How to Start an Online Store: A Complete Checklist

how to start an online store launch ecommerce shop website

Did you know that eCommerce sales bring in almost 4 trillion dollars per year? Because that number only continues to rise as time passes, to say that starting an online store could be a lucrative business decision is an understatement. 

That said, opening an eCommerce business isn't as simple as you might think. There are a number of steps that must be taken and choices that must be made before you can begin making money. But don't worry, we're here to help! 

If you're interested in learning how to start an online store, you've come to the right place. Outlined below is a guide to everything you need to know about starting an online store, from the brainstorming stage to opening your virtual doors. 

Keep reading to learn more about launching an ecommerce shop. 

Choose a Niche 

Both in business and in the online world, choosing a niche is essential and should be done as early in the process as possible. You have to decide what you're going to sell and who you're going to sell it to. 

The niche you choose will impact everything from how much money you make to whether or not you have repeat customers. When choosing your niche, there are three things to consider: price, audience, and market opportunity. 

The most profitable niches are those associated with more expensive products (think $100 or above), are popular but not necessarily "trendy," have the potential for customer longevity, and don't evoke brand loyalty. 

Let's say you make custom accessories for weddings. Your products are popular, can be marked at a high price, and don't evoke brand loyalty. However, you have virtually no chance of having repeat customers. 

Because of this, you're going to spend a lot more time and energy on customer acquisition than you would if you were to sell something that people will buy again and again. 

In an ideal situation, your niche will check all the right boxes. But the most important thing of all is to choose something about which you're genuinely knowledgeable. It's okay to break into something new, as long as you do plenty of market research before opening your store. 

Choose Your Fulfillment Method 

When you're starting an online store, you have two choices in terms of fulfillment. You can hold the products yourself or you can use a dropshipping method. Each comes with its own pros and cons, so the decision will come down to personal preference and what you're selling. 

For example, if you're selling something handcrafted, you'll have to hold the products yourself. But if you're planning to sell something that can be supplied by another company, dropshipping is an option. 


Dropshipping can be extremely convenient. Your customer places an order with you, the supplier then ships the order to the customer. Sounds simple, right? 

Well, it is, but you have to be ready for things to go wrong. With dropshipping, you're putting your product fulfillment, and in turn, your reputation, into someone else's hands. When something goes wrong (and it will), your customer won't blame the supplier, they'll blame you. 

Dropshipping can also make returns a major headache. But enforcing a no returns policy in a brand new eCommerce business can seriously hurt your sales, as you'll find it more difficult to build trust with your customers. 

Last, dropshipping removes any opportunity you might have to include personal touches and branding in your product's packaging. You won't be able to use custom packaging or include a nice note thanking your customers for their business. There won't be anything on or inside the box to point to you and your store. 

This might not sound like a big deal, but if you're trying to build a loyal customer base and not just make a quick buck, this could be the wrong move. 

Holding Products Yourself 

Your second option is holding your own products. The main advantage of this method is that you're in complete control of your fulfillment. 

You know when products go out, who they're going to, and how they're going to look when they get there. You'll have the option to use certified mail services to keep track of your products so you always have peace of mind knowing that if anything goes wrong, it's an easy fix. 

By shipping your products out yourself, you can get as personal as you want with each order. You can help to ensure that every customer's experience is perfect! If your products and customers mean a lot to you, this is a great option. 

Branding everything from your packing paper to your shipping box is a fantastic way to encourage your customers to promote their purchases on social media. The more attractive the branding, the better. You can even include a little note thanking your customer for their business and asking them to snap a picture and post it to Instagram using your hashtag. 

That said, there are a few disadvantages to holding your own products. The most obvious of which is that it's often more expensive. Even if you make your inventory yourself, you still have to pay to store it, package it, and ship it. 

Choose a Business and Domain Name 

This is where starting an online store gets fun. You're starting your own business, you get to choose everything from how it looks to what it's called. 

And though you can and should get as creative as you want with your business and domain names, there are a few eCommerce tips to follow in regard to names that will maximize your results. 

The ideal eCommerce business name is one that's original, but easy to spell and pronounce, and somewhat self-explanatory. 

You don't want people to have to type misspellings of your business into their search engine again and again trying to get it right. They're going to give up and use someone else. Your name should sound like it's spelled and be easy to remember. 

Don't be afraid to choose a name with some significance to you. An original name is a good thing as long as it's not too complicated. When brainstorming business names, stick to a 3-word maximum. Anything longer is too much. 

As for your domain name, there are two rules. Do not pick anything with a number in it and always choose the .com domain ending. 

Choose Your Products 

You have your niche and your business name, so you've probably already given this one some thought, but it's time to choose the specific products you're going to sell. The best way to do this is to do a little research into your chosen niche and see which products are topping the best-seller list in that category. 

As we mentioned earlier, you need to choose products that you're either knowledgeable about or prepared to research. It's also a good idea to choose something that you can improve upon. Maybe the top products from your competitors get bad reviews, and you know how to make them better. 

If you're going to be using a supplier rather than making your products yourself, you'll need to choose one at this stage. Take your time with this step, finding the right supplier is essential to your success. 

You want someone that you can communicate with easily, who doesn't charge excessive fees, and who provides top-notch customer support. 

Build Your eCommerce Website 

Because eCommerce stores are so popular, there are many platforms to choose from when it comes time to set yours up. If you're not a web design expert, consider hiring one to create something for you - a professional, easy to use website is key. 

That said, if you choose to go the DIY route, there are tons of templates that will do most of the heavy lifting for you. Even if you're using a template, you need to decide what features you want your store to have, what you want the pages of your website to look like, and how you want customers to move through them. 

It's best to make a list of everything that you want before you get started. Sketch your website on a piece of paper first, filling in details like your menu bar options, color scheme, and layout. This will make building the e-commerce website on your computer much easier to do. 

Learn How to Start an Online Store to Build the Life You Want 

We all have dreams and aspirations, but far too many of us allow them to fall to the wayside. If you've always wanted to start an eCommerce business, this is your sign to get started now. 

You now know how to start an online store, all you have to do is put your knowledge to action. With a little hard work and creativity, you could build an online shop that will change your life forever. 

Interested in learning more about building a successful eCommerce business? Take a look at the Retail and E-Commerce sections of the Bootstrap Business Blog to learn more about how to start an online store successfully.

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