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How To Start An Online Store

Thinking of starting an online store? That’s a great idea, especially if you’re looking to grow your business. In 2021, 2.14 billion people across the world shopped online. That’s a lot of potential customers. With a website building platform like Squarespace, you can build your online store in a few simple steps.

Step one: Select a commerce template

In order to create your digital “storefront,” select a commerce website template. Every Squarespace template supports commerce features, but this collection has been curated specifically for online stores. If you need additional help getting your store up and running, check out this article on making a website. If your website has been created, your domain has been secured, and your store name is front and center, it’s time to add commerce features.

Step two: Add products to sell

With Squarespace, you can sell physical products, digital products, services, subscriptions, and gift cards. Regardless of your product type, make sure you have imagery that speaks to each individual offering. If you’re selling physical products, like hand-made ceramics or custom artwork, you can simply take photos of each of your pieces so that your future customers can see your items. If you’re selling digital products or services, you may have to get a little more creative with your imagery. Don’t have access to your own photographs? Explore stock imagery options to find something that will work for your site. Try to find imagery that speaks to your brand and your business so customers can learn more about the value you offer. You can add a written description for each product so shoppers can learn more about the item as they browse your online store. As you add more products to your store, be sure to keep your items organized so customers can find things easily.

Step three: Connect a payment processor

You can give customers more than one payment option to complete a purchase. When they’re given more flexibility and see that your online store supports multiple payment methods, first-time purchasers will start to build trust in your brand.

Squarespace supports industry leading payment processors including Stripe, Apple Pay, and PayPal for online sales, and Square for in-person sales. If you’d like to connect Stripe, you can then process payments from customers paying with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover cards (US only). If you add a PayPal account, customers will be allowed to pay with their own PayPal account or Venmo. Many merchants add both Stripe and Paypal to their online stores so they can give their patrons as many payment options as possible. Apple Pay is also supported on Squarespace, but customers must be using an accepted device that is already set up with their account. The preferred payment method varies from country to country so, before connecting a payment processor, be sure to confirm that the one you’ve selected works for your location.

Step four: Find a shipping option that works best for you

If you’re selling physical products, you’ll need to add a shipping option to your online store. You can offer flat rate shipping, rates by weight, carrier calculated, or free shipping. You can also add a local pickup option for customers who want to collect their orders in person rather than waiting for them to be shipped. Of course, you won’t add a physical shipping option if you’re only offering digital items or services. 

Many of your shipping options will depend on the kinds of products you’re selling online and how far you need to send them. Browse the different options and see which ones make the most sense for your business. If you ship with USPS, Squarespace shipping labels might be your best option. Directly integrated into your Commerce dashboard, Squarespace shipping labels save you time in your workflow and may cost less than retail pricing. 

If you want to use a different shipping carrier—or need to ship internationally—check out third-party shipping and fulfillment extensions to help you ship products, manage returns, and keep customers informed with branded tracking and notifications. You can even use Squarespace shipping labels and third-party shipping extensions, ensuring you have all the tools you need to ship anything anywhere. 

Step five: Make sure you set up taxes 

Squarespace has built-in tools and works with third-party extensions to make taxes simple. Depending on where you are located, you’ll have to set up taxes for your online store that reflect the laws in your geographic location. If you’re selling physical products, you may be required to charge sales tax in your home state, and where your customers are located. Alternatively, you can add tax-inclusive pricing so the sales tax is simply included in the original price of the product. 
If you sell in the United States and are on a Commerce plan, you can use our TaxJar integration to automatically calculate sales tax at checkout for free.

Step six: Promote your online store

Now that your online store is open and ready for business, it’s time to start telling people all about it. If you are already using social media to promote your store, you can simply post links to different products and encourage your followers to check them out. Connect your social accounts to your website to automatically share content from your site with your followers. Download the Unfold app to add a Bio Site to your social media profiles to help drive traffic from your social channels back to your website.

Sharing original content is a great way to promote your products and drive traffic to your site. Make a professional-looking ad in minutes with Squarespace Video Studio to help boost your online sales and increase engagement. 

If you have an Instagram account, you can tag products in your posts to allow your followers to buy directly from that platform. You could also add a promotional discount to new customers to incentivize them to make a first purchase. You can decide how much of a discount to offer – and how long you’d like the promotion to run – before creating a discount code. 
You may also want to take advantage of Squarespace’s Email Campaigns to communicate with the folks who frequent your online store. Simply add a Newsletter Block to your online store and give visitors the option of signing up for your emails. You can create unique email content or use existing blog posts and product listings to populate your emails. Building a mailing list can be a great way to keep in touch with your existing customers to inform them of upcoming sales, new products, and other business updates.

Step seven: Sell in-person with point of sale in the Squarespace iOS app

If you sell products in person at markets or craft fairs, download the Squarespace iOS App to access Point of Sale. With this app, you can use our integration with Square to take cash or card payments that integrate with your online store. Once you attach a supported Square reader, any sales you make in person will automatically update your inventory, display in the Orders panel, and factor into your sales analytics. Square processes the payments, and the funds go to the bank account linked to your Square account. Currently, this integration is available in the Squarespace iOS app only on iPhones. Even if you don’t plan on selling items in person, the Squarespace app can help you to keep track of your online store, even when you’re away from your computer.

Step eight: Use Squarespace Analytics to track performance

It’s important to keep track of how your online store is performing. Squarespace Analytics offers a ton of different options for what kinds of data you would like to review. For example, in the Sales Panel you can see crucial insights like how much customers order on average, how your sales change over time, and how much a unique visit is worth on average. Keep an eye on your Traffic Analytics as well as your Sales By Product Analytics to see how your promotional efforts are working and which channels drive the most traffic to your store. All of these insights will help you continue to edit and improve your online store as your business continues to grow.

Read more to learn about what to sell online.

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