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Want to get straight into it? We highly recommend using Wix to start your online store. It’s easy to use, perfect for beginners, and incredibly affordable. Sign up for an unlimited free trial to get started.
$800,000 in a single month is a life changing amount of money.
Not to mention $30 million in your first year. Which… is exactly what Leesa mattress did in their first full month and year selling online.
When you combine a well-designed ecommerce website with world-class products and a rock-solid marketing strategy, you have a recipe for unprecedented online success.
However, it all starts with building your website. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the tech and industry jargon or have been trying to do it on your own and want to throw your laptop out the window, you’re not alone.
After building several online stores over the years, we’ve nailed the process down to a science.
Why Starting an Online Store Is Worth It
Whether you’re starting a new business from scratch or transitioning your brick-and-mortar store to online sales during COVID-19, starting an online store is a smart move.
While you can sell on marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon or on social media, you’re limited by their algorithms, terms, and rules. Plus, you don’t actually own your website or the content on it, so you run the risk of losing everything at a moment’s notice.
As such, creating an online store that’s 100% yours is crucial. You don’t have to worry about changes to the platform affecting your reach or accidentally breaking the rules and having your shop shut down.
However, the most exciting part is that starting an online store gives you complete control and a professional (online) place to call home.
The Investment Needed to Start an Online store
As with any business, starting an online store requires an up-front investment of time and money. But the good news is that you don’t have to invest a lot of either.
Most online stores take four to six days to plan, design, and launch.
However, that time frame depends on various factors, so it may end up taking longer. You may have to stop and take product photos, for example. Or you might need to spend a bit of time choosing your niche if you don’t already have an idea of what you want to sell.
In terms of money, you’ll need to spend at least $23 per month for continued use of Wix, our preferred ecommerce platform.
The introductory plan includes everything you need to set up your website and start making sales. However, there are more advanced plans (at higher price points) you can upgrade to down the road when you can justify the added expense.
Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll go over how to:
- Choose a niche and position yourself within it
- Sign up for an unlimited free trial with Wix
- Pick a template and customize it
- Add your product listings
- Configure payment, shipping, and tax settings
- Launch your online store
- Make your first sale
This is a highly condensed version of everything we’ll cover in a nutshell. So, if you’d like actionable info broken down into a step-by-step process, follow along with the rest of this guide.
13 Steps to Starting Your Online Store and Making Your First Sale
Now that you know why you should start an online store and the investment required, it’s time to talk about how to actually make it happen.
Follow along to learn our tried-and-true process.
Step 1: Choose a Niche and Position Yourself
Before you start creating your online store, it’s critical to decide what you’re going to sell and how you’re going to position yourself in the market. If you’re not quite sure what that means, don’t worry.
We’ll walk through it together.
If you’re not sure what you want to sell, the first thing you need to do is a combination of brainstorming and research. Start by making a list of product categories you’re interested in.
From there, you need to make sure there’s a demand for what you want to sell. You could have the best ideas and the best products in the world, but you won’t make any money if nobody wants to buy what you’re selling.
So, head over to Google and search for what you want to sell. If you see that others are selling something similar, that’s a good sign.
It means that people are actively buying products in this category.
You can also do the same thing on Amazon, Etsy, and other online marketplaces.
Here’s a quick example. Let’s say I want to start an online store selling handmade knitted sweaters for women. So, I’ll head over to Etsy to see if there are other people already selling them.
As you can see, there are 48,000+ results. Tons of people are already making money selling handmade knitted sweaters. So, I know there’s demand and people are willing to pay for my products.
Note: If you can’t find anyone selling products within your category, it probably means there’s no demand for it. As such, you should go with another option from your list.
Once you find something with demand, it’s time to decide how you’re going to position yourself within that niche.
Going back to our handmade sweater example, I could position myself as the go-to for eco-friendly sweaters made from recycled thrift store blankets. Or as a luxury sweater designer using only the finest materials.
Alternatively, I could position myself as an adventurous, outdoorsy brand for women who enjoy exploring in style.
How you position yourself within your niche plays a massive role in product pricing, your target market, the design of your online store, and more.
