Should you open your own online store?

Should you open your own online store?

The economic recovery for most is much slower than the news would lead you to believe. Many people ask themselves, “How can I supplement my income so I can provide more for my family?” The perceived hot trend to achieve this goal is doing business on the Internet—but it’s not as easy as it seems. Before you go and open an online store, you need to fully understand what online stores are.

Online stores aren’t much different than brick-and-mortar stores, except you don’t have to worry about paying rent or having a lot of money tied up in inventory. In online stores, you still need to present the right product at the right time at the right price. You still need to be very clear about what you’re selling and project stellar customer service.

The first hurdle to overcome is deciding what to sell. It’s always a lot easier and a lot more fun to sell something you’re passionate about. This way, the long hours you spend with your online store become more engaging and less work. Many products are more conducive to selling online, such as jewelry, clothing or school supplies, while other products are more difficult to sell when they cannot be seen in person, such as refrigerators or leather sofas. So, questions to ask yourself about what to sell in your online store include:

• Can I sell a digital product that can be shipped directly over the Internet (such as an e-book), or must I sell a physical product that must be shipped?
• Will you specialize in one product category such as pets or party supplies, or will you offer a wide selection of products?
• Do you need to store inventory or can you find a company to ship to you?
• Will you be creating your own product to sell? If so, are you going to do it yourself or do you need to establish a relationship with a supplier who will manufacture it for you?
• How will you ship your product? From your home, warehouse facility, or third-party warehouse freight forwarder?

The second hurdle to overcome is finding the niche customers who will buy from you. You need to list what sets your site apart from all the other similar sites (and no kidding, they are out there) found online. So, to find the right niche:

• Research the competition and if you can’t beat them with product, price or customer service, find another niche. Go to major marketplaces like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears, Rakuten, Tiger Direct or Newegg to see who’s already selling and see if you can do it better, faster or cheaper
• Become an expert in what you sell. Showcase your passion for your products through original content that sets you apart from the crowd. The more originality you add to the site, the more you stand out
• Make sure it’s easy to buy from your site. Even if the products are similar to other online sites, you will set your site apart by making shopping easier. The faster you can get customers to like the products to close the sale, the more you’ll stand out from all the competition

There are many places on the internet that can help you open your dream store. “Build it and they will come” sounds good in the movies, but it doesn’t work the same way with online stores. Marketing your site with search engine optimization, paid search, emails, affiliates, etc. will be the subject of another article.

Be sure to partner with a company that offers an easy and fast way to launch a site. A company like this will have several website templates to choose from and you can sell as many products as you want. In fact, a good company will have products already uploaded to your site, so you can decide if you want to sell all of them or just a few sections. There should be no limit to the number of pages you can create and the site should be integrated with a shopping cart so you can start selling in less than an hour.

We return to the original question of whether you should open your own online store. It’s cheap to get started if you find the right store building partner and the right product supplier for you. It can become a black hole if you start throwing money at every marketing scheme that comes along. So like any business, it takes time to build. If you are an entrepreneur, an optimist and a hard worker, then you should be in the online store business. If you think that if you pay for a site and all you have to do is sit back and watch the revenue stream in, then an online store is not for you. The Internet is still the Wild West. Learn how to do Internet Guerrilla Marketing with your online store, show your customers that you are passionate about what you sell, and it can be a fun way to make a living.

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