This is the first in our series on how to start an online business. Over the coming weeks, we will outline all the steps necessary for anyone, of any skill level, to create and launch an online store.

Step 1: The Business Idea

This is the most important and most overlooked step of them all. Without a product to sell, that is in demand, everything else you do will be a waste of time. If you already have a retail establishment, then the logical place to begin is by extending your sales to the online world.

You can view your online store as a threefold operations. First, it is a place for your retail customers to shop for your products in the comfort of their own home. Second, its a place for customers who are not in your geographical region  to purchase your products. And lastly, its a place to advertise your company, and to provide existing customers with an additional resource.

If you do not have an existing business, then you still have the ability to start an online store. The first place to look is your current expertise and hobbies. If you're the crafty type, perhaps you could sell your crafts online. If you look towards your hobbies, pick something you are passionate about. By doing this, you will be more in tune with what products to offer and be able to make some wiser decisions. If you're an avid fan of the products you sell, you can choose products you would likely purchase.

You can still have a successful online store if you do not have an established retail business. Dropshipping companies such as Doba will provide you with a wide range of products and deliver them for you.

A few words of caution here. If you decide to use a dropshipper, ignore the impulse to offer EVERYTHING on your online store. You cannot, and will not succeed if you attempt to be the next Amazon. You must choose specific niche, such as camping, and then only stock products that are relevant to that theme. Far too many times, have I spoken to someone who has the belief that "If I just put their entire catalog in my online store, then I will have something for everyone!".

You many not understand what Search Engine Optimization is now, but ask yourself this. When was the last time you went online and did a search for "Gift Store"? Also, if you decide to purchase advertising for this online store, you will need to be very specific about the keywords you will use. As you can see, by offering a "dollar store online", you are putting yourself in a corner.

If you have a larger budget, you can always purchase in wholesale lots and then use that inventory for your online store. The advantages to this is that you will get the lowest price for your wares, and do not have to rely on sharing the sales with any dropshipper. The disadvantages of doing this is that you will need some place to store the inventory, ship it yourself, and pay for the inventory in the beginning. The risk-return trade off is common in any business, so you should learn to expect that.


Free report: The Real Cost of Running a Shopify Store