How To Set Up Your Online Shopping Empire & Make The First Sale!

By    Last updated December 07, 2016   Web Development

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Note: This is a 10 minute guide to setting up an online store, finding your first customers, and turning it into a successful business.

 

Making your first ever sale is a special feeling.

 

It marks the beginning of your own shopping empire and the chance to build a business.

 

We’ve seen it happen. We’ve watched bedroom entrepreneurs turn their dreams into million dollar e-commerce companies. All you need is a great product and an online shop.

 

If you’re reading this page, perhaps you’ve already got a brilliant idea, but you’re not sure how to build your store.

 

Sound familiar?

 

Trust us, it’s easier than you think, and we’ll show you all the secrets. For simplicity, the guide is broken down into three sections. Grab a cup of coffee and let’s get stuck in.

 

Part 1: Where do I even start?
A quick introduction to your first online store.

 

Part 2: The technical bit
A step-by-step guide to setting up your own website and shop.

 

Part 3: Making your first sale
A store needs customers! We’ll show you a quick trick to make that first sale.

 


PART 1: Where Do I Even Start?


 

The internet is full of cool places to sell your products. The tricky part is choosing the best route. Long-story-short, your best option is setting up your very own website, but let’s look at all the options.

 

 

Option 1: eBay, Etsy, and third party services

 
 

Marketplace

 

 

eBay, Etsy and Craigslist are giant platforms, and there are thousands of small boutique shops and stores located here. Yours could be one of them.

 

The best thing about these third-party sellers is their simplicity. You can sign up and start selling in minutes. They do the hard work and set up your shop for you. They’ll handle the money and make the whole process easy.

 

Customers are already familiar with these platforms and feel comfortable buying from them. There’s a sense of trust and security here.

 

You’ll also find a built-in audience. Etsy, for example, has millions of customers looking for handmade crafts and personal items. If you make unique gifts and products, there are lots of customers already waiting for you.

 

But?…

 

The trouble is you’ll never build an empire on someone else’s site.

 

It’s very difficult to create a truly loyal audience and strengthen your brand identity when you’re squatting on someone else’s land! eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, and others all put their branding and identity ahead of your products.

 

Worst of all, if the third-party decides to revoke your store, your entire business is lost for good. That’s bad news if you’re looking for a reliable, long-term income.

 

If you want to collect email addresses, connect with your customers, and build a unique identity, you need your own space. Your own website.

 

 

Option 2: Social media stores

 
 

Facebook Business Page

 
 

Another popular choice is setting up a Facebook store. This involves using one of Facebook’s integrated plugins to host a shop on your social media page.

 

We have mixed feelings about this method. Sure, it makes it easier than ever to sell to your social following. However, Facebook has a habit of changing their algorithms without much notice.

 

You could spend years building your business to have it all wiped out in one swift Facebook update.

 

Don’t get us wrong, you should absolutely build a community on Facebook. But, it’s not wise to rely on it as your sole online presence.

 

 

The answer lies with option 3: Your very own store

 

If you’re looking for a place to call your own, you need to create your own store front.

 

www.your-shop.com

 

Did that just give you a little shiver of excitement? It’s easier than you think too.

 

There are two main ways to build your store, and we’ll walk you through the process.

 
 

WordPress + WooCommerce = Free online shop!

 
 

WooCommerce

 

 

If it sounds like a foreign language, take a deep breathe. Creating a website is now easier than ever. We’re going to start by using WordPress: the most popular website building platform on the planet.

 

In fact, 24% of all the websites on the internet are powered by WordPress. So you’re in good company.

 

You can choose pre-set designs, and tweak it to your liking. You don’t even need to know a single line of web code.

 

But, what about the tricky payment mechanisms, products, and shipping?

 

That’s where WooCommerce comes in. WooCommerce is the technical toolkit that makes your shop work. All you have to do is download the software, and install it on your WordPress site.

 

It will help you create and design your storefront. It will also set up all your tricky payment systems, manage your stock and sort out your shipping.

 

Both WordPress and WooCommerce are completely free to use but the architecture that comes with them isn’t. You’ll need a web host and a domain name, which is only a fraction of the cost. More on this in PART 2: The technical bit.

 

 

Shopify – The easiest way to set up an online shop

 
 

Shopify Online Shop

 

The best alternative to WordPress + WooCommerce is Shopify. Shopify is a simple piece of software that will create your online store for you. It’s designed specifically for ecommerce.

 

They also use templates (See 100s of Shopify templates here) to help you design the site, so there’s no tricky code to deal with.

 

Just like WooCommerce, Shopify’s back-end wizardry does all the hard work for you.

 

But?…

 

The only real downside with Shopify is the cost. There’s a monthly fee (starting from $29 /mo) depends on the Shopify plan you choose. If you’ve got big plans, don’t let that put you off. Shopify is perfect if you’ve got a product with high profit margin. After all, you get unmatched conveniences for the price.

