Online stores are booming and for good reason. From a consumer perspective, online stores provide the utmost convenience. You can shop for almost anything without leaving your house and have your purchases delivered to your doorstep.
From an entrepreneurial perspective, online stores offer access to a broader customer base than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Businesses can sell their products and services to consumers beyond their geographical borders.
E-commerce is estimated to comprise 22 percent of global retail sales by 2023 — a big jump from 2019, when that figure was 14.1 percent.
By and large, there’s great variety in the types of online stores that are popular today. Worldwide, online shoppers are most often looking for electronics, clothing, fashion accessories, toys, and hobby goods. In the United States, shoppers prioritize fashion items, electronics, and furniture.
But that’s not to say those are the only successful online stores; bellwether retail categories like beauty, household items, health and wellness, personal care, and others also do well in e-commerce.
If you have an excellent idea for a product or service to sell online, now is a great time to launch that business. With an online store, you can make your product available to customers 24-7-365, so they can buy whenever it suits them.
Plus, you can operate with less overhead expense since you won’t need to rent retail space. Moreover, e-commerce more effectively targets consumers for your business because you can use both organic and paid marketing to narrow in on your ideal customer.
Wondering how to get started with an online store? Don’t worry — in this detailed guide, we cover everything you need to know about starting up in e-commerce, including everything from legal aspects to web development to determining the best marketing strategy.
Take a look at the chapter summaries below for a quick overview of each section, and then read on for the nitty-gritty of starting an online store.
Start with the legal considerations. Do you need a business license for an online store, and if so, which one(s) do you need? Do you need both a federal and state tax ID?
Choose your business model. Retail e-commerce encompasses two main business models: selling directly or drop-shipping. Variations (such as hybrids) in both categories are common. In this chapter, you’ll learn the benefits of each model so you can decide which is right for your business.
Decide on your business name. This is one of the most important aspects of starting an online store, as it helps you get found online and recognized in the wider marketplace. Because your store is your brand and your name is your brand identity, we go over best practices to follow when choosing a name.
Build your store. There are two main decisions to keep in mind when building your store: which website builder and which payment gateways to use. In this chapter, you’ll learn what to consider when building your store and how Jotform Store Builder can make things easier for you.
Add products and services to your store. How do you write an effective product description? We share the best practices — and show you how Jotform Store Builder can simplify the process of adding product and service information to your online store.
Decide on your marketing strategy. In this chapter, we discuss organic and paid marketing strategies and the benefits of each. You’ll learn different tactics for both strategies and why using a combination of the two is a good idea.
Create your online store without building a website. If you don’t want to build a new website or don’t know how, there is another way! In this chapter, we show you how to create an online store using just Jotform Store Builder.
Conclusion. Given the depth of the issues broached in this guide, your head may be spinning. This chapter summarizes the essential details so you have all the important points at your disposal and are ready to get started right away.
Your online store awaits! Head to the next chapter to learn whether you need a business license, permits, and other legal paperwork.
Start with the legal considerations
If you’re a newcomer to online retailing, you’ve probably done some homework, talked to people in the know, and gotten the lowdown: It takes far more than a good product or a cool idea to start an online business.
While there are many operational hurdles to consider — key aspects like shipping, logistics, supply, and so on — starting with the legal aspects is the way to go. You have to get all your proverbial ducks in a row before you start selling because the legal consequences of not having the proper licenses and permits can be severe.
Requirements for selling online
In principle, selling online seems pretty basic, and for the most part, it is. You set up your e-commerce website, arrange product pipelines with your suppliers, finalize your warehousing and shipping logistics, market your business to your target audience, and you’re ready to go.
When creating any business, however — online or otherwise — you must go through the proper legal channels to ensure everything is above board regarding licenses and taxes. Do you need a business license for an online store, or can you just start selling without it? Do you need any special permits? What kind of sales tax ID do you need?
The legal questions can be overwhelming, so we’ve broken down the issue. Here’s what you need to have in place when selling online in the United States (if you need further guidance, the U.S. Small Business Administration is an excellent resource):
- Business registration. Depending on the type of business you have, you may need to determine your business structure, such as an LLC, partnership, or corporation, then register the business with federal and/or state agencies.
- Business license. To operate a legitimate and legal online store, you need to acquire a business license. However, if you already have a brick-and-mortar business with a business license and want to expand to online sales, you don’t need to get a separate license. Remember that there are different business licenses, so the type you need will depend on what kind of online store you have.