So, make sure you have this nailed down before you start setting anything up. It may take awhile, and that’s okay. It should.
Researching your market and choosing the right products + positioning is the hardest part of this entire process. But it’s also one of the most critical steps.
You have to lay the foundation of your online store before you start building the walls and decorating the inside.
Step 2: Sign Up for an Unlimited Free Trial with Wix
The first thing you need to do is open a Wix account. It’s completely free to sign up and you can play around with all the features that come with your account as long as you’d like before committing to a paid plan.
So, head over to Wix and click the “Start Selling Now” button.
From there, pick a username and password. And that’s it! You now have a Wix account and you’re ready to start building your online store.
If you have an existing Wix site, you can convert it into a Wix store in just a few clicks. However, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan if you’re currently using a free account.
Start Your Online Store
Wix includes everything you need to start selling online. Every plan comes with web hosting, 500+ mobile-responsive e-commerce templates, a drag-and-drop editor, integrated marketing tools, secure online checkout, payment processing, shipping solutions, and complete design freedom.
Step 3: Create a Wix Store
Once you have an account, you need to add a Wix store. You have to upgrade to a paid plan to do this, but you can start on the lowest tier and upgrade to a higher plan when you need to.
You have four plans to choose from, including:
- Basic – $23 per month
- Unlimited – $27 per month
- VP – $49 per month
- Enterprise – $500 per month
Just make sure to choose a “business & eCommerce” plan. Wix’s “website” plans don’t include ecommerce functionality and you won’t be able to create an online store.
Wix’s premium plans come with a suite of powerful ecommerce features, including the ability to do things like:
- Track orders
- Accept payments
- Create promotions
- Handle tax details
- Manage shipping
All from one centralized location. It includes everything you need to get started, scale, and write your own 8-figure success story.
If you’re adding a store to your existing Wix website, you can set it up by going to the editor. From there, you should see an “add +” button on the left side of your screen. Click that and select “store”. Then click “add to site.”
Now, you should have a new “My Stores” button. You can click that new button to start setting up your store.
Once you upgrade to a paid plan (or add a store to your existing site), you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Step 4: Choose a Template
With Wix, you don’t have to worry about learning code or hiring an expensive web designer to create a professionally designed online store.
Instead, you can choose from hundreds of beautifully designed store templates, all of which are free with your paid plan.
There are SO many options to choose from, and you can easily customize each one to match your brand and the products you sell with Wix’s drag-and-drop page builder in just a few clicks.
When deciding on a template, pay close attention to the overall layout, navigation, and functionality of each theme.
You should think about how you want to display products (i.e., with videos or images) and if you need a lot of gallery space to display the same product in different variations.
For example, you may have one shirt in six different colors. Some themes give you the option to display them in a unique way, while others don’t.
Anther thing to consider is navigation. If you sell products that span dozens of categories, how are you going to organize them so that customers can easily find what they need?
Some themes offer better navigation features than others.
As such, functionality is a lot more important than design. You can easily change colors, fonts, images, and more once you install a template, so try to look past those features as you make your final choice.
Remember: you can’t choose a new template later on. So, take the time to look through everything and pick the right one.
Step 5: Personalize Your Store
Now comes the fun part—customizing and personalizing your store.
You can choose different colors, switch up backgrounds, add a personal logo, swap out fonts, and drag and drop various content blocks wherever you want.
As you make changes, it’s a good idea to continuously refresh your preview pane so you can see how they look. You should also make sure your template and any design changes look great on mobile, too.
Continuously check your template on both a desktop browser and your phone so you can see how it looks across devices. Also, keep in mind that you can modify desktop and mobile views independently.
As such, you can make changes to one without it affecting the other.
You can start with the home page and make your way through all of your pages, making sure not to miss any. This can be a time consuming process, but remember you can always come back and make changes later.
Progress is better than perfection.
When you’re done customizing everything to match your brand, you’re ready to start adding products to your online store.
Step 6: Add Products
Now comes the fun part: stocking your store’s virtual shelves. You can do this in a few easy steps.
