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How To Start An Online Store Without Inventory – Ultimate Guide [2024]

How To Start An Online Store Without Inventory – Ultimate Guide [2024]

The E-Commerce industry is getting more and more competitive every day, almost to a point where you’d expect that you’ll require a huge early investment to start your own online business.

Did you know you could actually start an online business with any product of your own whatsoever?

In fact, you can run an online shop without any inventory to begin with!

But how?

Well, that’s exactly what we will discuss in this article.

Today, you will learn how to start an online store without inventory and without any overwhelming investments.

Whether you are a fresh graduate or a struggling individual looking to establish a business of your own, this guide will help you take your first step toward your ambition.

So, let’s dive in.

TL;DR – Steps To Start An Online Store Without Inventory

1. Use one of the following business strategies:

i. Print On Demand Merchandise

ii. Affiliate Marketing

iii. Sell Digital Products

iv. Embrace Dropshipping

v. Sell Subscription Boxes

vi. Sell Handmade or Custom Products

vii. Leverage White Labeling

viii. Host An Online Marketplace

ix. Become A Consultant Or A Coach

x. Compile A Price Comparison Site

2. Learn to create a budget-friendly eCommerce store

3. Promote your products using various proven tactics.

How To Start An Online Store Without Inventory – Tips & Strategies

The first step to starting an online business is to decide on what product or service you will sell.

Normally, you may think of creating unique products and establishing a brand to manufacture and supply them to the market. Or, you may look to purchase supplies for certain types of products that you would want to sell in your online store.

But, if you do not have a large capital for investment, this will not be possible.

However, the good news is, that you still can run an online business.

Following are a few business strategies where you do not need to stock up on supplies and make a huge investment upfront. These strategies are modeled to help your business grow as the number of your customers grows.

We will discuss these strategies while giving you some directions on how to start. So, let’s begin.

1. Print on Demand (POD) Merchandise

If you are a creative person then you can put your creativity on the table and start a business based on that.

Print-on-demand (POD) is a brilliant way to showcase your creativity without worrying about inventory.

There are several online POD services like printful and printify, where you simply can upload your designs and offer them as customized merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and more

The best part is these platforms will handle the printing, shipping, and fulfillment. All you need to do is invest in promoting your unique designs to get more interested customers to place orders.

For example, you could design custom pajamas, a renounced POD service provider. And then promote them online to get orders placed, which you can do by promoting through your social channels, listing sites, or even via a website of your own.

We will discuss ways to promote your online products later in this article.

2. Affiliate Marketing

While POD requires artistic creativity, you could rather go for affiliate marketing, which will require you to be good at digital marketing.

Basically, several online businesses have affiliate programs where you get a handsome commission to help them get customers. So, your focus here will be to drive potential traffic to their website. Whenever a prospect converts, you get your commission.

You may join affiliate programs offered by companies like Amazon Associates, ShareASale, ClickBank, etc., which will permit you to list and promote their products on your website or social media channels. You may also become affiliate partners with companies that actively help them with promotion as an influencer.

For example, you could run a YouTube channel dedicated to reviewing WordPress plugins, where you may demonstrate how a plugin works, its pros and cons, and its key benefits. In the process, you could include your affiliate link for that plugin in the video description so that people can click to get the plugin. Any conversions through this link will mean you will get a commission.

If done right, affiliate marketing has the potential to help you earn thousands of dollars every month.

The little investment you will need is on learning digital marketing, creating the creatives and promotional materials, and maybe purchasing equipment to record videos.

How To Find A Product To Sell As An Affiliate Marketer?

While at the beginning, every affiliate program will seem attractive, it is important that you understand the importance of establishing a long-term affiliate business.

So, you first need to decide on a specific niche you want to focus on as an affiliate marketer. This will help you build up an audience for a targeted niche (whether it is followers, community members, etc.) meaning, your recommendations will resonate with your target audience and increase the possibility of conversions.

