How to Buy an Online Store For Small Business [10-Step Guide]

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Buying an existing online store is a smart way for small business owners to quickly gain a revenue stream and customer base. However, it’s important to go about it the right way. In this guide, We’ll walk you through the entire process of finding, evaluating, purchasing and optimizing an online store in 10 clear steps.
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10 Things to Consider When Buying an Online Store for Your Small Business

Step 1: Define Your Business and Product Goals

Before diving into shopping for an online store, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. Take some time to define:

  • Products/Services: What types of items will your store offer? Make sure there is demand and you can source inventory.

  • Target Audience: Who are your ideal customers? Define basics like location, demographics, interests. Research competitors targeting similar buyers.

  • Revenue Goals: Set financial targets including overall revenue, profit margins, payback period. These will factor into purchase prices you can afford.

  • Growth Objectives: Do you want steady revenue or fast expansion? Consider strategies like new product launches, geographic targeting, marketing channels to explore.

With goals established, you’ll make smarter purchase decisions aligned to your vision. Stores catering directly to your objectives will produce faster results.

Step 2: Research Potential Store Platforms

Next, analyze ecommerce platforms and identify which provide the functionality and features needed to meet your goals. Top options include:

PlatformFeaturesBest ForSetup Costs
ShopifyApps, themes, payments$29/month basic storeBasic: $29/month
WooCommerceFree, custom themesSelf-hosted WordPress storesFree + hosting costs
BigCommercePerformance focused$29.95/month basic storeBasic: $29.95/month

Research common setups, options like integrated payments and any ongoing costs. This informs not just your own store plans, but which platforms existing stores might operate on.

Step 3: Search Online Store Marketplaces

Now it’s time to find actual stores for sale. Reputable marketplaces include:
  • Zipprr: Validated sellers and larger enterprise stores
  • Flippa: Largest with thousands of stores across platforms
  • EcomEngine: Specialized in high-revenue stores ($10k/month+)
Within marketplaces, filter listings by desired:
  • Platform (e.g. Shopify)
  • Monthly revenue
  • Asking price
  • Seller reviews/validation
Evaluate if listings meet your revenue targets and fit within realistic purchase budgets. Bookmark interesting candidates for deeper evaluation.

Step 4: Analyze Sample Store Listings

Closely inspect the most promising candidates. Check:

  • Site features: Design, navigation, ease of purchase
  • Products/categories: Cohesive offerings? Growth potential?
  • Traffic & sales stats: Monthly unique visitors, orders, revenue trends
  • Branding & marketing: Professional? Regular blog, social activity?
  • Growth strategies: Shown improvements over time? Documented plans?

Screenshots, financial documents and seller responses provide transparency. Red flags include fluctuating numbers, sparse documentation or unreasonable growth claims. Consider reaching out directly via listings with additional questions at this stage.

Step 5: Contact Sellers of Potential Stores

For the top 2-3 stores, craft thoughtful, personalized introductory emails referencing specifics from their listings. Express interest and ask for:

  • Overview of operations including tech stack, fulfillment workflow
  • Monthly profit & loss statements to validate listed revenue
  • Time commitment required from owner for ongoing management
  • Reasons for selling and long term outlook
  • Next steps to move forward with a potential sale

Negotiate on price upfront and clarify any ongoing commitments from the seller post-purchase like support, non-compete agreements. Get a sense of their cooperation level and priorities.

Step 6: Perform Store Audit and Due Diligence

Before sealing the deal, always do your homework. Request:

  • Domain/IP verification: Proof of ownership, no legal issues
  • Financials: Multiple months statements to validate trends
  • Inventory: Condition, age, storage locations if relevant
  • Contracts: Any supplier agreements, licenses to transfer
  • Accounts: Access to dashboards, statements to change passwords

Also check for signs of:

  • Inflated stats or discrepancies between listings and reality
  • Dependency on any single revenue stream at risk of declining

Have an attorney review agreements to protect your interests. Negotiate solutions to any red flags uncovered.

Step 7: Have the Store Transferred to You

With verified documentation and seller agreements in place, it’s time for the official handover:

  • Establish hosting, shopping cart and payment accounts in your name
  • Change over admin access, passwords and ownership credentials
  • Transfer domain name, social accounts, email lists
  • Launch under your business branding identity
  • Test site functions before seller fully relinquishes control

Pay only once fully onboarded and integrated with your own systems. The seller should provide adequate onboarding and training.

Step 8: Optimize and Improve the Store

Take the business to new heights by leveraging your unique vision and skills:

  • Refresh design, content, navigation for a modern look and feel
  • Launch new, complementary product lines over time
  • Enhance SEO, paid ads and organic social strategies
  • Improve email marketing, loyalty programs for repeat purchases
  • Track analytics to pinpoint growth opportunities

Test promotions across channels. Scale efforts driving sales. With the right optimizations, expect higher revenues within months.

Step 9: Track Performance and Progress

Monitoring key metrics helps ensure goals stay on track:

  • Revenue: Weekly and monthly sales targets
  • Profit Margins: Lower costs, boost ROI over time
  • Marketing ROI: Track spend vs. new customer value
  • Product Mix: Top/bottom sellers, expand winning categories
  • Customer Lifetime Value: Repeat rates, average order values

Strategically test marketing spending. Judge campaigns on new revenue. Pivot efforts where needed. Consider hiring sales or customer support staff as volumes increase.

Step 10: Expand with Additional Store Acquisitions

With experience managing a successful acquired store, consider scaling the business. Options include:

  • Buying related, synergistic stores on new marketplaces
  • Acquiring in higher revenue niches, wider demographics
  • Expanding internationally by acquiring overseas stores
  • Building your own flagship stores over time

Leverage buyer networks, repeat the due diligence process. With an existing portfolio, negotiation power increases for future acquisitions too. The goal is creating an online business empire!


Buying an established online store can be a lower risk route for entrepreneurs to quickly obtain tangible business assets generating consistent cash flow. With diligent research, prudent evaluation of sites on sale and ongoing optimization, the rewards can significantly exceed starting from scratch. While each store requires attention, the model scales through acquiring multiple related businesses. For those willing to take on the responsibilities, it’s a robust strategy for building successful ecommerce ventures.

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    Prasad Venkatachalam

    Prasad Venkatachalam is a professional writer with over 10 years of expertise in web and mobile app development. With a solid background in the field, Prasad has accumulated a decade of experience, honing his skills and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies. His extensive experience in software development allows him to navigate the intricacies of the process, ensuring efficient and high-quality solutions. Currently, Prasad is a valuable member of the Zipprr team, where he continues to contribute his 10 years of expertise to develop innovative on-demand solutions.