In the age of eCommerce, starting and running your own business is easier than ever before. However, starting an online store can be more complicated than it looks. For most people, it’s not as simple as making a decent website and putting your products up for sale. If you aren’t careful, you can cause your business to fail before it’s ever gotten off the ground. Below are a few simple steps to follow to make sure that you’ve done the proper groundwork and made the right connections to ensure your online project grows into a successful business.

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  1. Choose a Niche

Before you’ve done anything, the first thing to decide is what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to. This might sound obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people start designing their online storefront before they have a clear idea of what their product actually is. It’s not enough to just say “I want to sell handmade soaps” or “I’m a freelance writer.” Know exactly what products or services you’re selling, how much you’re charging, and how you’re going to get them to your customers. It’s also very important to consider who you want your customers to actually be. “Everyone” is not a target audience, and gives you nothing to work with as far as forming a marketing strategy. If you’re selling handmade soaps, what kind of people do you want to attract to your store? If you’re a freelance writer, what kind of people do you really want to have as your clients? Having a clear idea of what kind of customers you want to attract to your site will inform how you advertise and operate your business.

  1. Decide on a Delivery Method

Once you’ve decided what you’re selling and how you’re selling to, the next step is to determine how you’re actually going to get those produces or services to the customers. This is often fairly easy to work out if you’re selling a service. If you’re selling products, however, then you need to decide if you’re going to be dropshipping or holding your own products. Holding your own products, of course, is the more traditional method. Whether you’re running a warehouse or just stashing your products under your bed, you have a set inventory waiting to be shipped out every time someone makes a purchase. The advantage of this, of course, is that you have full control over the shipping and delivery process. The disadvantage is that… well, you have full control. You know exactly what’s going on at all times, but you’re also personally responsible for overseeing the shipping and delivery process.

Dropshipping, on the other hand, means that you collaborate with a supplier to store your product. Instead of holding your own inventory, you purchase your inventory wholesale from a third party. Every time a customer makes a purchase through your online storefront, the order is forwarded to the dropshipping provider, who then takes care of shipping and delivering the product to your customers. The problem with dropshipping is that it costs more money upfront, but in the long run, it can save you quite a bit of time and energy, especially as your business starts growing.

  1. Choose a Name

Once you’ve worked out the logistics of what you’re selling, it’s time to choose a name for your business. This is a deceptively simple part of the process, so be careful not to underestimate how important your business’s name actually is. Remember, you don’t have a physical building to entice people to come in and shop. The very first impression anyone will get from your store is the name, and that can sometimes be enough to entice or turn away potential customers. You also want to make sure that your name is catchy without being too complicated or difficult to spell. You want people to be able to remember what your business is called so that they can come back to it. Something too bland will be forgettable, but something too complicated will be difficult to recall, recommend to others, or translate into a domain name.

  1. Create your Storefront

Only now are you ready to actually create your online store and make your products available for purchase. Thanks to a growing number of available eCommerce services, creating a fully-functional storefront is actually incredibly easy. There are a number of platforms out there that are specifically designed for building eCommerce sites that will help you to create a complete store from scratch, with no programming knowledge required. If you are already familiar with a certain CMS, there are also plenty of apps, plugins, and widgets that can turn a generic website into an online store with a few simple adjustments. No matter how you choose to create your store, the number one thing to consider is functionality and ease of navigation. If customers can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll go somewhere else.