- Seller’s permit. If you’re selling goods or services subject to state sales and use taxes, you must have a seller’s permit. Under the terms of the seller’s permit, you’ll have the option to get a resale certificate, which authorizes you to make purchases from your suppliers without having to pay sales tax on them. States have different rules for seller’s permits, so it’s important to check the guidelines for the states where you physically operate — that is, where you maintain an office or warehouse. (If you have a home office, it counts as physical operation in your home state.)
- Sales tax licenses. By law, your business must charge sales tax on certain items, and for this, you need to have a sales tax license. You’ll receive a state tax ID number when your sales tax license is issued. Your business will use the state tax ID (also called a state tax registration number) for sales tax filings and all other tax filings with the state, such as business income tax and employee withholding. Note that your business will also need a federal tax ID — also called an EIN (Employer Identification Number) — which you’ll use when paying federal business income and employment taxes.
- DBA license. If you’ve registered your business under a specific name but want to operate under a different name, you need a “doing business as” (DBA) license. With this license, you’re legally authorized to operate under a trade name and can use that name for certain processes, such as opening a bank account.
- Home occupation permit. Many online business owners operate their ventures from homes, such as in their garage, basement, or other home office space. If that’s the case with your business, you’ll need a home occupation permit. The rules and regulations governing this type of permit may vary in different states, cities/towns, and counties, so it’s best to check the laws for your specific area.
Depending on your business type, there may be other federal licenses and permits you need, so it’s important to check for your specific requirements.
If you want more information, it’s always best to speak with a legal expert. “The biggest mistake I made when starting my own business was not seeking adequate legal advice,” says Kim Hawkins, president of Events Wholesale, which sells event decor supplies online.
“I would advise any new business owner to get legal advice about confidentiality and noncompete agreements before hiring anyone. Intellectual property can include suppliers, customer lists, advertising keywords, and other confidential information unique to your individual business.
“Our biggest challenge or roadblock was with our first employee who worked for us for several years. We trained her on everything having to do with running an e-commerce business and gave her supplier and customer information without a second thought. She had complete knowledge of confidential business practices as well as all of our advertising keyword information.
Little did we know that one day she would go out on her own and start a competing online business! Moving forward, we always have all of our employees sign a noncompete/nondisclosure agreement to protect our business and prevent this from happening again.”
Now that we’ve covered the legal nitty gritty, let’s focus on choosing a business model for your online venture.
Choose your business model
When it comes to the business model of your online store, two main choices dominate in e-commerce: selling directly or drop-shipping. Of course, there are variations on these two models (like hybrids) you can try as well, but these are the two most popular — and often, the most effective — business models you’ll come across.
When deciding which is right for your business, it’s important to consider several key factors, such as your industry, target audience, logistics, marketing strategy, and operational budget.
Selling products and services directly to your audience
Selling products directly to your customers online involves your business producing the actual products yourself (or through a manufacturer) and selling them to your customers via your website. In this scenario, you have more control over all aspects of products you produce — such as materials, manufacturing processes, quality control, branding, and other logistical considerations like storage, packaging, and shipping.
You’ll have less control if a third party does the manufacturing for you. Still, many companies that use this model can maintain excellent quality control and customer service.
While you have more control over your offerings in this business model, you may also have a few more worries. For example, you need to know how to calculate shipping costs for your online store and what to do if postal workers strike and your customers are left waiting for their purchases.
“When you sell directly to consumers, you have more control over your inventory and can ensure that you always have the products your customers want in stock,” says Anand K.C., head of marketing for Cloom Tech, a wire harness and cable assemblies manufacturer.
“Second, you can establish a stronger relationship with your customers by getting to know them and their needs better. Finally, selling directly to consumers allows you to set your prices and keep more of the profits from each sale.”
This approach is ideal for business owners who sell highly customized products or products that are unique to their business and difficult to find through distributors or other retail outlets. It’s also ideal for business owners who value their creativity and want to provide their customers with exclusive items they can’t find anywhere else.
Operating costs can be high in the direct-to-customer business model, so it’s important to target your customers effectively. Wondering how to find a niche market for your online store? Step one is to learn who your customers are by investigating their demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics.
You’ll use the same business model to sell services rather than physical goods. However, selling a service as opposed to a tangible good involves some special considerations, which may make you wonder how to sell a service online effectively. One of the primary answers is that you’ll need to focus on the results your service helps customers achieve so that they can visualize something tangible.
