How to Start a Successful Online Store (Hint: Nail Your Niche)

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    [Updated January 24, 2022]

    ]The mere idea of starting an online shop all on your own can be intimidating. You’ll have so many questions to answer if you want to have a competitive advantage. Who is your target market? How to engage customers to buy? Where to advertise your products? What is my branding? Which payment platforms are secure and how to use them? How to handle sensitive card information? 

    Only experienced retail owners will be able to answer all of these questions because retailing is an art that requires a lot of skills, experience, and knowledge.

    If you’re planning to start your own retail business from scratch, I would recommend a retail niche. Why? It’s easier to engage customers in a niche retail market since they are already familiar with the products they’ll be buying. Examples of retail niches include apparel, beauty, pet retailing, and garden retail.

    Picking an industry that is not as competitive as others will give you a competitive advantage against those who are already established in retail businesses. It’s easier to compete with an existing shop when your business concept has been proven than to compete with an unknown retail concept. It’s the retail equivalent of startups that challenge established retail brands.

    Whether you’ve spent thousands developing your own products or are dropshipping other people’s products, your first sale and the continued success of your online store depend on one key factor: whether or not you can become relevant in your niche.

    Therefore a much better question to ask would be: “what steps do I need to take to become relevant in my niche and make my first 100 sales within X amount of time.”

    Niche? What Niche?

    Since Amazon covers most niches (and is usually the cheapest and fastest option), most new online stores find success by offering something unique that’s not found on Amazon or by offering an experience that resonates better with their target market.

    For example, if you were a fashionista selling boho chic clothing, your personal fashion sense, ability to spot new trends and skill in creating outfits and curating trendy products will be something that shoppers can’t find on Amazon (or anywhere else) and is the main thing you should capitalize on.

    Create a list of the things you are dreaming to do, you’re passionate about and/or knowledgeable in. For example, travel, pets, photography, calligraphy, or coffee. But that doesn’t stop there, break the list down further. For pets, possible niches include dogs and cats. If you’re choosing dogs, then break it down to personalized dog tags, pet travel needs, pet vitamins, and so forth.

    The other benefit of targeting your online store at a specific niche is that getting your e-commerce business off the ground will come more naturally and with less stress. Your passions will also guide you in the right direction of your research. You will know the ins and outs as well as how people of the same interest feel and think. It will also ensure that no matter what, you will enjoy what you’re selling then you will eventually earn profit next.

    Target Market

    Another important factor to consider is your target market. The more specific you go, the better since you’ll be able to create relevant content that they will find useful and appealing.

    Define what makes each industry unique (their needs). For example, if you sell pet accessories, every kind of pet has its own niche in terms of food (natural or organic), training (obedience classes), grooming (dog washes versus self-grooming by cats), equipment (collars, leashes, carriers), shopping habits, health care needs (veterinarians vs supplements) etc.

    Find competitors by checking their follower number on social media or website traffic analytics. If an online store is popular with followers on Facebook or Pinterest, then it’s a safe bet that they are doing something right.

    Learn everything you can about the shopping habits of your target market, their shopping patterns, what they like to buy when heading to the mall vs when shopping online. Research them well before launching any new product lines in order to stay ahead of your competition.

    Try not to get intimidated if the majority in your niche are already established in their businesses since you have an advantage in starting from scratch and can create your own business model which may be better than theirs either by lowering expenses (e.g., shipping fees for pet travel needs) or increasing revenue (advertising on Facebook instead of Google ad words). It’s also easier to find suitable manufacturers or distributors since you’re not competing with established businesses that already have their own systems in place.

    Try putting yourself into your target market’s shoes by imagining what it would be like to shop within your niche if you were shopping for someone else – how would you find products, make purchases, and communicate with the retailer?

