Shopify Basics | Updated November 21, 2022  

13 Hacks to Start Your Own Online General Store (And Make Sure It Becomes a Success)

by Kiril Kirilov

This is a complete guide to starting an online general store.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll discover:

  • The benefits of starting an online general store
  • Handy tidbits to help you launch your own general store
  • What you should do to propel your store to success
  • Examples of successful online general stores

Ready to take the plunge?

Let’s dive right in.

Why Should You Start a General Online Store in 2022?

Online shopping is one of the most vibrant sectors.

By 2023, eCommerce will account for 22% of global retail sales. That’s a 7.9% jump from 14% in 2019. And this upwards trend looks set to continue.

Image Source: Statista

You see,

COVID-19 changed the way people shop. The “new normal” triggered dramatic surges in online shopping for apparent reasons. Plus, lockdowns allowed many shoppers to experience the convenience of buying online.

The point is,

There’s no better time to start an online general store with these consumer behavior changes.

5 Tips for Starting an Online General Store

Planning to start an online general store is one thing. But driving success is entirely different. You need to lay a solid foundation right from the start.

The 5 tips below will help you set the ball rolling:

Select Your Business Idea

Deciding what to sell is a crucial step to starting a general store.

You’ll need to ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s my target audience?
  • Which brands will my prospect want to buy?
  • What pain points can I solve?
  • How will I outsource the products?

Hone your business idea. The more you narrow down your options, the higher the likelihood of success.

Below are product niche ideas to get your juices flowing:

  • Books, stationeries, films, etc
  • Kid toys
  • Handmade products
  • Electronics
  • Fashion & apparel
  • Household goods
  • Skincare & cosmetics

Choose an eCommerce Platform [ We recommend Shopify’s Free Plan]

Once you’ve determined what to sell, you’ll want to pick an eCommerce platform.

For this, we recommend Shopify’s free plan.

Why? …because of the following reasons:

  • The plan comes with a 14-days trial. That’s enough time to explore how Shopify works.
  • You get free domain names.

In addition;

  • Shopify is a reliable eCommerce platform.
  • Shopify offers user-friendly features for an online store
  • The platform is mobile-ready
  • Shopify allows scalability
  • Shopify is search engine optimization (SEO)-friendly

Create Your Own Website

The next step is to build your website.

The site is where you’ll list your product. It’ll be the face of your online general store. It’s also where you’ll implement your branding and accept payments.

Designing your online store allows you to showcase your creativity.

The idea is to build a well-branded store optimized for conversions. So, you’ll want to impress prospects with a vibrant look and feel. You’ll also want to ensure customers can find products quickly.

Tips for Designing your Online General Store

  • Leverage Shopify’s free store themes. Customize the layouts to fit your style.
  • Study major brands and retailers. Notice how they use filters, shopping carts, and menus to provide a smooth user experience.
  • Ensure customers can access product pages in three or fewer clicks. Also, make it easy for users to navigate the homepage.
  • Be clear about what you sell. Prospects want to know what you sell upon landing on your store.
  • Write clear call-to-actions (CTAs)
  • Write detailed product descriptions.
  • Use high-quality product images.

Add Products

With your store's structure up and running, it’s time to add the products.

Here’s how to add products on Shopify:

  • Head over to Products on your admin panel.
  • On the Products page, hit Add Account.
  • Enter your product’s title. Include additional details.
  • Click save.

Launch Your Online General Store

Your online general store is ready. It’s time to launch it.

After your site goes live, embark on creating a solid branding strategy. Branding includes your store’s name, voice, logo, color palette, etc.

Your brand should relate to your store and the mood you want to create. You can, for instance, use vibrant colors to create an energetic mood.

Nike is an excellent example of powerful branding.

Another crucial aspect of your brand is your tone of voice. Your brand’s voice is essential when writing your product descriptions and messaging.

Is your brand’s tone cheerful? Casual? Friendly? How would you speak to your customers in-person?

