Everyone wants to make money online. I know I do, and I’m sure you do, too.
It’s most people’s dream to find a way to work and earn a living from home.
There’s no better time than now to get started with your own online shop.
Retail e-commerce sales have steadily increased from 2015 to 2021.
One-third of 2017’s estimated $353.68 billion in sales is coming from mobile.
This makes it look tricky to monetize your site. But don’t worry.
It’s actually opening up more lanes.
Mobile marketplace apps like eBay and Amazon are just two ways to build a mobile online storefront.
The purpose of this guide is to walk you through how you can get started in this lucrative industry.
These tactics will cover both desktop and mobile sites (along with everything in between).
1. Create a website
When building a traditional brick-and-mortar empire, you start with one anchor location.
This holds true with an online store, as well.
Although I’m going to show you a lot of platforms to build a storefront on, this is the most important.
A conversion funnel is the foundation of online marketing, and building it takes a lot of effort.
Imagine getting a HuffPost mention of your Etsy page. It’s a huge accomplishment!
The sales boost from referral traffic is great, and you realize you can build something big.
But then Etsy removes you from its platform and your links are now dead.
You lost all your off-site SEO, and you have to build the funnel all over again.
With your own website, you have much more control over this.
Every startup faces these challenges, and it’s through the process of failure that we learn to build things back up.
It paints the full picture of you are, too.
Your website is where you host your contact information, product pages, blog, and more.
There are several great platforms to build your website on.
Shopify is an all-in-one suite to build, publish, and host an e-commerce site.
Because it’s a turn-key solution, Shopify is great for entrepreneurs and small businesses that don’t have someone with coding skills on their teams.
A la carte features can be purchased to expand the possibilities.
Another great platform is WooCommerce, an e-commerce platform for WordPress.
Using WordPress gives you full access to a wide variety of features and plugins.
In addition, you’ll be able to really customize your pages if you’re so inclined.
Here’s a short video on how to optimize e-commerce pages.
Once you have a solid website up, you can begin offsite efforts to draw traffic.
2. Promote on social media pages
Social media is unavoidable these days, regardless of how you feel about it.
According to Hootsuite’s 2017 We Are Social Report, 2.789 billion of the Internet’s 3.772 billion users are active on social media.
This is a large segment (37%!) of the population.
Promoting your online store among your friends on social media is the first step toward building a solid following.
Your friends and family are people who already know and trust you. Targeting these audiences can bring in the first few sales and build word of mouth.
LuLaRoe, a $4 billion MLM clothing company that recently partnered with Disney, built its empire entirely through Facebook Live parties.
Cannabis Now built and supports its magazine with a 4.1 million subscriber base on Facebook.
Social media is a powerful marketing tool in the modern age.
Don’t ignore it!
These are just Facebook examples. Pinterest is coming of age as a marketplace.
Instagram rolled out Instagram shopping earlier this year, as well.
It lets businesses add product listing information in their feeds.
Many of these services require you to have a website already up and running, and they’ll take a cut from sales.
With that being said, 90% of one sale is better than 100% of none.
Look even beyond these examples to find ways in which social media can work to promote your online store.
3. Build an eBay store
In case you haven’t heard, eBay is one of the largest online marketplaces in the world.
There are currently over 171 million active users, according to Statista.
This makes it a very profitable place to set up shop and gather customers.
That’s what Linda Lightman found out when she opened her Linda’s Stuff luxury consignment store on eBay.
The store generates $25 million a year based on her business savvy.
Getting started selling on eBay is as simple as creating an account. It’s free, but you can pay extra for a store.
To open an eBay Store, select either a Basic ($24.95/month), Premium ($74.95/month), or Anchor ($349.95/month) account.
A store can be personalized more than a seller account page. It’ll have a personalized URL, and you can link to other listings within your listings.
Here’s Best Buy’s eBay Store for an idea of what’s possible. It looks just like the company’s website.
Using eBay as a platform to sell your products comes with some disadvantages.