Drop-shipping to your audience
If making products, figuring out warehousing, and handling shipping isn’t up your alley, don’t fret. There’s an excellent alternative to direct selling: drop-shipping.
What is drop-shipping? It’s a business model that entails partnering with a supplier that manufactures the products (or sources them from a manufacturer) and ships them out for you, fulfilling customer orders.
With drop-shipping, the e-commerce store owner doesn’t have to manage manufacturing, storage, shipping, or any related issues, because the drop-shipper takes care of them.
“Dropshipping has become a popular option for businesses of all sizes because it’s a low-risk way to start an online store,” says K.C.
If you’re wondering how to start an online store without inventory, drop-shipping is the answer — but keep in mind that it’s not your only option. You can also try branded drop-shipping.
What is branded drop-shipping? In this riff on drop-shipping, the e-commerce store purchases unbranded products from a supplier and has them branded with the store’s logo. Like regular drop-shipping, the business doesn’t need to hold any inventory or handle shipping to customers.
The drop-shipping and branded drop-shipping models are ideal for first-time online store owners who don’t want to incur the expenses of warehousing and shipping. They also work well for sellers whose product offerings aren’t unique to their business, provided the products can easily be sourced from a supplier.
While these two business models are prominent, some other options are also viable. “Selling products to other businesses, providing a marketplace for third-party sellers, offering subscription services, and providing digital downloads or streaming content are some business models online stores can consider,” notes David Scott, CEO and home improvement expert at Neutypechic, an online supplier of mirrors.
Don’t forget that your business model may also affect how you register your business with state and federal governments. “We started out as an LLC which worked well for us during our first couple years,” says Hawkins. “However, after much growth and meeting with our accountant, we discovered that we would save on taxes by changing to an S-corporation.
“Both models provided the legal protection we needed to separate our business from our personal assets. S-corps are pass-through taxation entities to avoid the double taxation of a C-corp. In other words, business income and other deductions, credits, and losses are passed through to the owners, rather than being taxed as a corporation.”
Picking a business model for your online store is essential — but your customers may not notice or care which model you use as long as, in the end, they receive their purchases. They will definitely notice your business name, however, so it’s important to pick one that resonates with them.
Decide on your business name
Choosing the right name for your online store is one of the most important creative and marketing decisions you will ever make for your business.
Unlike a brick-and-mortar store, where customers can find you by your store name, address, or via a store directory, the name of an online store is the critical component in customers locating and remembering the business. Often, the store’s name is used in the URL (the online address) of its website and in search engines like Google.
And those are just the technological aspects. The human side runs deeper. Your name is your business’s verbal brand identity, and in branding, as in life, words have great power. If your store’s name has a distinctive, extraordinary quality — clever, catchy, poetic, witty, relevant, topical, all of these, or is just plain memorable for any reason, it can make your business.
Here’s how to name your online store.
What’s in a name?
Just like our own names, the name of an online store is part of its personality. When choosing the name of your business, it’s important to consider how the name reflects the business itself, your products and services, and your industry as a whole.
It’s especially vital for the name of the store to connect with your target market. After all, they need to remember your name and for it to be memorable, it must resonate with their values, interests, and needs.
For example, if your target audience is eco-conscious and cares about the environment, and your business sells sustainably sourced products, then using terms such as “green,” “eco,” “recycled,” or “earth” in your business name will help your audience intrinsically connect with it.
Tips to keep in mind when choosing a name for your online store
Some online store owners may find coming up with a name easy. For others, it may take a lot of brainstorming. Regardless, follow these tips and best practices to ensure your store name supports your business success:
- Make it memorable. If your store name is easy to remember, your target audience will think of it when they need to shop for the kinds of goods or services you sell. Plus, your name will make it easier for customers to find you online and to refer you to other potential customers.
- Keep it short. “Long or complicated names will be hard to remember,” says Michael Bell, founder and CEO of Manukora, which sells premium New Zealand honey. Longer names can also be difficult to correctly type into a web browser and use in key visual branding elements like logos.
- Don’t get too creative with spelling. When it comes to e-commerce, ensure that the business name is easy to spell. Ideally, use common or phonetic spellings. If you take too many liberties with the spelling of the name, it will be difficult for your audience to remember the spelling and type it correctly.
