Start your own online shop

start your own online shop

Online shopping is now mainstream, and this means that there are more opportunities than ever before to buy your favourite stuff online for good value. The advent of online shopping has also meant that there is a bigger marketplace, allowing more goods to get sold and creating exposure for small time sellers.

While it’s easy to set up an eBay shop, you’ll be typecast as a ‘poor quality, large quantity’ seller, with less say over your price. Selling via eBay is also far less impressive (if your aim is to start a shop, make some money and boost your resume).

It’s a relatively simple process to start your own online shop.

Platform

There are a range of platforms for you to start your own online shop. Shopify and BigCommerce are popular ecommerce specific platforms, while WordPress is the most popular website platform in the world.

Shopify has a range of good templates for online shops, allowing you to make sure you get the look and feel you’re after. There are also a few features that can make your life easier. The downside, is that you will be spending a minimum of $29USD every month, with ongoing transaction fees.

BigCommerce was started by an Australian, and has grown to become one of the biggest providers of ecommerce websites worldwide. Unfortunately, in my experience their customer service has been very poor. For this reason, I would steer clear of them.

Probably the best option is to start your own website using the WordPress platform. It’s the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world, which means there are heaps of other people who can help you solve any issues that pop up. Not only that, but there are a range of features, with so much customisation available (often for free) it can make your life easy.

Domain name

Choosing a domain name for your online business can be daunting. What you need to do is take into account what you’re selling, making it easy for people to find your website.

If you already have a name in mind, do a search online and see if it is available. This can be done via Whois or on a domain registrar’s website (eg Crazy Domains). Choose something that reflects your business, and also provides a little bit of personality as well. You won’t want to compete purely on price – if you provide a good experience for customers, you will do better in the long term.

Difference between .com and .com.au

Domain names can determine your customers. If you have a domain name ending with .com, you will attract potential customers from around the world. Whereas if you have a domain name ending in .com.au, then you will only receive Australian business. It’s well worth noting that you will require a valid ABN number if you plan on purchasing a.com.au domain name. With greater worldwide exposure, comes potential hacking and spamming attacks. Ensure that you use a quality web host to prevent these attacks from becoming successful.

It’s important to note that a perfect domain name is now less relevant for search engines. That is, tshirts.com.au is less likely to automatically pop up higher in search results for t-shirts simply because of the exact domain name. Website content is far more valuable and a better indication of how a website will perform. In other words, don’t be sucked in by fancy domain names claiming that they will help you get higher search engine rankings and subsequently higher customer traffic to your website.

Web hosting

Web hosting is important for your website, and it is important to realise that you get what you pay for. GoDaddy and HostGator offer incredibly cheap hosting solutions, but this is for a reason. Your website will be thrown together with others (making it slow and cumbersome), and you will have limited functionality.

The alternative is to use a premium web hosting service. Student View is hosted on WP Engine, and I have hosted ecommerce websites on WP Engine with fantastic results. WP Engine only host websites that are using WordPress, and are able to focus their resources on providing excellent hosting and experienced customer services staff.

Benefits of using WP Engine

  • Security. Security is obviously extremely important for an online shop. WP Engine uses premium, WordPress-specific web hosting security solutions. They’re so confident that your website won’t be successfully attacked, they have provided assurances that they will restore your website to working order should the worst happen.
  • Customer Service. WP Engine focuses specifically on WordPress, and this means that they have hired only quality WordPress experts. Fortunately this comes through with their customer service, with all representatives capable of assisting. Personally, I have only had good experiences dealing with WP Engine’s staff, and that is a rare thing when dealing with tech companies.
  • Speed. One of the factors that determine how well a website performs is the speed of the website, and how quickly it will download to the user’s device. Studies have shown that if a customer waits longer, then they are less likely to stay on your website, and even less likely to purchase. WP Engine use Evercache technology that will boost your website’s speed and make it load faster.

The only downside to WP Engine has been the more expensive web hosting. Compared to cheap web hosts like Crazy Domain, GoDaddy and others, WP Engine is considerably more expensive ($29p/m compared to $5 p/m). But there is an easy answer to this. If you’re looking for a poor quality host, then use the cheap ones. If you’re after something a little more long term and serious, then WP Engine is the way to go.

#If you decide to use another web host, make sure that you confirm with them (in writing if possible) that their web hosting system will allow you to use Woocommerce. Some web hosts will only enable that functionality if you upgrade your hosting package.

WordPress theme

Your WordPress theme will provide the look and feel of your online shop. It will offer a range of features, and it’s important to make the right decision on WordPress theme. Make sure you purchase a theme – and don’t rely on a free theme. These can cause more trouble than they’re worth.

What to look for in a WordPress theme

  • Make sure that it is Woocommerce compatible. Woocommerce is the best online shop plugin for WordPress and your theme needs to work with Woocommerce. All themes that are compatible will advertise this feature prominently.
  • Responsive. You will lose customers if your website is not accessible on mobile and desktop computers. Make sure that your theme is responsive and is easy for potential customers to use on their phone. Keep in mind that responsive websites tend to perform better in search engine rankings as well.
  • Compatible with the latest WordPress update. You don’t want to buy a theme that won’t work with the most recent WordPress update. If the theme is incompatible, it is likely the developers haven’t been using standard developer practices and you will have more problems with conflicts in the future.
  • SEO Optimised. Ideally your theme will make it as easy as possible for your products to get found via search engines.

Where do I find WordPress themes?

WordPress themes can be found from all over the world. As mentioned above, it’s well worth spending some time and energy in finding the right WordPress theme for your online shop.

To make the searching process easier, there are legitimate marketplaces such as Theme Forest. Theme developers often sell their themes through this website, and with a review and rating system you can easily determine which themes are worth looking at – and which ones aren’t.

start your own online shop

This is an example of a WordPress theme that you could use for your own online shop.

WordPress plugins

WordPress plugins provide additional functionality. One plugin that will be required in your online shop is Woocommerce. This is the best online shopping plugin available for WordPress websites. Woocommerce is used extensively, and has the added benefit of having additional premium features that will get your website extra functionality. What does this mean? Perhaps you’re interested in offering bulk discounts, or other special features to customers. With Woocommerce you can simply add these features when you find that they’re worth it.

Other plugins well worth looking into include Yoast’s SEO plugin, which will enable you to maximise you Search Engine Optimisation. It’s an easy to use plugin and well worth using. Another plugin to incorporate is Contact Form 7. This will allow you to have a contact form on your website. It’s easy to use, and updated regularly. There are also a number of other contact form plugins that are available.

Start your own online shop

It’s so easy to start your own business and begin selling online! Finding casual work waiting tables or working in a department store is no longer your only option. Take control of your own destiny and get paid to do what you want to do – don’t work for someone else’s dream.

The world is changing – there is less emphasis on finding a well paid stable job. Start your online shop and the world could be your oyster!

When not writing, Matt enjoys farming, films and friends. Not necessarily in that order.

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