  • Emails
  • Website
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Shipping materials
  • Invoices, etc.

8 Hacks to Ensure Your Online Store Becomes Successful

There’s no magic formula to building a successful online general store.

Still, there are several ways you can “hack” your growth. These strategies aren’t as simple as flipping a switch. They aren’t unattainable either.

These hacks just take a little more time. But when done right, they’ll help win your first customer.

Let’s get started with the first hack.

Understand That Starting an Online General Store Requires More Work

"If it was easy, everyone would be doing it" — Bob Parsons

Starting a general online store requires more work than a single product store.

And here's why.

A general store sells more products than a niche one. This means you'll spend more time outsourcing products.

You need to find high-quality product images and videos. The more products in your store, the more images you'll need. You may have to spend several days or weeks finding good images.

The more products you have, the more time it'll take to write detailed product descriptions.

Because a general store hosts more products, the setup process is often lengthy.

In addition, you'll need more time to manage your products. You'll also have to move your inventory and pricing.

You can reduce the work by focusing on several main products. To do this, you'll need to design stellar product pages for these items. You'll then use the other products as "fillers."

Apart from the reasons above, you have to deal with multiple suppliers. Working with several suppliers requires more work, eating into your time.

Get Inspiration from Successful Online General Stores

It's always a good idea to see what other businesses are doing right before you start yours.

You can pick a few essential things by looking at other online general stores like:

  • How they've designed their store?
  • What products do they sell?
  • How their product descriptions look, etc.

That way, you can get ideas of what you need to do and where. Or, if you've already set up your store, you can get fresh ideas on what you need to improve.

For instance, you can run into a brilliant upselling strategy that can work on your general store.

When looking for inspiration, go for successful online stores. Still, remember, every store is different. So, you only need to pick what can work or improve your store.

Use The Right Theme

Themes are crucial when creating your general store.

A theme sets the mood for your store. You'll want to pick an appealing, responsive, and user-friendly theme.

It is essential that your website looks professional. Otherwise, customers will close it and hop to the next store.

A good theme provides a seamless shopping experience, helping you generate more sales.

A general online store offers different products in several categories. It is vital to choose a theme that fits your store type.

The thing is;

Some themes work best for single-product stores. Others suit a specific niche. And then there are those themes that are ideal for a general store. These are themes you should pick.

How do you know if a theme is good for a general store?

Check if the theme offers many product categories and/or inventories. Shopify allows you to filter the themes, so you shouldn't have a problem picking one.

Most of these themes often support features like search, product filtering, mega menus, etc.

Here's a good theme for a general theme called Expanse.

Side Note: You can look at other places for themes if you can't get a good one on Shopify.

Select A Neutral-Sounding Store Name

What’s in your online general store’s name? A LOT.

Naming your store is a creative process. There are some vital points you should consider. And believe us, you can pick a bad name for your store.

Here’s how you can ensure you choose a perfect name.

Keep it simple and straightforward. A simple name is easy to remember.

Pick a future-proof name. Think big when naming your store. Choose a name that’ll work in the future as your business grows.

Pick an available name. When we say available, we’re talking about the domain name. We recommend securing a .com domain for your store. Why? Most online shoppers tend to trust “.com” domain names.

Choose a name that conveys meaning. We’re not saying you should dive into the rabbit hole. But try not to be super generic. Keep off names like “John’s General Store.”

In addition, pick a name that fits a general online store. Choose a “neutral” name that’ll allow you to sell products in various categories.

Can’t think of a good business name? Shopify’s business name generator is a good place to start.

Minimize The Number of Suppliers You’re Working With

A general store stocks a wide variety of products. As a result, you have to deal with many suppliers.

We’re not saying that it’s impossible to work with multiple suppliers. Still, it can be daunting juggling several suppliers.

Picture this.

A customer places multiple orders in your store. The problem is you have to source the items from different suppliers. As a result, the customer will receive orders in separate packages.

