Starting an Online Pet Shop: Tips and Tools

What You Will Need to Get Started

Dog paws on laptop keys
A successful online pet shop requires certain technical tools, along with old-fashioned business sense. Photo courtesy of Emma Innocenti/Getty Images

So you want to start an online pet shop? Here are some important tips and tools to help you get started.

First, Test the Online Retail Waters

A good, no-risk way to begin your foray into launching an online pet shop is to start small, just to see how the product(s) will be received and to familiarize yourself with the world of eCommerce.

If you are selling a particular type of product, such as your own line of dog duds, just to give one example, you could start with an eCommerce site like Amazon.com or Etsy.com.

The good thing about Amazon is that you only pay fees when you actually make a sale. Meanwhile, Etsy.com is geared toward people who make handmade items, so this is a good place to start for those who wish to deal in unique niche products that they make themselves. Both of these sites offer various forms of support. And both feature easy to use platforms.

Online Pet Shop Tools Checklist

The first and most important aspect of starting an online pet shop, or any business, is to devise a business plan that includes:

  • An executive summary, which indicates the purpose of the business
  • How the business will be marketed, along with advertising and promotions ideas
  • What the potential competition will be
  • Who your prospective customers are
  • Number of employees, if any, the business will require
  • Financial requirements, and other related information

For lots more helpful tips, check out this awesome free eBook from OfficeReady.

The U.S. Small Business Administration also features this handy outline of what a business plan should contain on its website.

Find Suppliers for Your Online Pet Shop

Unless you are selling products you produce yourself, determining what kinds of items you wish to sell and establishing reliable suppliers is another important step.

It’s also a good idea to establish more than one supplier so that you don’t find yourself in a lurch if a supplier, say, runs out of a product, goes out of business or experiences other setbacks.

If you are producing your own pet products, make sure that you have enough materials and other resources in the fortunate event that you get bombarded with orders.

Create a Catchy Online Pet Shop Domain Name

The right domain name for your online business is very important. This will stand out in customers’ minds and will be easier to find when people conduct searches online for specific products.

Unfortunately, many domain names are already taken. So you may have to get creative. This is easy to do if you have a unique product for sale. One example is Meow Wear which sells (you guessed it) cat clothes. Interestingly, this is a division of Handicapped Pets, which manufactures and sells (surprise!) wheelchairs for pets. This company is at a disadvantage because the Internet is not exactly teeming with sites that sell feline fashions and doggie wheelchairs.

But if you decide to sell more generic products, like general pet products, pet foods and the like, you will have to come up with a way to enable yourself to stand apart from other sites.

A good example is Only Natural Pet. While this online pet shop sells products that are available at brick and mortar stores, the company exclusively carries the highest quality all-natural and holistic products, from pet foods to grooming supplies and pet supplements. So not only is this an effective domain name, this is also a great merchandising and marketing strategy, all of which are neatly interconnected.

It’s a good idea to do an online search for items that are similar to the ones you will be carrying to get an idea of which names are high on the list. You also want to keep your domain name short and sweet; you should avoid anything awkward, vague, or overly long. And make sure it contains a good keyword that will easily show up in search engines. Oh, and don’t forget to register your domain name, so that it remains exclusively yours.

The Importance of a Well-Designed Website for an Online Pet Shop

Unless you are extremely tech savvy or are actually a web designer, it’s advisable to hire a pro to design your online pet shop site. Be sure to choose one who specifically has considerable experience with eCommerce websites.

One of the best ways to find a good web designer is through word of mouth. Check out other sites and ask others who have effective eCommerce operations for recommendations. And be sure to ask any prospective designers to show you examples of their work.

Be aware that a good web designer will cost you. The services of a professional, highly experienced designer or firm usually start at around $2,000 for the entire project; they will charge anywhere from $75 to $200 an hour on average. But you really do get what you pay for.

Make sure that you come up with a site that’s easy to navigate and understand, is highly visual and professional looking, and is interactive and informative. Including customer testimonials is also a great promotional tool.

In addition, your site should link to your social media pages; it should contain a link enabling customers to sign up for your newsletter (which you absolutely should produce on a regular basis); a blog; and an e-mail contact link, along with your business phone number.

The Importance of a Good Web Host

Your site will require a proper web host. This is a server on which one can rent space, typically for a monthly or yearly fee, that will transmit your site across the World Wide Web. When someone types your domain name into a search engine, your site will automatically pop up.

Some of the top web hosts are:

A good eCommerce web designer will be able to point you in the right direction.

Last But Not Least...

Of course, let’s not forget that you have to establish a way to get paid for the products you sell from your awesome new online pet shop. I personally think that the best, easiest way to go about this is to set up an account through PayPal, the popular online payment processing site.

Then you must decide how you will deliver your products. Some options for U.S. retailers:

  • The good old United States Post Office, which offers flat-rate shipping
  • UPS, which has many convenient amenities for those who sell products online
  • FedEx

Remember, if you’re shipping products overseas, you will need to check duty fees and such. Your best bet is to inquire with the U.S. Postal Service if you need to do this.

Some Other Helpful Online Pet Shop Resources

Bryan Haines, guide to online business/hosting, has lots of great tips on his website.

You may also want to refer to the U.S. Small Business Administration, which offers lots of good advice, as well.