The need-to-know basics for starting an online store

Your first online store doesn’t have to be elaborate to be successful, but following our tips will help ensure it is

If you want your startup to be truly competitive over the next few years, you will need to do more than open an appealing brick-and-mortar store. In fact, you may not want to bother with a physical location for your business at all. A growing number of small to medium-sized businesses in the U.S. and around the world are turning to the Internet to host their businesses, providing products and services exclusively through their online stores.

However, as of last year, an estimated 46 per cent of small businesses in the U.S. still don’t have a website, which means that if you start yours now, you’ll still be well ahead of the curve.

Before you jump into the world of e-commerce though, we have a few tips to get you started off on the right foot. After all, we’ve been covering e-commerce practices for long enough to see what works and what doesn’t.

A good online store can bring in a lot of customers. In fact, 79 per cent of all Americans shop online as of last year, which means that the right online store has the potential to sell to most of the country. That said, it’s important to make sure that your online store is set up in such a way that it attracts customers instead of confusing them. While strong online presence can do wonders for a company, poor website design can have a negative impact on conversion rates and hurt a startup’s performance.

In this article, we’re going to look at some of the most basic elements of starting an online store, so that you can avoid common errors and get the most out of your page. We’ll look at web hosting, choosing the right name, and a few fundamental elements of setting up your page once you have it.

What is web hosting and why should you care?

Web hosting isn’t just an important consideration for setting up your online store – it’s one of the first and most significant choices you make in the process. Simply put, web hosting determines where your website is going to live. Typically, you choose a service provider who sells you your page and its domain name (more about that later), unless your online store exists on a pre-existing web page like Etsy. If you’re using a WordPress site, you may also choose between shared web hosting and managed web hosting.

online storeShared web hosting is considerably cheaper, and covers a massive variety of different websites including WordPress sites and others. While shared web hosting is ideal for casual websites, it isn’t always a good idea for online stores and e-commerce businesses, since websites that use shared web hosting are often put on overcrowded servers, slowing them down considerably.

Why does speed matter? It’s simple: speed affects sales. Your conversion rates drop about 7 per cent for each extra second it takes your page to load, which means that a slow page costs you customers. That being the case, you might want to consider managed web hosting as an alternative. Move your site to a managed WordPress host, and you’ll be buying several advantages, not the least of which is much higher speed.

Domain name dos and don’ts

In any case, once you’ve decided on the right hosting service, you’ll want to find a relevant phrase to use as your domain name. Many startups want their domain name to be the name of their company, but if your company’s name is quite common, then it might already be taken. If that’s the case, it’s usually safe to use the name of your flagship product or service instead. However, you’ll also want to make sure your domain name is short and easy to type so that people can visit your site conveniently.

For example, a successful dog washing business might use “,” while a less-successful one might go with something like “” Nobody is going to want to read that, much less type it. Keep it clear and simple for success.

Setting up your page

Clear and simple aren’t just reliable criteria for successful domain names – they’re also principles you’ll want to apply to the layout of your site. A website that customers can easily read and make purchases on will be far more successful than one where the important information is illegible or difficult to find, no matter how many extra features the second site has. If web design isn’t your strong suit, consider using a premade theme or hiring a professional to do the layout for you, which will help you avoid unnecessary complexity, and your customers will thank you.

Your first online store doesn’t have to be elaborate to be successful. Choose proper hosting, an appropriate name, and a straightforward design, and you’ll find that you’re already beyond most of the competition.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all Troy Media columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Troy Media.
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