How do you start an online shop?

What do you need to consider to legally and successfully open and run your own online shop?

Zuletzt aktualisiert: 14.05.2024

Online commerce has proven to be on the rise and unstoppable. Many see this as an opportunity for a successful business.
Do you also have a great idea for an online shop and want to start one? Great!

By the way

You don’t necessarily need to have (or want) your own online shop to browse through the following information! Perhaps you are already showcasing your products or services on your website. In that case, developing a hybrid model (read more in our article "What Characterizes Hybrid Business Models?") could be just the right thing for you.
And you will surely find some useful information here!

Important Steps and Considerations in Planning and Implementing an Online Shop

What do you need to consider to open and run your own online shop legally and successfully?
Establishing an online shop requires careful planning and execution. Below are some important steps and considerations:

  1. Business Idea and Target Group: Clearly define which products or services you want to sell and identify your target group. A clear niche can help you stand out from the competition.
  2. Legal Form and Business Registration: Decide whether you want to run your online business as a sole proprietorship, GmbH, or another legal form. Register your business according to legal requirements.
  3. Business Plan: Create a detailed business plan that includes your business goals, marketing strategies, financial forecasts, and operational processes.
  4. Product Sourcing: Ensure you have a reliable source for your products. You can make products yourself, buy from suppliers, or sell via dropshipping.
  5. E-Commerce Platform: Choose a suitable e-commerce platform that meets your needs. Popular options are Shopify, WooCommerce (for WordPress), Magento, BigCommerce, etc.
  6. Domain and Hosting: Choose an easy-to-remember domain for your online shop and ensure reliable web hosting.
  7. Web Design and User Experience: Design a user-friendly and attractive website. Pay attention to fast loading times, mobile optimization, and easy navigation.
  8. Product Presentation: Create high-quality product images and detailed product descriptions. Customers should know exactly what they are buying.
  9. Payment Processing: Integrate secure payment methods that customers trust. Offer PayPal, credit cards, and other options.
  10. Legal Aspects: Observe legal requirements such as the terms and conditions, imprint, data protection declaration and cancellation policy. Pay attention to data protection, especially when handling customer data!
  11. Shipping and Logistics: Decide how you will organize shipping. Will you offer different shipping options? Which shipping partners will you use?
  12. Customer Support: Plan how you will offer customer support. Fast response times and friendly service are important to gain customer trust.
  13. Marketing and SEO: Develop a marketing strategy to reach your target audience. Use social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and possibly paid advertising.
  14. Scalability: Think long-term and consider how you can scale your business with increasing demand.
  15. Analysis and Optimization: Track your sales figures, website visitors, and other metrics. Use this data to optimize your strategies and improve your business.


The Händlerbund (a nationwide network for online retailers) offers a guide on the topic of “Starting an Online Shop" with a comprehensive checklist covering the following points:

- The legal form - which is the best for your online business?
- Legal texts - the foundation for secure online commerce
- Industry-specific laws - what regulations apply to your products?
- Cost plan - these costs come with an online shop
- Shop systems - the technical framework of your e-commerce business
- Protection against warnings - how to avoid expensive letters from lawyers
- Payment options - the way into the customer's wallet
- Payment defaults - what to do if the customer does not pay?
- Marketing - how to be found by your new customers
- Customer service - who will listen to your customers’ questions and complaints?