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May 11, 2022

How To Start An Online Bookstore And Succeed In 2022

Many people dream of owning a business or wish they could make a living from home but aren't sure how. The problems are the cost, startup time and risk involved with running a business tend to put them off. However, many haven’t considered running an online bookstore.

When starting an online bookstore, there are several different variations of stores you can get involved with. In addition, with various online bookstore services you can provide, you can ensure that the process is somewhat automated, ensuring that once set up, the needed input is minimal.

This article will explain what's involved in starting an online bookstore, the items you will need to get started, and where you can purchase them from. I will also explain how an online bookstore works and list some good reasons why starting an online bookstore would be a great business to get involved with.

Let's get right into it.

How To Start An Online Bookstore: Step By Step

When starting your business, you must determine what online bookstore service(s) you want to offer. Deciding this at the beginning will make purchasing the necessary items for your online bookstore much easier.

So what types of services are available?

There are a few different types of bookstores that an individual can start from home. The most common types of online bookstore services are:

  • Mail Order Online Bookstores - Your customers buy the books from you and have them mailed to their home or place of business.
  • Online Bookstores With Warehouses - This type of online bookstore allows your customers to find and purchase what they're looking for inside your warehouse and receive it quickly.
  • Online Bookstores With Web Stores - This type of online bookstore allows your customers to buy books from you by browsing through your website or online store. They can add items to their shopping cart and check out when finished. This is the type of bookstore that I’ll be focusing on in this article.

Like starting an e-commerce business, starting a book store also requires an online store or website. This means that the same concepts apply to creating an online bookstore as they do with any other e-commerce business.

Let's look at the step by step breakdown of what's involved.

The Importance Of Research

Like any other business idea and the need for research, starting an online bookstore is no different. Before getting into the process, do your research and figure out what's involved in getting started.

Ask yourself these questions before starting your own online bookstore:

  • What are the necessary items needed for me to get started?
  • How much money do I have?
  • What type of short and long term budget can I work with?
  • How much time do I have for this business venture?

Once you know the answers to these questions, it will be straightforward to see if this business idea matches up with what you're capable of doing. It's important that when starting a business, you don't bite off more than you can chew. That way, you are not wasting money and valuable time, which you could spend elsewhere.

Researching the market that you plan on selling to is also very important. Find out what customers are looking for and how you can provide them with a solution at an affordable cost.

You want to make sure that your online bookstore will be a potential success even before getting started.

Analyzing related competitors in the market is also very important. If you find out that there are already very similar businesses in the market, it's probably not a good idea to start up your own without putting a twist on what they do.

However, if you find that your online bookstore business idea is feasible, establishing your goals and objectives can be a great way to ensure a prosperous business.

Doing proper research will mean that your online store will have a much better chance of success.

Focusing On A Niche Market

If you think you can compete with the big boys upon launching your online bookstore, then you're going to have a hard time.

That's why it's essential that when starting an online bookstore business, you find a niche market that allows your bookstore to gain a foothold in the industry.

The significant advantage of finding a good niche is that there will always be people looking for specific information within your particular field of expertise. You can also charge more because of the scarcity factor involved.

Focusing On A Niche Market

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So what do I mean by "niche market"? This term refers to a small group of product buyers who share common demographics, buying behavior and even geographical location. For example, if you have a bookstore specializing in selling children's books, you can target a niche of parents with young children. If your store specializes in selling antique books, it will be the people interested in collecting, trading, and selling those types of items.

In other words, finding a good niche market means that even if your online bookstore doesn't gain massive popularity right away, at least there is always a good, passionate fanbase to market to. There is also still room for growth by shifting to a similar niche down the line. This allows you to gradually expand your business when you're ready to do so.

Some popular niches in the book market you can look into are romance, occult, biographies and even cooking books.

Having a niche is something to be included when setting up a business plan, as this is something that every person that owns their own business will need to create.

