Do you dream of having your own online store? Want to realize an ambitious vision with your laptop?
Setting up an online store (especially a cross-border store) can be a scary idea, especially if you are not a techie. But please don't worry, you're not really alone, after helping friends around you to start an online trade business, we decided to create one of the most comprehensive guides to opening a store.
Whether this is the first time you've decided to start a global online business or you've been immersed in the field for a long time, follow the six steps we've provided and your store will be up and running smoothly!
6 Steps to Launch a Shopify Store
- 1. identify your niche
- 2. Sell other people's products, or sell your own products
- 3. design the website name and register the domain name
- 4. Select the products to be sold
- 5. Create a website using online store builder
- 6. Promote your online store!
- identify your niche
Some first-time entrepreneurs don't give a lot of thought to the Niche; they think something like: selling hiking gear sounds great, let's do it!
This is a bad idea.
The niche you choose will affect many things, including.
- Your sales figures.
- The amount of effort you need to put in to get clients.
- Whether you will have repeat customers.
- A strategic niche is very important, so you have to spend a lot of time thinking about it.
- First, let's talk about pricing.
- At the most basic level, we all understand the concept that
- If you sell cheaper items, more people may buy them, but the average order value is lower.
- If you sell more expensive items, you may have fewer people buying them, but the average order value is higher.
- But when it comes to pricing, it's not just as simple as what you see in front of you. If you sell low-cost goods and you're targeting low- and middle-income groups, there's a lot of pre-sales work that needs to be done.
- Because these people have less disposable income, they are cautious about every purchase, which means you need to answer more questions before you can sell a product.
- In contrast, if you choose a niche that suits the middle-class consumer, you won't have this problem. Sure, you may encounter the odd picky customer who will still bombard you with tons of questions, but most customers don't need a highly maintained service.
- At this point, you may be wondering: what are the criteria for pricing? Is there a minimum price as a cut-off?
- While there are no strict rules, please try pricing items at $100 or more, the rationale behind this is this.
- After taking into account operational, warehousing and marketing costs, most e-commerce sites end up with profit margins between 20% and 30%. Assuming you sell products that all earn 20%, if you sell $20 in merchandise, you will only earn $4 per sale, which is very poor; but if you sell $100 in merchandise, then that number is $20, which looks good.
- When you think about it, you spend the same amount of time and effort on processing and fulfilling orders whether you are selling $20 or $100 items, so why not try to get more in return?
- We have established that lower margin Niches cater to lower income groups and are associated with cheaper products. More importantly, you also need to consider brand loyalty, popularity, and the customer lifecycle.
- Brand Loyalty
- In short, you should avoid using Niches that are already dominated by household names. here is an example.
- Let's say your headphones suddenly break and you need to buy a new pair. You'll likely pull out your phone and open the official Sony (or Bose, Beats, Sennheiser, etc.) website, or go to one of their offline stores.
- Compare this to another scenario: Let's say you're renovating your house and think a nice chandelier would add a lot of interest. Then you might pull out your phone and search for phrases like buy chandeliers online or free shipping on local chandeliers.
- See the difference in behavior?
- In a Niche market dominated by a few brands, consumers don't even consider alternatives. Their brand loyalty follows and they run straight to the brand. This clearly does not bode well for new entrants.
- Now, I'm not saying that you need to limit yourself to selling popular products. In fact, this may be a bad idea because once the hype dies down, you may find that performance becomes very flat. Instead, you should try to identify a Niche or product that is growing slowly but steadily.
- To get a deeper understanding of this topic, a handy tool is available: Google Trends. Just type in a keyword and you can see how many people are searching for it (globally or in specific countries/regions). For example, for the term Airfryer (air fryer), you will see a nice upward trend over the last 5 years.
- The charts peak every year around December, so maybe air fryers are a popular Christmas gift? But that's okay. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find Niche or products that show a smooth trajectory, as long as the overall trend is positive, that's all that matters!
- Customer Lifecycle
- Last but not least, please consider the Customer Lifecycle (CLV).
- This requires you to think ahead, but it's important to have foresight when starting a business. After the first sale is made and the business is running smoothly, the next natural step is to try to generate more income. So how do you do it?
- Many entrepreneurs try to increase the lifecycle value of their customers by coming up with strategies to re-target existing customers and continue selling to them. But this part is very tricky, and certain Niches are absolutely terrible at it. It's essential to pay attention to this ahead of time, so that after six months of running an online business and trying to figure out how to increase CLV, you don't find out: oops, I screwed up.