The suppliers may not have a problem shipping the products. But processing and managing the order can be hectic on your end.

For this reason, try to source your products from as few suppliers as possible. It’ll simplify the process and increase efficiency.

At times, you have no choice but to use different suppliers for one customer.

You’ll want to ensure the shipping process is as seamless as possible for such orders. You can do this by providing your customer knows exactly when their package will arrive.

You can use Rush.app to deliver a stellar post-purchase customer experience. Rush works by automating the shipping tracking process. It also updates your customer regarding their order status.

Think of it as a way of increasing transparency in the shipping process.

The ripple effect is that customers will trust your general store. And in return, you’ll win their loyalty.

Create A Robust FAQ Page And Shipping Policy

A frequently asked questions (FAQ) page is vital for your general store. It is the place where customers find answers to their questions.

Well-crafted FAQs page offers many benefits to your store. The page can:

  • Nurture trust. Answering specific questions shows you understand your customer’s challenges. It also shows you can help.
  • Enhance customer service by answering common questions.
  • Save you time and money. You don’t have to answer repetitive calls and emails over everyday stuff.
  • Improve your store’s visibility on search engines.
  • Enhance the user experience. The page makes it easy for customers to find what they want. You can even link answers to blog posts for detailed info.
  • Show product expertise and reputation.
  • Help convert visitors into customers.

Apart from an FAQs page, you’ll need a solid shipping policy.

Remember to state in the policy that customers may receive separate packages for multiple orders.

That way, customers won’t be surprised if their entire order doesn’t arrive on the same day. Besides, with a clear shipping policy, you won’t have to reply to repetitive emails and calls.

In addition, your shipping policy should contain the following:.

  • Shipping rates and costs
  • Shipping methods and expected delivery times
  • Shipping restrictions
  • Missing or lost packages
  • A statement on international shipping
  • Returns and exchanges information

It is also advisable to update your shipping policy as your store grows. For instance, if you go from self-fulfilling orders to outsourcing fulfillment.

Test Several Products Before Choosing a Niche

What to sell? That’s one of the biggest questions when starting an online general store.

How do successful stores generate six figures while others struggle? It all boils down to finding winning products.

How can you find your winning products? You need to test, test and test.

Testing products for your general store can be expensive and time-consuming. Below are a few tips to help you test products quickly.

Collect Real-time Insights and Analytics: You can use tools like Google Trends and social media. Or you can invite customers to check your products for free.

Study Your Competition: How’re your competitors promoting their products? How’re they positioning themselves before their customers? Insights like these can help you figure out the winning products.

Do a Soft Launch: This strategy involves launching products ahead of schedule. Soft launches are great for gauging your customer receptiveness toward the product.

Run a Solid Marketing Campaign: Test which audience likes your products most. Then, spend money on a marketing strategy targeting these buyers.

Test Products on Facebook: Create a Page Post Engagement (PPE) ad on Facebook. The campaign will show your ad to people more likely to engage with it.

Once you find a winning product, you can build your store around that item.

Irestore Laser, for instance, built an entire website around hair growth products..

You can also build a private label around the winning product. Private labeling will even allow your store to scale further.

A private label involves branding your product. As a result, its perceived value will increase. Plus, competition will reduce because you’re the sole vendor for that exact product.

Further, a private labeled product will have your company’s name and logo. As a result, it’ll positively impact customer loyalty.

Keep up With the Trends

Following trends is part of running a successful general online store.

The concept is simple; find trending products and add them to your store. The beauty of this is that any product can be a good fit.

The idea is to help you capitalize on emerging trends to grow sales for your general store.

Below are some ways to find trending products:

  • Browsing social media platforms
  • Checking Google Trends
  • Joining Reddit
  • Listening to e-Commerce podcasts
  • Exploring online marketplaces in “best sellers” categories.
  • Searching YouTube videos by typing product name/niche + unboxing
  • Using product hunting tools like Sell The Trend
  • Keeping track of influencer activity

5 of the Best Online General Stores to Draw Inspiration From

Starting a general online store requires a lot of work. But let’s put that aside for a minute.

