Eight Easy Steps to Launch Your Online Store

Eight Easy Steps to Launch Your Online Store

Finding it difficult to start an online store in South Africa? Looking to take your offline business online, or start a brand new online shop? You’ve come to the right place! If you can dream it, Shopstar can help you build it and sell it. It’s a cinch with their tools and personal support, it really is the best place for South African makers and creators to start, manage and grow successful online stores.

And by easy, we mean eeeeeezy! In just eight steps, you could have the online store of your dreams up and live on the web - with a 14 day trial and no payment upfront. That’s right, all you need to do is follow the steps below to set up your store - right now. 

In this article 

  • 8 Steps for setting up your online store
  • Additional tips for making your online store shine

“The hardest thing about getting started, is getting started.” - Guy Kawosaki

8 Steps to setting up your online store from sign-up to launch

Step One: Create your Shopstar account

Simply visit www.shopstar.co.za and create your free account. You’ll need the following: your name, a working email address, your shop name (example: sunshineandlemon.shopstar.co.za) - the system will check that the name hasn’t already been registered - and a password. You can choose your own password or use the one that the Shopstar system generates for you. Don’t worry, your personal information is safe with us, for clarification, please read our Privacy Policy

Step Two: Get started creating your store 

Once you’ve created your account, you’ll be directed to a screen that gathers a bit of information about the online store you have in mind. First, you’ll select one of the following statements: 

  • I’m planning on starting a business
  • I’m selling offline and want to go online 
  • I want to start a dropshipping store
  • I’m just playing around at the moment (that’s totally fine)
  • I already have an online shop elsewhere

Select one of the above, it’s just to help us guide you through the setup process. 

You’ll then choose the types of goods that you’re planning to sell. Again, this isn’t set in stone, so select what you think works best for your business - there are also options for “a variety of products” and “I’m still deciding” if you’re unsure. List your company name, add a working contact number, and your physical address (to help us calculate shipping and such). Then our little cogs start working and before you know it, you’re signed up and well on your way to launching your online store! 

Step Three: Take a moment to look around

Welcome to the staging area for your new online store! We usually refer to this area as the dashboard or backend of the site, and you’ll find all the tools you need to get started and keep growing, right here. Please take note of our “Guided Tour with Hannah”, which you can book for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday at 12pm (SAST). Scroll down a bit and you’ll find the Getting Started tab.Notice you’ve already checked off the first two items and you’re ready to start adding your products! 

Tip: Before you start adding products, take a moment to familiarise yourself with the menus on the left-hand side and top of the page. Hover over them or click on them for more information. You’ll find useful links like Marketplace, Reports, Orders, Products, and your Dashboard on the left-hand menu. And tools such as Video Tutorials, Chat, Notifications and Support Articles along the top menu.  

But, for now, let’s return to Step Four…

Step Four: Adding products to your online store

We’re really getting to the fun stuff, now - the rusks to your coffee, the avo to your toast, the secret sauce to your braai marinade - that’s right: products for your online store! These are items or services that you’ll be selling online. Let’s take a moment to define the two main types of online stores: dropshipping stores and retail stores. Yours can be a combination of both, but the set-up of products differs slightly: 

  • Dropshipping store: a dropshipping store is simply a storefront with products sourced from across the web and curated through your online store. You don’t hold stock and buyers simply purchase through your dropshipping store and items are shipped directly from the manufacturer/wholesaler to your customer. You earn commission off those sales. Shopstar uses Marketplace (which you’ll find on the left-hand menu of your dashboard). Simply visit Marketplace and select from thousands of items already available for you to sell. You’ll choose “add to my store” and those products will automatically be added to the Products section on your dashboard. 
  • Retail store: a retail store is for those who want to sell their own products and services. Whether you’re a crafter, a photographer or a health guru, you’re selling something that you physically have in stock, or a service provided by you (in the case of an online course or software, for example). To give your products the best chance, you’ll want to take a variety of photos (or have photos taken), get your descriptions and titles together and work out your retail price. The easiest way to add multiple items to your online store is to add them to an Excel spreadsheet in a predetermined format and upload that to your store under Products. You can download a sample Excel spreadsheet to use here. Just delete the sample products and add your own. Once you’ve downloaded the sample, you can use the definition sheet below to navigate the fields. 

Tip: Don’t get too caught up in adding products and SKUs, add enough to get you started with your layout and design, you can always add more later.  

  • Title column is the name of your product.
  • Sku_description represents the variation (See above note about same product names).
  • Identifier (required) is the internal identifier for each SKU. You can use this as a reference number for product variants.
  • Stock (required) the amount of available stock for the relevant SKU.
  • Product_description - An html description that will be displayed next to your product
  • Price (required) - The price of this SKU. Enter a plain number and do not include a currency symbol.
  • Tags - A list of tags that you'd like to add to your product. Separated by commas.
  • Marketplace_category_id - Category ID for Shopstar Marketplace. Only fill this in if you are part of the Shopstar Marketplace, otherwise you can leave it blank. To view Marketplace Categories click here. For these columns, enter either TRUE (yes) or FALSE (no)
  • Ignore_stock_online(required) - Should the stock management system keep track of this product's stock and prevent orders when it's run out? When set to TRUE, the system ignores stock and has no effect.
  • Available_online - Available for purchase in your online shop?
  • Marketplace_status - Available for resale on Shopstar Marketplace?

