You can use them as a checklist while building it as this is an usual process of building an eCommerce website now.

I will go into each of them in much more detail and guide you through each step in making an awesome eCommerce Website.

Go ahead and let me know what you thought about it in the comments.

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