How to Start an Online Grocery Store

by Gail Cohen; Updated September 26, 2017
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Imagine shopping for hundreds of people instead of worrying about pleasing only your family's appetites. An online grocery store may net you profit if you start your business out the right way. Use your talent for picking the best produce and sleuthing out seasonal bargains to launch an online grocery store that will keep customers well fed and your bottom line operating in the green.

Items you will need

  • Competitor analysis
  • Business plan
  • Business loan
  • Insurance
  • Warehouse
  • Refrigeration units
  • Racking, storage and bins
  • Website
  • Marketing program
Step 1

Check out your competition. Compare online grocery stores to learn how they operate and what they charge. Pay attention to site navigation--getting where you want to go without running a gauntlet of pull-down menus, links and roadblocks. Assess pricing structures and delivery policies. Make notes about aesthetics, like the colors chosen by the web designer to build the brand's identity.

Step 2

Fund your online grocery store with a home equity line of credit, collateralized business loan, investment funds from venture capitalists or another source of cash. Present lenders with a business plan drawn up to show that you understand the financial risk, operational requirements and vendor relationships that can make or break an online grocery store.

Step 3

Rent a warehouse. Install industrial refrigeration units, racking, shelving and packing tables, if these essentials aren’t already in place. Put in a conveyor belt system to help speed the process, if you have enough capital. Obtain standard food handling licenses and permits. Buy insurance to protect your online grocery investment. Affiliate with wholesale food brokers and purveyors. Set up accounts with wholesale butchers, dairies, farmers, bakers and other resources.

Step 4

Purchase software to design your online grocery website, like Dreamweaver, pay a fee to have the job done by an online firm offering low-cost pre-designed site templates or hire a professional web designer to accomplish the task. Establish a system for updating and hosting your site once it goes live or affiliate with a hosting service so that you may focus on being a grocer.

Establish business relationships with credit card companies, PayPal and others, offering another payment method for shoppers who prefer not to use their cards online.

Step 5

Order packing supplies, like plastic and paper grocery bags, boxes and containers. Consider going green and using plastic tubs or reusable bags that can be filled at your online grocery store’s picking and packing area and used for deliveries to conserve resources. Keep plastic carriers clean and disinfected so food isn’t compromised.

Step 6

Publicize your online grocery store on the Internet. Place print ads in publications. Count on word-of-mouth referrals to market your store. Keep an eye on markups to stay competitive with other online grocers, while striving to offer loyal customers the best and newest products on the market.

About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.

Photo Credits

  • grocery cart train image by robert mobley from Fotolia.com