In addition to the store fee, you’ll pay a commission percentage to the house.
A large volume of sales will also come with extra listing fees.
There are a lot of upsells on eBay, so be conscious of the profit margins, and it’ll help feed your online store.
eBay does provide a ton of exposure through its partner network and remarketing tools.
It also helps you build and maintain a customer database, test pricing strategies, and more.
4. Set up an Amazon seller’s account
Amazon is another great place to set up a seller account and peddle your wares.
Around half of Amazon’s sales come from third-party sellers just like you.
By selling on Amazon, you’ll benefit from exposure to its platform, which often circumvents traditional search engines.
Amazon is accessible through Alexa and Dash buttons, and it’s the 7th most-trafficked site online.
There are two types of Amazon seller accounts: Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM)
FBM sellers ship directly to customers.
FBA sellers ship to Amazon distribution centers, which then ship the products to buyers.
There are differences in fee structures, but the important difference is on-site search ranking.
Only FBA sellers can list Prime-eligible items, which is a major filter used to search the site.
FBA items also tend to rank at the top of search results. Here are the top listings for “Bluetooth speaker.”
They’re all Prime items, and as Amazon’s same-day delivery logistics expand across the country, it’ll become a more important sales platform than ever.
You’re already competing with Amazon, and you can’t beat them.
You may as well join them, and do it right, by applying solid SEO tactics.
5. Post Craigslist ads
With both Amazon and eBay available, Craigslist is often an afterthought.
It’s still a valuable tool with 60 million users, according to its fact sheet.
Craigslist is a great place to find employees, franchise your business, and sell your goods.
The usefulness of this online classified site is limited only to your imagination.
I’m also a fan of the lowercase layout.
Get started by clicking “post to classifieds” and following the menu tree to create an ad.
From there, it’s vital to remember to click the link in your confirmation email to publish the post.
Be wary of who you ship items to or meet in person. It’s better to meet in a public place than your home when doing in-person transactions.
6. Participate in online forums
Backlinks are an important foundation of SEO.
These inbound links signal to Google that you’re a reputable site that other reputable domains would recommend.
There are lots of ways to accomplish this, but one of the easiest when starting out is by posting in forums.
Reddit is one of the Internet’s more popular forums.
With a simple layout and voting system, Reddit is home to discussions on every subject imaginable.
They’re not an easy crowd to please, though.
You can’t just post spammy content or you’ll quickly be banned.
It’s important to add value to the conversation.
Comment on topics related to your industry and try not to directly ask for sales.
Instead, focus on information that can be useful for the audience.
Reddit is far from the only online forum. Quora is another great online forum.
I regularly participate in conversations on Quora. This question-and-answer forum is known for providing expert answers to pressing questions.
Like Reddit, adding value is a necessity.
Without a unique and honest perspective, you’re wasting your time.
Putting work in these trenches solidifies your position as an industry thought leader.
Get involved in the community today through forums.
7. Understand your customers
Once you have everything set up online, you’ll start gathering data on who’s actually viewing your site.
Google Analytics is the best place to start looking into who’s actually looking and who’s buying.
To get started, you’ll need to link Google Analytics to your website using a tracking ID.
You do this by clicking Admin and Tracking Info under the Property column.
Once you have this copied and pasted into your website code, you’ll be able to start tracking visitors.
There are several key pieces of information to keep an eye out for.
You can track general demographic information. There’s also segmented affinity information.
This information can be invaluable when deciding how to focus your marketing efforts.
You can also see where this traffic comes from.
Social, organic search, direct, and referral are the main sources.
This information is useful for learning which marketing initiatives are working.
Budgets can be better focused and resources better managed.
These numbers and statistics are the best way to get a bird’s-eye view of how you’re doing.
Don’t build a website without using Google Analytics.
8. Remarket using email lists
Did you know that email is still one of the most widely-used marketing communication methods?
Recent research shows 94% of all adults online are using email.
In fact, email marketing has one of the best ROIs in digital marketing.
Hard to believe, but it’s true!