- Take weddings, for example. It's easy to think that weddings hold high profits because every couple is willing to splurge on their big day. This is true, but they don't realize that clients have a very short life cycle. You may have 100 clients today, but those 100 clients will be gone in 3 months and never return.
- While other online stores are able to maintain customers and sell products to existing customers, it's a different matter for you. In order to expand your business, you must actively invest in advertising, and other forms of marketing. You will be caught in an endless cycle of customer acquisition, and once you stop, sales will follow. Isn't that rather scary?
- Before moving on to the next section, here is a short summary.
- Unprofitable Niches usually cater to lower income groups and are associated with lower priced products, which hardly evoke brand loyalty and fail to capture long-term customer value; in contrast, profitable Niches cater to middle and upper income groups, are associated with more expensive products, have higher brand loyalty and have a long customer lifecycle.
- One last thing, don't blindly enter a Niche market that you know nothing about. If you find a Niche that meets the above criteria but you are not familiar with, then take the time to do your market research. The more you know about your competitors and how the industry works, the better your chances of success with your online store.
- Sell other people's products, or sell your own products
What's the next step in launching an online business?
Should you decide to sell someone else's product (forwarding distribution) or sell your own product (direct sales)!
Transit delivery has become very popular, but like anything else, this business is fraught with a host of challenges. Here, I will detail the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
In some ways, transit delivery can feel like the ultimate online store hack. You don't have to hold inventory, which means.
- You do not need to purchase items in advance.
- you can list more products in the store with essentially zero risk.
- No storage costs.
- No packing and packaging activities.
- With a forwarding and delivery business, almost anyone can easily enter the e-commerce field, even a penniless old man or a high school student who still gets pocket money from his parents. However, there are some not-so-good things here...
- No control over how orders are executed
- It may seem tempting for a manufacturer to take care of order delivery for you, but that's the problem: when they screw up, your customers will blame you. For online stores that take care of their own delivery, it's easy to communicate with customers to apologize, correct the problem, and move on. But transit delivery has to be in contact with a manufacturer thousands of miles away, and obviously, it's not easy.
- Product Return Issues
- Most sellers on Speedy (which is the most popular transit delivery platform) or 1688 do not do returns, and even if they had this business, you would need to send the defective product to the manufacturer, replace it from them, and ship it back to your customer.
- So you have two options.
- None of your store policies have a status indicating that you can process returns.
- Or allow the return of the product and cover the damages.
- If you're on a budget, then most likely you won't have to deal with returns. But don't do it!
- You are still a new brand that no one has heard of and need to build trust with your customers. Therefore, if you have a strict no-return policy, that could delay potential customers from buying from your store.
- Here's my suggestion: offer return processing, but only for defective products with some explanation that these products need to be shipped back to you in a shorter period of time (maybe 7 days) to be eligible.
- If a manufacturer keeps sending defective products, stop working with them and find a different manufacturer.
- Lack of brand effect
- You can ask the supplier to not include any marketing materials in the package they send to the customer, but the fact that you likely won't be able to design any form of packaging or use your own name or logo means the customer won't have the best unboxing experience. Basically, they will receive a very nondescript box with a few Chinese shipping labels on it and nothing in the box to indicate that it came from your store.
- If you're just planning to learn about e-commerce quickly, that's great. But if you're trying to build a brand, then this is a major hurdle.
- Now that we've covered all there is to know about transit delivery, let's move on to selling your own products. First of all, the disadvantages are obvious.
- The cost of purchasing the product.
- The cost of storing the product.
- Picking and packing takes time and money.
- Basically, selling your own products costs a lot of money and is very painful to manage. With forwarding and distribution, you can outsource a lot of your business. But when you sell your own products, you are responsible for everything and need to put more processes together.
- On the bright side, it's great to hold your own.
- Ensure a perfect customer experience
- Statistics show that most unhappy customers don't tell you they are unhappy, you just get forgotten by them and then lose those customers forever. If you don't realize this, you're hurting your own customer retention (and revenue). To avoid reducing this revenue, you need to improve in the area of customer service.
- Direct selling has many advantages in terms of enhancing the customer experience, including.
- Shorter delivery times.
- Carefully designed packaging.
- Knowing their products in all aspects.
- Problems can be resolved quickly once they arise.
- Higher profit margins
- Buying products from the manufacturer usually follows a minimum order quantity, meaning that if you buy in bulk, you get some discount.