- Match your domain name. Using your store name in your domain name helps make the name and the URL easier to remember and find online. For example, if your store name is Great Candles, but your domain is ilovecandles.com, this may create confusion among your customers.
- Look at the competition. Always research your online store’s direct and indirect competitors and pay attention to their names. It’s crucial to stand out and avoid a name that’s too similar.
- Ask a focus group. When you have a name in mind, hold a focus group of your target audience to see what they think of it. Their feedback may help you fine-tune your name selection or make more extensive changes.
- Consider what you sell. “You want your store name to relate in some way to your product or service,” says Bell. “They should complement each other.” Like most rules, however, this one has qualifications and exceptions: There are, for example, hugely successful businesses whose names allude to a benefit rather than a product or service, such as Best Buy, the electronics retailer, or Amazon. For some specific product or service lines, proper names might work as well as or better than semantically allusive words — think, for instance, of Zappos and Etsy, online retailers with diverse product lines.
- Put your values front and center. Keep in mind that your business name is the easiest way for someone to identify your business. Consider how you want to be remembered, and aim to use words in your name that will most directly communicate that vision.
- Say it out loud. While spelling is important when choosing your store name, so is the pronunciation. Ask friends and family to read the name out loud to ensure it’s easy for people to pronounce on the first try.
- Vet the name and trademark it. Have a trademark research firm or intellectual property (IP) attorney vet the name to ensure you aren’t infringing on an existing trademark. If the name is available, trademark it with the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO). You or your lawyer can use the forms and instructions supplied by the USPTO.
Now that you know the best way to select or create a name for your online store, it’s time to work on the online store itself. In the next chapter, we cover how to build your online store.
Build your store
The next step in the journey to starting your online store is to build the store itself. This step can seem daunting to those who have never built a website and lack coding knowledge or e-commerce experience. However, several tools and resources can make this part of the process easy and seamless.
Choose a website builder
Whether you’re a pro coder or have never written a single line of code, one of the easiest ways to build a website is to use a content management system (CMS) tool. Many options are available, including popular platforms like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, and Weebly.
Each website builder has its pros and cons, but the main advantage is that anyone can use one of these tools to create a website — no matter how much coding experience (or lack thereof) they have.
“When choosing a website builder, consider the features that are important to you,” says Scott. “Some builders offer customizable templates, while others have built-in, ready-to-use e-commerce functionality. [Some offer] more robust features, like marketing and SEO tools or customer support [tools]. Decide which features are most important to you, and then research the various builders that offer those features.”
“We sell many products in bulk, and a huge challenge when we first opened our online store was finding a shopping platform that handled bulk discounts well,” says Hawkins.
“Many of our products have a minimum order quantity, and some platforms did not allow that. We also ship our items using various methods, so it was challenging to find a platform that allowed both fixed shipping and calculated shipping depending on the product.”
Many CMS-based website building platforms come with e-commerce capability (at an additional cost), so you can quickly add an online store to any site you’re building and start selling your products and services. Another option is to use Jotform Store Builder as your e-commerce solution; it makes online selling a breeze.
Building an online store with Jotform Store Builder doesn’t require coding experience, and getting started is free. You can add products and services to your store without the hassle of complex web development processes.
If you already have a website you use for general purposes, you may wonder how to add an online store to your website and whether you have the skills to do it. Embedding Jotform Store Builder in your CMS will give you this capability, and it only takes a few steps.
Just copy the embed code from Jotform Store Builder’s Publish tab and paste it into your website. That’s it! If you need help, Jotform offers detailed instructions on embedding your online store in Wix, GoDaddy, Squarespace, and Weebly.
Jotform Store Builder also comes with a WordPress plug-in called Jotform Shopping Cart, so embedding the store in WordPress is worry-free.
Select a payment gateway
Another important aspect to consider when building the website for your store is how you’ll accept payment. In brick-and-mortar stores, businesses can accept cash and credit and debit cards. However, there are other considerations for an online store, with security being paramount. No matter which payment gateways you choose for your online store, it’s vital to ensure they are always safe for your customers and your business, with no risk of fraud, data theft, or data loss.
“Your payment gateway is one of the most critical aspects of your online store, as it will determine how customers can pay for your products,” says Scott. “When choosing a payment gateway, consider the fees, processing time, security, and ease of use. You will also want to ensure that the gateway is compatible with your website builder and shopping cart.”
