Building an online business selling physical items is getting easier and easier.  There are some excellent tools available that allow a person with a great idea but limited technical skills to get their store online quickly and easily without spending much money.

Many online marketers turned to eBay as acceptance of online shopping took off, but rising fees and a wild west marketplace turned off a lot of sellers.  As an alternative to eBay, or expensive custom programmed web store fronts, a few visionaries figured out how to democratize the online store in a way that anyone could start a store - even for free.

Let's walk through an example of such a service. 

Made Freshly offers a free online store and shopping cart to anyone willing to customize it. Here are the steps:

1.  Create your store name and account

2. Select a theme and design from among the offered themes.

3.  Add product details and images to your store

For a simple store with a few products the whole setup process should take under an hour, even if you have never set up an online store before.  No coding knowledge is required because the site offers a graphical user interface complete with reports and controls.

Basic stores at Made Freshly are completely free, but there are options that can be bolted on for reasonable extra fees.

Ideas on How to Use an Online Store

Start a new business selling online.  No rent on a physical storefront, limited inventory required, and no need for full-time staff make an online storefront so much more appealing  than traditional brick and mortar retail businesses.  

Don't restrict yourself to selling things that you can find in the mall.  One person created an organic food store online with a local delivery area.  Maybe you can sell handmade crafts. Maybe focus on some specialty industrial supplies.  Think broadly about what niche you can corner.  

If you have one, take your existing brick and mortar business online.  With an online store you can grow your customer base beyond your local area with ease. You already have the inventory in your existing store, so with a simple to set up online store your just a little set up away from selling online.

No offline store and no capital for building your own web portal store?  Why not take a friend's store online. Do you know someone with  a retail shop?  Why not partner up with them to sell their stuff online and split the proceeds?

Expand your existing non-retail business or brand online.  For example, several of the reality TV stars from Storage Wars created online stores to sell t-shirts and other memorabilia to their fans.  If you have a band, camp, school, or any number of other enterprises that can sell branded merchandise, you should consider an online storefront to supplement your regular business.  

Promoting Your Online Store

Traditional retail stores tend to set up in high traffic malls and downtown areas because that is where the people are.  Online stores can be VERY lonely unless you arrange traffic and attract buyers.  You will need some combination of methods to attract internet traffic: 

  • Build links to the store to develop organic search traffic
  • Buy ads on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or other networks
  • Channel traffic from your existing business website
  • Promote your store on Craigslist and other free marketplaces

Good luck in your new online store venture.