Having The Right Descriptions, Product Listings And Photos In Your bookstore

Part of selling books online involves having good descriptions for each listing. Knowing the critical details about your products will help buyers decide on which books to purchase and help them in their search.

Don't assume that people will know what you're talking about when describing specific features of your book-based product line. If people don't have enough information at hand, they will simply not be interested in purchasing.

You should also have detailed listings for all books, including the author's name, publisher, other formats available and other vital details which can affect how attractive your product is for potential buyers. These types of things might not come up during a regular conversation with someone in a face-to-face scenario, but online they go a long way.

You should make sure that you have plenty of great photos to include on your website, as this is one of the best ways to show people what they can expect to receive if they make a purchase. This means having images of the front cover and including photos of the back and spine. People want to know what they're buying beforehand, so try to give them all the information you can about each book.

If you want to sell books online, you need to include these essential elements in your store.

By focusing on having great descriptions, product listings and photos in your bookstore, you can also use various eCommerce stores to set up your business front.

These include sites like Shopify and Wix, the two most prominent players in this market right now. They both have their specific benefits and can help make sales while finding your audience.

Shopify includes several different tools that can help boost sales, and it's also straightforward to use, especially for people who aren't so technically-minded. There is also no need to install additional software to get the desired result, further enhancing the setup process. They also make it easy to expand your offerings by selling other types of products later on in the process, too (more on this later).

Wix has also become popular thanks to how user-friendly the system is. They have simplified the process while allowing users to personalize their bookstores whenever necessary.

Check out my Shopify vs Wix comparison article for more information about these two platforms.

Also, if you’re going with Shopify, ensure to use this Shopify name checker to verify that nobody else currently uses your company name or a variation of it.

To conclude this point, if you want more direct sales in your online book store, then using a platform that's made for selling is a good idea. Large online retailers use these platforms with tremendous success, so seeing whether you can do the same makes sense.

Once you have both your product line and platform in place, it's time to start thinking about how you will be stocking up with books.

Stocking Up

There are various methods of buying books, and some of them might be easier than you imagine.

The first option is to purchase new books directly from a book publisher or distributor. This will guarantee that the book is in perfect condition with all the original artwork.

However, this method is costly and most likely beyond the budget of a small business owner who wants to run an online bookstore at scale - without investing too much capital upfront. It's still worth knowing about, though, as it could be a viable option with larger companies.

Many people also try and sell used copies of books on their websites, but other options are available that can make things even more profitable for you.

Using the dropshipping model, you can buy books in bulk from many online suppliers that sometimes also have warehouses worldwide. You can then act as the middle person to get your supplier to send these orders to customers after purchasing.

This means that you won't need to dedicate space to your book inventory, and it might help with international orders because there could be no additional shipping costs involved depending on the dropshipper you find.

Amazon FBA can also be something you look into if you want to advertise your books on Amazon. Here, you can send your books to Amazon’s warehouses, which will store them for you. Then, when somebody places an order on your bookstore website, the books will be sent straight from the warehouse to the customer.

This method requires some additional steps, but it can be worth it because you won't need to worry about storage or postage costs later. It's all taken care of by Amazon FBA, so this could work well with small bookstores that want to start selling quickly.

While independent bookstores might want to avoid Amazon as a company, they might find that the FBA program is a good way of expanding their business with less initial capital.

Another thing worth considering is whether you would like to set your online bookstore up as a marketplace instead. This means that you would offer your e-commerce site as a platform for independent sellers and yourself as the primary seller.

This approach has been successful in the past with various websites, and it could be something worth trying out if you want an online bookstore where you can help people sell their old books. It will require some extra work and time on your part. Still, it could also help attract more customers, allow you to connect with other sellers and offer an additional service, and ultimately create better profits overall.

Marketing Your Bookstore Successfully

Marketing is always one of the keys to success in any business venture. Even if you have a fantastic product or service, you will never be able to sell it effectively without some reasonable marketing efforts put in first.