- First, start by going to the “products” tab in the dashboard
- Then click “new product”
- Choose “physical”
- Add a product image or video. You can also add a GIF
- Once you’ve selected the image you want, click “upload media”
- Select “add to page”
Once that’s done, you’ll also want to add a product description or product information so your customers have the info they need about the item. Here’s a quick way to make this happen.
- Go to the “name” field and enter a name for your product
- You can also add a “ribbon” to the product if you choose. For example, add a ribbon to indicate a clearance item or a new arrival
- Go the the “price” field and enter the price
- If the item is on sale, you can click “on sale” and then include a discount price so both the original price and the discounted price show up
- Lastly, go to the “description” field and enter a description
Wix gives you 8,000 characters for each description, so take advantage of them. Generally, the more information you include, the better it is for your shoppers. Try to anticipate questions they might have. For example, if you’re selling T-shirts, include sizing information, washing instructions, and general fit information.
You can also use this section to have Wix keep track of your inventory. To do this, find the “inventory” toggle and make sure it’s set to “on.” You can enter an actual number or a SKU in this section.
Step 7: Create Collections
Many ecommerce stores sell a variety of different products. For example, a store might sell clothing for kids or women’s accessories. To make it easier for customers to shop for specific items, Wix lets you organize your offerings into “collections.”
You might wonder why you can’t just make one big store with all your products on a single page. While this might seem easier as far as setup goes, it can be a nightmare for your customers.
Think about the last time you shopped in a big box store. No matter which store you visit, the products are organized into sections. The toothbrushes are next to the toothpaste and the mouthwash, while automotive parts are by the tires and car batteries.
In other words, the store’s various products are grouped into “collections” to make shopping an easier and faster experience.
To add a product to a collection, complete the following steps:
- Start at the dashboard
- Click “store product”
- Click “collections”
- Find the collection you want
- Click “add products”
- Choose the products you want to include in the collection
- Click “save”
It’s that easy. You can add as many collections as you want, but it’s generally best to keep the number of collections to a minimum. Otherwise, they can overwhelm your customers.
For example, the big box store you visited probably groups all children’s clothing into one section rather than breaking it down into a socks collection, pants collection, and shirt collection. Instead, the collection includes all the clothing a child would wear.
Step 8: Choose Your Store Name
Maybe you already have a store name in mind. If so, congratulations. You’ve taken care of an important step that many people find challenging.
If you haven’t chosen a name, now is the time to pick something that makes your store stand out in a crowd. It’s not necessarily an easy task, and many people struggle with this step.
If you’re unsure about what to pick, start with brainstorming. Write down every idea that pops into your head, even if it seems silly at the time. Think about what you sell or the image you want to convey.
For example, is your store light and airy? Or is it high-end and sophisticated? What types of products do you sell? If you sell children’s clothing, you might want to go with something fun and colorful. On the other hand, stores that sell books might want to focus on something that evokes literary images or emotions.
To get ideas, check out existing stores that sell products similar to yours. If you’re a bookseller, look at independent bookstores online. What kinds of names do they have? Does the word “book” appear in their store name? If they’re in a niche market, such as mysteries and thrillers, does their store name indicate that?
Sometimes, a store name has nothing to do with the products the store sells. While this might be okay for a well-established company, such as Sony or Target, it might not work as well for your startup ecommerce store. You want to make it easy for people to connect your store’s name with the products you sell.
When you’ve found a name that works, don’t forget to update your store’s settings to show the new name. To find the settings, go to the “general” tab in the dashboard. From there, click “settings” and then click “store settings.”
Step 9: Set Up Payment Methods
So your store is set up and products are stocked. Now you want to include payment options so your customers can actually pay you for the products they buy.
Fortunately, Wix includes multiple payment capabilities. Generally, you want to make it as painless as possible for people to tender payment. Options like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Stripe make this hassle-free, and you can select any or all of these from the Wix dashboard.
These payment methods also include integrated security features that protect both you and your customers. When you run an ecommerce store, disputes are part of doing business. By choosing payment options that include encryption and in-house dispute resolution, you can ensure both sides of the transaction have access to support if you need it.