 

You can see how we’ve created a Shopify online store in just 19 minutes. That is how straightforward the process is.

 

Bottom Line

 

The bottom line here is that you need your own space. You need an identity, a voice, and a tribe of loyal followers. You can’t do that piggy-backing on Etsy, eBay, Facebook etc. That means building your own empire using WordPress + WooCommerce or Shopify.

 


PART 2: The Technical Bit


 

Trust us, this is easier than you think.

 

Note: PART 2 shows how to set up a WordPress + WooCommerce online shop. We have put up a detailed guide on how to create a Shopify store (in 19 minutes!). Do check that out.

 

 

Step 1. Web hosting for your WordPress

 

Web hosting is the patch of internet land your website will live on.

 

It can be a tricky thing to get your head around if you’re new to the game. Think of it like this:

 

Web hosting companies are like internet landlords. They rent out a portion of the web to you, and that’s where you’ll build your site.

 

But here’s the thing. There are good hosting companies, and there are bad ones.

 

So, don’t just choose the cheapest option. The speed and security of your site is vital, and your online shop deserves the best.

 

The best web hosts are fast as hell, close to your target audience, and secure from hackers.

 

We’ve had a lot of experience here, and this is what we recommend:

 

Inmotion Premium Hosting

 

InMotion Hosting: InMotion is a brilliant premium choice. If you’ve got big plans with lots of global traffic, we highly recommend them. They’re fast, secure, and great with customer service. Bitcatcha.com readers get an exclusive 56% discount on its business hosting.

 

 

iPage Budget Hosting
 
iPage: iPage is perfect if you’re just getting started and don’t need a lot of resources. They’re a budget option, but it will handle everything you can throw at it.

 

 

Step 2. www.my-first-business.com!

 

This is your ‘domain name’. It’s the address that points to your website. You’re looking for something simple, unique, and straight to the point.

 

Choose this very carefully. Hopefully, you’ve already got a business name all picked out and ready to go. Both Inmotion Hosting and iPage include a free domain name in their package. Do head to their site to see what’s available.

 

 

Step 3: Setting up WordPress & WooCommerce

 

Once you have gotten your web hosting & domain name ready, log in to the control panel to install WordPress. The 1-click installation in both iPage & Inmotion Hosting will get it done in no time.

 

Then, log in to your WordPress site, head to Plugins and search for WooCommerce. Download and install.

 

Voilà. Your online shop is functioning now.

 

It sounds complicated but it is not. To help you we have made a series of video guide in walking you through this process step by step. In these 5 videos we show you exactly how we set up a WooCommerce online shop for a friend. Get access to the videos here .

 

 

Step 4: Designing your shop

 

Now that you’ve got your online shop ready, it’s time to decorate it!

 

As I said before, WordPress is super easy to decorate and make your own. You can choose from hundreds of preset designs for free, or you can splash out on a premium theme. We like Elegant Themes who offer affordable, unique, and beautiful themes.

 

Expert design tips:

 

  1. Simplicity is everythingChoose a simple design that highlights your products and is easy to navigate.
  2. Logo and brandingLook for a theme or design that allows you to create a unique identity.
  3. Big, high-res photosPhotos sell products. It’s that simple. Choose a site that shows your images at their very best.

 

 

 

Step 5: Counting the money

 

Of course, no online store is complete without the payment mechanism. The most familiar service online is PayPal and you can easily slot their payment gateway into your checkout process.

 

Sometimes customers prefer a simple credit card payment. You can handle this with Braintree. They power the payments system at AirBnB and Uber so you’ll be in good hands.

 

Now you’re all set up and ready to open the doors! Now you just need to find some customers.

 

Watch How Its Done! : 

Get access to the video guide where I walk you through this process step-by-step. (From installing WordPress to setting up your first product – both simple & variable product.)

 


PART 3: Making Your First Sale


 

The first sale is always the trickiest. After that, it’s a snowball effect! We’ll leave you with one expert tip guaranteed to help you make that first sale.

 

 

Get your product in front of millions of eyes

 

The internet is bursting with powerful blogs, YouTube channels, and social media influencers. These people have the power to get your product in front of a lot of people.

 

Start by making a list of blogs and influencers in your niche. They are always on the lookout for cool products and stories to share with their communities, so reach out and ask for a review or sponsored post.

 

These influencers receive hundreds of emails and pitches every day, so how do you stand out?

 

  1. Be personalCraft a unique and personal message for each blogger. Mention something you saw and liked on their blog, and tell them why you think your product would be interesting to their audience.
  2. Address them by nameIt’s easy to find the names of most bloggers. Prove to them you’ve taken the time to look at their site.
  3. Create a compelling storyWriters and bloggers are looking for more than just a cool product. They want a story that connects with their readers. What makes your product unique? What’s the emotional connection? Why do people need to hear about you and your product?
  4. But, keep it to the pointThey don’t need to know your life story. Just give them what they need to intrigue them and show off your product. Bloggers are looking for short, sharp leads.
  5. Follow upJust once, about a week later. Keep it polite, and if you don’t hear back, don’t take it personally. Just try another one!
  6. SponsorshipThere are lots of blogs and social media accounts that will accept payment to share your product or create content around it. It’s a small price to pay for lots of eyes on your product.