Jotform Store Builder can not only help you build your e-commerce business, but it can also help you on the payment side. Accepting nearly 30 payment gateways, including PayPal, Square, Stripe, Venmo, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, Jotform doesn’t charge any additional fees per transaction for your online store — which is a significant advantage. In addition, security measures are top-notch and include PCI compliance, so there’s no need to stress about whether the payment gateways are secure.
Now that you know how to build your website, select an e-commerce solution, and choose payment gateways, it’s time to figure out how to add products and services to your online store..
Add products and services to your store
Adding products and services to your online store may seem like a no-nonsense task, but in reality, there’s both an art and science to it.
Product and service descriptions must contain all the necessary information your customers need to know before making a purchase; they should also be written and presented in an interesting and engaging way.
Follow best practices for product and service information
“First, define your target audience,” says Bell. “Who are you writing your descriptions for? Once you identify your target customer base, you can write descriptions that appeal to them personally. Your content should be valuable to them and answer any questions they may have about your products.”
If you want your products and services to captivate your audience when they visit your online store, follow these best practices:
- Start with a bang. “It’s important to have a hook at the beginning — usually a headline that grabs the audience’s attention and entices them to continue reading,” says Thomas Sleeth, founder and editor of Dropshipping Hustle, a free resource for those who want to learn about drop-shipping. “The hook should evoke some kind of emotion, indicate how to solve a problem, create curiosity, or share a unique feature the product has.”
- Don’t leave any blanks. Be sure to include all the information your target audience is looking for about a particular product, such as its name, dimensions, price, color, description, and anything else of relevance. If you sell a service, note the time frame and scheduling details.
- Focus on the description. The product or service description allows you to be creative and use language that resonates with your target audience. Consider what they will find meaningful about your offering and highlight those aspects. “People often purchase a product because it will benefit their lives. When listing the features of the product, also state how each feature will enhance their lives in some way,” says Sleeth.
- Capture a stunning image. Wherever possible, include a product or service image. Pictures are worth a thousand words, as they say, so be sure to use a professional photographer to show the product or service in the best light.
- Make everything scannable. While you may be tempted to write paragraph upon paragraph for your product description, reading through entire paragraphs requires time and attention your prospects might not have. Instead, break up long chunks of text, making the content easy to scan. Use bulleted or numbered lists and short paragraphs to increase the page’s white space.
- Use a template. If writing product descriptions isn’t your forte, you may get through it more quickly if you use a template — which you can create or find online. Templates will prompt you to include all the basics — unique product features, how to use the product, or other important details — but can often be customized so that you can add extra information.
- Provide value. “Avoid copying and pasting generic product descriptions with a simple list of features that may be the same as other stores,” says Sleeth. “By taking the time to write persuasive product descriptions, your store/product will stand out more, and it will improve your SEO. If you struggle with writing product descriptions, there are AI writing tools that do a surprisingly good job.”
- Add social proof. Add a customer review or testimonial at the end of the product description. This signals potential buyers that others have deemed the item or service a success.
- Conduct A/B testing. If you’re unsure what kind of product description will resonate with your customers, do a little testing. Write descriptions in two different styles and test each to see which ones customers gravitate to.
Jotform Store Builder makes adding products and services simple
Depending on the e-commerce solution you’re using, there may be some differences in how to enter products and services into your store. When using Jotform Store Builder, you don’t need coding knowledge to enter the information.
Start by creating product categories so your listings are more organized and intuitive for browsing. Then add your products within each category, including all the important details such as pricing and photos. You can also write product descriptions, discussing the benefits, special features, and unique characteristics of each item you sell.
If you sell services instead of (or in addition to) products, simply change the “Product” title to “Services” in Jotform Store Builder.
Once you’ve added your products and services, your online store is ready to share with the world. But how will you make sure you reach your target audience? That requires a good marketing strategy. We’ll walk you through the basics of marketing in the next chapter.
Decide on your marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy covers how you’ll reach your target audience, tell them about your online store, and convince them to visit and make a purchase.
You can try two main avenues — organic marketing and paid marketing. Typically, businesses use a combination of the two methods. Successful online retailers, for their part, never lose sight of the fundamental truism that underlies both strategies: that without a well-planned and robust marketing strategy, your online store may never be found by your target audience.
So, organic vs paid marketing: Let’s begin.