Let’s look for some inspiration!

We’ve gathered 5 online general stores to inspire you. These aren’t just random stores. They’re stores killing. All are profitable, having carved their way to success.

Alo Yoga

Alo Yoga is in the yoga clothing niche. The store attracts an impressive 1.5 million visitors per month.

Here’s what makes Alo Yoga successful

The Theme

Alo Yoga uses a vibrant theme to draw buyers. The website looks appealing and vibrant. Sure, the layout is pretty basic. But the customization is impressive. The dazzling photos of yoga practitioners add to the razmataz.

And then there’s the seamless navigation, making it easy to find products

Robust Instagram Marketing

Alo Yoga’s Instagram marketing is on another level. Everything from the photos to the videos is incredible. The store’s visuals on the platform can even pique non-yogis interest.

Alo Yoga leverages IGTV and reels to trigger interaction and engagement with followers. The store has over 840K followers on Instagram.

Top-Notch YouTube Content

Every Alo Yoga YouTube video is unique, high-quality, and informative. It’s hard to tell if the store sells clothes if you’re a first-time visitor.

Some of the tutorial videos are 30 minutes long. It takes time, effort, and dedication to create such videos.

Alo Yoga has over 470K YouTube subscribers. That’s an indication that people love the store’s content.

Au Lit Fine Linens

Au Lit Fine Linens is a general store dealing with bedding and home products. It attracts about 85K visitors per month.

Here’s what makes Au Lit Fine Linens successful.

Seamless Website Navigation

Speed is crucial if you want to create a thriving online store. Consider the stats below:

The first 5 seconds of page-load generate the highest impact on conversion rate..

  • Conversion drops by 4.42 with every extra second of load time.
  • Nearly 70% of shoppers admit page speed impacts their decision to buy.
  • The highest conversion for online stores occurs between 0-2 seconds

Au Lit Fine Linens understand the importance of page speed. The store’s homepage and pages load fast. That way, customers can spend more time on the website.

Unique Brand Identity

Au Lit Fine Linens leverages visuals to deliver its brand’s message. The logo, design, and colors scream luxury. Branding goes a long way in drawing the right customers.

A Rich History

Your online general store’s history is the story of your purpose and founding vision. A good history makes your store’s messaging more authentic. It also helps build trust with your customers.

Au Lit Fine Linens opened its doors to the public in 1981. That’s a 40-year history. The long and rich history shows the store’s consistency and credibility. It also increases the customer’s willingness to spend.

HELM Boots

HELM Boots is an online general store dealing with men’s boots and shoes. Founded in 2009, the store draws 20K visitors per month.

Here’s what makes HELM Boots successful.

A Bunch of Niceties for New Customers

To succeed with your general store, you must know how to convert visitors into customers. HELM Boots has mastered this art.

The store offers a 15% discount for new buyers. On top of that, you get free shipping. In addition, HELM Boots has a free returns policy. It’ll even exchange your merchandise.

That’s a well-thought-out strategy to lure hesitant first-time buyers.

Well-structured Blog

HELM Boots’ blog has 30 pages with over 350 articles. The store understands the power of content marketing for brand awareness.

The blog serves as a resource center for HELM’s customers. It provides helpful info about shoes and shoe culture. Plus, the blog helps generate traffic to the store.

Top-quality Products

High-quality products are a prerequisite for building a flourishing online general store.

HELM Boots thrive on the quality of its merchandise. Its shoes are classic and timeless, made using the finest materials.

Customers appreciate high-quality products. All you need to do is to visit the HELM Boots Instagram account. There you’ll see positive feedback and rave reviews from satisfied customers.

Pura Vida Bracelets

Pura Vida Bracelets specializes in women's accessories and clothing.

