Yee Trinh
Yee Trinh Cofounder at

What are the first steps to starting an online shop?

I understand it's a very general question, but I'm looking to sell some goods online and I'm not quite sure where to start. How do I go about setting up an online store? Where is best to do so? 

Top voted answer
Greg Tomkins

Greg Tomkins, Director | Web Architect at

Top 10% Web Design

This is not a simple question Yee as there are so many aspects to be addressed and the answers will also depend on what sort of products you are selling, the size of your product range, your target market to name just a few.

All that aside however, you need to consider a number of things and I am assuming that you are wanting to set your store up on your own website rather than through a portal such as eBay. The following checklist is not exhaustive but can serve as a good starting point.

  1. Establish your Marketing and Branding strategy and plans - if you don't get this right up front then you will be wasting your time
  2. Understand very clearly how much effort and money you are prepared to invest in your new online store and what other resources you may need to pull it all together.
  3. Establish the business model for selling your product - pricing and discount structure, warranties/refund policies, what will be your distribution model, how you will effect delivery, online payment mechanisms, managing inventory
  4. If your online store augments a brick and mortar business, determine what level of integration you will require between your online sales and the other business sales systems
  5. Identify what sort of website you want and what information the site is going to share with your market
  6. Work out the sort of functionality you want to include in your website
  7. Work out the specific functionality you want in your online shop - size and number of product images, product sizing and colour attributes on products, variable pricing based on order quantities, related products for upsell, etc.
  8. Will you want to run special promotions of any kind and how would these be structured
  9. Do you have access to quality product images and copyright material about your products ready for inclusion in your website
  10. Identify other websites that exhibit the style and features you might like to see in your own website
  11. Identify the most appropriate platform for delivering your website - this will depend on the nature and scope of your online shop requirements but generally, for anything other than very small businesses, talk to a web developer or two and look to using one of these to build your site, implement it and incorporate your marketing initiatives.

I would not really suggest that any serious business look to building their own website. The demands of creating a professional website that will address all aspects of such a job are quite complex now and really beyond novices quickly jumping into some of these free or cheap web site builder products. Whilst some of these can do some very impressive things and easily create what appears to be a great website there are some serious downfalls for those looking to address requirements of a real business.

For further information you might wish to consider a series of articles I publish in one of our blogs Building a Better Online Business

Iain Dooley

Iain Dooley, Owner at The Procedure People

The first step to starting an online store is to go to AdWords and do keyword research to find out what people are looking for, then use that to choose a niche (see below for link to resources by Andrew Youderian which cover other factors in selecting a niche).

You can then put up a very simple page using one of the many free services for doing so, that shows some products. You could, for example, setup a shopify store with some products in it. You then run an AdWords campaign and see if you make some sales. Don't worry if you don't have the ability to fulfil the orders yet, just see if you get some, then write to the customers and apologise that you don't have the item in stock and refund their money.

Once you've established how much it costs to make a sale, and whether or not there is sufficient volume for what you're selling, work out suppliers etc.

Watch this Mixergy interview that takes you through this process: If you don't have a Mixergy premium membership already, you should get one so you can watch that interview, but also so you can watch all the other interviews and courses -- it's incredible. The most valuable business resource on the internet by far.

Also read everything here:

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

I disagree with a misleading approach. Don't set up anything to sell if you have zero product and are not ready to sell. Taking that approach you will sour your earliest customers and risk not only losing those customers when you are ready to launch, but potentially anyone within their direct word-of-mouth radius. If you want to set up a site or a mailing list for interest, great! You need a way to test the market to make sure there is demand, but doing so should not adversely affect the reputation you are trying to grow into a larger business. You could set up your site in a way where people cast votes and once a certain number of votes are reached you could then start selling that specific product. In the early days you especially need customer word-of-mouth that plays to your advantage.

Iain Dooley

Iain Dooley, Owner at The Procedure People

From the customer's perspective, nothing out of the ordinary has happened. It's common to try to order something online and have it go wrong, so long as you give them a refund there's no harm done. There is absolutely zero risk of getting bad word of mouth by doing this, and at any rate if the negative opinions of 3 or 4 people can persuade the entire market to never buy from you, the market is not very big ;) I just don't think you have much experience doing PPC marketing, it's a very good way to run controlled experiments like this.

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