    Starting an online store can be a great way to make money, but it is not as simple as throwing in some products and hoping for the best.  There are many things that go into starting a successful eCommerce business, so you need to focus on nailing your niche before anything else.   This will ensure that you have the right products at the right price points with just enough competition.   If you do this correctly, then there is no reason why your online store won’t become wildly successful! 

    Below are 13 ways that will show you how to start an online store using tips from experts who successfully sell their own products through eCommerce sites like Amazon and eBay.

    1. Start with friends and family

    This is no time to be shy. Let everyone without your sphere of influence know that you’ve opened your virtual doors and would like to hear their feedback. Nobody likes to be guilted into buying something (think MLM), but everybody likes to give advice. Use this little hack to strike up a conversation with people you know. Chances are there are some people in your sphere who are willing and able to help contribute to your goals, and spread the word of mouth even if they’re not yet ready to purchase.

    Once you start sharing your business with your network on a daily basis, people will respond and share with their own network. It’s a powerful way to get the word out about what you have to offer. Don’t forget that what they say may not always be positive. Yes, there will be haters in every crowd who are just waiting to tear apart anything they can sink their teeth into, even when it comes to sharing something they like. So don’t take offense if someone leaves an honest but critical review of your work; instead, learn how to handle negative feedback by using a professional tone and understanding why the person is leaving the feedback.

    Remember, it’s not about using your friends’ wallets to buy your stuff, but rather, to leverage their experience, networks and connections to help grow your e-commerce business and become relevant in your niche. They can be your most effective marketing strategy.

    2. Use social media to your advantage

    Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest are social media sites that you should use for marketing your eCommerce business because these give the person who is looking to buy an opportunity to see what you have to offer them. Shoppers go to these social media sites and like things that they like or repin (Pinterest) things that they want or will use to help get ideas for their home decor, budgeting, etc.

    Storytelling (e.g., comparison ads, employment videos, video game-style videos) is a great way to get people interested in your products or services. Let’s say for example you are selling dress shoes; show the comparison of you wearing the shoes vs wearing a generic brand of shoes by using an image comparison. The same goes with video game which has role-playing games that allow users to be someone else and achieve goals in different worlds just like you would when purchasing movie tickets.

    Comparison ads are one of the most popular forms of social media marketing – people love putting things side-by-side and comparing them! If you make your comparison compelling, your audience will head over to your online store.

    As an online shop owner, it’s important to be social and get involved in conversations with your audience. You can do this by joining conversations on any social media site such as Facebook or Instagram. The hashtags #measureup and #hashtagback are great for comparison ads so people can click on the hashtag and see comparison ads. These hashtags allow you to start a conversation about your eCommerce business.

    The key here is to ask yourself. How do I want my customers/people who come across my shop/online store to associate with me? What kind of experience do they go through? How do I define myself within their eyes? This helps craft what your brand message should be – whether it’s ‘’I am simply providing a service to my customers, making their life easier by giving them options on how they want to purchase my products’’ or ‘’I am someone who provides products that are the best at what they do. It may be priced higher but it will last longer than any other product in comparison. That reassurance is worth more than anything else.”

    Also, just because you have a business page on these social media sites doesn’t mean you should stop there. Continuously update the people who follow your Facebook business page about new products and how they can purchase them.

    3. Leverage your contacts

    Lots of people want to see you succeed, from the person who designed and updates your website to the people who supply your inventory. Keep them abreast of what’s going on with your business and ask for their help.

    Chances are the people you hang out with most are likely interested in similar things as you are, so this is another great reason to pick a niche you like since it lets you leverage its branding offline naturally.

    Then, leverage your contacts with some experts. Build rapport with relevant people in your choice of niche. You may ask them for feedback such as your  website’s mobile friendliness or your web-design. They can recommend which ecommerce platform is the best and why from their own perspective. You may get overwhelmed by choices of hostings like Shopify, WordPress, and WooCommerce but with opinions based on experience, you’re guided in the right path.

