Opening an online store is one way for seasoned retailers who love the business of selling to escape the Retail-apocalypse. As older companies struggle to catch up to newer trends and business models, investment firms mismanage the companies they purchase, and clienteles adjust their spending habits, many stores have had to close their doors over the last ten years.
The expanding e-commerce trend is a way to escape it all and have fun selling again. Although there are no shelves to stock, no endcaps to merchandise and the customers are streams of data, it can still give those who love selling a sense of joy again.
But the startup costs of an online store can add up if you are not careful. Even though there is no building and less overhead with e-commerce, you still need money to get it going. Here, we look at some of the ways you can bootstrap your online store with very little money.
Start bootstrapping your startup costs at the beginning. How are you getting online? Start with your e-commerce platform. Shop around to find the one with the best price for the most services provided. While one may have more options than another, they may come at a higher price. On the reverse side of things, the cheapest one may not be the best option for your intended store. Cut your costs by using a web host that offers plans for what you need now not what you would like to have for the future.
A professional web designer can give your online store the best look possible — at a premium. While the designer has probably earned the right to charge higher fees, commissioning one is not the best way to spend what startup money you have. Instead, look into amateur designers who practice design as a hobby. Or, find a freshly-graduated designer looking to make a name for him- or herself. They can be cheaper than a professional designer and still give your e-commerce site a great appearance.
When starting your online store you may think you have to have the best of everything. That is the ultimate goal. You may not have the budget to afford the best, though, when it comes to the imagery you use on your website. For the images you need, look into stock photography.
Premium photography websites may have the images you need but they come at, well…a premium. They are going to cost you money. To save on expenses, use some free stock photography instead. Incorporate some free black and white images to give your online store some appeal. This way you spend nothing and can invest that money you would’ve spent elsewhere.
There are a number of ways you can get the products you want to sell on your website, including:
- Using a traditional wholesaler, who can give discounts for bulk orders
- Buying closeouts from other stores, which can get you merchandise for cheap
- Using a drop-ship supplier, which frees you from having to have physical inventory
- Buying items from yard sales and storage auctions, which you can negotiate below ticket price quite easily
All ways have their benefits. The biggest determinator is going to be what types of products do you want to sell. After that, you need to research who has the best pricing for what you want to offer customers. If you want to get selling quickly and are willing to open with a basic assortment of products, go with the drop-shipper. You only pay them when you place the order the customer has placed with you. By that time, the customer’s transaction has already processed and you have been paid. Placing the order with the supplier means you simply funnel part of the customer’s payment to the drop-shipper; you do not have to pay for the item(s) up front.
Bootstrapping your business means you will have to use alternative means of promoting your website. You do not have the means of advertising on different blogs or other websites. You don’t need to! You have the power of the Internet to help you — for free.
Create social media profiles and get started pumping excitement into the users of those platforms. Post pics of your products on Instagram, join community groups on Facebook, blast Twitter with sales; these are all ways you can use the Internet to your advantage without paying a dime. From there, word of mouth (or fingers) can spread your business’s name throughout the web and lead customers to your online store for there shopping needs.
You can also improve your Google results for free. Many e-commerce sites host their own blogs. If you have a basic understanding of the English language, you may be able to write about topics relevant to your customers. Doing this allows you the opportunity to place links to the product pages within your content. This helps Google find you easier, placing you higher on the results page than your competitors.