By specific, I want to clarify that it’s not too specific as to a single product type (such as t-shirts only). Rather go for a specific niche that has diversified options such as Clothing brands (which will cover all types of clothes various clothing brands produce). This will help you stay relevant to your audience while promoting various types of products.

Once you decide on a niche, you may simply search for companies that serve in that niche and have affiliate programs. Then simply sign up as an affiliate partner, pick out unique products that you want to promote, and start advocating for them in your marketing channels.

So frankly put, if you decide on the niche, then you can easily find products to sell as an affiliate marketer.

3. Sell Digital Products

If getting “inventory” is your concern, then why not create a digital product of your own?

You could create and sell digital assets such as e-books, online courses, software, graphics, stock photos, etc., online.

However, it’s not easy to create digital assets as the market is very competitive. But if you can think of something unique and better than most existing options, then this can be a great way to make a fortune.

We have seen countless people leaving their jobs and becoming course creators in their fields of expertise to make a fortune.

So this is indeed a great opportunity if done right.

How To Create A Product To Sell Digitally?

Initially, start by deciding on what type of digital product you want to create. This will depend on your current set of skills and industry knowledge.

For example, if you want to create courses, you need to find out what topic or skill you have expertise in that you can teach others. Or, what type of software are you confident with creating?

Once it is decided, then you need to use the necessary tools to bring this into reality.

So, for courses, you will need a course builder such as LearnDash or TutorLMS, which will allow you to host courses on your website. Or, you may adhere to online platforms such as Coursiv or Teachable where you can host and sell courses without having a website of your own.

For eBooks, you will need a tool that will allow you to convert your written book into an eBook, such as Visme.

To create graphics, you may use Canva, Figma, or other graphic tools. Or if you are a photographer, you may take high-quality pictures. Once you have your images ready, you may upload them on platforms such as Shutterstock, Alamy, Envato Elements, Dreamstine, etc., to sell them online (by paying a small percentage of the earnings to these platforms).

So, if you have your digital product decided, you simply need the right tools to prepare them and start promoting it.

4. Embrace Dropshipping

Dropshipping was once considered the most popular business model for online entrepreneurs with no extensive capital at hand.

Though a little less popular nowadays due to a saturated market, it can still be very profitable with the right digital marketing efforts.

How it works is you partner with wholesalers or manufacturers who store and ship products directly to customers. Through a pitch deck creator, you can set up a partner meeting to introduce your business to them. You essentially act as the middleman, handling marketing and sales while your supplier takes care of inventory management and fulfillment.

Where To Source Products To Sell via Dropshipping?

You may look to use platforms such as Oberlo, Sprocket, Dropship Central, etc., where you will be able to source products and automate the dropshipping process. You may do the same through Amazon and eBay.

5. Sell Subscription Boxes

This is a unique approach that you can embrace if you are good at networking.

What you do is combine multiple products from different suppliers into bundles or curated boxes and actively promote them on your website, social channels, etc. Upon conversion, you get a healthy commission from all the suppliers involved.

You need to partner with various vendors who have complementary products to one another. You can create unique subscription boxes tailored to specific interests or themes, such as beauty, fitness, or gourmet food.

The best part is, that you can assemble these boxes on demand, i.e., when orders are placed. This means that if you are good at building relationships with suppliers and partnering up with them to allow you to sell such bundles, you will be able to run your own online business without any inventory.

6. Sell Handmade or Custom Products

Here’s another scope for exploring your creative side. If you have creative skills in art, crafting, or woodwork in real life, then you can easily run a business on your own following an on-demand delivery process.

Basically, you can craft certain products on your own, and use them as a reference as to what you can do for people. Create products on your website or social media while mentioning in detail that you can either make something similar or any custom work the people may request.

Initially, do some market research to see what others are charging for the work, and do analysis on the average material costs when creating your work. Then offer a suitable pricing that covers your expenses and pays you enough for your time & energy, though not higher than others in the market.

There are several online marketplaces such as Etsy or Amazon, that are quite popular for selling such craftworks and services. If you don’t have a website, you may start your business there.

