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How to start an online store

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With an online storefront, potential and existing customers can find you, learn about your products and services, and (hopefully) find what they want. And taking operations online has the benefit of fewer overheads and more opportunities for new streams of revenue. 

It's never been easier to launch a store online. eCommerce platforms — such as Vend and Shopify — handle the technical requirements so you can pedal your products and process payments. Even if you have little technical and design knowledge, you can create a beautiful online store. 

Digital marketing offers multiple avenues to expose your store and bring in new traffic. However, there are a few things to consider before you start. 

Here are some foundational factors to think about as you prepare to build and launch your online store. 


Choose the platform that fits your store

Each eCommerce platform has advantages and disadvantages. The right one for your business will match your goals and level of technical expertise. 

Etsy or eBay

The simplest option is a store within a store. Popular websites like Etsy and eBay let you create a seller's account and list your products for sale. Etsy targets handmade products, while eBay allows you to sell or resell almost any item. 

The advantages are ease of use and a built-in audience. However, both platforms are well-populated, so you still have to market and promote your products to be visible to buyers. 

Shopify

Shopify is a dedicated eCommerce platform that hosts your online store. Available services range from point of sale processing to providing scalable, global eCommerce sites for businesses of all sizes. 

Shopify's free and paid templates come optimized for eCommerce. Shopify provides 24/7 support, rapid website speeds, and more than 100 ways to receive payment. 

Vend

Vend is POS and retail management software that enables retailers to run their business with ease. It takes the guesswork out of decision-making with powerful sales and inventory reporting that's live and accurate to the minute.  

Vend gives retailers access to tools more powerful and intuitive than enterprise systems. It helps increase profitability with vital retail metrics, including sales, inventory levels, sell-through rates, margin, and more. 


What's in a name?

If you don't already have a domain name for your store, it may be challenging to get yourbusinessname.com. Many domains are already taken or held by people who auction them for higher rates. That's okay! There are many solutions. 

Your website address is an advertising opportunity – don't waste it! If your business name isn't available, take the time you need to find a domain address that helps promote your business. Avoid difficult to remember words or spellings. Keep it intuitive, easy to recall, and an accurate description of what you offer. 

Generally, a '.com' address is more desirable than a ‘.net’ address because most browsers default to .com. 


Optimize product titles, images, and descriptions

Optimizing your eCommerce website for SEO while building it helps search engines index and consumers find it. 

Shallow site structure

People don't want to dig through your site to find a product. A shallow site structure means clear categories, ideally with each item available in three clicks of the home page. 

Unique titles and descriptions

Each page needs to be unique. Duplicate pages confuse search engines and shoppers and inhibit your ability to rank on results pages. That means similar products need distinct titles, product page URLs, and descriptions. 

Keyword phrases

For SEO optimisation, each page of your website needs a unique keyword phrase. Google Analytics and other keyword research tools identify how much competition each keyword phrase has. Aim for keyword phrases with a high search volume and low or medium competition. 

Follow our guide to master keywords for your business. 

Optimize your images

Images searches are on the rise. When you optimize each image, you give shoppers another pathway to find you online. To optimize your images: 

  • Revise the file name – it should include the product name or keyword phrase 

  • Pay attention to your alt text with your keyword phrase or product title 

  • Check your image dimensions — make sure they display how you intend 

  • Minimize images size for maximum site speed. 


Launch and market your online store

Once your site is ready, go ahead and publish! The next step is to bring customers to you. 

Whether you use email marketing, social media marketing, paid online advertising, or online content that builds SEO visibility, there are multiple avenues to find customers interested in what you sell.  

Learn more about search engine optimization for small business


Revise, reinvent, and renew

The process of building customer relationships and online visibility begins once you launch your online store. Growing and flourishing your business will require you to revise, reinvest, and renew your strategies. 

Track traffic to your site with Google Analytics, evaluate your sales performance and manage inventory with your POS software. Be sure to also monitor your marketing campaigns by connecting your social media and email marketing accounts.  

Today's shoppers are online, which means there's never been a better time to launch an online store.