What is organic marketing? This type of marketing relies on search engines and social media platforms to capture the attention of a target audience. As the name suggests, the method doesn’t rely on paid advertising (though it certainly isn’t without its costs).
“Organic marketing is a low-cost strategy that helps you build an authentic customer base,” says Bell. “It’s similar to word-of-mouth marketing. When people hear about a company from friends and family, they’re more likely to trust the brand. Achieving results can take time with this approach, but if you’re patient, it’s worth it.”
“Marketing an online store organically is an effective strategy if you plan to sell within an evergreen niche to a passionate audience of buyers,” says Sleeth. “The goal should be to build a community within your niche instead of finding the latest trending products.”
Here are some organic marketing methods you may want to consider for your online store:
- SEO-optimized content. Conduct detailed keyword research to understand which search terms your target audience uses. Incorporate those terms in the content on your store’s website. When your target audience searches for those terms in Google, your store will ideally appear as one of the top search results.
- Social media. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms are excellent ways to reach a wider audience and gain more awareness for your online store. Be sure to learn the best practices for each platform, as they vary greatly.
- Email newsletters. This is a great way to remind your customers about the benefits of shopping at your store — or of noteworthy new products or services — so they will be motivated to revisit you for further purchases. It’s also great to share news about your store, such as upcoming sales or special offers.
- Review or referral programs. The best way to get new customers is through referrals by your existing customers. Implement programs through which existing customers can leave reviews or refer you to their friends and family. In return, you can offer discounts, gifts, membership points, or other benefits.
“The biggest drawback with this route is that it will take time to build a community and for Google to start ranking your content organically,” says Sleeth. “Because it’s a long-term strategy, it can be risky putting a lot of work into it without knowing if your niche will be successful.
“The people who succeed with organically marketing their store are the ones who are passionate about their niche. They are more likely to create videos and content without any short-term returns.”
What is paid marketing? As the name suggests, with this marketing method you pay to reach your target audience through relevant media, primarily online ads. The goal is to have a highly targeted campaign for a specific market segment of your ideal customers.
“A paid marketing strategy can be expensive, but the cost may be worth it for the visibility it provides your brand,” says Bell. “Paid ads get you in front of a large audience and help you expand your reach. They’re also targeted, so the leads you generate are quality leads.”
“With paid marketing, you can create an online store and start making sales that same day,” says Sleeth. “Not only is this productive because of the money it can bring in, but it also allows you to test multiple products fast.”
Take a look at these paid marketing methods you can implement for your online store:
- Google ads: There are several different types of search engine ads, which can appear on search results pages or other websites. Google ads are highly targetable, allowing you to choose the personas you’re trying to reach.
- Social media ads: Most social media platforms sell highly targetable ads, so you can find people who closely fit your target audience and raise awareness of your online store through the visibility of your ads.
- Influencer ads: Also appearing on social media, influencers are people who have a large following. You can pay them to discuss your product or service and share photos and videos of them using your offerings.
“The biggest issue most people make with paid marketing is they advertise on the wrong platforms for their products,” says Sleeth.
“Facebook and TikTok advertising is considered ‘interruption marketing,’ meaning consumers are not on these platforms to make purchases, so it’s your job to interrupt them. Advertising unique products with a wow factor is the best strategy for these platforms.
“Advertising on Google is considered ‘search intent marketing,’ meaning consumers are Googling products because they are searching for them.”
Remember, you don’t need to choose one or the other when it comes to organic and paid marketing. “Ideally, your company will use a combination of organic and paid marketing strategies for maximum effectiveness,” says Bell. Regardless of your methods, it’s vital to ensure the content is designed to appeal to your target audience.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? Well, we’ve got a way to make it a little less daunting. In the next chapter, we look at an even simpler way to start selling your products and services — without building a website at all. Read on for more details.
Create your online store without building a website
In chapter 5, we looked at how you can embed Jotform Store Builder to start selling products and services. However, that’s not the only way you can use Jotform Store Builder.
The platform can be used on its own, meaning you can create and launch your online store directly through Jotform instead of having to embed it in another website. In this chapter, we’ll share some incredible benefits of Jotform Store Builder that may help you decide whether you want to use it.
The benefits of Jotform Store Builder
Here are just a few reasons why Jotform Store Builder is a good choice for first-time online store owners and consummate e-commerce pros alike:
- Flexibility. You can use Jotform Store Builder embedded in an existing or new website or use it on its own, and develop and launch your store directly with Jotform. Whichever you choose, you’ll have access to all of the Jotform Store Builder features.
