Seven Steps For Building A Modern Online Store [2021 Edition]

You don’t need any boring stats to confirm the meteoric growth of the eCommerce sector. It’s enough to compare the amount of money spent online last year versus the previous years. In addition, the pandemic boosted online retail and other Internet businesses. The signs are that eCommerce will continue to grow.

Are you interested in jumping on the bandwagon and investing in an online store? At first glance, creating and running an online store seems like a tremendous amount of work requiring coding and business skills. But, altogether, you can create a modern online store! Of course, it’s not simple at all, but you can do it by following the steps below.

We will focus exclusively on WordPress as the platform for your online store. Thankfully, you have many alternatives, but we believe WordPress and WooCommerce are the best combos for your store.

Realistic Business Plan

realistic-business-plan

If you plan to build an online store to learn how to do it, you don’t need a business plan. Conversely, you definitely need a realistic business plan if you are attempting to launch an online store. The business plan shouldn’t reinvent the wheel – there are plenty of templates that are just a click away. What really matters is having a realistic approach. Don’t expect huge profits and millions of recurring customers overnight. Plan each step, and you won’t have any unpleasant surprises.

What should your business plan include? Well, no rules are set in stone, but it should include subjects such as:

  • Business model and activity. Make it clear what you are selling, mention scaling up opportunities, and specify the current activities needed to run the online store. 
  • Market research. You have to precisely know the profile of the average customer, their needs and expectations, and how competitive the market is. 
  • Products and services. Are you selling products or services? Digital or physical products? Of course, over time you may reinvent yourself and diversify your offering. However, you’d better have a clear perspective of your inventory in the early stage.
  • Operations. You should map out the personnel’s duties, suppliers, stock, managers, customer support, and so on. These entirely depend on the profile of the online store. For example, a small online store that only sells digital products may be a one-man-band thanks to the reduced time needed to run it. The “Operations” chapter of a store selling construction materials is significantly lengthier because it should cover way more data.
  • Finances. You will very probably need the help of an accountant to determine the raw operational costs, income statement, projected profit and loss, and other financial data. 
  • Marketing strategy. This is vital for any business, and a good marketing strategy can be the difference between failure and success. 

Creative Marketing Strategy

Without any doubt, the marketing strategy is part of the business plan. Still, I chose to treat it separately because it has a vital impact on the business’s success. A smart marketing strategy is priceless in acquiring the first clients. This article targets mostly solopreneurs or small teams ready to invest all their financial reserves. Medium to big businesses may survive with a bad marketing strategy, but small online stores certainly fail. Hence, it is imperative to do your best to come up with a winning marketing strategy. 

A marketing strategy includes all the ways to attract new customers, communicate with leads and clients, retain the current customers, and generate buzz around your business. Further, it includes the content strategy and handling the SEO, paid search, and PR.

IMPORTANT: Many building online store guides start directly with the technical part – choosing a domain name, a hosting platform, the site’s theme, and so on. It’s not wrong at all, and we strongly recommend consulting these guides. Launching and running an online store is a demanding job, so it’s useful to compare multiple opinions. However, we believe that technical aspects should be in line with the business philosophy. Treating them separately results in a lack of consistency.

Let’s suppose that you have to create an online store selling luxury products, but you don’t have any clue about the store profile and the customer persona. Only by chance, you may have chosen a proper theme for such a store. Clearly, the site design and purpose don’t deliver the same core values, and clients get confused. 

Register A Domain Name

This step requires more inspiration than knowledge. The domain name is nothing more than the name of your store. It’s what people type in the browser tab to access your site. Keep in mind these tips for choosing a good name:

  • Short and memorable. Consumers are constantly bombarded with tons of promotional messages and they won’t remember a complicated and long name. Strive for a short and memorable name to increase your chances of remaining in people’s mind.
  • Suggestive. You better serve your customers by having a suggestive name of your store. If it’s suggestive it is simple and people love simplicity.
  • Ear-candy. Short and suggestive are must-have features, but it’s still not enough. A good domain name should be ear-candy –  the name should generate interest amongst customers.  

