How to start an online retail internet business

Updated March 23, 2017

Creating a successful online retail business takes dedication and work as much preparation should go into starting and maintaining it. Perhaps the greatest difficulty when starting an online store is finding a unique product instead of just competing globally with other retail businesses. However, a retail shop can enable you to make a decent full-time income if you find the right product to sell.

Decide on the type of retail product that you want to sell. Research the online market for your idea to determine if the current Internet marketplace is already saturated with this product or if there is a great need for it by your target market. Visit websites of online stores that offer the product to research your competition. To find distributors or wholesalers for the products, visit product manufacturer websites and look for the business or retailer section. Otherwise, directly call the manufacturer of the product you want to sell to inquire about where you can obtain their products.

Write up an informal business plan document on your computer. Describe your online Internet retail business in detail, listing the products that you want to sell. Write about the group which you're targeting, such as business professionals, teenagers, stay-at-home moms or retirees. Find Internet sites where your target market "hangs out," including forums and blogs. Put these in your business plan. Describe your competition online and how you will make your retail products stand out, such as by offering customisation services or speciality sizes.

Determine if there are any required state or local licenses and permits required for your business. The complexity of licensing and tax laws vary from state to state. Contact the appropriate state agency or visit its website to see what specific licenses or permits your business needs. Fill out the proper paperwork and acquire the licenses as needed. For retail businesses, some states require a seller's license. Your online retail business may even need a taxation permit to charge sales tax for instate customers. Some local counties require a special permit for operating out of your home if this is a home-business.

Acquire the inventory for your business. Contact product manufacturers or licensed wholesalers that sell your product. Form a business agreement or contract with your supplier that details the price-points for purchasing in bulk and any other negotiated details. Find a place to store the products before you ship them to customers.

Purchase a domain name and website hosting subscription for your retail site. Select a shopping trolley software package, such as BigCommerce, Volusion, or a free option such as os Commerce. Install this software on your web host's server inside your hosting control panel.

Modify your online store website through the shopping trolley's administration site. Upload a banner or header image that represents your store name and logo. Create appropriate categories for the products you want to sell. Create product listings with full details, such as prices, sales descriptions, and photos. Set either flat-rate shipping prices or prices dependent on product weight. Modify the payment options for your online store, copying and pasting your PayPal address and API credentials and filling in details for other Internet payment processors. Test your retail website by making a test purchase from the front-end customer side of the site when finished.

Advertise your Internet retail store. Pay for banner advertisements on websites where your target market is likely to see them. Promote your store in forums, linking your store website in your forum "signature." Create pay-per-click advertising campaigns using a service such as Google AdWords or the Microsoft adCenter to have advertisements for your online retail business show up in search engines.


Hire a freelance graphic or web designer to assist you if you lack the technical skills to complete your shopping trolley software set-up or if you need a header image designed.

Things You'll Need

  • Business licenses
  • Product inventory
  • E-commerce software
  • Domain
  • Hosting
  • Money
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Matthew Schieltz has been a freelance web writer since August 2006, and has experience writing a variety of informational articles, how-to guides, website and e-book content for organizations such as Demand Studios. Schieltz holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He plans to pursue graduate school in clinical psychology.