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19 minutes reading time (3704 words)

E-Commerce Business - How to setup a profitable online store

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 Okay, it's given that a lot of us are already familiar with the concept of eCommerce since at one point or the other, we have bought something on online stores like Amazon, Ali Baba etc.

However, some of us, until now, probably thought running our own online store is next to rocket science but in the next few seconds, I will be correcting that notion.

Have you ever sold anything online? If you have, then running an eCommerce store isn't too different from that.

And if you haven't? Running an online store entails that you have a supplier of the products, a means of processing your customer payments, as well as a means of shipping it to your customers.

All you really have to do is to set up an eCommerce website that is well decorated with your product inventory details and a bit of marketing to make potential customers aware of your business.


In simplified steps;

Before you get started, you should answer this question: Do you want to treat this as a business which you would grow into a quality company in the future or do just want to set it up just like another online income stream?

Well, here are some tips for starting a small business and here's how to build a successful business. You may also want to see these profound tips on how to grow a business. However, you should always get yourself a good business plan.


Get a product supplier – This should be the first step to take if you want to get into the e-commerce business. Where do you plan to get your products from?Are you creating the products? Are you buying it from a wholesaler or the manufactural?

Wherever you plan to get your product from, you should probably get the contact ready or you should even buy some quantity of the products and make them available in your business location, warehouse, home or any other place you plan to operate your eCommerce business from.

You don't wait to gain customers before you start scrabbling around to find a supplier. Get everything ready first! Simply look for a wholesaler within your vicinity or you could still buy and ship the products from a wholesaler on platforms like Alibaba cheaply and resale them on your own store at a higher price.


Get your shipping system ready How do you plan to ship your products to your customers? Are you setting up a delivery service team or do you plan to use third-party shipping companies like DHL? FedEx? UPS?

Whatever you plan to use, get a system in place for the operation beforehand. If you plan to use shipping companies, try to strike a deal with some delivery officers there or at least discuss with an insider to know their operation and how best you can utilize them.

How long will it take for them to deliver a product from point A to point B? What does it cost? How will you get your goods to them to deliver? Once you have chosen a shiiping company, you should go ahead to create an account with them.


Set up an online store – If you have no experience in website setup, it's advisable to get a profession but then again, you can always do it yourself using any of the free website builders available online today.

I'm even about to show the necessary steps to getting your store up and running using the free open source cart known as AbanteCart.

Before the end of this article, you will be able to register your own domain, get a website hosting plan as well as put up your own e-commerce website. Once you have your online store well configured, running your eCommerce business will be a lot easier.


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Promote your store – After setting up your store, you will need to inform your prospects about it. You need to do some form of marketing. Your job now will be to promote your store to your target customers, letting them know of your great products and customer service.

Once you are able to promote your store well enough, you will start receiving orders for your items and depending on your payment options, your customers will be billed.


Process and ship your orders – This is the stage where you have to make sure everything goes smoothly otherwise, you may lose that customer forever.The moment an order is placed on a product on your store, you are expected to quickly process it. 

Find out who placed the order, where he was you to ship the item, the quantities he wants, the specs/features (including color) of the product he wants and if he has paid for it. Then package everything exactly as advertised (if you haven't done so earlier) and ship the product!


Get more products – what happens once you are out of stock? Indicate on that product page that it's out of stock while you quickly get your supplier to bring you more products. As a matter of fact, no sane business person should see a fast-selling product (in high demand) dry out of his inventory.

Always notice what product is selling more and get it readily available before it's out of stock. Now you know how necessary steps to take when setting up your ecommerce business, lets go figure out how to set up your store.


How to setup an ecommerce website.

The fastest way to get this done especially if you are a total newbie to website setup and have no tangible design/development skill, will be to hand it over to the professionals. Lati Codes is a quality company that is ready to setup your ecommerce store for you in a matter of hours.

However, if you are tech savvy and a fast learner, you could actually get it done yourself using any of the available free content management systems today. CMS such as Opencart, PrestaShop, AbanteCart or Magento are top picks for many eCommerce website designers however, some still people prefer to tweak and build their stores using WordPress or Joomla.

The fastest (and easiest) way to learn Joomla will be to follow my step by step guide on how I built Ghavoch without coding (Ghavoch is a profitable membership website built on the free Joomla! cms. After the tutorial, you will be able to setup virtually any kind of website, including ecommerce stores).

Anyway, whatever platform you decide to build your store on, you will need to follow the same steps in the setup stage and would probably arrive at the same result at the end. Below are the steps you need to get it done.

1.Get a domain name

The importance of this as the first step cannot be debated as it's apparent that your store will need to be found at a certain web address (www.your-store-name.com) hence, the need for a domain name. You will need to find a good name for your store and proceed to register it with a domain registrar.