There are many ways to market your online bookstore, and while some of them might cost money upfront, others can help bring in customers for free. The following ideas are just a few of the possibilities that you should look into:

Social media platforms help when selling online because they allow you to connect with people on various platforms. People are more likely to share information about online bookstores that they have enjoyed using, which can help bring in other customers who have similar interests.

Make sure that your social media profiles are updated regularly. Always try to interact with the people that might become your customers by showing an interest and providing relevant value regarding what they say. This will make your brand more human-like, and it will encourage potential buyers to view your store as well, especially if they think you have something of value to offer.

Make sure that you display a link to all of your social media pages on your bookstore website (and vice versa) so that people can easily find them and tell their friends about the exciting things they see.

Just remember that not everybody will participate in this online community, so you should still think about other effective marketing methods. 

One should also consider word of mouth marketing because it's free for you and incredibly effective at the same time. Various paid options are available, but you should only select the ones you feel will work well for your bookstore brand and help it grow successfully.

When it comes to the offline world, you can visit thrift stores and yard sales to share the word about your website while potentially offering a commission to those that can get people to buy through your website. This can be an excellent opportunity to get in touch with potential buyers, and it's also a great business model. You will only pay a commission when someone delivers new customers (potentially through a unique link created to refer others), which is definitely an excellent point to consider for booksellers. This means that you would spend no money unless someone has already bought from you.

Again, not everybody will be willing to take part in this, so you should definitely consider all your marketing options that could help your brand grow online as well.

Having Multiple Payment Methods

Different people will prefer various payment methods to make their online purchases. One way of attracting more customers is by offering options that make buying more accessible to everyone.

Many people like the idea of using PayPal when purchasing books online, so keeping this in mind could be helpful. Adding a debit card and credit card option for those who don’t use Paypal is also a great idea - the right payment gateway can help you get set up with all you need.

Having Multiple Payment Methods

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Of course, you can also keep things simple at first and just stick with one payment method, but it might be worth checking what your target audience thinks about these types of transactions.

Ensure Top-Notch Customer Service

People like to know they can get in touch with somebody quickly if they have a problem, so offering good customer service is another crucial factor. Whether through your live chat, emails or a dedicated phone number, make sure that customers can speak to one of your staff members whenever they have a question.

Ensuring you can constantly answer any questions or queries about the bookstore or specific books will increase the likelihood of people coming back for future orders. It also means readers can feel confident about buying from you rather than looking elsewhere because they think their problems won't be adequately resolved, which could be damaging over time.

Remember that even if customers are happy after purchasing something, this doesn't mean that their questions have been answered thoroughly enough, so it always pays to follow up. By doing things like this, you will get more long-term business while making sure everybody is satisfied with the service they receive.

Keep Your Online Bookstore Current

As with any website or online store, it's essential to update your online bookstore regularly if you want customers to keep coming back. This could be by adding new products, offering discounts on certain book choices, or explaining the changes throughout the website.

If nothing is/seems different over time, people will think that nothing is happening within your bookstore, which means they won't return. It doesn't matter whether you are adding new titles, planning events for readers or improving features; you should at least try and make customers aware of this in some way, so they understand the changes.

Top Reasons Why Starting An Online Bookstore Would be a great business

There are various reasons you might want to start an online bookstore, and now that we’ve looked at how to do it, let’s consider the reasons why you might actually want to make this business model your own.

It's Easy To Get Started

Compared to other types of businesses, it's relatively easy to get started with an online bookstore. While it might seem like there are a lot of steps that you need to follow, the main requirements are that you have a computer and an internet connection. This means that anybody can run their own business from home if they don't want to hire extra help or pay for storage - things that were needed when setting up any traditional bookstore.

In addition, starting an online bookstore isn't going to (relatively) cost you a large amount of money compared to other business models, so this will make things even more straightforward in terms of getting started and running your business.

There Is Always Demand For Books

People will always want to read new books, old books, or even rare copies of certain novels, which means that you could have many customers regularly looking through your online bookstore. This would increase the amount of exposure that you receive and make it easier to attract people who might not have heard about your website if they hadn't already been searching for specific titles.

