So it’s official, the highstreet is dead at the moment. With Covid-19 plunging the whole of the UK and other countries in a second major lockdown, local retail stores are struggling more than ever. It’s understandable why these businesses are shutting up shop, unbelievably they are still expected to pay rent on their unused units and business support grants only cover a small portion of the pot. It’s also no wonder we’ve seen a soar in online store popularity, it allows consumers to shop from the comfort of their own home and business owners to… well… stay in business.

If you’re one of these business owners or looking at selling some products that you’ve bought in bulk, made yourself or customised, then look no further because I will be giving you some free advice on how to get started.

1) Register a domain name

If you don’t already have a website, or don’t fancy using a subdomain (more on that in a bit), you will want to register a domain name for your business. This is incredibly easy and you can grab one from one of my recommended domain registrars Namecheap or Crazy Domains. I’ve tried many registrars in the past and found these two to be the best in terms of price, reliability and support. I would recommend a .com, .co.uk (if you’re in the UK) or .shop domain extension. There are an overwhelmingly amount of others e.g. .ninja, .online etc… but I’m not a fan of them personally, since many people aren’t as familiar with them. You will be able to connect your newly registered domain to your online store or point it to your Facebook or Instagram page if you don’t have one yet.

2) Get an online store

In order to sell your products online, you will need an online store website. While there are a few WordPress plugins for doing just this like WooCommerce, I would be a tad cautious about using WordPress for e-commerce because it requires a lot of technical setup. If you are a medium sized business or have a few specific requirements in mind, I would recommend using Shopify. While they are slightly on the premium side in terms of pricing, they are definitely worth it and have a lot of features on offer. If you are a smaller sized business or just getting started, I’d recommend Big Cartel. These guys are great and I’ve seen a lot of small businesses using them recently. They are also free to get started with 5 products, so you can give them a try without any commitment. Both of these providers are easy to get setup with, come with a variety of sleek customisable themes and allow you to connect the domain you purchased earlier (or provide you with a free subdomain if you did not choose this).

3) Market on social media

Register your brand on social media… Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, all the big ones. Find your competitors on there and see who’s following them, then by following them yourself you can build up your own followers. Use social media as your free virtual window, show off your products, consider purchasing a backdrop and taking some professional pictures, jazzing them up with a free graphic design tool like Canva. Briefly researching and using popular hashtags is a great way to get noticed, since you will eventually show up in the feeds of people who follow them hashtags i.e. your potential customers. Facebook allows you to join groups, you will find loads of small business and local groups which will probably allow you to post your adverts for free (check their rules first to avoid a ban). Consider running promotions in the holidays such as Black Friday, Christmas and Easter deals… the online store softwares I recommended earlier allow you to create promo codes. Make sure you commit to your social media regularly, if you don’t shout about your business, no one will know you exist.

And that my friends, is how you start your own e-commerce business, in a nutshell. Obviously this is not a finite guide and there are plenty of other ways you can market and sell your products online, such as paid Facebook and Google Ads, but I hope I’ve been able to provide a solid starting point for those who aren’t as familiar in this area and toying with the notion of starting their own online business.

Thanks for dropping by!