Step Five: Choose how customers pay

This couldn’t be simpler. Buyers and sellers online use a variety of payment gateways and Shopstar has made provisions for many of them. Your clients can do an EFT (electronic funds transfer, pay with PayPal or use Shopstar Pay to pay with a debit or credit card. Shopstar is able to integrate the following payment options: 

  • Shopstar Pay (debit/credit cards) 
  • YOCO (debit/credit cards) 
  • PayJustNow (instalments)
  • PayStack (debit/credit cards)
  • PayFast (debit/credit cards)
  • Snapscan 
  • PayPal (credit cards) 
  • EFT (electronic funds transfer) 

You can choose multiple gateway options for your clients to use. 

Tip: Please take note of the varying charges of each of the above. For example Shopstar Pay charges 3.5% of the online order and a R1,50 transaction fee per order. Each gateway has a different fee structure, so be sure to familiarise yourself with the ones you connect. 

Step Six: Shipping

Shipping is how your product gets from a warehouse (or your house) to your buyer. If you’re running a dropshipping store, those rates will already have been calculated so you don’t have to do anything. However, if you’re shipping from your location, you’ll want to enter your full address so Shopstar can determine the best shipping option for your customers. Some customers will prefer delivery to their doorstep, while others may prefer delivery to a central collection point (more cost effective for them). Other shipping considerations include the weight of your products (you may wish to add a surcharge for particularly heavy items as these will be more expensive to ship) and, as an incentive to customers, you may choose to offer free shipping if they spend over a certain amount in your online store. You can decide what works best for your products. 

Step Seven: Customise the layout and design of your store

Get ready to have your socks knocked off if you love design! The Store Designer built into Shopstar is awesome and so easy to use. There are two sections to Designer: the design section where you can drag and drop elements to rearrange them on your store pages. Then, there’s the content section where you can change text and add images. Additionally, you can change your colour scheme and fonts, add sliders and images, team sections and product catalogues - this is your space to personalise and make your own - so have fun! 

Tip: There are lots and lots of customisations for your online store. To hover on the side of caution, keep it simple to start with, get to know the features and build from there. Watch the Shopstar introduction to Designer tutorial. 

Below are just some of the awesome features you can use while building your dream online store: 

  • Add a variety of different layout designs 
  • Include a full-page slideshow 
  • Implement site-wide settings (e.g. colour scheme, fonts) 
  • Add contact forms and newsletter signups 
  • Perfect your spacing by dragging and dropping content blocks or utility blocks 
  • Add call-to-action buttons 
  • Include products grids, featured grids or related products 

You can customise almost anything; you won’t need to code - you won’t even need a programmer friend to help you - all the settings and controls you need are right at your fingertips. 

Step Eight: Launch your online store

And that’s it! Liftoff! When you’re ready and we’re sure you’re ready already, hit the Save & Publish button in the top right-hand corner of your Designer. You can test your site across multiple devices in the designer (laptop, iPad, mobile) and get on with the exciting job of promoting and sharing your new online wonder-store. We can’t wait to see what you have in store for us!  You can unpublish your store at any time. 

Tip: Remember there is a 14-day free trial period and, once that period is finished, you’ll be able to renew your site from just R110 per month. View our properly reasonable pricing structure. 

If you have any queries or hit a roadblock along the way, we’d be happy to help. You can reach out to the Shopstar Team via the Chat icon on your top menu on the dashboard, book a tour with Hannah as above or contact us on support@shopstar.co.za or Whatsapp +27600858206

Additional tips for making your online store shine 

  • Think about your brand story. People like to connect with real brands. According to research by Headstream, if people love a brand story, 55% are more likely to buy the product in future, 44% will share the story, and 15% will buy the product immediately.
  • Your blog (and there is a blog section on your Shopstar store) can be an excellent tool for telling your brand story. Think about stories that have inspired you to be in the place where you’re considering launching your online store. What made you connect with them? How did they tell their brand story (visually, through a podcast, through a blog)? There’s no need to copy what they have done but be inspired by them! 
  • If you’re struggling with your design or your wording, Shopstar Boost offers access to design, advertising and copywriting experts who can guide you and your online store to even greater heights. 
  • Finally, spend time where your customers are - on social media. Test the waters of what works for your industry and get chatting, get sharing, rope in some friends and watch the love spread. Tag us in your posts for your Shopstar store, we’d love to see what you’re up to! 

And there you have it! 8 steps to get your store up and running. 8 steps towards your dream running a successful online store.

Don't forget to get in touch with any questions, or join one of our three weekly guided tours. support@shopstar.co.za

Yours in sales


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