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25 September 2020

How to Start an Online Retail Store

Whether you own an existing traditional retail store or want to start from scratch, selling online is a must for success in today's world. In our article, you will find detailed instructions on how to open your online retail store and make it successful.

Store business model


If you have a physical point of sale. 2020 has shown that even the average small corner store is better off having an online storefront to keep its business safe from the «The impending retail apocalypse». An online storefront will help you survive the quarantine, and, moreover, this is the only way to attract the younger generation of shoppers who are used to shopping online.

Furthermore, such an online retail store does not have to be something high-budget or special. It is enough for it to perform 3 functions:

  1. Demonstrate what you can buy in the store. To do this, you can create a website or organize trade through social networks or marketplaces.

  2. Take orders from clients. The easiest way to organize this is using a regular phone, but it is better to create or connect an appropriate online service. For example, this can be done with Shopify.

  3. Send orders to clients. Delivery can be in-house (sometimes it’s enough a person on a bike), or it can be integration with a third-party platform like Ubereats, Postmates or Caviar.


If you are starting an online business from scratch. In this case, you need to determine what and how you will sell to your customers. We will tell you about the choice of a niche below in the text. Now let's describe possible forms of retail organization:

Niche and target audience


Finding a niche for store. Even if you already have an offline store, analyzing your existing niche and finding a new one can help your business increase revenue and expand into new markets. As a rule, it’s done as follows:

Target audience analysis. It is necessary to distinguish among all Internet users those people who need the products of your online store, and then target ads to them. This is a more effective and cheaper marketing strategy than showing ads to everyone.

The audience is analyzed through market research. For example, here is an  analysis of pet owner purchases in the USА. This page contains information about  which products they buy. You can also find information about food products, clothing, cosmetics and other popular retail categories there.

Online store suppliers


The next step in our guide on how to open your online retail store is finding suppliers. The easiest option is to search on Amazon. At the end of 2019, the retail giant published a list of its nearly 1,500 suppliers, listing the names and addresses of the companies in  one document. Supplier listings can also be found on Alibaba and AliExpress.

In addition, supplier listings are available on SaleHoo, Worldwide Brands or Wholesale Central, Oberlo and Doba. These are online platforms for bulk purchasing, where you can not only find a supplier, but also place an order. As a rule, they are paid or require transactions through their system, which increases the price by 1-10%.

Online storefront for trading


Marketplaces. Usually, aspiring entrepreneurs with a small list of products sell them on sites such as Amazon, eBay, LetGo, Craigslist and OLX. It is much easier, faster and cheaper to create your own online store website. At the same time, this way you can immediately get access to the client base of the largest trading platforms in the region without advertising, SEO and SMM.

The weak point of this approach is the inability to stand out among other sellers in any way other than with a lower price. And even this does not guarantee that the products will be in demand, since start-up entrepreneurs have a zero reputation, which is why most buyers ignore them. In addition, such sites usually have a listing fee or commission for each sale.

Personal online store. When people want to create a website for an online retail store with a unique design and / or the ability to work well with a large flow of buyers, the site is usually developed from scratch. To do this, an outsourcing development company is hired, which takes over the organizational and technical components of the development process.

Estimated cost of developing an online store website from scratch:

If a unique design and high bandwidth are not a priority, then an online store is created on the basis of e-Commerce platforms - cloud solutions, when connected to which you can almost immediately get a store ready to work. You choose a design template, do a little customization and fill out the store listing with products. Everything else is usually connected and working. The cost of such a service is from 50 to 5000 dollars / month, depending on the service and type of subscription.

Here is a list of the most popular e-Commerce platforms:


Marketing strategy


After launching an online store, you will need to attract customers and inform them about all the products you offer. There are several ways to do this:
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