5 tips for starting your own online store
The internet has revolutionised much of modern commerce, and the glamorous world of shopping is no exception. Many have tried to take advantage of the widespread popularity of online shopping with experiments in online stores and boutiques.
If you’re thinking of starting up an online store, the first thing to remember is that the internet is even more crowded than your average shopping mall, and you’ll have to work very hard to make your store stand out from all the others, from its digital shopfront, so to speak, to your products and service. Our five practical tips for setting up an online store can help get you started.
Catchy domain name
Just as with any business, choosing the right name is crucial. It needs to speak to your audience and be memorable enough to create an impression, yet simple enough that it can be easily recalled and, hopefully, passed around by word of mouth.
Online businesses – your potential store included – extend this further with careful consideration of their domain name, a key element of your ‘digital shopfront’. The ideal domain name is short, memorable and easily typed. You don’t want your customers to spell it incorrectly, or burden the domain name with cumbersome punctuation such as hyphens – potential customers who forget to put them in may instead be led to competitors’ sites! Overall, ‘.com’ is preferable to ‘.net’.
Also, remember that the URL of your online store affects its search engine ranking, so try to fit a keyword along with your brand name into the domain for optimal results.
You’ll undoubtedly be pleased to know that various online store hosting packages are available, essentially functioning as the toolkit from which you construct, design and maintain your online store. Macquarie Telecom offers various eCommerce hosting options, as well as business NBN support and managed hosting, and should make running an online store far more easy and headache-free.
eCommerce hosts provide an attractive interface to your online store, which is important, as one of the ways potential customers assess the store’s credibility and brand value. Perhaps most importantly, these online store hosting packages also provide the infrastructure to enable you to easily upload stock as well as basic shopping cart and check-out facilities.
Merchant bank account
What would an online store be without this crucial step? Before you can begin operating, it is important to set up an online merchant bank account with your selected bank or financial institution. Payments made by credit card will then be sent to that account. This does involve expenses – such as set-up fees and regular fees – as well as necessitating a percentage of each card transaction (though it is generally around one to two per cent).
However, if you choose to use PayPal Standard you won’t need an online merchant account as funds can be sent to your account from any PayPal user. Whether you choose one or the other – or both – be sure to thoroughly research your options to minimise your expenses without compromising security.
This is a relatively new technological system that is unfortunately sometimes overlooked, to business owners’ detriment. Cloud computing enables secure storage meaning that it is easier than ever to safely store, access and back up your files from wherever you are and whichever device you may be using. This enables you to access and work from your files even if you are on holiday! Systems like SmartVault, Google Drive and the pervasive Dropbox will help you manage your files and documents, saving you time and fuss along the way.
Perhaps it may seem obvious, but the value of social media to your online store can hardly be overestimated. Think carefully about what brand values and messages you would like to communicate and set out a detailed social media strategy that is sure to engage your target audience – the wittier and more memorable, the better. Ideally you want to pick up meme-like levels of coverage that will see your online store as the latest popular shop. A blog utilising search engine optimisation (SEO) is also a good idea to maintain search engine rankings that could in turn help attract new customers to your site.
Ralph Barton is an IT student and freelance writer with a love for all things new media.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net