Starting an Online Business Checklist: 11 Steps

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By Jacob Maslow

The online business industry is larger now than ever, and it keeps getting bigger. As the competition grows, you may find yourself wondering where to begin. Is it even worth the effort to set up an e-commerce store?

Luckily, you’re on the right track if you’ve gotten this far. Of course, running a successful online store requires asking tough questions and making difficult decisions, but getting started isn’t too challenging.

To help you hit the ground running, we’ve put together a starting an online business checklist to ensure you know what you’ll need to get your business off the ground.

1. Find or Invent a Product to Sell Online

You can have the best marketing strategy globally, but people won’t buy it if the product isn’t good. Since you can sell practically anything online, it’s challenging to figure out where to start.

You can simplify things by categorizing all online products as commodities or niche items. Commodities are things that everyone needs. Clothes, shoes, and home goods are examples of commodities.

Niche products serve a specific customer base, such as guitar strings for guitarists.

Inventing your new product for your online business can be highly lucrative if you can acquire a patent, but it’s not as easy as finding an existing product to sell.

2. Conduct Marketing Research with Your Ideal Customers

Once you have your product to sell online, you’ll have a better idea of your target customers. Market research will help you understand more about this target audience to tailor your marketing campaigns to precisely reach them.

There are two types of market research: primary and secondary.

You conduct primary market research. Whether it’s online surveys and questionnaires, or focus groups, primary market research gives you a chance to receive direct feedback from your target audience on how your marketing influenced their decision to purchase or not purchase your product.

Secondary market research is simply analyzing data collected by someone else. However, secondary research can give you a better idea of the big picture regarding the market for your online shop.

3. Create a Name and Logo

What you call your online store and products are possibly even more important than what the products are. Products with catchy, clever names always sell better whether they’re necessities for people.

If you already have a name in mind, you need to begin thinking about a logo. Branding is an essential part of marketing. However, it’s little details that people don’t immediately notice that tie everything together and that’s what will help create conversions in the long run.

You can either create your designs using a platform such as Canva or hire a marketing agency to help with a logo, branding, and more.

4. Buy a Matching Domain

Since continuity is so important in branding, you need to have a domain that matches the name of your product or Internet store.

To buy a domain name, you’ll first need to check that it’s available. You can use a free domain availability checker to do this. Then you need to choose a reliable domain registrar such as Mailchimp, GoDaddy, or Squarespace.

All you have to do is pay a fee to register your domain and then verify ownership once it’s registered.

5. Choose an eCommerce Platform

Not all eCommerce platforms are the same. Some charge higher fees than others, some offer more tools to optimize your online business, and some are simple.

When choosing an e-commerce platform, you should consider the price (some are more expensive than others), SEO friendliness, mobile phone compatibility, security, customer service, and scalability.

There are many reliable e-commerce platforms to choose from, but some of the most popular include Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, and Shift4Shop.

6. Create a Marketing Plan

Creating a marketing plan will help your launch (and the months following) be bigger than ever. To create a marketing plan, you need to consolidate some information, such as your business plan and business initiatives. These are both big-picture as well as clear goals.

You’ll also need the data from your market research to give you an idea of who to target and how best to get them to your online store.

It’s always essential to analyze the marketing campaigns of your competitors. If you want to compete, you need to know your competition well.

7. Set up a Stock Management System

Unless you’re drop-shipping, setting up an inventory control system is crucial to running a successful online store since you’ll have to store the physical inventory.

While personally filling online orders gives your store a more intimate customer-business relationship, you won’t be able to scale. This is why it’s essential to find and set up a stock management system that works.

8. Set up an Accounting System

As with inventory, keeping your books updated by hand might put a bottleneck in your plans to scale up in the future.

Instead of using the old pencil and paper method, you can reduce the audit risk and improve your ability to scale your business by using accounting software.

9. Choose Your Delivery Partners

Not every e-commerce store can offer free shipping, so selecting a delivery partner with competitive shipping costs.

When choosing a delivery partner for your online shop, consider many things, from shipping costs to delivery times to inventory management capabilities.

You’ll also want to consider returns, the possibility for cash on delivery, and international shipping.

10. Take Product Pictures and Write Descriptions

Before launching your online store, the final step is taking product pictures and writing descriptions.

You don’t want to be white noise in a saturated market, so every little detail counts. Make sure you use a good-quality camera to take high-resolution photos from several angles. Give your customers an idea of what the product looks like to the best of your abilities.

Hiring a professional photographer and content writer is always an option.

11. Start with a Big Launch

The day has finally arrived, and you’re ready for your online business to take off. Make it a big launch by promoting it. Offer discounts, coupons, and other tempting deals.


Select a good product, know your market, use effective branding, and integrate software to help every aspect of your online business to run smoothly.

Starting an e-commerce store is no walk in the park, but if you follow this guide step by step, you’ll be making your first online sale before you know it!


Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos