One of the perks of the internet and technology is the exposure merchants and vendors have at the click of a button. It is incredibly simple for anyone to start selling their products online. Whether you are looking to sell books or thinking about putting some home-made jewellery on the market, you can setup an online store for selling just about anything you’d like to.
There are a number of paths you could take in setting up your online store. You could spend extensively on branding or really invest in marketing. But at the end of the day, there are certain essential steps one should stick to, for getting the best results from your online store.
Decide on a brand identity and logo
Every brand needs to have an identity. The brand identity is relayed via the logo, colors used in marketing and branding, the copy used in communicating via the website etc. Brand identity conveys the core values of a brand. For example, Tesla, the electric car maker, is synonymous with innovation, clean energy vehicles, and great technology. Their logo is a clear communicator of this philosophy. The ‘T’ shape stands not only for Tesla’s name but also the shape of the cross section of an electric motor. Just like an electric motor in the car propels it forward, Tesla is positioning itself as an innovator that is driving the future of transportation.
Apple is another good example to look at. Their brand identity is built on design, performance, and reliability. Their logo, product design, and marketing stick to this line. Everything about the brand says functional but minimal with optimum performance. If you are setting up a store that sells premium footwear, then your brand identity could incorporate elements of comfort, elegance, and unique design.
When choosing colors for the logo, or your website, use the same philosophy. The colors associated with your brand are a key part of your brand identity. Technology companies are generally associated with simple, clean color palettes. Furniture or lifestyle brands would gravitate towards a shade of brown. Selecting the right color palette is an important decision for your brand. There are design agencies that can take care of all these decisions for you. There are also simple tools on the internet to help with these decisions. There’s Adobe Kuler, Coolors.co, Paletton, and many other tools that can aid in the search for the right colors for your brand.
Getting the right domain name
A domain name that is simple to remember and sticks with your customers is necessary. The domain name of your choice may not be always available but there are some pointers to keep in mind when making a decision. Be creative when choosing a domain name. It’s good to have an unique catchy domain name that your customer can remember easily. Shopify is a good example. It takes the verb associated with commerce and makes it into a sticky business and domain name. Toys ’R’ Us is another good one. It’s self-explanatory and memorable.
There are resources available to help you find a suitable domain name, should you find yourself looking for inspiration. Tools for this include NameBounce, Lean Domain Search, Name Mesh, Wordoid, Dot-o-mator, and Name Station.
NameBounce is a business name and domain name generator. It works by finding names related to the keywords you enter while checking for domain name availability.
The site allows you to enter one to two keywords into a search box, like Google. If you type in one keyword, the tool appends prefixes and suffixes that are popular in other registered domain names. If you enter two keywords, it substitutes one of your keywords with relevant related words and uses a relevancy scoring algorithm to rank the results.
NameBounce has several filtering options that will make it easy for you to narrow down your choices, and it also allows you to search for domain names in extensions other than .com (such as .net, .co.uk, and .in). You can also add names to a favorites list, which will help you in the name brainstorming process.
A number of platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, and wooCommerce offer domain hosting services as well. Right from generating a domain name to hosting it, these services can take care of each step in getting a domain name for your online store.
Register Your Business
While setting up an online store does not require you to register your business, selling items and conducting transactions in your state or country may need so depending on the law in the region. Registering your online store is also necessary to use a payment gateway.
Registering a business comes with the responsibility of deciding upon a business structure and figuring out the tax returns depending on what the local and federal laws are for your region. But there are benefits to registering your business. It ensures a durable life for your store. As your online store expands and grows, sooner or later, there may be a need to incorporate. Doing it as early as possible helps protect against future copyright issues. By deciding on a clear business structure, tax filing and returns can be simplified. This would reduce future legal hassles and paperwork. Most of all, registering your business would help protect your personal assets and insure against liability.
Most individual business owners can start out with a sole proprietorship that can later evolve into another business type, based on future requirements. Under this business structure, there would be no distinction between the individual and the company. More extensive structures are Limited Liability Company (LLC), Partnership, Cooperative, and Corporation.
A common way to incorporate businesses is to consult a tax attorney, but there are services that offer alternatives to that as well. Stripe’s Atlas offering takes care of all the legal paperwork, company incorporation, bank account for processing payments etc. Users can upload their bank documents and all the necessary legal paperwork to Atlas and their company can be incorporated in Delaware and will receive a tax ID from the Internal Revenue Service. All this can be done in as little as 11 days!
Build Your Website
The main part of setting up an online store. For someone who is proficient with web development and design, building an eCommerce website is nothing but creating their pixel-perfect rendition of the store online. But this process can be fairly time-consuming. To save valuable time and still achieve great design, vendors can use a readymade template like those available on Creative Tim. These templates include landing pages, UI kits and Bootstrap themes for getting the website’s design done and dusted in as little time as possible. Another option is to try out a do-it-yourself (DIY) platform.
Store owners can even customize the templates and themes provided as per their needs. Simply edit the HTML and CSS to get the perfect look as per your vision. There are also setup experts, developers, and designers that help in building the online store. For coordinating and reviewing work with third party developers, there are website review and feedback tools such as zipBoard and DebugMe. These website issue tracker tools help point and click on bugs for quicker exchange between all stakeholders. Design feedback between the e-Commerce site’s developers, designers and vendors becomes faster and allows rapid deployment. In short, it reduces the time-to-market for your website.
There are freelancers who can be contracted to take on marketing assignments via Upwork or Fiverr. As a last resort, stock photo sites are available for using generic images on the website. Checkout and payment can be handled via a number of payment platforms such as Stripe or PayPal. Most are PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant for handling payments.
Increase Customer Engagement
Once your website is live, attracting customers is the next step. This means optimizing keywords for good rankings on search engine results page (SERP) and doing both on-page and off-page SEO for achieving those targets. There are many tools such as Moz, SEMRush and more for measuring success from the effort put into SEO.
It is important to try and reduce the number of customers who come to your website and leave quickly without even browsing through the content. This bounce rate can be decreased by prolonging the session of a customer. To do this, navigation on the site has to be simple, products must be categorized in a way that makes it easy for buyers to find what they are looking for and customer sessions should be personalized. This can be done by showing recommendations based on the customer’s browsing history and interests, as well as displaying similar products to what may be in their shopping cart.
Another great solution for increasing customer engagement is having a live chat solution on your website. Often customers may want to reach directly to you or may require assistance in their shopping. A live chat solution is a good way to help them do this. Solutions such as Drift, Intercom, Olark, and Tawk.to are some of the popular choices on this front.
There are a number of marketing automation tools available for attracting more customers to your site. One of them is setting up a newsletter subscribing channel. MailChimp is a good option for this. There’s also GetResponse for email marketing. These tools also help conduct marketing outreach programs. Periodic reminders to customers informing them of special offers, sales, or exclusive products available. There’s also HubSpot which helps generate leads and manage CRM. Intercom, apart from offering a live chat solution also offers onboarding and retention services for customers. Zendesk is another option for this. These services also offer a knowledge base solution that makes the frequently asked solutions searchable for the customer’s ease of users.
Setting up an online store is incredibly simple with the help of tools and services available today. For each stage of the process right from setting up your company to optimizing the checkout process, vendors and merchants can make the transition to selling online much faster. Even if you’re working without extensive resources, many of these tools provide many features within the free subscription plan. All you need to zero in on now is what you are selling!