I recently received the following question from a Ronel in the Netherlands:
What advice do you have for me starting up a internet quiltshop? Hope to hear from you soon!
If you would like to start an Internet quilt shop, you must first decide on the focus of your Internet business. Will it be a shop selling your quilts (or quilts other people have made)? Will you be a supplier to other quilters?
Depending on your answer, you will need to come up with something that is unique about your shop. If it is selling your own quilts, for example, then perhaps you can have a theme to the quilts you make for sale. Maybe there is a national quilting style unique to the Netherlands. You could focus on this aspect of quilting to attract those from the region, as well as other customers from around the world.
Once you have a theme, you can do a little research on the Internet. Find out if there are similar sites out there doing what you plan on doing. And don't worry – if there are other sites, this is a good sign as competition breeds where there is money to be made. But, what you want to determine is if there is something you can do to improve on what they have done.
Assuming that you have found a good niche, and there looks to be a market out there, then the hard work begins. You need to train yourself in how to set up a web site and get your site noticed. I'm not saying that you need to develop your site yourself, but you should learn enough so that you know what to look for in a web designer.
You'll also need to adhere to all the legal requirements for a business. Just because you are on the Internet does not mean that you can just set up shop and sell. You are running a legitimate business and need to make sure you have all the paperwork completed for the government.
So now you have all the legal issues resolved and you have your basic web site up. You now need to be able to accept payment for purchases at your site. Most likely, this means getting a merchant account so you can accept credit cards. There are other ways to accept payment (such as PayPal in the United States), but if you are serious, a merchant account is the best way to look professional.
Finally, you will need to get customers to your site and convert them into sales. This is the toughest aspect of Internet marketing, and the single biggest reason people fail online. If you can't get potential customers to your site, you won't be able to sell them. And, if your site does a poor job of converting browsers into buyers, you're still in a lot of trouble.
There are a lot of resources out there that can help you figure out the nuts and bolts of Internet marketing. All you have to do is spend a few minutes on Google and you can search for a ton of information. But, basic marketing principles apply everywhere.
If you have a market that is looking to purchase, you just need to put a targetted offer in front of them. If you can convince them that you are legitimate, you can make sales on the Internet.
Hope this helps,