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How to set up an online shop

Published 03/03/2020

Importance of setting up an online store, and how to set up an online shop

Online shopping is a behaviour that is growing at quite a rate. The global shopping market size is predicted to hit 4 trillion in 2020 and whilst the revenue from physical stores is still higher, it’s clear that online shopping is going anywhere but downwards. If you’re a retailer that hasn’t yet gone digital, there couldn’t be a better time to jump on the bandwagon. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

What is an online shop

An online shop is a way of selling your goods or services over the internet. Known as ecommerce it’s a way of trading online without the need for people to be physically present. Online shopping has one overriding benefit – convenience. On average, it takes an online shopper a 5th of the time that it takes to trawl around the shops on the high street, largely because it’s easier to find what you are looking for online.

The business model of the online shop can vary. Some high street retailers have online versions of their shops as another outlet for the goods that they sell. Some enterprises only sell online, but only sell very specific products. Whereas other companies like Amazon and eBay are solely online but sell a wide range of items, from clothing to electronics.

Importance of being online

Online shopping has revolutionised the way we shop. In a world where technology seeks to make life simpler and more efficient, it’s one of the areas that greatly benefits from being digital. More and more businesses are embracing digital transformation and moving their shops online to capitalise on this growing trend and it’s paying dividends. It’s estimated that there are 1.92 billion digital buyers globally and in 2023, ecommerce retail purchases are expected to increase from 14.1% to 22%. That’s a staggering rise.

Being online is not just about selling, it’s also about having a voice and having the opportunity to create some brand awareness. With over 4 billion internet users in the world, the internet holds an audience that retailers shouldn’t dismiss. To do so is to neglect an important potential target market.

How does online selling differentiate to offline selling

Having an online shop does not mean you are replacing your high street store. Ok, Iif your store is costing you in overheads with little return then a move from offline to online is wise. But for most, online selling is just another avenue to offline. There is still a lot of value in high street stores, not just statistically with the revenue being higher than online, but also in behaviour. Despite the need to sometimes make life easier for ourselves, we still enjoy the experience of shopping on the high-street. When we have time, it’s a tradition that we often embrace – being able to touch and feel goods, trying on clothes and enjoying some of the shop’s attempts to keep shoppers engaged, whether it be great displays, music or freebies.

Online shopping differs greatly to this experience but it has some distinct advantages over high street shopping.

1. You can find products faster

If you are looking for something specific like gold trainers, it could take you hours to trawl around the shops trying to find what you had in mind. Online you can locate a list of products in minutes and order them in the time it would take you to look in one high street shop. The key with online is ensuring product pages are optimised for search.

2. You don’t have to queue

This is especially advantageous during busy periods like Christmas when queues can be horrendous. Less time queuing is more time spent shopping – or something else, if you’ve found your item online and bought it.

3. Easy purchasing

With online shopping there is no need to hunt around in your bag for cash or cards. At the click of a button you have made a purchase. And if it’s a familiar retailer that you use often, retailers may even hold encrypted payment details, making life even easier to shop.

4. The item gets delivered

No need for long walks back to the car laden with bags, your goods can be delivered straight to your door in just a few days. Rates may vary according to timescales, areas or delivery methods but often retailers offer a range of options to meet the varying needs of their customers.

5. Goods are often cheaper

The internet is a huge resource when it comes to researching, and online shopping is an area where this comes in handy. Shoppers nearly always have a budget in mind and hunting for products offline to meet their budget can be time consuming. One of the advantages of ecommerce is the visibility over price, meaning customers can grab a bargain. If you have offers on your products, the internet is a great place to advertise to maximise exposure.

Advancements in technology are making online shopping more and more like the high street shopping experience. Augmented reality (AR) enables users to virtually superimpose products into real-life scenarios so they can visualise what they look like. There is also an increase in machine learning and AI, as well as virtual assistants to best serve your shopping needs for a truly personalised shopping experience. This has made the online space a very exciting place to shop!

How to set up an online shop

If you are thinking of setting up an online shop to sell your goods or services, here is a step by step guide to get you started:

1. Decide on an ecommerce website builder

There are a number of different platforms out there – the most common being Shopify or Woocommerceix. Ideally look for those that include multi-channel integration, cart recovery and a free SSL certificate.

2. Choose a domain name

Pick something that people will be familiar with – this is what will appear in the website URL so make it relevant. Register your website and choose a host.

3. Pick a design template

Choose your template or theme – different ones are applicable to different styles of shops and the number of products you have. You can then customise your theme with your own branding, colours and font.

4. Set up payment options

You now need to set up a secure payment gateway. Your ecommerce website builder may suggest appropriate ones or you can select your own to integrate. A secure payment system helps to build trust with the user and maximises conversion.[1] 

5. Set up delivery

Decide how your goods will be delivered and what costs are associated with delivery. There may be multiple options. Communicate this as early on as you can in the buying process, as delivery time and cost affects the decision of whether or not to buy.

6. Load your products

You are now ready to load in all your products to the website. Make sure your products are clearly labelled with identifiable names, tags, descriptions and prices. If you have a high volume of products, create categories and subcategories if necessary to improve navigation and structure.

7. Market your content

Once you have loaded all your products in and added all other content, you need to consider how people will find it. This starts with optimising the content with the keywords that people might search on to give you that advantage of users finding your products over those from other online shops. Then look at integrating your online content into your marketing plan to drive visitors to your site and increase brand awareness.

8. Develop further

When budget allows, embrace some of the cutting edge technologies that are making the online space more interactive, such as apps, virtual assistants and AR. These features are not cheap and you will need a good developer but it will propel your online shop from good to great.


Online shopping is here to stay and if you are a retailer, you need to be online to get a slice of the online pie. Without an online shop you are missing a significant revenue potential, which is currently going to that of your competitors.