How to Start an Online Store

There’s never been a better time to build an online store: ecommerce is booming. According to Chain Store Age, online stores made $575 billion in sales in 2019, accounting for close to half of all growth in retail sales. And it’s not just Amazon that’s getting in on the action. If you’re an entrepreneur, artisan, or artist, sell your wares online with ease. But first, you need a website. That’s where Constant Contact’s online store website builder comes in.

A lack of coding knowledge is no longer an excuse. With a website builder, it’s possible to create a beautiful, functional ecommerce store, all without hiring expensive graphic designers or coders. If you’re wondering how to start an online store, look no further. This guide breaks the process into five easy steps:

  1. Design and build your website
  2. Customize your template
  3. Choose the right domain name for your new website
  4. Stock your ecommerce store with your products
  5. Reach out and connect with your customers

As soon as you’ve taken these steps, your store will be ready to launch.

1. Design and build your website

The online marketplace is crowded, so the first step to starting an online store is designing an attractive, focused website. What’s unique about your store and brand? 

Building your own website allows you to continue brainstorming ways to express your vision. Start by picking a name and online store design. From there, start filling out your website with content.

Choose a Name and Design a logo

Do you already have a store name? If not, focus on something short and catchy over something that describes your product or service. After all, there’s something more intriguing about “Uber” than “Rides on Demand,” and “Sephora” is more alluring than “High-End Beauty Superstore.” When in doubt, describe your services and then make an acronym—it worked for AOL, and it can work for you too. 

One last tip: Be sure that the company name isn’t already taken.

Once you have your name, you’re ready to create a store logo — no graphic design know-how required. Constant Contact makes it easy. To create your logo using our logo maker, just follow these steps:

  • Enter your business name (and a slogan if you have one)
  • View designs related to your keywords
  • Click “more” if you don’t see one you like (but keep in mind it’s easy to change colors and fonts in the next step)
  • Once you see a design that’s close to your vibe, start experimenting with fonts, symbols, and colors to arrive at the perfect logo.

Once you’re done, you can purchase and download a high-definition image that’s ready for use on your website, in your newsletter, on your social media channels, on your products, in your packaging, and more.

2. Customize your template

Using our online store builder, enter the kind of store you’re starting. You’ll see a smart template right away. Next, select a header image for your homepage. A good header image for your online store could include:

  • A selection of your products
  • A photograph that speaks to your brand identity
  • A photo of a satisfied customer
  • Stock imagery related to your industry

After you’ve chosen a header image from your library, the web, or Constant Contact’s selection of pictures, begin customizing your site.

Choose a color scheme

Your logo and header image already introduce some of the central colors for your online store. New to graphic design? Constant Contact has your back. Use the store builder’s smart A.I. tools to make sure your text and background colors complement each other. With the store builder:

  • Preview “Light” and “Dark” color schemes to see which looks better with your image and logo. A dark image might look good contrasted with a light color scheme, and vice versa.
  • Explore “Minimal,” “Bright,” and “Pastel” color palettes to see how each affects your site’s look and feel. As above, a minimal color scheme could compliment a technicolor image, while a bright color scheme could add pizzazz to a black and white header image and logo.
  • If you don’t find a theme you like, keep clicking “More” until you see a color scheme that makes your site pop.
  • Is a single color in your scheme a little off? Handpick the colors for your button, text, and subtitles yourself.

Once you’ve chosen your colors, start adjusting the way your text appears.

Choose your fonts

Make sure your page and navigation text look good next to your logo. If you’re new to pairing different typefaces, follow a few general rules:

  • Sans-serif fonts are easiest to read. This makes them a good choice for any areas on your website that feature a lot of text.
  • Using too many fonts can make a site feel crowded and confused. Three or fewer fonts is a good amount of variety.
  • To make titles and texts pop, use bold, italics, and underline.

With these choices made, you’re ready to start filling your pages with content.

Create content for your pages

As you create your online shop, start with three central pages before you start building your store:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Contact page

As your store grows, create an FAQ page, a blog, and more. To begin with, though, focus on these three important pages.

Have a good first impression with the Home page

Once you’ve customized your fonts and imagery, finish designing your Home page. For an online store, be sure to:

  • Include a menu – While continuous scroll pages look great on mobile phones, they’re not ideal for browsing products. Make it easy for users to navigate to the products they want without continuously scrolling.
  • Incorporate text – Use your Home page as an opportunity to introduce readers to your store’s unique story. Be sure to:
    • Include a short description of your store, or even a few reviews and testimonials. Aim for less than 300 words of text. If you’re going for a minimalist approach, 100 words could be enough. 
    • Make sure your text appears before a visitor has to scroll (on the web or on their phone).
    • Include a “call to action” (CTA): a button that directs users to view your newest product or browse your entire line.

See the people behind the company with the About page

When you decide to launch your store, you’ll spend time considering what makes your products and approach special. Use your About page to put this into writing. In the process, make sure your website shows up in search engines.