- Ease of use. Jotform Store Builder has a drag-and-drop user interface, so you don’t need to know how to code. Plus, it comes with more than 80 widgets you can add to your store to expand functionality and features, with no web development expertise required.
- Branding customization. Add your logo, color scheme, and other brand identity elements to the store to reflect your unique brand and visually attract your target audience. Create a seamless experience by infusing all your store pages with your brand’s distinctive look and feel.
- Ease of sharing. With Jotform Store Builder, you can share your store via email to your customer base or create printable QR codes to include on flyers and business cards. Either way, it’s easy to let your target audience know how to reach your online store.
- Customizable URLs. You can choose a URL that includes your brand or business name (or a slightly modified version of it if the URL with the exact name happens to be taken) so that it’s easy for your customers to remember. Even if they lose the link or the QR code, your customers can type the URL into the browser themselves if it’s memorable.
- Order tracking. Jotform Tables (included with Store Builder) can help you manage all your orders from a single, centralized place. Plus, it’s easy to create customized reports to determine your successes (and which products or product lines need improvement or modification). This way, you can ensure you have adequate stock of your best-sellers and full command of other important logistical details.
- Templates. In true Jotform style, Jotform Store Builder comes with more than 100 ready-to-use templates. So no matter your industry, you can build and launch your store quickly by starting with a template and customizing it based on your specific needs. There’s no need to start web development for your store from scratch when you use Jotform Store Builder.
Starting an online store may seem daunting if you’re new to the e-commerce industry, but you can make the journey more manageable — and more enjoyable — by taking advantage of all the resources, guidance, and tools available. Here’s a quick recap of what you need to know to start your own business:
- Acquire the proper business licenses and permits. An online store is a legitimate business; you need to have the correct federal and state business licenses and permits. You also need to have federal and state tax ID numbers before you can get started. For more guidance, look no further than the U.S. Small Business Administration.
- Choose a business model based on your industry, budget, and other criteria. Will you make, store, and ship your own products, or will you work with a drop shipper to offer products to your customers? There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach, so do your research and choose the one that will support your business goals and enable you to make a profit.
- Your store name plays a role in how customers find you online. To make your store easier to locate, choose a name that’s memorable, short, easy to spell, and easy to pronounce. It’s also a best practice to ensure that the store name matches your domain name so there’s no confusion. Don’t forget to check the names of competitors to ensure yours isn’t too similar.
- Your website builder and payment gateways matter. Whether you have coding experience or not, it’s best to work with an easy-to-use website builder that includes e-commerce capability and allows you to choose from a variety of payment gateways. You can also use Jotform Store Builder to add products to your website.
- Entice customers with effective product and service details. Good product descriptions tell you what the product does, but great descriptions tell you how the product improves your life. Jotform Store Builder is a good tool for adding products and services to your online store, as you can easily organize them into categories and add descriptive details.
- You need both organic and paid marketing strategies. The most effective way to reach your target audience is through organic and paid marketing, such as content marketing, social media ads, and influencer marketing.
- Jotform Store Builder is the only tool you need when starting an online store. While you can build a separate website and connect directly with payment gateways, it’s easier and faster to use Jotform Store Builder. You can create an online store in minutes using one of our hundreds of store templates and choose from over 25 payment gateways. Plus, you can organize product details using Jotform Tables, so all your important information is stored in one place.
You’re ready to start your online store! Head to Jotform Store Builder to create your store with just a few clicks — and get started for free.
Meet your online store guides
K.C. is the head of marketing for Cloom Tech, a wire harness and cable assemblies manufacturer. He’s an entrepreneur with a decade of experience in the technology industry and has founded and led several successful startups.
Scott is the CEO and home improvement expert at Neutypechic, an online supplier of high-quality mirrors.
Hawkins is the president of Events Wholesale, an online discount event and wedding planning supply company based in Watkinsville, Georgia, that has been in business since 2006.
Bell is the founder and CEO of Manukora. His ambition, alongside a deep passion for net-positive business, has resulted in Manukora becoming the brand of choice in the fast-growing Mānuka honey category.
Sleeth has created multiple successful businesses in the drop-shipping and e-commerce space since 2016. He used his experience to create Dropshipping Hustle, a free resource for entrepreneurs to build their own profitable online stores.
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