- You can either keep the higher spread or pass the discount on to the consumer, which will drive more sales. Either way, your store will generate more revenue!
- Define your own brand
- We have already talked about the importance of putting branding on your products and packaging if you intend to use the brand for the long term. It's not just that consumers recognize your brand, but more importantly, that products delivered in well-designed branded packaging are more attractive.
- How would you feel if you received a worn out, unmarked cardboard box? It might be like you just bought something from the black market or some guy in the basement tried to scam you. But you'd definitely be more excited to get the same product in a beautifully designed package, and there's a reason people shoot unboxing experiences!
- One final benefit about branding: Awesome branding and packaging helps consumers share your product on social media. You can even include call-to-action phrases on your packaging and tell consumers to use your brand hashtag when posting on social media (Organifi does this very well).
- Before moving on to the next step, let's briefly introduce the subscription box model that is currently very popular.
- With this business, your customers specify whether they want a 3-month, 6-month, 12-month, or any other periodical subscription you offer. You can charge the full amount up front or you can do monthly billing. The advantage of this model is the customer lifecycle, as they are paying every month.
- One final quick recap.
- Transit distribution does not require capital and is the easiest way to get started, but has the lowest profit margins and poor branding.
- Wholesale purchases require more capital and have to handle operations such as packaging and distribution, but can offer higher margins and better branding.
- Subscription box stores are also available, and this business has a lot of room to play.
- Once you've chosen your business model, it's time to start the fun part, designing your company (or website) name and registering the domain name!
- design the website name and register the domain name
While not as unsuccessful as your Niche of choice, the company (or website) name is still very important.
People are obsessed with picking a unique name, my advice is to give yourself a 1 to 2 week deadline and if you're really stuck, then pick the name you think is best. Otherwise this step can waste months of time and ultimately kill your online store project in its infancy.
Here are some things to encourage and avoid to help you choose a good name.
Things to encourage and things to avoid
- Please choose a name that is easy to pronounce
- For us, it is usually difficult to spell correctly. Therefore, please choose a word that is easy to pronounce, otherwise the customer is likely to be redirected to the wrong address.
- Choose a name that has some meaning
- If the name is relevant to the Niche you are in, then people can more easily understand your business. If it has a deeper, more personalized meaning, then it can also be a great backstory for media placement.
- Remain as original as possible
- Use of already registered trademarks is likely to attract legal action.
- Choose a .com domain name
- While .co and other domains are becoming more popular, people still instinctively type in .com, and you definitely want your customers to find you more easily!
- Don't choose a name that is too long
- Website names should be 2 to 4 words, or 1 to 3 words. Again, the easier it is to pronounce and spell, the better people will remember it.
- Don't choose names that are a combination of words and numbers
- which will make it appear less professional.
- Don't quote a specific product or product line
- Don't do this unless you intend to focus on selling a highly innovative product. What happens when you decide to expand your product line in the future? You get stuck with that product.
- If you need more help, check out Shopify's Business Name Builder.
- Select the products to be sold
You've chosen a Niche, have a site name and URL, now how do you determine what products to sell?
The answer is easy to find with some shared data, such as heading to Amazon Best Sellers to see the most popular items under your Niche at
Record all ideas in a document or spreadsheet, but there are some things to keep in mind.
- Avoiding the use of registered brands.
- Looking for $50 to $100 products with good margins.
- Trying to find products with lower shipping costs.
- Choose something that you understand.
- Find things you can improve (check the reviews to see what people are upset about and then make a better product).
- AliExpress and 1688 have many suppliers, but the difference is that you can buy as many products as you want on AliExpress, but most products on 1688 come with a minimum order quantity.
- If you don't like Chinese suppliers, then you can also look at SaleHoo, which lists many high quality suppliers. Their market research lab is very useful for finding popular products, allowing you to compare different products and evaluate them based on sales trends, competitive ratings, and other metrics.
- When looking for a supplier, please note the following tips.
- Communicate consistently. The more you talk to them, the better you will feel, and don't be afraid to talk over the phone.
- Avoid excessive or strange charges from suppliers.
- Ask them questions often. Their customer support is your customer support, especially if you plan to transit distribution.
- To learn more about finding the right supplier, check out this guide.
- Create an online store
The best and easiest solution when it comes to creating an eCommerce store is Shopify. for more information about Shopify, check out this article of ours.
Next, I'll show you how to create an online store using Shopify.