    4. Launch an email and social campaign

    You have more email contacts than you know! Same for your FB friends and Linked-in contacts. Launching a campaign to target them specifically is another great way to get your online store’s name out. An eye-catching email subject is a must to make an amazing first impression. Sites like MailChimp make it easy to send personalized messages to a large number of people at the same time and to easily manage your mailing list. And keep in mind to not sound robotic. Send a friendly initial message announcing your store and teasing readers with a few items you’re selling, then follow up once or twice a few days later.

    As the saying goes, first impressions last and this is more so in online businesses that sometimes lead to failure. You really want to be as memorable and unique as possible while still being in tune with your niche. So aim to create an impact on your first email.

    5. Sell on marketplaces like eBay and Etsy

    Yes, we know you just spent a lot of time developing your own website and sales platform. However, setting up an eBay and/or Etsy store can help get your products noticed in your niche and entice people to visit your website to see your entire inventory. Selling on both sites is relatively inexpensive. Also, eBay and Etsy have excellent SEO and your products are much more likely to show up in Google through these sites than on your domains. After a while when you’ve built your branding and loyal customers, your own traffic will come naturally.

    Running an online business today is not only about signing up with a dropshipping merchant, or finding the right web hosting. If you want to start earning cash bigtime, invest in images to have an eye-candy eCommerce site. Your online traffic will remember 80% of what they see and partially 20% of what they read.

    6. Hang out and do research on Reddit

    Reddit is your friend. Not only can you learn a lot about what’s happening in your niche, but also the social media site allows users to create sub-communities within itself. You may consider starting or joining small subreddits especially if it relates to your store content and products.

    For example, if you sell budgeting software for home budgeting tools, this page could be considered as relevant related content Sub-reddit:

    Sub Reddit’s are very powerful resources that allow free access to their members which makes it possible to share newsworthy items like your new online business venture…in the appropriate channels of course.

    This is a place to interact with potential customers, not give them the hard sell. Start here by hitting the most relevant subreddits in your niche and providing interesting and unique perspectives, such as why you started your online shop and what specific needs you are addressing. The goal is to create a network and get people to start talking about your products and looking at your website.

    Reddit can also be useful to new online marketers. This is a place to interact with potential customers, not give them the hard sell. Start here by hitting the most relevant subreddits in your niche and provide interesting and unique perspectives, such as why you started your online shop and what specific needs you are addressing. The goal is to create a network e and get people to start talking about your products and looking at your website

    7. Build your brand

    What do you want your business to stand for? What is your business culture like? Who are your customers? How do they buy from you? 

    Once again, everyone is different and people shop according to their own interests as well as likes and dislikes. Start with developing a unique “voice” — something that sets you apart from the pack — and integrate it into everything you do: product descriptions, ads, customer service responses, even emails to friends and family about how great your business is doing (you may want to ask them if they mind passing along the word, just in case they have business friends who need your services too).

    8. Get a business website up and running (for free)

    Today’s online business owners can get away with not having an eCommerce site. But the truth is that it doesn’t hurt to take advantage of companies like Shopify and BigCommerce, which offer free business websites. If you’re serious about getting started on selling products online, then you should at least know what these providers offer and how to use them.

    If you like the idea of starting an online business that requires no technical knowledge or heavy investment, take a look around this web portal for tips on how to do everything from setting up a business email address right through to advertising your new business for free.

    As business owners, there are certain legal requirements that you must abide by to remain legitimate in the eyes of government agencies. If you want to get up and running with your business right away, make sure you familiarize yourself with all the information provided here. It will help ensure that your business stays on track for success no matter how much or how little money you make selling products online!

    9. Leverage social media marketing

    Social networks allow business owners to connect directly with their audience, creating a two-way conversation where they can better understand their clients’ needs while also promoting content that their audience finds relevant. Social networking is an affordable way to market your business without having to spend thousands on traditional advertising campaigns, making it one of the most effective business strategies at any business’s disposal today.

