Running an online shop can be a great way to do your own business. An online store can sell almost anything a regular store can, plus a few other things such as digital material like ebooks.
It is possible for you to run a small online store as a hobby with a nice steady source of extra income on the side, or you could build a real business and end up employing a team to help.
Reasons for starting up online stores vary. Some exist because there are established land-based shops, and the owners wanted to offer an online alternative, and others purely run online with no physical store at all.
The pandemic in 2020 forced millions to stay home, and as people lost jobs, they looked for alternative ways to raise an income. Working from home is one of those options, and building your own online shop is a very viable business idea.
Of course, before you can trade online, you will need to decide what you are selling and then actually build yourself a shopfront.
Options available for building an online store
The first option is to hire professional designers and coders. Depending on your budget, this may be out of your reach. If you have received significant investment, then going down this route should yield a custom made website designed around your particular needs.
However, most people setting up a shop from home are likely to be investing somewhat less in the creation of the site.
Another option is that you take an existing template or theme in bootstrap and then customize it to your requirements. This will need some coding knowledge, and you will need to know how CSS and Java work with the HTML. Likewise, if you wanted to code from scratch, you will need to have real coding knowledge.
There are, however, much easier ways to create online shops, and they are aimed at all levels of technical ability. Content management systems let beginners and experienced designers put together websites easily with lots of features that may have been out of reach without coding.
What is CMS?
A content management system or CMS is basically software that allows you to create professional website content and then modify and manage it without having any or very little coding knowledge.
These platforms started out mostly as ways of creating blogs, but some of them have grown into fully-fledged website creators. Some of the biggest are HubSpot, WordPress and Wix.
WordPress accounts for around 35% of all the websites in the world. There are 455 million websites that were created and are being powered by WP. Using a CMS means that the user can build a website by typing in text and uploading photos.
The software helps with SEO, eCommerce, and has a group of plugins and widgets to add functionality and features easily.
WordPress comes in different forms. There is a free version that comes with a standard WordPress domain and WP advertising. There are paid options that come without advertising and allow you to choose your own domain as long as it is available, and then there is wordpress.org.
By visiting their other site, you can download the WP software and choose your own hosting with domain name yourself. If you find yourself needing hosting in India, you could look at FortuneLords for hosting advice.
What are page builders?
Page builders are plugins that add extra functionality to Wix and WordPress. They have free versions, but to use all the features, there is a subscription fee, which differs between the various options. Two popular page builders are Elementor and Beaver Builder.
They both use drag and drop to allow the creator to quickly put together a professional-looking website. Both these builders and others on the market have advantages and disadvantages over each other.
Advantages of using these platforms
The advantages of using these builders with CMS are that almost anyone can build a website. That doesn’t mean anyone can build a good website, however, and it may take some false starts before you get to where you want to be.
The real advantages are that you can build a site with no coding skills faster and easier than a site that is built from scratch. There are ready-made templates and themes that can be used along with loads of widgets and plugins to help you reach your goals. Ecommerce and shop fronts can be integrated easily, and the SEO can be managed through the software.
What are the disadvantages?
Disadvantages are that the loading time on your site is likely to be longer than on a professionally coded store. Depending on which options you take, you could end up with several monthly subscriptions to power your store, and if you decide to end your association with any of the platforms, then the website will become unusable.
You cannot move your site from Wix to your own hosting either. You need to be aware of all the hidden costs that these CMS's can bring.
How to integrate these sites with good hosting
The best option for a non-coder might be to use the WordPress software but build your site on an independent hosting service. You might need to buy a hosting package and domain name, but the WP software is free, so no monthly charges. Hosting affects many things, such as speed. Hosting can affect your SEO too.
Integrating Woo Commerce into your WordPress site without using a page builder means you have no monthly fees either. You can choose to use free themes or purchase ready-made ones. The price of these varies but can be as low as $20 a year.
Is there anything else to consider?
Building an online shop isn’t just about using page builders and good hosting. The main reason anyone would build a shop is to make money. It wouldn’t matter if it was a charity shop or part of a global retail empire; shops are all about creating revenue. To achieve this, you need to have buyers.
If you had a traditional shop, then you would look for a location that has good footfall. A high street or a shopping center, for instance, would have a large number of potential buyers. When it comes to online shops, things work slightly differently.
Driving traffic to your shop
To make a successful online shop, you need visitors, and you need to convert those visits into sales. Page builders and your hosting can help with your SEO to help push up your ranking on Google, but there are other ways to improve this too.
When you are building your shop, consider the content. If you include the correct keywords in your descriptions, then this will help you appear on search results.
Optimize all images on the site for faster loading times and perhaps include a blog or a news section where you can include relevant articles that attract visitors. Adding new information in the right way will help your SEO and keep visitors returning.
If you feel that the content management systems still require more technical skills than you have, then consider the other options available.
Etsy and Shopify both let you market your goods, although Etsy is more for arts and crafts. You could also start out by selling on eBay or Amazon, and both of these sites have the option of developing a website for online shopping.
However, a page builder combined with good content and the right hosting can help you create your own customized shop online.