So you're ready to take your small business digital, eh? Makes sense considering by 2023, 91% of the U.S. population will be online shoppers. That plunge into cyber space can be a bit intimidating, so we're here to provide some tips on launching an online store to guarantee success.
Select a Unique Domain Name
With a unique small business name, you should have a unique website domain name to match. It is your exclusive identifier for consumers that is a guide to your online store, and improves brand recall and brand awareness. Here's what to keep in mind when coming up with yours:
- Avoid just simply spelling out your full business name in URL format.
While "exact match" and "keyword-rich" domain names sometimes makes it easier to rank in search results, they are not as influential as they once were due to Google Ad space.
- Don't use unfamiliar words or creative spellings.
Stay away from unintentional compound words, hyphens and numbers, misspelled words, and hard-to-pronounce combos. These mistakes will make it harder for consumers to find your site and give your brand a bad rap.
- Shorter is better.
12 characters or less. That is all you need. Make it memorable and easy to type for your consumers.
- Purchase the domain name.
Snatch up that unique, creative domain name before someone else does.
Related Reading: An Introduction to Social Media Marketing for Small Business Owners
Build Your Website
You don't need a graphic design degree or vocabulary filled with tech jargon to be able to create a website for your online store. Anyone with access to the internet, the ability to be patient, and attention to detail can build a website from nothing. With that said, there are an abundance of website builders with an even broader selection of website themes, templates, fonts, color schemes, and features. Try narrowing the options down by critically thinking about your website "must-haves" versus website "nice-to-haves". You can also ask yourself two questions: "Can this platform grow with my business?" and "How much am I willing to spend — time and money — for website creation and upkeep?"
Here are some of our favorite website builders:
No matter the winning website builder for you, all small business online stores should include:
- Product Descriptions
Explain who the product is for, list the essential product characteristics, suggest when someone needs this product, and help envision where your consumer will use it. Avoid using complex jargon, clichés, and rambling sentences.
- Product Images
Poor product photos can be the make or break in a final sale. Go the extra mile with product photography. If hiring a professional photographer is out of the question for you, create a homemade photography set-up using inspiration from other online stores or Pinterest.
- Product Categories
Take on the burden of categorizing your products so your customers can have a pain-free and smoother shopping experience. Allowing customers to filter will make your inventory more discoverable and properly display your catalog. Helpful ways you can categorize are: "Size", "Price Range", "Color", and "Seasonal". The less time customers have to spend scrolling through all your items, the more time they have to buy what they actually came to your site to buy. And more...
Set Up Shipping Early
How are your high-quality, description-detailed, photogenic products going to make it to your consumers? There are many factors influencing your shipping policy that the sooner figured out, the better. How much to charge (free, flat rate, or variable fee), what packaging to ship in, what is the timing and possible shipping restrictions, who will be your preferred carrier, where will the products be shipped to?
Enlist the Help of Friends
Once your website is set up, have your friends and family be the guinea pigs to test it out. They'll provide honest feedback on cosmetic components and overall functionality. You want any problems with the shopping and checkout process to be nipped in the bud so you don't lose potential customers.
If you're waiting for website perfection, you'll never launch. Finished and functioning is better than flawless. You want to get your name out there and you want to get some sales.
If you are still faced with performance anxiety, run through this final checklist provided by BigCommerce:
- Review all call-to-actions and form titles on the homepage and landing pages.
- Test your checkout experience.
- Double-check payment processing integrations (credit cards, PayPal, Stripe, etc).
- Make sure that all images are high-definition.
- Look for missing product descriptions, characteristics, categories.
- Inspect your website navigation.
- Connect customer service contact information or software.
- Check if all links and forms work.
- Verify that all taxes are set correctly.
- Ensure that all the inventory is properly listed.
Following our tips on launching an online store will help navigate the murky, time-consuming, yet rewarding waters of taking your small business to the next level. Find out how Flagship Bank can provide more tips, tricks, and financial help before the launch of your online storefront.