Of course, for your email marketing efforts to be effective, you’ll need to use marketing automation tools.
MailChimp is one of the most popular options.
Using MailChimp, you can create drag-and-drop email templates for almost any common situation.
The free version is a great value for startup businesses.
As your business grows, your MailChimp account can scale to match your needs.
An upgraded version is available for $10 per month to remove email sending limits and to provide more robust reporting functionality.
At the Pro level, you get the full functionality for enterprise users.
MailChimp isn’t the only email marketing automation platform on the block. Constant Contact is the Coke to its Pepsi.
Although they’re relatively similar in core functionality, Constant Contact is known for great deliverability and customer service.
It’s a bit more expensive than MailChimp, and it lacks some of the reporting details and automation features that make its competitor stand out.
With that being said, it also offers a bit more email customization options.
With the right email marketing campaign, you can greatly increase the direct and referral traffic to your online store.
9. Write a blog
When asked about their biggest marketing challenges in HubSpot’s State of Inbound study, 65% of marketers said that they struggled with generating traffic and leads.
This is true whether you’re starting your first online store or are the head of a multi-trillion-dollar retail conglomerate.
Blogs help you overcome obstacles related to lead generation. B2B marketers using blogs receive 67% more leads than those who don’t.
By 2020, it’s estimated that 85% of our business relationships will be handled through machines.
Blogs are sitting online just waiting for your customers to find them at all times.
They’re free to create, and they increase keyword density, indexed pages, and available search results.
A recent study found that 38% of marketers consider blogging to be the most important content for marketers.
I clearly use blogging myself. In fact, you’re reading an example of it right now.
It drives the bulk of my traffic.
Building a blog isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time to get it done right.
I hold myself to a strict blogging schedule because I understand the long-term ROI.
The more you blog, the more traffic you’ll drive. It increases exponentially once you reach over 15 a month.
Of course, these need to be blogs that provide value. You can’t just fill the Internet with fluff.
Nobody would read that.
Focus on creating a content calendar and building a quality blog today. Every day it’s not up, you’re leaving money on the table.
10. Start a YouTube channel
YouTube is the final frontier we’ll be discussing to get your online store started.
It’s a huge ecosystem with more than one billion unique monthly visitors.
YouTube is owned by Google, so you can rest assured that it’s going to appear in search results for a long time to come.
It’s not just a magnet for people who love to watch crazy cat videos.
Video marketing is also a vital part of modern digital marketing.
Almost 50% of Internet users look for videos related to their purchases before visiting a store.
This is why you can’t avoid it as a place to reach new customers.
Unboxing, demonstration, and review videos are just the start.
Brands are constantly finding new ways to use YouTube for brand promotion.
Disney is the king of content creation, and its YouTube channel hosts exclusive content, like classic movies as told by Emoji.
These ~2-minute shorts retell classic Disney movies in a modern Emoji art style.
You can bet that the house of Mickey Mouse is only just beginning to test the YouTube waters.
Also, remember YouTube’s push into 360-degree video.
YouTube 360 is all about creating spherical videos that are compatible with virtual reality.
According to Statista and this great Infographic from Touchstone Research, VR is expected to be in the hands of 171 million people by 2018.
On top of this, only 4% of respondents between 14 and 19 (a sweet marketing demographic) was not interested in VR.
This makes 360 video a great investment for finding new marketing lanes.
BMW has been making use of it.
Check out this video of Gigi Hadid driving the new BMW coupe.
There’s also YouTube live-streaming functionality to match Facebook Live.
Use these tools to help promote and build your online store.
Well, that’s it.
You’re well on your way to building a profitable online business.
Building all of this is no guarantee of success, and people have had success by focusing on only a couple of them.
However, if you put in the time and build it all the right way, you’ll eventually find your target market.
Sometimes it takes multiple tries. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time.
You may open a store that fails for the first several months. It could be shut down.
When things go wrong, use this guide to help rebuild and keep moving forward.
What steps have you found success or failure in when building your first online store?
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