The Beginners Guide: How to Start An Online Store When Travelling
Travel is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. If you’re thinking of ditching the 9-5 in favour of seeing what the world has to offer, then you’re in good company. We are living in the age of the digital nomad, where it is possible to make money online from almost anywhere – provided you have a good internet connection.
The beauty of ecommerce is that you can start with just a little time and a minimal budget. You might think it sounds implausible – surely storage and inventory is required to run an ecommerce business? Here’s the secret: with the right supplier, it’s more than possible. Hundreds of travellers make their living this way, using the profits to fund their wandering lifestyles. Here’s how you can do the same.
Start with research
Getting into ecommerce is much easier now that it used to be. But still, it’s worth knowing what you’re signing up for. It’s simple to set up an online store, but it’s harder to ensure it does well. If you’re thinking of getting into ecommerce, start finding out about it now. Do your research online, talk to others who run online stores and find out what their experiences are. It’s a good idea to start shopping online yourself (if you don’t already) to see what works from a customer perspective.
Think carefully about what you decide to sell. If you’re travelling, then ideally you want to sell products that can be shipped by a supplier, taking the order fulfilment side of things off your hands. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time promoting these products, look into niches that interest you. As a small business, you will do much better focusing on a niche than trying to sell a little bit of everything. Be sure to stake out your competitors to see what kind of service they offer – and what you can do better.
Develop a viable brand
To get started with your online store, there are three things you will need: a domain name, web hosting and a solid brand idea. Your brand identity is very important – it will determine how your customers view your business and the products you sell. It is the face and personality of your business. Appeal and consistency are crucial.
To help you develop your brand consider the following:
- What is the purpose of your business?
- What do you want customers to associate with your business?
- What are your unique selling points (USPs)?
- How do you want customers to feel when they visit your store?
A good place to start is with a name. Try to keep your company name short and memorable. Once you’ve decided, buy your domain name. Next, hire someone with design and branding experience to create a logo for you to use across all platforms. Check out the designers on Fiverr, or if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, try this free logo-maker tool.
Set up your store
Here is the fun part where you get to bring your ecommerce store to life. You’ve chosen your product niche and developed your brand, so now is the time to put yourself online. Luckily, you don’t need to know how to code to create a great-looking ecommerce website. Using a hosted ecommerce platform like Shopify, you can create and customise your online shop from a range of omnichannel-optimised design templates.
Alternatively (or in addition) you may choose to sell products using online marketplaces, such as eBay, Amazon and Etsy. They offer an established audience that will ensure your products are seen, but the downsides are that competition is high and there are usually fees involved. The best option is to open a branded online store, using online marketplaces as a supplemental channel if required.
Work with a drop shipping supplier
When you’re travelling the world, the last thing you need is to manage stock, especially if you are frequently moving from place to place. That’s why most travel entrepreneurs work with a drop shipping supplier. With drop shopping, you partner up with a supplier who fulfills the orders from your website for you – shipping directly to the customer without the need for you to get involved at all. Find drop shipping suppliers at Alibaba.com or similar.
The benefit of using drop shipping is that there’s no upfront investment on your part. It’s an efficient and convenient way of fulfilling orders, leaving you to focus on sales and marketing. Contact a few different suppliers and see which one you get on with. Be sure to order samples of your products the first time around, so you can check the quality. Some drop shipping suppliers allow you to apply your own branding, which is ideal. Try printing and supplying branded product labels using a service like printed.com.
Focus on sales and marketing
Finally, you need to start driving customers to your store. This is often the hardest part. There are a number of ways to successfully market your online store while travelling – here are some of them:
- Use social media. Once your store is online, create social media profiles on each of the main channels, using your logo and brand colours to keep each profile consistent. Post interesting content regularly and be sure to share content from others as well as your own. Competitions and giveaways are a good way to earn new followers, especially in the beginning. Here are 115 facts you never knew about social media
- Know your target audience and where they spend their time online. For example, are they heavy Pinterest users? Do they read blogs? Do they respond well to video? Reach out to your potential customers by approaching them on their home turf
- Optimise your online store for SEO. There are a number of ways to do this. Ensure that your pages, content, headings, alt tags and metadata are optimised for the keywords that your potential customers are searching for. Hosting a blog is a great way to boost your ranking for keyword phrases, with the added benefit of allowing you to share your expertise. You could also reach out to industry websites to enquire about an advert or link promoting your online store to increase your domain authority
- Reach out to the existing global community of digital nomads to find out what worked for them. They have the experience of running an online business on the go, and can help to guide you. Try groups such as Digital Nomad Forum and Reddit.
With the internet to hand, we now have the luxury of building our own businesses and earning a living, wherever we may be. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The premise is simple, but the ongoing strategy is competitive and requires a lot of work. Make sure you’ve really done your homework before jetting off, and speak to others who have done the same. It’s not all sea and sand – but there’s certainly a lot to be said for having the freedom to go where you please.