How to start a shop online
Some of us here might be interested in starting our own businesses online but we are not sure where to begin. In Singapore, a lot of people have actually dabbled in an online shop, and it is always interesting to see the methods that they use to start their shops which anyone located anywhere can adopt.
You do not need to be very technically inclined or spend too much money to start your own as there are so many ways that you can get your shop up and running easily from as low as $0 which we will be sharing in this hub.
The easiest way to get a shop started is to run a blogshop. Blogshops are simply blogs that are used to post items for sale instead of a typical diary entry. Typical blogsites that are used as blogshops include www.livejournal.com and www.blogspot.com
The basic elements of a blogshop include:
- A page detailing how to order. You are typically told to e-mail in your order and make the payment either via PayPal or bank transfer. The blogshop owner will then acknowledge your payment and mail you the items.
- A page detailing return and refund policies.
- A sticky entry at the top of the blog to write your announcements.
- Blog posts to post your products.
There are people who love blogshop-shopping because they can get really good deals online as compared to getting it off the racks. The messiness of the entire layout is endearing and gives it a certain draw as claimed by some of my friends.
Blogshops typically cost $0 to start (if you use the free service) and is relatively simple if you have experience with blogging. The more successful blogshops are the ones that really put in effort to decorate and beautify the product photographs.
Check out some of the blogshops available here:
Intoxiquette - http://intoxiquette.livejournal.com/
ellymamashop - http://ellymamashop.blogspot.com/
leglassslippers - http://leglassslippers.livejournal.com/
Facebook pages are very useful to market your items. You can simply list them on a nice Facebook page and send the links out to your friends and they email you for orders, same concept as a blog shop.
Or you can actually integrate them with existing solutions in the market that transforms your Facebook page into an e-commerce site. Here is a free option that you can check out: http://www.payvment.com/
I find that one of the benefits of having a Facebook store is that you already have an existing clientele which consist of people who trust you and is more likely to purchase from you. It is also a good testing ground for your products as you market to a relatively "warmer" market which makes it easier for you to focus on pushing the product as opposed to building your reputation when you're marketing to a "cold" market. Another benefit is that you get to tap into your friends' network too if they were to share your product on their Facebook wall / timeline.
If Facebook is something that you're very comfortable with, you could try out this option to get your first online shop going.
There are online marketplaces like Qoo10 (gmarket) & Etsy that enables you to upload your products and sell them online. The benefits of using this option is that you get to market your wares to the existing networks of the sites. Qoo10 for example is a massive online marketplace focusing on clothes, household items, phone and computer accessories and has many customers in their database that are willing to purchase from the vendors listed on it.
Etsy on the other hand appeals to the unique handmade market. My friends have had quite good experiences listing their items on these marketplaces as the target market fits with what they are looking for.
Usually it is free to list your products but these sites will take a small cut of your sales as commission. The good thing about this is that you only need to pay them when you earn something.
If you are slightly more technically advanced, you can consider the wordpress ecommerce option. Only self-hosted wordpress sites can be made into an ecommerce site by installing plugins or purchasing existing themes that already have ecommerce capabilities built in.
Other than paying your monthly hosting fees, Wordpress is free to run as it is open source. You get a professional e-commerce site up and running within a few hours. Check out this demo.
What I really like about Wordpress is its built in Search Engine Optimization features. I found that a lot of my Wordpress sites actually rank quite high in Google without me having to put that much effort into making them so. A huge advantage if you're trying to reach out to a global market.
Ebay is an online auction site that enables you to list your products online and people can bid for them. There is a listing fee to put your items on Ebay but what I like about it is that if you do it right, your items can actually be sold higher than your asking price due to the auction system.
You can easily set up a shop front in minutes via the Ebay option just that customisation is a little limited here as you have to follow the Ebay layout. However the good news is that there are existing Ebay buyers that you can tap upon as well as the Ebay seller protection which slightly reduces your risk of default payments from your customers.
Paid Ecommerce Solutions
If you're looking at starting an online shop webfront and you are not too confident about the technical side, you can consider looking for a paid/hosted ecommerce solution like Bigcommerce. These sites charge a monthly fee where the prices depend on the package you have selected. They simplify the process of setting up the shop where you just need to open an account and start listing your items.
The backend is simple and easy to use. They also have advanced tools for you to create coupons and promotional codes to facilitate your marketing. The sites look very professional and expensive. Check out some of these featured stores here.
My friends who are on Bigcommerce feel that the monthly payments are worth it as it is affordable (less than US$50) a month which is way cheaper than paying rent of a physical shopfront.
Open Source Ecommerce Solutions
Last but not the least, if you have a bit more technical knowledge and want a professional ecommerce site without the monthly fees, you can opt for the opensource ecommerce solutions like Prestashop and Magneto. The ecommerce backend features are way more extensive than the Wordpress options but tweaking the site to what you want would require a lot more technical acumen.
For the frontend, you can either program it yourself or purchase some off-the-shelf designs. I have a prestashop store and it took me about 6 man hours to get it going and another 12 man hours to propagate all the items on it.
Setting up an online shop can be easy and free as you can see from all the options above, it really depends on what your direction and focus is. Have a quick think through of how much time and money you would like to invest in your shop.
I personally have tried most of the options listed above or have friends who are involved in those that I have not. They are tried and tested to work. However, the success of your shop really depends on your products, marketing and reputation as a seller.
Hope you have enjoyed this hub and if you have more options on how to start an online shop, please do share them with me in the comments below.