There are currently hundreds of registrars available online today as the demand for websites are increasing but there are only a few of these companies that are worth working with.

You should consider using NameCheap or GoDaddy for your domain registrations. Ghavoch.com was registered on Godaddy!

For instance, it's not logical to pay a monthly fee for email accounts that will actually come free with your hosting plan. Once all options have been checked (including the number of years you intend to keep the domain registered), simply create your 

GoDaddy account and complete the transaction using your credit card or PayPal. Domains (.com) can be bought on GoDaddy at $12.17 or as low as $1.17 using coupon codes. Upon payment, your domain will be registered instantly and you will probably be able to use it immediately.  

2.Choose a hosting package

Just as domain registrars give you a web address, web hosting companies provide the resources (web space, data transfer, processor, database handlers, scripts etc) to help you store, run, manage your website data and make it available to your end-users online.

Though most domain registrars also provide hosting packages (including Godaddy), I can only recommend A2 Hosting and I have several reasons to back this up. This is from someone who has spent half of his life using several web hosts while running his numerous online businesses.

I'm emphasizing this because some web hosts are only out there to frustrate your business with poor services. It's not as though A2 Hosting is the only good one.

There are probably several others but believe me when I say you don't want to be doing trial and error with your ecommerce website. If you are in Nigeria and you want to use a local web host, you could use Garanntor as they (are cheap and they) seem to have a good track record so far. 

Now, go ahead to choose a hosting package on A2 Hosting, and proceed to select all needed addons (such as SSL) in your cart. Do not forget to indicate that you already have a domain. Choose this option and input the domain you just registered.

To clarify things, you need to choose a VPS (or a dedicated server) hosting plan (especially since you intend running an online store) but if it's too expensive for you, you could start with a shared turbo hosting plan however, it's highly recommended that you upgrade to, at least, a VPS as soon as you can afford it.

Blogs can get away with using a shared hosting but an e-commerce store needs more privacy, security and resources hence, the need for a dedicated server or VPS plan.  

In order to use your domain on your current hosting account, you need to point the domain to your hosting account by changing the nameservers.

A2 nameservers can be found in your account hosting package management area or you could simply check your email as they usually send this along with your account details.

You can do this by selecting the custom nameservers option on your domain management page in your GoDaddy account.  

From the softaculous app explorer, you can easily see your available e-commerce apps and content management systems for instant installation.
In as much as you can turn WordPress and the likes (content management systems) into an online store using plugins (such as wooCommerce), it's easier to go with the apps (AbanteCart, PrestaShop, Magento, OpenCart etc.) specially designed for this purpose. 

Simply make your choice among the eCommerce apps (I will be using the free open source AbanteCart for this tutorial) and click on it, open up the installation page, briefly fill in your shop information and click install.

3.Install a good CMS

As stated earlier, you probably need to use a CMS for setting up your store (except you plan to build it from scratch, in which case, you will need to know how to code PHP, HTML, CSS and run it through MySQL Database).

Thankfully, you have a host of options to choose from and the processes are likely going to be the same.

Login to your hosting account CPanel (the login link can be found on the left section of your hosting account dashboard), scroll down to the software section and open up Softaculous

4. Setup and Customize with a template

Login to the admin area of your newly installed eCommerce website builder through the dedicated url (e.g www.your-domain-name.com/admin) and a dialogue requesting a few details about your store will pop up nicely on the screen.

You are to quickly complete thus setup phase just entering the required information as such the name of your store, contact details etc. If this dialogue doesn't pop up, please navigate the settings tab on the side panel to do these configurations. 

To easily customize the look and feel of your store, you will need to use a template (or theme as the case may be) and luckily, every website builder comes with this option.

You can easily customize your template directly on the Design tab on the left side bar. You can change as many things as possible including colors, layout etc. This is necessary to make your store unique.

You don't want your store to look like every other store out there. Also, you can easily install and use another template altogether. You can always find some themes for it (from the open source organization or individual developers) on the official website.

The templates can also be found at the admin section. Simply navigate to the Extensions tab and click on the market place button to access all available plugins, themes etc. Note that most of them are for sale.  

  If you want to use another template other than the default, you will need to install the template by visiting the installation page under the Extension tab (left sidebar).

For the installation, you can do it remotely if you have the direct url of the template package otherwise, please download the package and install it through the template upload installation tab.

Your template will likely have a configuration manual which you are to consult assuming you want to change anything on it but as of now, your site will look exactly the same way the template was designed.

You should actually replace the logo and favicon with yours and change the template colour if desired under the design tab.