    An important aspect of business and marketing is making sure that you’re clear with your audience about who you are and what your business does. This means creating a business branding with a unique personality or “voice” that will set your company apart from the competition.

    With the right branding, you’ll be able to attract more customers and keep them coming back for more because they know exactly what they can expect when shopping at your business online.

    10. Use secure payment platforms

    Before you allow customers to make purchases from your site, make sure that you’ve done your research and know what the best choices of payment platforms are for your industry. It’s important to safeguard all sensitive information like credit card numbers and other details because they can lead to identity theft and fraudulent charges if not handled properly (and not encrypted with the latest security measures).

    One option for safely processing payments is PayPal. When you create a free account with them, you’ll gain access to one of the best payment processing systems around. Plus, you’ll have the ability to pay invoices online and receive automated notifications whenever someone buys something from your business.

    11. Know how taxes work

    If you’re starting or running a business online, then it’s important that you understand how taxes affect businesses in general because there are certain tax requirements that must be met each year by all companies big or small. Learn more about what kinds of additional paperwork are required, which filing deadlines apply, what types of records should be kept on hand, and what types of documents are necessary.

    If you want to know how to start your business right, then the first thing you need to do is make sure that you understand all of the requirements that come along with each type of business structure. Learn more about what kinds of licenses you’ll need, whether or not registration fees apply in your industry, if there are any sales tax obligations, and which permits must be obtained before opening for business. The U.S. Small Business Administration has a series of online guides that outline everything someone needs to know about getting started with their own small business.

    12. Track your progress

    Making money from home is a great way to get started on the path towards financial freedom, but it’s important not to become complacent with your progress because there is always room for improvement. Use the tips above to build a solid foundation and create the best business model you can, but don’t stop there!

    Once you’ve found success online, it’s time to start celebrating your accomplishments along the long road toward financial freedom. Make sure that you’re following through on all of your goals and improving upon areas that require more attention so that you can reach new levels of success as a small business owner. 

    The number one way to ensure success in any venture is by knowing exactly what you want from it before diving in headfirst. Start by answering some big questions such as why are you doing this? What do you hope to achieve?

    13. Handle customer service concerns effectively

    Customer support is another important aspect of any successful eCommerce site since it can make or break any shopper’s decision to buy from your store. The first thing that potential customers notice when visiting an online shop is the product images and descriptions as well as consumer reviews that talk about what other people think about their experiences shopping there. These elements will also give you some insight into consumer needs and what they value the most in their shopping experience.

    When it’s time to talk about your business, you’ll want to be able to share important details like the types of products that you sell, why they’re valuable to shoppers, how much they cost, where people can find them on your site and more.

    This is also a great opportunity for you to show off any buying incentives or special promotions that are available right now. You may even want to offer something free as an incentive – it could be a free shipping deal or a discount on the price of your product by entering in their email address. These are all things that potential customers are looking for when visiting an eCommerce site, so it’s in your best interest to appeal to these consumer needs by advertising them when someone visits.

    As a business owner, you’re also responsible for addressing any consumer complaints or concerns. One way to do this is with online chat support because it allows you to make immediate connections with shoppers who have questions about your site or products. This will give you a chance to resolve issues and provide the consumer with a positive shopping experience while also quickly converting another lead into a loyal consumer down the line!

    Creating a brand is easy if you know what it is that you want from your business. This means understanding who your target market will be and the type of products or services offered in their scope of interest. If you’re unsure where to start with choosing a niche, then narrow down potential ideas by focusing on a problem that you have personally experienced. This will help bring life to online shopping and allow clients to feel more connected to you and your business because they’ll know that this isn’t just another corporate entity meeting their demands but an individual person doing his best for them behind the screen.

    Whatever you decide to do, remember that you can’t be everything for everybody, and the best way to stand out is to become really good at something and promote the heck out of it. People love to purchase from passionate companies and passionate people, and we feel this is one of the biggest opportunities for today’s new online store owners.