Should You Open Your Own Online Store?

The economic recovery for most is much slower than the news would lead you to believe. Many people ask themselves, “How can I supplement my income so I can provide more for my family?” The perceived hot trend to accomplish this goal is doing business on the Internet, but it is not as easy as it looks. Before you go off and open an online store, you need to fully understand what online stores are all about.

Online stores are not much different than physical stores except you don’t have to worry about paying the rent or having a lot of money tied up in inventory. In online stores, you still need to present the right product at the right time at the right price. You still need to be very clear about what you are selling and project stellar customer service.

The first obstacle to overcome is deciding what to sell. It is always much easier and much more fun to sell something you have a passion for; [t]hat way, the long hours you spend with your online store become more engaging and less work. Many products are more conducive to selling online, such as jewelry, clothing or school supplies, while other products are more difficult to sell when they can’t be seen in person, such as refrigerators or leather sofas.

[T]he questions you need to ask yourself about what to sell in your online store include:

  • Can I sell a digital product that can be sent right over the Internet (like an e-book), or should I sell a physical product that needs to be shipped? 
  • Will you specialize in one category of goods like pets or party supplies, or will you offer a wide selection of products? 
  • Do you have to house inventory, or can you find a company to drop-ship for you? 
  • Will you be creating your own product to sell? If so, are you going to make it yourself, or do you need to form a relationship with a vendor who will manufacture it for you? 
  • How are you going to ship your product—[f]rom your home, a storage facility or drop-shipper from a third-party warehouse?

The second obstacle to overcome is finding the customer niche who will buy from you. You need to list what differentiates your site from all the other similar sites [online] (and don’t kid yourself—they are out there). [T]o find the right niche:

  • Study the competition, and if you can’t beat them with product or price or customer service, find another niche. Go to the main marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, Sears, Rakuten, Tiger Direct or NewEgg to see who is already selling and make sure you can do it better or faster or cheaper 
  • Become the expert on what you sell. Show your passion for your products through original content that differentiates you from others. The more originality you add to the site, the more you stand out.
  • Make sure it is easy to purchase from your site. Even if the products are similar to other sites online, you will set your site apart by making shopping easy. The quicker you can get customers from liking the products to finalizing the sale, the more you will stand out from all the competition.

There are plenty of places on the Internet that can help you open up your dream store. […] [P]artner with a company that offers an easy and fast way to get a site up and running—[typically, they] will have several website templates to choose from and you can sell as many products as you like. In fact, a good company will have products that are already uploaded to your site, so you can decide if you want to sell them all or just a few departments. There should be no limit to the amount of pages you can create, and the site should be integrated into a shopping cart so you can begin selling in less than an hour.

[So] should you open your own online store? It is inexpensive to get started if you find the right store-building partner and the right drop-shipper of products for you. It can become a black hole if you start to throw money at every marketing scheme that comes along. […] If you are an entrepreneur, an optimist and a hard worker, then you should be in the online store business. If you believe that if you pay for a site and all you have to do is sit back and watch for an income stream, then the online store is not for you. […] Learn how to do guerrilla marketing on the Internet with your online store, show your customers you are passionate about what you sell, and this could be a fun way to make a living.

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