Over time, you may work on creating a social community (maybe a Facebook group), and eventually build a website dedicated to your products and services.

This approach literally depends on your skills and uniqueness – no overwhelming investment in terms of money, and no inventory required.

If you can deliver quality work, you will easily get good reviews and build lasting relationships with customers.

7. Become A Consultant/Coach/Trainer

Earlier, we discussed creating your own digital product. Similarly, you may consider becoming a consultant or a coach in your area of expertise.

For example, if you are a great artist, you may look to become an Art Trainer to teach people how to enhance their creativity and deliver high-quality artwork. Similarly, if you have vast experience in managing business expenses, you can become a financial consultant for businesses. If you are great with fitness training, then you can go for a certification and become a Fitness Trainer.

Everything is possible here. Any skill that you are an expert in, you can become an authoritative person for that, and get people to pay you to teach them.

The difficulty is establishing credibility so that you start getting clients. But, let’ me share a method that works quite well in such businesses.

How To Get More Clients For My Coaching Business?

It’s a step-by-step process :

  1. Gain Credibility And Testimonials

Initially, if you are just starting the journey, people won’t trust you enough to invest in your services. Hence, you first need to work on becoming credible. The best way to do this is by offering your service for free to a handful of people. Help these individuals become good at the skills that they have mastered. In return, ask for data and testimonials (with consent to use them for your marketing purposes). If you are able to help these people genuinely, you will easily be able to get useful data to define success, and direct testimonials to prove your credibility.

2. Collect leads

Once you have data and positive reviews, your next task is lead generation. You can prepare an ebook sharing some part of your training for free. Or, you can host a free live workshop to demonstrate real-life experience of your actual training program. On the process, collect people’s names, email addresses, and if possible, additional details such as phone numbers, area of interest, goal with the skills learned, etc.

3. Run A Sales Campaign

Craft a sales funnel to convert these leads into paying clients. An easy way is to run email nurturing campaigns after they opt-in, and then lead them to a funnel where you make a special offer on your services. This has to be a full-fledged funnel journey including steps and email workflows. (Here’s a guide to help you out.)

You have more ways to promote your services. If done right, you will be entering a million-dollar industry.

8. Host An Online Marketplace

Just like other online shops where you can list your products, you may consider creating an online marketplace of your own.

Basically, you will create an eCommerce platform where your main task will be to maintain the website and drive relevant traffic, while other vendors will agree to list their products on your site. Here, you will have to handle the payment process, and in some cases fulfillment (which you can easily handle by partnering with a delivery company).

Here, you may charge a small fee (around 3-5% of the price) on every order successfully delivered.

This strategy will take time to flourish as you need to invest in SEO & advertising efforts to slowly get your online marketplace popular. You may start by building an audience locally before thinking of going international.

So, while this is a long-term business scope with significant efforts involved, you can consider going for this business without having any products of your own – no inventory required.

9. Compile A Price Comparison Site

Similar to an online marketplace, you can create a price comparison site.

The concept is completely the same except that, here, the payment and fulfillment will be handled by the vendors themselves from their own websites.

All they will do is they will list your products on your website. The website will have similar products from various vendors so that customers will be able to compare and decide which one they want to order.

You will drive potential traffic. People interested will click on the product and will be directed to the vendor’s website to complete the purchase.

In this case, you can follow a business module of either a certain fee based on CTR or a small monthly subscription fee based on the number of products listed.

However, this will again, take time to grow as you need to work on building up traffic volume. This means, initially, your fees have to be very minimal.

You can obviously explore additional income strategies such as collecting fees for exclusive advertising or a fee to be added to the featured section on your home page, etc.

10. Leverage White Labeling

There are several companies that offer their products on white label, mostly software. Here, there is a small early investment involved as you have to purchase the software initially.

But then, you can improve the tool and create a brand of your own to offer services or re-sell the product under your brand without any exclusive investment in research & development.

The concept here is that you don’t need to build unique products from scratch; improvise on what’s available and start a business of your own with no restrictions.