 

A free sample works wonders here too 😉

 

Sticking to one working method is all you need to make your store a success but if you are craving for more, read our marketing blogposts to get inspired!

 

Phew, you made it to the end!

 

So, what have we learned?

 

  1. There are lots of ways to sell online, but nothing beats building your own website on WordPress or Shopify.
  2. For WordPress, decide on a hosting company & setup WordPress + WooCommerce.
  3. For Shopify, just get started here.
  4. Choose a clean and unique design.
  5. Reach out to influential blogs to secure reviews and coverage.

 
 

FINAL THOUGHT

 

The hardest part is taking the first leap. Don’t feel daunted by the process, embrace it and learn as you go. Trust in yourself and your product! If you need extra help, I’m just an email away. If you choose WordPress, you can watch how I set up the WooCommerce for Bon Bon Boutique.

 

Follow your passions, start a successful business, and ditch the day job!

 

It really can happen, just read our interview with Kalen (Bon Bon Boutique’s Owner), making $1000 in her spare time!

 

Good luck!

 

 

Daren Low

Daren Low is the founder of Bitcatcha.com and co-developer of the free Server Speed Checker. With a decade of experience in website development and internet marketing to his name, Daren is considered a premier authority on all things related to building and managing an online presence. Feel free to pick his brain by connecting via and Twitter.

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  • Great step-by-step guide on setting up your own online store. I really love the last big of advice best: “The hardest part is taking the first leap. Don’t feel daunted by the process, embrace it and learn as you go. Trust in yourself and your product!” So many people wait until everything is ‘perfect’ and end up never taking action. Start with a website – it all starts there and that gives you a foundation upon which to build.

  • Great article! I completely agree that creating a well-designed eCommerce site is a great way to strengthen your brand and start building a loyal clientele. Good technical tips too – most people are surprised to learn that you don’t need to know tons of code to create your own website! All it takes is a little bit of research and work, and it’s well worth it.

  • Awesome article. I’d mention that a great way to start marketing once you have your store up and running is to integrate an instagram page with it. Photos sell products and there’s no better place to market your products with photos than the social network for photos.

    I’ve adopted the like blitz strategy where you go and research the hashtags of your chosen niche. Then once you search for the hashtag just like every photo there for 5-10 minutes a day. You can also follow this up with following major accounts in that niche.

    Once you start building up a following you can reach out to the big accounts in your niche for a sponsored post. Usually accounts that have email addresses in their bio will take sponsored posts. Either pay them or just send them your product and they will do some kind of review or post about your product with a link back to your site. This is one way to get momentum fast.

  • Katy Smith

    Wow, what a succinct article about selling items online. I really enjoyed the step-by-step method of the post. I wouldn’t hesitate this to somebody who is looking to start an online business. One thing that I find very interesting is that I wish it would be easier to sell items without feeding the other large companies (paypal/ebay/etc.). Perhaps it’s for the more advanced businessperson, but I wish it would be easier to conduct business without the other companies taking a bit of your profits. I guess they have to make money somehow too, eh? Anywho, I really enjoyed reading this article. It was fun and well written. I liked your emphasis on personal relationships, I think that’s really important to make your business a personal relationship focused business.

  • TheSimpleHomemaker

    This is an excellent run-down of how anybody with a vision and a great product can succeed online. In my experience, you are 100% spot-on with your assessment and guide.

    Yes, it is easier to go through Etsy or another organization, but you are correct in that they will continue to grow rapidly and become selling powerhouses, while you may grow slowly if at all. It isn’t the way to go if you have the business support behind you.

    The technical advice is great. Immotion seems like an ideal web-host. It makes SUCH a huge difference which host you use. I’ve frequently been so frustrated with a site that I click away, because it is too slow or items aren’t loading properly. The right host is vital. A second here or there of load time can lose you valuable sales and repeat customers.

    Thanks for the great guide and the kick-in-the-pants encouragement!

  • AQeeL ALi

    This is a great article i loved it, Thank yo for sharing it with us.

  • Cartivo Cart.ms

    Hello Dare
    You are just awesome i have started my online shopping store in june and don’t know where to start and how to start i have got your article from goolgle and after complete reading of it i must say your blog got my attention i must read your other article great help for newbies like me thanks buddy keep posting such a useful content

  • Thank you for your kind words. Please feel free to check out other blogposts in http://www.bitcatcha.com/blog/. Please also do subscribe to our newsletter so that I can send you the latest sharing directly with you.