Here we are on the last month of 2014. As an entrepreneur, I’m sure you have a mixed feeling right now.

On one hand, it’s holiday time! Finally, you have the opportunity to take some time off your business and spend the quality time with your family (and yourself!)

On the other hand, it’s crunch time for your business, for a couple of major reasons: You may find a decline in sales, especially if your business is not a retail business. You may also feel both excited and anxious about the future of your business in 2015. You are thinking about your New Year resolution, thinking about what you will do to boom your business next year.

New Years resolution

Maintaining a healthy balance among the two should be every entrepreneur’s endeavour – well, at least for me. But in this post we are not going to talk about holiday activities and destinations. Instead, let’s talk about the crunch time; let’s talk about your plan for the approaching 2015, – your New Year resolution for your business.

If you are still pondering, I do have one idea: Build an online store.

Listen, the data is there. The trend is there. And if you are hangout on social media platforms like me, you’ll notice a lot of people are talking about their plans and hopes for 2015.

Professionally-speaking, I found out that there will be more and more people jumping onto the online entrepreneurship bandwagon.

Previso Media website screenshot

A friend of mine recently told me that she’s looking for entrepreneurial ideas – and asked for some advice. She’s successful in her workplace, working for a well-known global financial corporation. Yet, she seems to be approaching the tipping point, pondering whether she should call it quits on her job and embark into the entrepreneurship jungle.

If you know me for a long time, you’ll already know what my answer is: Try online entrepreneurship. Create a business blog. Become an online consultant. Open an online store.

However, if you read this and you say, “That’s what I think I’m going to do in 2015 – I’m going to start an online business and build an online store… but I don’t know how” Well, let me tell you this: It’s not as hard as you think – if you choose the right information to read and the tools to use, you can have your own online store in no time.

So, here I’ll cover some practical tips you can use to get started creating your online store. Don’t worry, it only takes you 2-3 minutes. Seriously.

Let’s get down to business.

How to start an online store

Online store startup

Just like the physical store you visit on the street, you need several things to get started:

  • First, a product to sell.
  • Then you’ll need a place to sell those products.
  • You need to work on your store front so that it appeals people to come into your store.
  • You need systems to help manage inventory, orders, customers, etc.
  • And, finally, you need ways to promote your store.

Online stores are very similar to the offline counterparts, but there are some obvious key differences:

Just like a physical store might need a place where they can build their store, you’re going to need a place to “host” this online store as well, i.e a hosting company. This hosting company will allow you to take this online store you built and share it to everyone on the internet. Once you choose your hosting, you will need to choose the right software to create and run your store – e.g. online shopping cart, inventory management, etc. You’ll need a good storefront design, an optimised website for SEO, and finally a platform that will allow you to promote your site.

So, there you go – those seems complex, but here’s the good thing about online store: Choosing the right ecommerce software can take care most of the things I listed above.

A good ecommerce software can offer the following: Unique storefront design, customisation possibilities through add-ons, shopping cart feature, sales tracking and analytics, on-site SEO, and a range of support and service to help your e-store get up and running.

That leaves you just a couple of things to manage, other than the ecommerce solution: web hosting and marketing.

The big questions: Which ecommerce software?

Setting up an online store

There are plenty of choices out there on the web. But unlike what many would think, some of the best solutions are available to you for free. No catch. No small prints. Totally free.

To name some of the most popular ones: PrestaShop, Magento Community, osCommerce, Opencart and Zen Cart.

There are many upsides offered by the free ecommerce platforms, besides the fact that they are free; such as limitless possibilities and everything is uniquely yours. When I say limitless, I refer to the limitations some of the paid ecommerce platforms put on your store i.e. number of products, number of pages, etc. Most of these free ecommerce platforms don’t have such limitations and allow you to add as many products as you’d like.

Of course, there are also drawbacks – here’s the big one: You need to understand how to use the tool to build your store ground up. It’s not that complicated, but this is not a turnkey system – you need to install the platform and tell it what you want to do with your store.

With those in mind, today we are going to cover one of my favorites: PrestaShop.

Why PrestaShop?

Madame Choup online store
Madame Choup – powered by PrestaShop

You see, I’ve been in online business for nearly 9 years, and have built many types of sites and used many types of platforms, which include a variety of ecommerce softwares.

There are some softwares which can be truly uninspiring: Buggy and difficult to use, some platforms can be so difficult except if you know programming or want to hire a developer to help you build your store.

PrestaShop is probably the one of two I would recommend budding entrepreneurs and small business owners to use, for several reasons:

  1. It’s easier to install than most ecommerce solutions
  2. The shopping cart solution is easy to setup
  3. It has stellar search function, making product search by visitors a breeze
  4. It’s ultra-customisable: With more than 25,000 plugins and extensions to choose, the sky’s the limit.
  5. The powerful backend system means you won’t leave any stones unturned: You can track sales and analyse things that matter to your store’s growth.

PrestaShop backend system screenshot

  1. The standard storefront as you can see above looks great. It’s comes fully responsive meaning it will look great on any size screen. But if its not the look for you, there are also thousands of other themes available to download as well.
  2. Want help? It’s just one click away to access partner web designers and developers. PrestaShop also has one of the largest active online forums, with over 700k active online members to help answer any questions you might have.
  3. Don’t even want to bother signing up with a web hosting provider? PrestaShop is currently in beta for a new solution which will allow you to build your online store on a hosted version of PrestaShop, still 100% free of cost, but I’ll have more on that once it officially launches!
  4. Should I remind you once again that it’s free? Just download it and install it on your web hosting account and you’re done.

As you can see, PrestaShop is quite a powerful ecommerce solution. If you want to see PrestaShop in action and more in depth, you can check out a live demo on their site and play around with the software yourself.

Takeaway

So, I’ve covered a bit about the technicality of setting up an online store. As you can see, the ecommerce software like PrestaShop does make things easier. Using the software, you launch a store in no time and can allocate more resources on your product and marketing.

You still have some time to think about whether opening an online store is the right New Year resolution for your entrepreneurial career. But why waste any more time, and just do it – it’s the only way to know whether you will find a success with your online store or not.

Good luck with your endeavour!