Sign up for a free trial
Open the Shopify homepage and click on the Start free trial button to see the free trial option at
A few details will need to be filled in to complete the registration, but this will not take more than two minutes. After successful registration, you will be redirected to the dashboard.
Select a template/theme
In the Dashboard page, scroll down and click the Customize theme button.
This will take you to the themes page, scroll down again and click on the Explore free themes button.
Here you can find about 10 free themes, and if none of them are to your liking, then you can choose to buy a premium theme.
Pro Tip: It's not necessary to use a premium theme right now, but you definitely want to optimize your theme to improve conversions down the road, and this article presents some tips to improve conversions.
Once you have chosen a theme, you can upload your products.
Shopify is very user-friendly, so it's a breeze. Just click Products on the left panel and then click Add product.
Repeat this process until all products have been added.
In addition to filling in the standard information (e.g. product name, description, etc.), be sure to enter a meta description for better SEO! For more information on this, check out the following article.
- How to optimize your e-commerce website for higher conversion rates
- The Ultimate Guide to E-Commerce Product Page Design
Add other pages
In the left panel, click Online Store to open the secondary menu, then click Pages, and then click the Add page button on the right.
First, you need to create the About Us, Logistics Information and Contact Us pages. If you need help, please check out our articles on.
- How to turn your About Us page into a sales machine
- How to use return policies to increase sales
- Click on the Settings> Legal link in turn and you will see.
The final step before publishing: check all settings and make sure everything is accurate.
- Checkout page: specifies whether the customer needs to register in order to checkout.
- Payment Providers page: enable different payment methods, PayPal and credit cards are the best options, bitcoin might be good too.
- Shipping page: set up shipping costs for different regions, at the beginning of the establishment, you can go to 1688 or Taobao to find a cross-border logistics provider.
- Notifications page: design the emails that customers receive when they complete their orders.
- Promote the online store
Now that your website is live, all that's left is to develop a marketing plan.
Content Marketing and SEO
As you may have already learned in this area, the results of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are amazing. If you sell the exact same product in two online stores, but only one is optimized for search, you will see very different results.
Over time, you'll find that selling products online is a numbers game where you try to maximize the number of visitors, maximize the conversion rate, and maximize the retention rate. This is where content marketing and SEO come in handy. Quality content can help you rank, drive traffic to your store, and build trust with your visitors to increase sales.
- Ecommerce Content Marketing: 3 Steps to Launch a Blog and Increase Traffic
Social Media Marketing
One of the golden rules of online marketing: consumers find you when they are hanging out. So make sure you keep your social media pages updated and active!
You can create a content calendar in order to write and schedule posts in advance and make sure that you are always prepared for the main holidays. This may sound like a lot of work, please don't worry, first you just need to choose a channel you want to focus on and start slowly with the smallest of places.
Pay per click (PPC)
Most first-time entrepreneurs are hesitant to try PPC because they fear they will end up going over budget.
But in reality, many online stores spend over $100,000 per month on this, which for those unfamiliar with it sounds like a lot of money. But if I tell you that these companies are getting a 100% ROI on their PPC ads, meaning they're getting $2 in revenue for every $1 they invest, then that ad spend doesn't seem so ridiculous, does it?
So, even if you are not an expert in the field of PPC, you can still make significant profits from it even if you place a mediocre ad.
Finally, don't forget that PPC is not only limited to Google Ads, you can also place Bing Ads and Facebook Ads.
As already mentioned, merchants can earn an average of $2 for every $1 spent on Google Ads, isn't that tempting?
Compared to PPC, email marketing actually boasts even more impressive numbers, earning an average of $44 for every $1 spent! Don't think that email marketing is old school, outdated and boring, it is actually very powerful and effective and is one of the most profitable types of marketing available today.
- The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing
If done correctly, then influencer marketing can bring great benefits. But some fake influencers buy a lot of zombie fans, so keep your eyes peeled when using them!
- How to get more followers on Instagram
Congratulations, you have completed the last step of this guide.
Before I leave, this is my last piece of advice: don't wait for the ideal perfect moment, launch your online business today!
You may be telling yourself: I'm busy at work right now and plan to start my business next week. But when next week comes, you might get a cold and put off your plans. A week later? It's your partner's birthday, postpone it again. Another week later? Your dog is due for a physical, so keep postponing...
You get my point.
There will never be a moment when all the stars align, so stop waiting for that moment to happen and start acting now!