Of course, the hard work here would be marketing and promotions. That’s where you need to focus most of your efforts.

How To Setup An Online Store Easily?

Once you’ve decided on the products or services you want to offer, setting up an online store is relatively straightforward.

First, you need to decide where you want to host your online store. There are 3 ways:

  1. Create An Online Shop On Social Media
  2. Sell via An Existing Online Marketplace
  3. Build A Website Of Your Own

Let us quickly look at the steps to set up your store on each case.

1. Steps To Create an Online Shop on Social Media

Following are the steps you may follow to start an online shop via social media. This is not the ultimate way, but it is one of the proven ways to get started.

Step 1: Choose the Platform

Decide which social media platform suits your business best depending on the strategy you selected.

Almost all of them are possible on Facebook through a business page or a group. And it has it’s own marketplace which you can leverage for eCommerce.

Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok are also great options for eCommerce strategies such as POD or Custom Products.

Overall, you need to do thorough research on what type of audience is more likely to purchase your products and which social channel(s) they usually hang out in.

Step 2: Set Up Your Business Account

Create a business account if you haven’t already. This often involves providing business information and linking it to your personal account.

Step 3: Create Your Shop

Most social media platforms offer built-in tools for setting up a shop. Follow the platform’s instructions to create your shop, including adding products, descriptions, and prices.

Step 4: Customize Your Shop

Personalize your shop by adding branding elements such as your logo, banner images, and product photos.

Step 5: Promote Your Shop

Utilize social media marketing techniques to attract customers to your shop. This may include creating engaging content, running ads, and collaborating with influencers.

When you’re running an online business, you need to take advantage of every chance to get people engaged with your brand digitally. One of the easiest and most impactful things you can do is put some extra effort into your social media game. Make sure your social media channels are poppin’ with eye-catching images and videos that’ll grab people’s attention immediately.

When it comes to advertising or promoting, you need to go where your audience is hanging out. If your crowd is there on Instagram but barely uses Twitter, you’ll get way more attention for your business by focusing your ad spend on Instagram.

It’s all about finding the right platform where your people are actively scrolling and engaging.

Example Scenario

Let’s look at an example. Suppose you choose to become an affiliate marketer for online software. The option here would be to first establish a presence on YouTube and then transition the audience into a Facebook Group where you can get more engagement and conversions if you are able to refer to good products.

So, you will need a YouTube channel, a Facebook Business page, and a Facebook Group. You can then be creative with your approach. Maybe you can offer lead magnets to collect leads and add email marketing to your tactic. You may even have a website for the same purpose, getting you more customers from different sources.

2. Sell via an Existing Online Marketplace

This one is more applicable for strategies such as POD, Digital Products, Subscription Boxes, Custom Products, and White Labelling.

It’s pretty straightforward. You list down what products you offer on marketplaces where your relevant audience usually shops and gets orders directly from the platform. Your job is to deliver in due time once the orders are placed.

Following are the basic steps to take this route.

Step 1: Choose the Marketplace

Research different online marketplaces to find out the ones where your products may sell more.

Don’t just be tempted by the fact that a lot of similar products are listed in a marketplace. Look for marketplaces where similar products have a lot of orders placed or reviews given. This is a good sign that you will get the right audience in this marketplace.

For example, Bonanza is renounced for selling clothing products and you will see at a glance that it has a lot of clothing products listed, many of which have be reviewed several times. This is perfect if you are selling POD t-shirts.

Step 2: Register as a Seller

Create a seller account on the chosen marketplace. This typically involves providing business information and verifying your identity.

Step 3: List Your Products

Use the marketplace’s tools to list your products, including detailed descriptions, prices, and images.

Or you will find several other tools that will help you with the listing. For example, suppose you choose to sell on a marketplace while also having a website of your own via WooCommerce. In this case, first, upload your products on WooCommerce. There, you will get plugins such as Product Feed Manager For WooCommerce from RexTheme that will help you generate product feeds that are in the right format for various online marketplaces of your choice. Once you have the feed, you can simply upload it to the respective marketplace in just a few clicks.

