4 Tips to Kickstart Your Online Store on a Shoe-String Budget

Getting your online business off the ground is never an easy feat, especially when you’re on a  tight budget.

You’ll need to establish the proven strategies, invest in the necessary tools, pour some resources into marketing, and follow reliable e-commerce tips every online business owner should know — all of which can cost tons of money on top of other operating expenses. 

The good news is, you don’t often need a huge budget to start a profitable online store. 

In this guide, we’ll cover four tried and tested tips to kick off your e-commerce business without having to break the bank.   

1. Adopt the best fitting business model

A crucial aspect of learning how to start an online store is knowing what business model to adopt.

Establishing the business model you will use allows you to plan your resources such as whether to produce marketing and web content in-house or purchase write-ups from freelancers

You can also map out your strategies and identify the arsenal of tools to run your e-commerce business.

For instance, dropshipping is an excellent option for startup online business owners since you won’t need to maintain any product inventory and handle the order fulfillment. Also, you won’t have to manufacture what you sell or handle returns and exchanges. 

Dropshipping eliminates the financial risks and costs of having a warehouse full of products you might not sell and other logistical challenges and expenses that come with more traditional e-commerce business models.  

While dropshipping has its pitfalls, there are ways to stay ahead of your competitors and achieve some level of success. This includes finding reliable suppliers and using the right e-commerce solutions.

Oberlo, for example, allows you to source products from verified suppliers on AliExpress and other platforms and add their products to your Shopify store with a few clicks. 

You won’t need to copy and paste the products’ listing information (images, description, price, variations, etc.). 

After importing them to your Shopify store, you can easily edit the details, streamlining your product sourcing and order fulfillment processes. 

Oberlo also auto-syncs your suppliers’ stock availability with your inventory, so you won’t have to reconcile them manually, saving you tons of time and effort.

That said, know which business model to adopt to help shape your approach, simplify your resource planning, and determine the best framework for your startup e-commerce business to be profitable and succeed.

2. Use a beginner-friendly e-commerce platform 

Ecommerce platforms with easy-to-use website builders can help you get your online store up and running in no time. 

For instance, Wix lets you build a fully functional online store easily with its beautiful design templates.

The platform uses Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) to ask you insightful questions about the kind of website you want to build, your products, etc. 

Then, it designs and recommends a sample website based on your answers, including the essential pages and sections, speeding up your site creation process. 

The platform offers a drag-and-drop website builder with a library of free themes you can easily customize to match your branding and preferred site design and functionalities.

With these features, you won’t need to hire web developers or graphic designers to build a professional-looking online store. 

Plus, most e-commerce platforms for small businesses have essential built-in features such as sales, marketing, payment processing, and product management functionalities and tools. 

This saves you from the potentially high costs of integrating third-party apps to get all the tools you need to operate your e-commerce site seamlessly. 

If you want to take your website content and web pages to the next level, you can use robust content management software or an e-commerce platform with advanced content management features. 

A CMS lets you create and publish website content easily without coding while allowing you to manage your digital assets seamlessly.

3. Find low cost and free online tools

While launching an online store requires investing in suitable systems and tools, you can leverage low-cost and free apps.  

Reliable customer service software Zoho Desk, for instance, lets you embed a user community, knowledge base, and AI functionalities into your mobile app, website, and SaaS product. 

This allows your customers to find answers quickly and improve your client support service delivery.

The software is free for up to three users and provides an AI-powered assistant that helps you automate and stay on top of your customer service efforts.  

The AI assistant can process customer queries and answer them automatically based on your knowledge base’s content. It can also identify sentiment behind every ticket, adding context so you can prioritize and send the best responses promptly. 

While free tools often have limits, it’s a great way to start on a tight budget. You can always upgrade to a higher plan to allow more users and access more advanced features as your needs grow.  

Look for software that can help you run your online business effectively and efficiently without burning a hole through your pockets. 

4. Nail your product line

Choosing the right products to sell is critical in starting an e-commerce business. 

After all, you need to focus on products your target market is most likely interested in and buy, or you can fail to turn in significant profit and waste your limited resources. 

Plus, the more specific your product offerings are to a certain niche, the easier it will be to create and run your marketing campaigns, including creating product descriptions that convert

Consider these few tips to help you perfect your product line. 

  • Learn about what people search online. Use Google Trends to know about trending products and their search volume. This helps you determine your target audience’s interest.
  • Use the tool to compare the interest level over time and by subregion and get related queries on several specific product terms to assess the ones generating the most buzz.

  • Start with the top three products. Narrow the list of products you want to sell to three. This way, you can focus your start-up capital, marketing strategy, and advertising budget (among others) and slowly widen your product offering as your business grows.    
  • Consider the most profitable products. Invest in e-commerce products that are low-cost but with high product margins, meaning something you can buy at a low price and sell at a higher yet reasonable price. This can include items such as smartphone accessories, jewelry, and video games. 

Also, pricing your products can require a lot of research. Start simple by calculating your profitability margins early on.

You can subtract your product costs from labor, fees, and other related expenses to determine your break-even point and work out your pricing from there.   

Starting your online store doesn’t have to cost you a kidney

Building your e-commerce business even with limited capital and resources is completely possible with the right tools, strategies, and attitude. 

Everyone has to begin somewhere, and launching your online store can require some blood, sweat, and tears, but the tips in this guide are great jumping-off points to get you started.  

Mark Thomasson
Mark is a biz-dev hero at Invoicebus - a simple invoicing service that gets your invoices paid faster. He passionately blogs on topics that help small biz owners succeed in their business. He is also a lifelong learner who practices mindfulness and enjoys long walks in nature more than anything else.
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