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Internet sales, better known as e-commerce, have truly made progress. In fact, Forrester reports that e-commerce sales exceeded $ 202 billion in 2011, and are projected to increase 62% to reach $ 327 billion in 2016. With that much money on the table, it may be time to consider connecting your business online. Fortunately, getting started is easier than you might think.

Here are six easy steps to start a successful online business:

  1. Decide which products to sell. Before you do anything, it’s important to decide what types of merchandise to sell online. Whatever you choose, it’s important to work with products that you are passionate about. You are very likely to work with these products day in and day out, so be sure that you will not be bored easily in the future. If you don’t have products in your hand, check out the various delivery providers to buy – you can optionally select their product list and sell them on your own website.
  2. Choose the best ecommerce solution for you. Depending on your budget and level of expertise, the next step is to decide what type of ecommerce solution is ideal for your store:
    • Hosted: Hosting solutions provide the site on their servers as well as provide web-based software to build and power your web store. This type is best suited for beginners in building a site.
    • licensed: Licensed solutions are outside the box that you install on your computer. Unlike a hosted solution, you are required to find your hosting and security protection, which can be difficult.
    • Open Source: Open source solutions are usually free downloads that require you to build your website from scratch. While this is a great choice for full customization, expect to make some difficult site configuration software – which may mean you need to hire someone.
  3. Start building a store. Now is the time to start building a store. Depending on the type of solution you choose, you will need to learn its functionality and get started setting up important pages, including product pages and product categories, homepage and content pages, and more. Keep in mind that you will want to consider branding and design every step of the way – these are important elements for the success of any ecommerce site.
  4. Select a domain name. Your domain name is a web address (URL) where customers find your online store. This is a big business decision, so don’t take it lightly. If you can, choose a short domain name that describes your business. After that, decide on your extension (.com, .biz, .net) and register it with your domain name provider.
  5. Being paid. We are all about making money, right? The next step before starting a store is to decide how you will receive payment from your customers. Many firsts start with PayPal or Google Checkout, but you also have the option of accepting credit cards directly from your site, which is the preferred and more professional route. If this is the case, you will need to explore credit card processing options, especially merchant accounts, to make sure you are clear about all prices and fine print.
  6. Secure your business. Once your website is ready for a glimpse of the world, you need to bring your customers to the store to shop. Whether you use email, social networks, SEO or other forms of internet marketing, it is crucial that you share your store with the masses. In other words, even if you have the most amazing website in the world, if no one can find your store, you will struggle to pay the bills.

Selling online can be a rewarding experience that allows you to express yourself and your entrepreneurial spirit. More importantly, it can be a way to start a new business or grow an existing one. If you are ready to get started, these six steps can help you maintain the right path to success.

About the Author: Matt Winn is the social media manager at Volusion, an industry leader in e-commerce software that empowers online businesses with more than 35,000 clients. While serving as the lead blogger for the Volusion Blog, Ecommerce body, Matt has written hundreds of articles on all things ecommerce, ranging from social media to usability.

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