Step 4: Manage Your Listings

Keep your product listings up to date, manage inventory, and respond to customer inquiries promptly.

Step 5: Optimize for Sales

Use SEO techniques and optimize your product listings to improve visibility and attract more customers.

SEO can be a real rabbit hole if you let it. But if you’re just getting started, here are a few key things to keep in mind :

First up, you need to get into the mindset of your customer. Think about how your target audience actually talks about your products and what kinds of questions they’re trying to get answered.

Next, is on-page content. I’m talking product titles, descriptions, images, blogs. You need to craft your content using the same natural language your customers use when they’re searching for that kind of stuff. Answer their questions right there on the page.

Don’t forget about those meta tags! The title tags are like the headlines for search engines.

The key with all of this is just thinking like a customer. Use the words they use, and answer the questions they’re asking. Do that, and you’ll be well on your way to optimizing that SEO even from scratch.

3. Build a Website of Your Own

This one is the one you would want to go for if you have a long-term online business in mind.

Following are a few basic steps to get started.

Step 1: Choose An eCommerce Platform

Select an e-commerce platform such as Shopify, WooCommerce (for WordPress), or BigCommerce to build your online store.

Step 2: Set Up Your Store

Let’s assume you want to use WooCommerce for your website.

In that case, you will need to get a domain and hosting for WordPress. And then you may get the plugin WooCommerce.

Once that is done, you may then set up your store such as adding business details, choosing a suitable Theme (such as WoodMart), designing the online shop, and preparing for the overall customer experience.

Step 3: Add Your Products

In WooCommerce, you may easily add products either via a CSV file or manually.

Since it’s your own website, you will have full freedom on what details you want to add, what images you want to add, and what categories you want to create.

But do keep in mind, the pricing has to be lucrative, and the content should respect SEO requirements to rank naturally.

Step 4: Set Up Payment and Shipping

Configure payment gateways and shipping options to enable customers to make purchases and receive their orders.

Start with the right pieces in place – internet acquiring, payment gateways, e-payment operators, and aggregators.

The payment service should work seamlessly with popular card systems like Mastercard, Visa, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.

If your business is global, making sure you can handle multiple currencies and international transactions is an absolute must.

But it’s not just about the payment tech. The whole journey involves actually building out your website from the ground up and integrating that payment system in a way that fits your specific business and customer needs perfectly.

And through it all, you’ve got to be crossing on the legal side of things, making sure the tech is bulletproof, and creating an experience that keeps your customers happy.

Step 5: Optimize The Store For Conversion & Increased AOV

Enhancing your WooCommerce store for better conversion rates and increased Average Order Value (AOV) can be achieved with the right mix of tools and tactics:

  • Checkout Optimization Tools: Consider using plugins like OptinMonster that can help capture exciting visitors with targeted messages to reduce cart abandonment.
  • Order Bumps and Upsells: For order bumps and one click upsells, WPFunnels and CartFlows offer easy integration to add complementary product offers in the checkout flow.
  • Discount Strategies: Utilize Dynamic Discounts for WooCommerce to implement flexible discounting strategies that can increase AOV through volume-based discounts, special offers, and loyalty rewards.
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Tools: Use Google Analytics for deep insights into user behavior and Hotjar for heatmaps and user feedback to understand and improve the user experience. A/B testing can be conducted with tools like Optimizely to test different elements of your store for conversion optimization.

Step 6: Launch & Promote Your Store

With your store ready, it’s time to launch and promote it across various channels:

  • SEO Optimization: Ensure your website is optimized for search engines with relevant keywords, meta descriptions, and high-quality content to improve visibility.
  • Advertising: Invest in targeted ads on platforms like Google AdWords and social media to drive traffic to your store.
  • Social Media Promotions: Utilize social media platforms to engage with your audience, showcase your products, and drive sales through organic and paid promotions.
  • Email Marketing: Develop an email marketing strategy to nurture leads, announce promotions, and keep your audience engaged with your brand.

