What to consider when opening an online shop: a guide for beginners

You already have a business, produce your own products and now want to take the step of selling your products online?

We would like to support you with these guidelines.

Define the task of your online shop

Begin your planning with what the online shop should do for your company in the future. Should it replace or support existing processes? Do you want to connect your existing IT system landscape with the shop right from the start? Is the implementation about reducing costs or is the focus on increasing turnover?


Determine your budget

Depending on what you have defined as tasks for your online shop, you can set measurable goals. For example, estimate how much additional turnover you expect per year. Consider what cost savings are possible through automated or improved processes. Use these figures to set your budget and later measure your project against it.


Determine your target group

Consider for whom your offer is particularly interesting:

  • Private individuals (B2C) or companies (B2B)?
  • Is there a specific age group or a focused gender?
  • What interests or preferences are you aware of?
  • What income or budget must be available for your offer to be realistically considered?
  • What motivation does your target group associate with your offer?
  • What characteristics does your target group have?

Create some personas that you update every few months. These will support you in further developments or marketing campaigns.


Watch your competition

This is not only true for e-commerce, but for any website. Search for a keyword in which you want to establish yourself and compare the results. If the sites are poorly designed and outdated, you have a good chance of succeeding in that niche. You should still consider how you can be better if someone else enters this field.

If they are beautifully designed and obviously doing well, you should think long and hard about whether you can really compete with them. What can you offer that the others can’t already? What are your unique selling points?


Create a Big Picture

A visionary overview with key features is crucial for the success of your online shop. This big picture should give you the line of approach for the next 3 to 5 years and already foresee some developments and trends that you want to implement later. In this way, you do not forget anything at the outset that may become necessary in the course of time. You are future-proof.
Answer the following questions, among others

  • What functions does the shop need today and in the future?
  • What advantages will your existing customers have through the new sales channel?
  • Can the customer experience be enhanced step by step through further functions and measures?
  • Are there special functions that make you popular with new customers?
  • With which functions can you set yourself apart from your competitors?
  • What is your pricing policy in the shop?
  • Do you sell all products or a restricted range? And is the restriction role- or user-defined?


Choose your future system wisely

Choose a system that is

  • is well-established,
  • is well-supported,
  • has a good community or many solution partners behind it
  • offers good APIs to your existing IT
  • already has many years of experience with the target group
  • works technically on its future viability
  • and with which appealing shops can be created.


Pay attention to interfaces

A shop system is not an isolated solution, but the beginning of a comprehensive, digital sales solution. Therefore, you will want and need to integrate your web shop into your company’s IT infrastructure. When choosing a shop system, look at which interfaces to your systems are available and will be further developed.


Define the most important functions to start with

While you sharpen your strategic view in the Big Picture to be as future-oriented as possible, you concentrate here on the functions that are most important for the success of the project. In this way, you can quickly gain initial experience with your customers and include them in the further development. Your budget is aligned with the benefit of your customers.


Be distinctive

If you make your own products, you have plenty of scope to showcase your brand. Use images, videos and 360° views in the visual area where appropriate. Inform your B2C and B2B customers separately and in a way that is appropriate for the target group. Good shop systems offer you many possibilities to divide several target groups.

If you are a retailer, chances are you are using product feeds including descriptions and photos provided by the manufacturer. This is not a good idea. Your content will basically be the same as hundreds of other online shops buying from the same supplier.

At the very least, rewrite all product descriptions and give them your own touch; ideally, take your own product images. If you’re retaking product images anyway, take some from every angle. The more impressions your customer gets of the product, the more likely they are to buy. Videos are also a good idea. 


You need to offer more than just selling

The choice of online shopping options is so vast that customers can literally shop anywhere in the world. If you don’t want to compete on price, your website needs to be more than just a shop. Established brands already have a customer base that trusts them and turns to them first for everything. They can charge a price premium.

As a manufacturer, you can offer much more information and services to your customers in a way that is appropriate for your target group. Ask your power users what they expect. 

As a new seller, you are unknown in the market. Focus on your strengths. Use your unique product knowledge and skills to offer more than just a shop. Write quality blog posts on the topic, link to your own product pages and establish yourself as an expert. Share your knowledge and participate in forums, themed communities and question and answer pages around the products don’t just try to sell things. 


Pay special attention to SEO

Unlike bloggers who write unique content on a daily basis and are ranked well by Google’s algorithm accordingly, e-commerce texts are more prone to SEO problems. Many online shops are finding themselves in the drop zone more often after the last few years of Google algorithm changes. How can you get around this?

Product descriptions are often short. This results in the actual content of the page being low and classified as “inadequate” by search engines. The more meaningful text you use in the descriptions as text the better. Think about whether you can include product benefits, a short description, a long description, possible combinations or alternatives.

Furthermore, customer-generated content such as reviews, testimonials and images can help you ensure that your product pages are unique and positively rated.

Product variations such as size or colour can create unique URLs with duplicate content. Products in multiple categories also create duplicate URLs. These should all canonically link back to the main product page.

Product categories often span multiple pages and thousands of products – ensure that all items are indexed with the correct use of rel=next and rel=prev tags.


Use your expertise

Create your own blog posts about your top sellers. Write about the advantages of the products, how they are best used and what has improved compared to the predecessor. Quote from reputable test reports. Show that you really know your stuff. This builds trust.


Talk to an expert

Take the opportunity to have a free 1 hour consultation with one of our main Project architects with over 20 years of experience in building e-commerce solutions for all sizes of corporations and find out how can you increase and save your profit longterm by taking your business online and automating as many processes as you can.


About the author

Cool Services Team