Even if somebody isn't ready to buy just yet, there's a chance they will eventually become your customer if they know about your online bookstore. Everybody decides to read a book or two at some point, and if you’re top of mind for potential clients, they will come to you when the time is right. This makes the potential audience much larger and gives you more opportunities to make money with an online bookstore.

No Limits On Stock

There are no limits on the amount of stock you can hold in an online bookstore which is different compared with most other types of stores. If somebody wants to purchase everything you have, then there's nothing stopping them when you run your own online bookstore and use one of the models described above. This means that if one book becomes incredibly popular with readers, you don't need to worry about who gets their hands on particular titles first. You can just order more copies if this happens and ensure that everybody has the chance of reading what they want without having to buy something else instead, which is a win-win for everyone involved.

Types Of Books You Can Sell

People are interested in many different book categories in a bookshop, so this could give you a wider variety to choose from when it comes to products. Some books will only interest certain genders or age groups. Still, there will always be somebody who wants a specific novel no matter what, especially if it's something popular or well known.

More specifically, people will want different editions of the same book, and certain people might be looking for hardback copies while others would like paperbacks instead. This means that you can create just the right selection within your online bookstore - without it being too overwhelming for your store visitors. By concentrating on particular genres such as sci-fi or romance, you can easily have something for various audiences.

Diversifying Your Products And Services

With so many bookstores already in existence, it can be challenging to convince people that yours is the best one around. One way to do this is by offering a variety of different products or services which collectively aren't available from any other source.

For example, if you keep selling books, consider selling related merchandise, such as reading glasses, bookmarkers, and even shoes that look like library stacks. This can help bring in customers who want something a bit more unique for their money, and it might also encourage buyers who were previously unsure about making a purchase.

Diversifying Your Products And Services

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For example, if somebody buys a book, they might be more likely to purchase the reading glasses that have a peculiar shape as an upsell on checkout. This could increase your sales while giving people the feeling of coming across something unique in their buying journey.

It would help if you also considered whether or not there is any demand for other printed materials which may or may not be related to literature. You might have comic books, magazines or even posters that are particularly popular with people at the moment. This can help keep people interested in returning to your store without becoming too predictable with your audience.

Educational videos are another type of content that can help when improving the user experience. They could be particularly beneficial if you want to make an impression on your visitors by offering something that not many bookstores do. For example, you might like to create videos that explain the benefits of using a specific service or give short demonstrations on how certain things work quickly.

You can also upload videos about books people might like based on what they've already bought before - either in your store or elsewhere online. This will encourage repeat visits and show existing customers that there is always something new for them, keeping their interest in your business high.

Selling Your Bookstore Down The Line

While selling your online bookstore is probably not something that you would want to do right away (or ever), it's good to have the option available in case you need it. It might be that your store is making a profit, but you want to move on to something different. 

In this case, turning your store over to someone who has become more passionate about it (while making an excellent return on your investment) could be something you explore.

If you decide to sell your store and it's built on a store platform that makes it easy to pass on to others, things will be easier. For example, selling a Shopify store is quite a straightforward process where you can sell your domain name and store to another person who can easily continue building what you have created.

Conclusion

Having an online bookstore can be an adventure, and it's certainly possible to make it work. By following the steps above, you should get the most out of your store and attract many readers in a short amount of time.

While it's true that there are already many shops selling books online and offline, remember that yours doesn't need just to do what they're doing. You can choose the selling methods you want and the audience you want to target, making your bookstore unique in its own way.

Focusing on a niche market can often be the best way to ensure that your store is as successful as possible.

If you’re interested in starting your online bookstore, begin with doing the right research and keep building upon this to launch your online business doing what you love.

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Mike Vestil

About the Author

Mike Vestil is an author, investor, and speaker known for building a business from zero to $1.5 million in 12 months while traveling the world.

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