It used to be hard to start a business. You needed to spend a lot of money on a storefront before you even got started. Things are more accessible now that you can create a store with a few clicks of a button.

Online shopping is more popular than ever and is expected to keep growing at a significant rate. Reports show that sales online hit a record high of $3.46 trillion in 2019. It makes sense to focus on creating a store online.

If you want to know how to start an online retail business, this post will help. Follow the five tips below to create an online retail store that people love.

1. Find the Right Shopping Platform

Before you start selling any products, you need a place to sell them. Luckily, you have plenty of options today.

Hosted Shopping Cart Software

Do you want to skip learning how shopping carts work behind the scenes and have everything done for you? Hosted shopping cart platforms will do that for you.

Hosted shopping carts are pre-built software that handles the hard work of configuring your eCommerce site for you. They provide the software, hosting, and configuration of your online store.

The only things you need to do is pick your store theme and set your products up. Once all the configuration is done, you’re ready to sell.

Of course, you don’t have to stick with what hosted platforms give you. If you want a unique design, you can work with a designer to customize your shop for you.

Open-Source Shopping Carts

A big issue with hosted shopping carts is control over your store. Sure, you have some say in how your store looks and you can set up your products however you want. However, you don’t have control over the webserver it runs on.

An open-source shopping cart allows you to configure your website on your own web server. You install the software for your store yourself and set everything up behind the scenes.

Most of these software packages also include theme marketplaces to find themes for your store. You can configure these themes in the same way you would a hosted shopping cart software.

Third-Party Marketplaces

You don’t need a domain name and store to sell online. Many online marketplaces allow you to set up shop and sell on their platform.

You can use these platforms if you want more visibility for your products. Your products will be seen by everyone who uses these platforms. However, keep in mind that most platforms take a cut of every sale you make.

2. Understand Your Target Market

It’s hard to create a product and reach your customers if you don’t know what they want. Before you start the process of creating and sourcing your products, make sure you have an audience that wants to buy.

Research similar products in your market to figure out the type of people who buy them. Your aim is to find a demographic size large enough to build a sizable business on.

If you push a product that not many people want, you won’t be able to scale your business in the future.

3. Decide How You Source Products

There are several ways to source products for an online store. The good news is that some of them don’t require you to spend thousands to bulk order products.


Do you know what industry you want to sell in but don’t want to create your own products? Dropshipping is the right choice for you.

A drop shipper acts as a broker between a customer and the manufacturer. You form relationships with the sellers in your industry. Once you have those relationships, manufacturers will sell you their products at a discounted price.

You can create your online store once you have enough products. When a consumer buys from your website, you send the order to your manufacturer, and they will handle the rest.


The problem with dropshipping is that you’re selling someone else’s product. It’s harder to create a brand in these cases.

If you have an idea for a product or think you can create something better than everything else, manufacturing is the route to go down.

You can work with a manufacturing plant or start by doing things yourself. Whichever you chose, make sure you understand the total cost of the product. This means accounting for the cost of all the materials, labor, and getting your product to the customer.

4. Choose a Distribution Method

Your distribution network can be as simple or complicated as you want. If you’re starting a business yourself, it’s easy to start sending products to customers.

The only thing you need is packaging materials and an account with a shipping company. You can box up your product yourself and send it in the mail.

If you’re doing a lot of business, this can start taking too much of your time. In cases like this, it makes sense to outsource the distribution of your product.

There are distribution centers that will take your products and package them for you. All you need to do is send them your order, and they will take things from there. Make sure to find a facility that can handle volume for when you start mass production of your products.

5. Figure Out How to Reach Your Customers

You can have the best product on the market and still not make sales. You need to find a way to reach your customers online.

Try to figure out where your target customers hang out online. You want to create accounts on these platforms and begin building your social media presence.

Once you have followings on these platforms, you can start sending content and deals to the people who follow you. Your fans will click through to your store to buy and potentially share their purchases with their friends.

Now You Know How to Start an Online Retail Business

There won’t be many people who are successful at creating a store online. However, now that you know how to start an online retail business, you have a leg up on your competition. Make sure you follow the tips above to increase your chance for success.

Are you looking for ways to get your business noticed? Head back to our recent articles to see our newest tips.

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