Marketers have a term for the steps that go towards boosting your web page in search engine results: Search Engine Optimization (SEO). To make sure your About page is SEO optimized:

  • Write between 300-500 words
  • Include keywords or questions your customers might search for, especially if you have a niche or specialty product: “hand-spun yarn,” “artisan-made sunscreen,” “San Francisco local artist t-shirts.”

When you’ve finished writing your store description, continue the website SEO process: 

  • Click the “preferences” widget for the About page
  • Toggle from “Settings” to “SEO”
  • Add a short, 2-3 sentence description of your About page as a whole, including those keywords and questions. This will show up in search results under the link for your page.
  • Preview your page’s appearance in Google search results to make sure your description looks the way you want it to

Tip: Use this SEO process on every page, not just your About page, to make sure different parts of your site show up in search engines.

Be reachable with the Contact page

Hopefully, you’ll soon have customers reaching out to ask questions, make requests, and offer rave views. See our guide on how to drive traffic to your online store to speed up the process. Eventually, you will receive PR inquiries and advertising offers. To make sure visitors can get in touch, include:

  • Links to your social media accounts
  • A contact email
  • An address and phone number (if you want visitors to have this info)
  • Consider adding a “contact” form directly in the page

3. Choose the right domain name for your new website

Your store already has a name and a logo. Next, make sure that customers can easily navigate to your site. Make sure to choose a domain name that’s close to your business name.

If your store shares its name with another website, add a few words related to your location (city, state, or even street) at the end of your name. A cooking supply store called Pie Place, for example, could consider domain names like:

  • PiePlaceATL.com
  • PiePlaceGA.com
  • PiePlace17th.com

If you’re an ecommerce store without a brick and mortar location, use the above solution — or maybe it’s just not your taste. Constant Contact offers another hack: domain name search to find domain name endings other than the popular .com, .org, and .net. Some options for your online store include:

  • .us
  • .buzz
  • .biz
  • .info
  • .xyz

When you search your store name, view the availability of each option, as well as its yearly price. Once you’ve found the name that suits your store, all that’s left is to stock your inventory and cut the metaphorical opening ribbon. 

4. Stock your eCommerce store with your products 

So far, we’ve gone over three essential pages for your new website. But of course, you need a store page, too! It’s so important, it deserves its own section.

In the past, it was difficult to learn how to create an online store and integrate it with a website.

Today, Constant Contact makes it easy by building your store directly inside your site. 

To build your store:

  • Navigate to your Constant Contact home page
  • Click “Store” under “Websites” in the upper toolbar
  • Click “Create your store”
  • Add your first item. Enter:
    • A title
    • A description (don’t forget those SEO lessons!)
    • An image
  • Fill out your store details. This includes your:
    • Business name
    • Address
    • Payment method
    • Store category

Congratulations! You now have an online store right inside your fully built website (and on its navigation menu). Next, use Constant Contact’s tools to customize the way your store appears on your site. 

When you want to add more items, go directly to your “store” portal after logging in to Constant Contact. Here, you’ll keep track of inventory, add new products and descriptions, and track analytics, all without needing to adjust your website itself as your inventory grows.

5. Reach out and connect with your customers

As a small business, it’s important that you have ways to connect with past and future customers to let them know about sales and promotions, new products, and changes to your business. You may be planning to center your strategy around social media and word-of-mouth. However, when it comes to growing your audience, there’s no tool more powerful than a newsletter.

When you create your store on Constant Contact, create your email newsletter template right alongside your site. And start populating your subscriber list with addresses right away:

  • Integrate your existing Constant Contact newsletter with your new website
  • Either import, or manually add contacts to your new newsletter, or add friends and family one-by-one
  • Encourage site visitors to get on your list with a call to action in the form of a “subscribe” button on your home page
  • In addition, Constant Contact’s newsletter integration will add every customer who makes a purchase to your email list

With your contacts synced up with your subscriber list, you’re ready to advertise your new store’s grand opening. As your list grows and people start making purchases, continue to retarget customers through your email newsletter promotions. 

Start making sales

Constant Contact’s A.I.-driven website builder makes it easy to start your own ecommerce store. Our smart database helps you to create a logo and sales channel as unique as your brand and product line. Once your site is ready to go and your online store has products added, you can purchase a website plan and publish your site to start making sales!

Now that you know how to set up an online store, it seems worth it, doesn’t it? All you have to do to get your sales portal up and running is:

  • Use the online store builder to create your website
  • Fill out your three main pages with content
  • Create your sales channel and add your products

From there, your store starts to do the work for you. Thanks to its smart tools, your site will begin to show up in search engines and collect email addresses for your email list. As you start keeping track of your analytics, see which sales and promotions hook visitors, and make adjustments to your store whenever you need to. With Constant Contact’s user-friendly tools, you’ll soon join the ranks of online entrepreneurs and see your business grow and grow.

For more information and resources, see our guide to ecommerce!

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