Here’s what makes Pura Vida Bracelets successful.

Appealing Website

Pura Vida Bracelets' website is impressive. The site boasts vibrant and eye-catching colors. It also features stunning pictures.

This store uses this strategy to make visitors stay longer on the website. Visitors that stay longer on your website are more likely to buy.

Huge Product Collection

Pura Vida Bracelets understands what a general online store should be. It stocks a wide range of products.

Apart from accessories, the shop also sells clothes. In addition, Pura Vida Bracelets stocks jewelry and gift sets. The idea is to boost the store’s revenue-generating potential.

Robust Instagram Targeting

Pura Vida Bracelets has 2.1 Instagram followers.

With such numbers, this store can reach prospects using several strategies. These may include promotion campaigns, influencer endorsement and video marketing.

Pura Vida Bracelets’ videos are top-notch quality too. The brand uses videos to keep prospects hooked.

So Young

So Young is a thriving general online store selling women's and children's bags.

Here's what makes So Young successful.

Stylish Bag Designs

So Young makes different kinds of bags for girls. The brand focuses on minimalist design with a pop of trendy colors.

The store sells bags that match different outfits, casual or professional. This design uniqueness gives So Young an edge over the competition.

Positive Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is essential for your online store's growth. Over 90% of shoppers read customer comments before buying.

So Young has 340+ reviews on its website. With these many reviews, the brand can trust first-timer visitors quickly.

Most reviewers hail the brand's high-quality product and ingenious design.

Retailer Collaboration

So Young partners with retailers to distribute its goods. That way, it can generate more sales instead of relying on direct customers.

The Store also has a "buy now, pay later" program called Sezzle. The program allows shoppers to pay 25% of the item's cost and the balance within 6 weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the Easiest Way to Start an Online Store?

You can launch your own store in eight simple steps as follows:

  • Pick and eCommerce platform
  • Identify your target audience
  • Decide what to sell in your store
  • Design your store. Shopify offers handy tools to help you design one, even if you’re a beginner.
  • Connect a payment gateway.
  • Choose a business structure. You can run your store as a sole proprietorship, partnership or Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).
  • Prepare your store for launching.
  • Launch the store

You also need to craft a solid marketing strategy to draw prospects. You can leverage tactics such as social media marketing, SEO, etc.

Can you Start an Online Store Without Money?

Starting an online store with zero cash can be challenging. Still, you can start your store with minimal cash.

The thing is,

Finding a good business idea is half the journey. The other half is finding capital.

You should give up on a brilliant idea even if you don’t have the money. All you need to do is adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. You need to be patient, creative and work hard.

You must also be willing to try new things constantly. You can, for instance, try these bootstrap business ideas:

  • Dropshipping
  • Micro influencing on Instagram
  • Offering your services on sites platforms like Upwork

The goal is to start making money that you can reinvest into your online business.

How Can I Drive Traffic to My Online Store for Free?

You need the traffic to drive prospects to your online general store.

You can pay for traffic. Or use the following free strategies to attract potential buyers to your store.

  • Mobilize your friends to promote your store.
  • Start an email marketing campaign.
  • Post on social media platforms.
  • Send free samples to micro-influencers for a review
  • Implement SEO to increase your store’s discoverability
  • Add your store to online directory listings
  • Leverage Pinterest to increase your store’s discoverability
  • Optimize your Google My Business listing
  • Create helpful content
  • Join industry-relevant platforms to help build trust. Participate in the forums by answering questions.

The Bottom Line

Starting an online general store can be challenging. But the rewards are worth it in the end.

We hope this article better explains how to start a general online store.

The tips in this guide will help you build a profitable store. You only need to implement the strategies outlined here.

It may take time to see the results. Be patient and keep working hard. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the section below.

To your success!

Kiril Kirilov is co-founder at Rush - Increase sales and boost customer retention rates. Rush automates the shipment tracking process on all fronts so you can turn your loyal customers into "human ATMs"