By implementing these tactics, you can increase traffic to your newly launched store and boost sales effectively.

Regardless of which option you choose, make sure to prioritize customer service, marketing, and ongoing optimization to ensure the success of your online store. Consider investing in tools to help with this, such as an email automation platform, customer experience software, social media scheduling tool, etc.”

Must-Use Tactics To Maximize Your Sales?

So far, you have learned how to launch an online shop without inventory. You have learned popular strategies, ways to start your online store, and how to optimize sales growth based on the type of store you create.

Now, let us look at some of the tactics you must use no matter what product you sell or what type of online store you create. Also, we will suggest some tools to help you out.

Let’s dive deeper into these essential tactics for maximizing your online sales, complete with tool recommendations to enhance each strategy:

1. Content Marketing: Creating engaging and valuable content is key to attracting and engaging your target audience. Whether it’s through blog posts, videos, or podcasts, high-quality content can significantly boost your online visibility and authority.

  • Tools: Use Ahrefs or SEMrush for comprehensive keyword research and SEO strategies. Clearscope is excellent for content optimization, ensuring your content is both relevant and ranks well on search engines.

2. Social Media Marketing: Social media platforms offer a vast arena for building brand awareness and connecting with potential customers. Each platform serves different audience segments, so tailor your strategy accordingly.

  • Tools: Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social are powerful for managing multiple social media accounts, scheduling posts, and analyzing performance metrics.

3. Email Marketing: An effective email marketing strategy can help you build and nurture relationships with your subscribers, turning leads into loyal customers through personalized campaigns and newsletters.

  • Tools: Mail Mint, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact offer user-friendly interfaces for campaign management, while Drip provides advanced automation features tailored for e-commerce.

4. Influencer Marketing: Partnering with influencers can amplify your brand’s reach and credibility. Influencers with a loyal following in your niche can drive awareness and sales in an authentic way.

  • Tools: Upfluence and BuzzSumo are great for identifying influencers with high engagement rates. Grin offers end-to-end influencer management capabilities.

5. Paid Advertising: Paid ads are a direct method to drive targeted traffic to your store. Effective use of Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and other platforms can yield a significant return on investment.

  • Tools: Google Ads Editor and Facebook Ads Manager facilitate campaign creation and optimization. simplifies cross-platform ad management and testing.

6. Sales Funnels: Optimizing your sales funnel with strategic order bumps and upsells can significantly increase your average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value (CLV).

  • Tools: WPFunnels offers an intuitive platform for building sales funnels. CartFlows also provides comprehensive tools for creating, managing, and optimizing funnels to improve conversion rates.

7. Quality Online Support: Providing excellent customer support is crucial for building trust and loyalty. A responsive support system can resolve issues promptly, enhancing customer satisfaction and retention.

  • Tools: Consider using Zendesk for a robust support ticket system or Intercom for integrated chat and email support. These platforms help ensure your customers receive timely and helpful assistance, fostering positive relationships and trust in your brand.

Implementing these tactics with the right tools can significantly enhance your online store’s performance, driving sales and fostering long-term customer relationships.

Time To Step Into Entrepreneurship

So when you’re doing business online, you need to do a whole lot of work to make sure to not end up failing.

Not having to store and manage products yourself definitely has some appealing advantages. It saves you money on storage costs, and shipping to professionals, and limits those operational costs.

But that also increases a lot more deep work as there is no human interaction & it becomes way harder to reach your customer, knowing their buyer persona & more.

To save more cost and make the process easy for you, make sure to use funnel tools like WPFunnels to create a funnel way more easily and Product Feed Manager to generate and optimize your feed or over 170 online marketplaces.

Start using Product Feed Manager for WooCommerce & WPFunnels today!

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Written by

Sakiba Prima

Sakiba Prima

Sakiba Prima, the Content Editor at RexTheme is passionate about making WordPress work wonders for your business. With a flair for simple yet effective sales & marketing tactics and handy tooltips, she turns complex ideas into easy reads.

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