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Your Guide to Starting an Online Store in 2017

Decades ago, our ancestors in the small business world competed with sandwich boards and classified ads in the newspapers.

Today, those methods have largely been consigned to the dustbin of history—and with good reason. The real future of startups and fledgling companies lies in the power of digital marketing.

An Online Presence

Having an online presence is one of the most important ways to stay competitive in the current era, and it’s only becoming increasingly important as time moves forward. A whopping 81% of customers do research over the Internet before making large purchases. Clearly, if you have a product or service that you want to bring to the masses, you need an online store.

Making an online store might sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. The most important thing is to make sure you nail the basic steps at the front end—including your hosting platform, your domain name, and your initial layout. Once you take off, you’ll be able to consider additional features like chatbots and interactive widgets, but for now, it’s best to focus on the simple things since they’ll set the conditions for your early success (or lack thereof).

Hosting Your Online Store

We’ll start by examining the genesis of every online store: its hosting service. Every website is hosted somewhere unless you’re using an existing platform like Amazon to sell your products.

While the use of existing platforms might seem less labor intensive than purchasing your own domain name from a hosting service, it’s also less flexible.

Purchasing your own website and domain name from a hosting service gives you a much larger degree of control over your branding and the layout of your page, which can make it considerably more attractive to potential customers than a generic-looking page on someone else’s site.

Choosing Your Own Domain

If you decide to purchase your own domain name and page, you’ll have to make a couple of decisions. For starters, you’ll need to decide whether you want basic shared hosting or managed hosting, for which you’ll pay extra to have your site optimized for speed and accessibility.

You’ll also be able to choose whether to opt into e-commerce software that can help you build the infrastructure of your online store, such as a list of products and a checkout page.

Managed hosting and e-commerce software will be more expensive, but they’ll also take care of a lot of work for you. If you’re a first-timer who isn’t particularly tech-savvy or someone without a lot of time on your hands, these are both strong choices.

Choosing Your Domain Name

If you’ve decided to purchase your own website from a hosting service, you’ll have to choose your domain name, which can be trickier than it sounds, but it’s one of the most important parts of having an online store.

The domain name you buy from your hosting service needs to be a relevant phrase so that people will be able to find your site when they search for it—such as the name of your company, your products, or your services.

One Problem With Company Names

The biggest problem with using your company name is that many companies have relatively common names, and those names may already be in use as existing domains. If your online store is named something like “Good Muffins,” you might be out of luck.

However, if you were to make your domain name something like get-good-muffins.com, you might still be able to create a page that users can find easily. The key when it comes to successful domain names is relevancy to your business.

Basic Web Design

Once you’ve chosen your hosting service and purchased your domain name, you’ll want to focus mostly on designing your page. When it comes to web design, remember: basic is best, especially for first-timers.

Your customers don’t care about flair; they care about clarity and user-friendliness. An online store that displays products and prices in easy-to-see places and that has a streamlined checkout process will have better sales than one with lots of impressive multimedia content and no information.

Creating A Successful Startup

Creating a successful startup isn’t easy. It takes planning, time and money, but it doesn’t need to be overly complicated either.

Make sure you’re doing the simple things right, and you’ll have a major advantage over people who are doing the ambitious things wrong.

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