If you love animals and are looking to create a startup, you might want to think about starting an e-commerce pet store. Owning an online pet store can be a profitable way to work in the pet industry.
In this guide, we'll go over everything you need to know about opening a pet store on the web. We'll let you know what resources you need to get started, how to register your online business, and give you marketing strategies for bringing in customers.
Important Skills Needed
As a business owner, you'll need in-depth knowledge of the products you sell and the ability to offer great customer service. Pet owners will look to you with all kinds of questions about how safe, healthy, and effective your pet supplies are. Experience working or volunteering in a pet shop, shelter, or veterinarian office will help you.
If you plan on building your own website, you'll need some skills in development and web design. Search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) skills can help you drive traffic to your pet business and make sales.
Making a Plan for Your Pet Store
Decide on the products you want to sell. If you decide to have a general pet products store, you'll face heavy competition from big retailers who have huge marketing budgets.
It can benefit you to tailor your brand to a niche market. You can focus on specific animal owners or even a certain product. For example, you might decide to only sell novelty playhouses for cats. Here are some categories you might specialize in:
- Food and treats for pets
- Pet toys
- Pet medicine
- Pet clothes
- Grooming products
Your pricing will depend on what items you sell. Do some market research to see what your competitors are selling and how much their products are going for. You want your prices to be competitive, but you need them to be high enough to cover your costs and make a profit.
If you won't be manufacturing your own products, you can get inventory to resell from sites like WholesalePet.com or even use sites like eBay and Amazon. You can do your own shipping, or you might dropship your products. Dropshipping involves having a supplier send your customers' purchases directly to them so that you never have to have items in your possession.
Programs like Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) will hold on to your for-sale items in their facilities and ship them directly to your customers when you make a sale. While Amazon does charge percentage fees for each sale you make, it might be able to save you money over storing and shipping the products yourself.
If you use a web builder to create your website, purchase a domain name so that your URL doesn't have the subdomain of that business in it. For example, if you create a site with WordPress, the subdomain would be "wordpress.com." Having a subdomain can hurt your business's ranking on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Here are some other things you might have to pay for:
- Web hosting
- Transaction fees for online payments and credit cards
- Applications to accept payments
- Possible costs for e-commerce hosting services like Shopify
You'll also want insurance to protect your assets in case your business ends up owing money or is sued. The following are three types of insurance you might want to get:
- General liability insurance defends you from lawsuits from contracted third parties.
- Professional liability insurance covers you in case you make errors (common in service businesses like pet grooming).
- Cyber liability will cover you if you accidentally leak customer data or get hacked.
If you plan on scaling your business at one point, you might be looking for additional funding. To intrigue investors, you'll need a good business plan. Your plan will help you sort out your business ideas. Here are some things your plan should include:
- A short executive summary of your entire plan
- A company description
- An explanation of your market share
- A list of everyone involved in your company
- How you'll operate and make money
- How much funding you need and how you'll spend it
Officially Registering Your Pet Store
When you have all of your resources together, it's time to legally register your business. In the next few sections, we will go over how you can register your pet store in your state and get a business license.
Meeting Legal Industry Requirements
Most states require pet stores that sell particular products to have business licenses and follow certain regulations. For example, manufacturers of pet food in most states have to register their food with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to make sure they're safe.
Companies that sell pet food will typically have to register their labels with the AAFCO, get a license, and pay a fee in their state.
Pick the type of business entity you want your pet store to be. There are four main types for you to pick from:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability company (LLC)
Sole proprietorships and partnerships are legally the same as their owners at tax time. LLCs and corporations protect your assets. Corporations get taxed twice, but they're essential if you want to take your company public (i.e., sell shares).
Another way you can protect your personal assets from your business is to open a business bank account. With a line of credit for your pet store and a credit card, you can get lower interest rates on loans and avoid paying for business expenses with your personal money.
To get a business line of credit or pay taxes for your company, you'll need an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you have a sole proprietorship or partnership, you can use your Social Security number to file taxes.
Your pet store will need a business name. Not only do you want your name to be unique and appealing but you also want to make sure that you can get a matching domain. You can check the website for the secretary of state in your area to see if your name is in use. To register your name on the federal level, you'll need to visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Requirements for any business vary by state. Get in touch with the Small Business Administration (SBA) closest to you to see the particular licensing requirements for pet stores in your state. You can see national requirements for pet stores on the SBA website.
Effectively Marketing Your Pet Store
Use quality images and videos along with attractive product descriptions on your website's homepage to market your items. Use drop-down menus and checkout options, like buy buttons, to improve your site's functionality. Create online forms to get consumer information for email marketing.
You can use a web builder like Wix or Webflow to DIY your e-commerce website, but integrating pay portals like PayPal requires different plugins and can be confusing. An e-commerce platform or plugin like Shopify or WooCommerce will guide you through creating your site. You can also hire a professional developer using a site like Upwork.
Be active on social media. Use platforms like Instagram and Facebook to feature product images and pictures of cute animals, or even your own pet, using your products that attract your intended customers and show your company's personality. Display your business's phone number and email address clearly so your customers have several ways to reach you.
A quality logo is crucial to digital marketing. Programs like Tailor Brands can design a cool logo that sets your company apart and makes it more memorable to potential customers. Attain a trademark to protect your logo on the USPTO website.
Positive testimonials and reviews improve your company's credibility and reputation. Design and send out customer satisfaction surveys after every customer interaction with a program like SurveyMonkey. Another way to get testimonials and see what your customers think about your business is to create profiles on review sites like Yelp and Google My Business.
Staying on Top of Accounting and Administration
Precise accounting processes are essential to your pet store's profitability. You'll need a variety of accounting documents to run your pet store, like invoices, receipts, and order confirmations. Skynova's free, printable templates can save you from having to create accounting documents from scratch.
We also have accounting software that can help you manage your funds, track your expenses, and meet your tax liabilities.
Making Business Tasks for Your Pet Store Easier With Skynova
Starting an online pet store can be an involved and exhaustive process. Stores that sell pet products have to meet several quality standards to make sure their items are safe for animals. If you have a zeal for the industry, maintaining an e-commerce pet store can be a profitable labor of love.
No matter what your e-commerce business is, though, it requires your full attention. However, maintaining paperwork and keeping up with administrative tasks can take you away from performing your core business processes. Come see how Skynova's software products can help you handle your administration quicker so that you can spend your energy on what really matters.