Step 10: Choose Shipping and Tax Settings
Once your customer makes a purchase, it’s on you to ensure their item reaches them safely and promptly. Keep in mind that online consumers have become accustomed to lightning fast shipping times, as well as free shipping. Big names like Amazon and Target routinely offer two-day shipping and free shipping.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to do the same. On the other hand, you risk losing customers if you have slow shipping times or expensive shipping rates.
You can set up your shipping rates and times inside your Wix dashboard, which gives you flexibility with respect to fees, discounts, flat rates, and free shipping. For example, you might need to charge more to ship overseas or outside the lower 48 states. With Wix, you can set up different shipping rules for various destinations.
You can also select which carriers you want to use, whether it’s the U.S. Postal Service or a carrier like FedEx or UPS.
You’ll also want to pay careful attention to the tax rules for your location and possibly the locations of your customers. While there is no national sales tax in the U.S., 48 states and the District of Columbia collect sales tax on retail sales. Wix recommends checking with an accountant before adding your store’s tax settings. When you’re ready, you might need to set up sales tax manually for each state in your settings.
Step 11: Link Your Domain
With a Wix premium plan, you can link your store to your own domain. For example, if you have your own website, you can easily link your Wix store to your existing site and then add a “shop” tab to your website’s main menu. You can even do this if your domain is hosted elsewhere.
To link your store to your domain, start by doing the following:
- From your Wix account, go to the “domains” page
- Select “connect a domain you already own”
- Choose the store you want to connect and click “next”
- Type your domain name and click “next”
From here, you’ll need to visit the site where your domain is hosted. For example, this might be GoDaddy or Bluehost. Once you’re logged into your account, follow the directions to update your domain’s name server settings. You might need to contact your hosting site’s support team to get specific instructions for changing these settings.
Once you’ve changed the settings, return to your Wix account’s domain page and click “verify connection” to make sure everything linked correctly.
Step 12: Review Your Online Store
Before you launch your new store into the world, you want to make sure it’s functioning properly and that all of your links are working.
It may seem tedious, but take time to check each and every product. Make sure the images are showing up and that every link is active. Do a test run by making a small purchase to ensure payments are processing correctly.
You should also consider having a friend visit your store and provide a critique. Ask them to point out anything that’s confusing or difficult to navigate. Now is your chance to update your settings and make changes before you advertise.
Step 13: Connect Analytics
If you have an existing website, you might already be familiar with analytics, such as Google Analytics. These are tools that let you see what kind of traffic your site is getting, including where it’s from in the world and how long visitors stay on certain pages.
With Wix, you can do the same thing with your store. Analytics are particularly important for ecommerce, as they give you insight into things like how product pages are performing, where most of your customers come from, how long they stay on a page, and how many clicks convert to sales. You can also track how many customers add items to a cart without making a purchase.
How to get your first sale
The whole point of an online store is to generate sales. Nothing is more exciting than launching your store and seeing those first sales come through. Understandably, you want to make this happen right away.
Unless you’re very lucky, however, you probably won’t generate much traffic without advertising. There are more than 20 million ecommerce sites in the world. To stand out, you need to let people know you’re there.
On the other hand, you might not have a marketing budget if you’re just starting out. This is where you can tap into free marketing opportunities to spread the word about your store.
For this, social media can be a great resource. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are free to join, and you can start marketing your business right away.
For ecommerce, Instagram’s platform is already set up to showcase products. While it got its start as a site for sharing personal photos, millions of brands have paired with influencers to sell products. If you don’t have the funds to partner with influencers, you can showcase images of your products and include links to your store in your bio by using free resources like Tap Bio.
Also, don’t be afraid to think outside the social box a bit. For example, sites like Reddit have built-in communities in just about every niche imaginable. This is how the founder of beard care products company Beardbrand got free tips and feedback about his new business. By posting in the Reddit Entrepreneur subreddit, he generated interest in his shop and connected with other entrepreneurs willing to spread the word about his business.
Finally, don’t be afraid to take advantage of other free advertising opportunities, including classified ads. Sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist may seem a little old school, but they can be a great place to reach customers without spending a dime.
At the end of the day, creativity and hard work can help you get that first sale. From there, customer reviews and word of mouth can continue to drive traffic to your store.