Should You Start Your Own Online Store?

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Photo courtesy of Flickr creative commons
Photo courtesy of Flickr creative commons

Have you dreamed of opening up your own store or have you developed a great product that you really want to sell? How do you go about selling your items online? Should you try to sell on a site like eBay or Etsy, where you set up auctions or create a store in a community of other sellers? Or do you set up your own independent store, either doing the website design yourself or paying for the use of a platform that makes it easy for you, like Shopify?

Before you get the shopping cart ahead of the horse, let’s explore some pros and cons of starting up your own online store independent of those big auction and shopping sites.

If you start up your own independent online store, you’ll have complete control over every aspect of your business and store. This is a double-edged sword, because along with complete control, comes complete responsibility. Recognize that setting up an online store is an extremely time-consuming project, even with ready-to-go platforms that simplify set up and function like Shopify. You’ll still have to take the time to load up all of those products into your store, plus write compelling descriptions that will make people want to buy each item. There’s no getting around that, no matter what route you choose.

But if you do set up your own independent store on WordPress, you’re also going to have to design the look of the site. This can be as simple as choosing a theme with just a few options to select to get your store up and running, to using a very basic theme where you do all the customizations yourself. Unless you’re really savvy with WordPress design, this might be a place where simply investing in a one-time fee to buy an easy, professional e-commerce theme that you can use “right out-of-the-box” might be a very worthwhile investment.

If you do decide to create your own design using one of the free WordPress themes, be sure to choose one that is compatible with e-commerce, and works specifically with whichever platform you’re using for your shopping cart and store. Some of the most popular include: Woocommerce, WP E-commerce, Shopp, Easy Digital Downloads, Quick Shop and EShop.

Install the main plug-in for whatever shopping cart platform you choose, and look for lots of useful plug-in tools that you can also add on, such as plug-ins for calculating shipping, printing shipping labels, adding options to products like size and color choices, and so on.

If you set up your own online store, you will have complete control over how long an item is listed, what kind of categories you create for people to search within your site, and you won’t have to worry about other competing vendors on your site, as you’ll be the only one. You could also customize your shopping site to match a blog or another website you operate. As an extra source of word-of-mouth advertising and revenue, think about creating your own affiliate program if you have your own store and own product line.

And the best part of having your own store? No fees. At least not unless you use one of those monthly subscription services that makes creating your store much easier.

One of the downsides of going independent, however, is that you also won’t get the same kind of natural traffic flow that you get on a big site like eBay. That means you have to put in a lot of extra work to drive traffic to your site, unless you already have a really popular blog or website that draws in a huge audience. Then you can simply place your own “advertisements” on your site and do product reviews or write articles about some of the products you offer every now and then. But if you don’t have that already, expect to put a lot of work into marketing, and to be realistic, spend a little money on advertising.

You may save on listing fees by doing your own independent store, but if you have to resort to using an e-commerce service like Shopify or Volusion, your monthly fees can get pretty pricey, as well. If you do use a platform like this, yes, it will be a great help when you do the initial design of your store, but do you really want to keep paying those monthly fees after you get the basic store up and you’re just changing out a few products a month? Think about that.

Before committing to building your own online store, ask yourself some honest questions about whether you have the time and the money to invest, because you’ll likely have to invest a lot of the former and at least a little of the latter to get yourself up and running. Otherwise, you’ll always have eBay and Etsy.

Pros

  • Complete control
  • No fees
  • No restrictions on design and product line
  • Can design to match a related website
  • No competitors on the same site
  • You can create an affiliate program

Cons

  • Complete responsibility (the flip side of complete control)
  • Site design can be very time-consuming
  • Sites like Shopify that simplify that process are expensive with monthly fees
  • You have to drive traffic to the site yourself, unless you are ready have a blog or website with a heavy traffic flow
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One thought on “Should You Start Your Own Online Store?

  • Profile photo of Sharina
    October 15, 2015 at 12:26 pm
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    This is something that I have been thinking about trying to set up for the different projects that I create. I really want to sell some of the artwork that I have made over the past few years, along with the homemade soap and candles. My issue is that I don’t know how to make the web-store more noticeable. Do you think that for starting the business it would be wise to use something like Shopify and then switch over to WordPress once you get noticed?

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