Once you decide on the store’s name, go to a domain registrar and purchase that domain.

Quality Hosting 

modern-online-store-quality-hosting

Hosting is a silent factor that massively impacts site performance. It’s the fundament of your online store, so treat it accordingly. Thankfully, there are hosting providers for all types of budgets and preferences. Choosing the proper hosting solution takes time – you have to read reviews, compare plans and eventually look for coupons and discounts. Bear in mind that some hosting providers come with plans dedicated to e-commerce projects. Practically, you have already installed WordPress and WooCommerce on your side.

We know how precious time is, and we are deeply connected with our audience. To save their time, we wrote tens of hosting reviews and comparisons. Check these resources to identify the best solution for your online store:

The Theme

The theme is the skin of your online store. It’s responsible for the first impression. Hence it plays a huge role in the success of your business. Select the theme that is in line with the products for sale and resonates with the customer persona. Your personal preferences don’t matter – you launch your store for customers, not for yourself. Seeking the theme of your store is exciting but time-consuming. It’s not a decision to take lightly, that’s for sure! Some of our blog posts provide useful tips to identify the perfect theme for your store.

WooCommerce Plugin Configuration

woocommerce-configuration-online-store

You installed themes and plugins for your other websites so that we will pass over this aspect. However, we can’t pass over WooCommerce plugin configuration. So, install and activate WooCommerce the same as you do with other plugins. Depending on your skills, you can skip the setup wizard. Still, it simplifies the work of a webmaster and helps less trained users. The process is pretty clear:

  • start by providing the address, country, city, and postal code;
  • next, specify the industry and the type of the products for sale;
  • finally, indicate the size of the business.

Selecting a payment gateway and the shipping zones are strategic duties for your business. Fortunately, WooCommerce simplifies the technical aspects, but you are entirely responsible for the business’s profitability. Paypal and Stripe are the most frequently used payment gateways, and you can’t go wrong with them.

The shipping zones heavily depend on the types of products for sale, the business model, and your living zone. Therefore, it’s best to take this decision with the sales and marketing teams. Nevertheless, changing the shopping zones is easy, thanks to WooCommerce’s powerful set of options.

At this stage, you configured the WooCommerce plugin, but you have to add products. The plugin allows for it to be done manually or by importing a CSV or txt file. Last but not least, you should pay special attention to local regulations and taxes. You risk receiving a fee, and it’s definitely that last thing you need.

We advise you to check this article about setting up an online store with WooCommerce. It has plenty of extra resources for each step of WooCommerce configuration.

Shop Pages Configuration

Shop homepage, Cart, Checkout, and User Account are mandatory webpages for an online store. The store homepage is where you showcase the products. Therefore you should do your best to delight potential customers. Ensure that the selling process is friction-free, so configure the cart and the checkout pages as simply as possible. The user account is the space that connects clients with you, so make it a special place. 

Indeed, it takes much time to refine these pages, but don’t forget, the devil is in the detail. The success relies on good aesthetics, smooth functionality, and extreme personalization. 

Tricks And Tips

         A profitable online store is more than applying all the above ideas. You will face many unexpected problems, but that’s the life of an online entrepreneur. We compiled a few concise tricks and tips to turn your store into a highly profitable business at the end of this article. 

  • Create a blog for your store. It’s an invaluable tool for content marketing and nurturing the relationship with clients.
  • SEO brings traffic. You need to generate steady organic traffic and only a search engine optimized site will do it. Install and activate an SEO plugin to help you enter into the grace of search engines.  
  • Performance optimization. Don’t leave money on the table just because you didn’t improve your website performance. Pay special attention to the mobile users –  they are the most impatient people on Earth!
  • High-res and suggestive photos. It’s a no-brainer, people will go directly to the competitors if your product images aren’t clear. Show the products from different angles. 

Final Thoughts

         This article comprises a lot of information and many additional resources. Therefore, you need the patience to read and apply what you learn from it. However, many successful entrepreneurs followed the same path. Hence you may be the next one. Good luck, and share with us your best tricks for building a cool online store.

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