5. Add your products and shipping details

Once you are done designing the appearance of your shop the way you want, you probably need to start stocking your inventory with the details of the products you intend to sell.

 Navigate to the Catalog tab and you will notice that you also sell digital products on our online store. Users who buy such products will instantly gain access to the download area.

Take your time to list each product with the price, quantity and description till you all products are added to your store.

Note that it's a necessity to use clean and clear images on white background when displaying your products on your store.

You can get these images directly on the website of your product supplier (with his permission, of course) or through a simple 'free product stock images' Google search.

The product setup process is very self-explanatory and easy to follow. So, you should take your time to list your products one after the order into their right categories (you should create the categories too!). 

  To link your store with a shipping company (FedEx, UPS, DHL etc.), navigate to the shipping plugins page under the Extension tab and install the extension responsible for your handling such function for your shipping company.

You will an extension for various shipping companies there. Simply configure it with your sipping company account information and your business contact details.

6.Integrate with a payment processor

2Checkout is a good payment processor you can use to handle all your transactions including Paypal payments.

I have been using them since time immemorial and I completely recommend them. Another option is Paypal merchant account.

That is if you want to make things easier by handling all your payments on a single merchant account.

There are also several other options such as the popular Stripe (you need some technical know-how). Start by creating a 2Checout account and getting it approved.

Then, navigate to the payment section in the Admin area of your store and you will find some pre-loaded payment gateway plugins.

Locate 2Checkout (or any other one of your choice), click to open it up and install and activate.

This mean, you will have to input your 2checkout account ID, secret word and ensure you disable the test mode before you launch your store.


7.Social profiles, email accounts and Finalize

You also need to create a profile for your store on each of the popular social medias and link it with your store.

Do not forget to create your store email accounts through your cPanel. Just locate and click on the email account icon and fill in your desired email username and password and create! 

Simple. You can access it, setup email forwarding and email clients by on the configuration icon next to the email address.

Please create as many email addresses as needed (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. etc.).

To complete your store setup, you need to cross-check and finalize all your store settings including your policies and contacts details. Remember that you can process your orders directly on the Sales tab.

This is also the section where you can create coupons and attend to your customers. Once you are done with all necessary configurations, you are ready to launch!


Launching your store and gaining customers

As you know, setting up your store alone won't make you money until people shop on it.

To make from your online store, all you have to do now is to promote your store to your target customers and once they place orders, you quickly process it and get the product shipped to their address and that's it!

You've sold your product and made your profit from the sale. Repeat the process over and over again till you are out of stock and when that happens, make or get more products from your suppliers and continue selling!

To make people know about your store, you will need to do a bit of marketing for it. Marketing has to do with promoting your store to the public.

If you already have a large following on your social accounts, great! You can start promoting it there. How about an email list? Do you have emails of some potential prospects?

Perhaps, people who previously subscribed to your other businesses/services. If you do, you should consider letting them know of your new store through some quality email campaigns

Otherwise, you have the option of using other social influencers to boost the publicity of your store. You can do this by searching for a good influencer on twitter especially, and advertising your store through him. 


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Simply head to twitter and locate someone with a large following (above 300k followers) within your niche and study their social engagement to ensure their tweets are loved.

This is to say, if the person has 400k followers, his tweets should have above 80k likes and retweets. This shows that his fans are checking out his tweets.

Once you find a profile of someone like this within your niche (if your store is a fashion store, ensure the person is a model, stylist, fashion icon etc.), then proceed to send him a private message requesting for a shout-out tweet about your store (which should include the link and an attractive picture). 

lso ensure his followers are mostly fans from your region (targeted customers).

Most times, you are likely going to get a reply with a fee (yes, it's hardly a free service) and the moment he receives your payment, you are sure to see his tweets about your business in no time.

Remember, while you are striking a deal with the social media influencer, try to make sure you also bargain about the right time for him to send his shout-outs.

Just make sure he tweets at that hour when his tweets get seen (liked and retweeted) the most. Doing this a few times is certain to get your business operational and generating revenue faster.

Use the above tips and you will start to generate some good returns on your investment in no time. Here's how to generate more sales for your business.


Conclusion

Whether you are into the buying and selling (wholesale, retail) business, you own a product line (e.g fashion designer, beauty product niche) or you just have a single product (distribution chain) to sale, creating an eCommerce website for your business should be seriously considered.
Setting up an online store for your products is a very good decision due to the fact that many people now do almost all their shopping online.
When you move your products online, you gain a larger market, grow your customers and increase your sales however, you will now be responsible for product delivery.

Now you can make money from the comfort of your room as long as you have a system in place to handle your shipping. Are you setting up an online store? Or are you making money from it already? How's the journey so far? Great, right?
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