Setting Up An Online Shop

The Web is prime real estate for artisan retailers willing to put in a bit of sweat equity.

If you haven’t done so already, now’s a great time to consider opening an online store to reach more customers.

According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, the percentage of people who shopped online over the weekend after Thanksgiving (which includes “Black Friday,” but not “Cyber Monday”) rose 15.2 percent over 2009, to 33.6 percent this year. And the Cyber Monday numbers were up, too: 106.9 million Americans ordered online that day (source: survey). While those are the annual heavy-lifting days for retailers, it does go to show that a lot of people let their fingers do the walking… to the keyboards of their computers or smartphones.

What follow are just a few pointers when either opening your storefront or even, if your online store has been established, to keep it looking its best:

1. "Consistency is next to godliness." Audrey Fetterhoff, also known as AudreyGardenLady on Etsy, says she used to work with a woman who uses this statement this often. It is a mantra that can be used in most facets of your marketing, be it the color of tablecloths used at a tradeshow or the font style used at an online store logo.

2. Stay fresh. It’s a good idea to refresh your product line each year and then provide highights to your online shop’s home page every month. This will catch a shopper's eye. Featuring new products and holidays are very popular.

3. A picture tells a thousand words. Take time to have professional images taken of your products. If you are not skilled at shooting product pictures, try to contact a local community college and inquire about hiring a graphic design student. When shooting images for web, extensions such as jpg and png most often work best. Make sure your products are bathed in a flattering light and set at a flattering angle. For items such as bars of soap or jars of scrubs, try an extreme close-up.

4. All feedback is good feedback. Check your shop’s email inbox often. Politely respond to problems and negative feedback. Promptly acknowledge positive feedback. The longer you delay a response, the more inattentive you may appear.

5. You can’t please everyone.
Do not let one negative comment get you down. There are some customers that there is simply no pleasing. As long as the majority of your customers are singing your praises, you need to take any criticisms under advisement, determine whether they merit an action, and then move on. I realize this might be easier said than done, so look at it as a continuing journey — and that even (and some might say especially) the best artists have both fans and non-fans.

6. Check out the competition. Do not “steal ideas from” or “undersell,” but rather, simply look at what others are doing is a good way to benchmark your own efforts. What is eye-catching about their storefronts? What do you dislike? What can you learn from what they’re currently doing, as far as pricing, product descriptions, bundling items for sale, etc.?

From preparing and posting items to processing and shipping orders, online retail can be a lot of work. But being able to offer customers the ability to purchase products online 24/7 can really thrust your business to the next level.

Heather Gooch updates a weekly craft and needlework marketing blog at She writes this feature article exclusively for Debbie May (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.