The Entrepreneur's Checklist to Selling Online

Ready to join the ranks of successful entrepreneurs but unsure where or how to start?

Today is the perfect time to set up shop and start selling goods or services online with the sophistication of a major retail brand. By taking a few relatively easy steps, you can be up and running in a matter of days, if not hours.

Here you'll find 10 easy steps to get set up for success selling online:

  1. Secure a Domain
  2. Select a Theme
  3. Add Products to Your Website
  4. Set Up Your Store Page
  5. Organize Your Store
  6. Set Up Taxes
  7. Set Up Shipping
  8. Develop Your Branding
  9. Market Your Store
  10. Savor the Experience

1. Secure a Domain

Secure-a-domain

First, you'll want to create a memorable, appealing domain name that relates to your business.

Dang Shades sells its sunglasses on its namesake website, www.dangshades.com, while Blue Mountain Vineyards tells its story and offers its reds and whites, wine club memberships and special event tickets at www.bluemountainwine.com.

A short, simple domain name that identifies the kind of business you own is a good place to start; try to keep it to no more than 20 characters. You can search possible domain names to see if the one you want is available and explore possible alternatives.

Register your domain so it's yours alone; choosing a multi-year registration will help you land higher in Google rankings and avoid an unintended expiration.

2. Select a Theme

Select-a-theme-for-your-website

The theme, or template, you choose for your online store will set the tone for your visitors. Just as they do in a brick-and-mortar store, shoppers want to experience a well-designed, attractive environment that's easy to navigate as they explore the merchandise.

Whether your store exudes a homey, rustic vibe or a sleek, urbane image, a good theme provides the structural framework to support your vision.

We offer several enticing themes, like Squared, Birdseye 2 and Unite, designed especially for eCommerce. Choose the option that helps you best showcase your goods or services.

Plus, adding features like site search, newsletter subscription and a chat app can help give your online store the look and feel of a major internet retailer.

3. Add Products to Your Website

Add-Products-to-Your-Website

Compelling product pages are vital to selling your merchandise. This is where you tell a story about each of your wares, providing an appealing description and copy that will inspire and motivate shoppers to put it into the shopping cart. If you have a way with words, have fun writing the descriptions yourself; if not, consider hiring a professional freelance copywriter.

Focus on product features, such as color, size, scent, taste, sound, materials and uses, and remember to include the price. Whether you use a professional photographer or the camera on your mobile phone, make sure you use high-quality, clear photos to showcase your merchandise.

To draw in shoppers searching Google for items like yours, use an effective title tag for each page with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. Keep the tags — a brief, appealing description of your product, with keywords — to 60 or fewer characters.

To create title tags, go to your store page, then navigate to Products > SEO Settings > Page Title. (You can take similar steps for every page on your site.)

4. Set Up Your Store Page

Consumers may look for basic information about your store or business, and you'll need to provide an address to use the automatic tax calculator and real time shipping features.

To add basic store information, go to the Store > Setup > Edit to fill in your store name, address, email and phone number. This information will appear on your business's invoices, email and orders; it will also show up as your shipping address, unless you provide different data when you set up shipping.

5. Organize Your Store

Organize-Your-Store-with-Categories

The visual appeal of your store is important, as is its clarity and simplicity for shoppers trying to find their way around it. If they get lost in the weeds, they're more likely to miss out on cool products and information, or simply leave in frustration.

Organizing your store with categories will help customers navigate it easily. You can easily list products in more than one category — a sweater might be entered under "sale," "women" and "seasonal," for instance — so shoppers can find them when they click on any relevant department.

Make sure that each page has a clear, simple purpose, and in turn take care to keep your entire site streamlined and elegant. In fact, a clean, charming landing page could be the most effective way of inviting consumers to explore your store. Think of it as digital curb appeal.

Your store will automatically have a navigation bar, but it's generally best to customize the site with a few key categories so visitors can quickly find merchandise, shopping cart, checkout and important details, such as contact info, your "story" or "about" page, events or a blog, without being overloaded.

You can also guide visitors with dropdown menus or an engaging table of contents.

To create categories, go to your Store > Products > Categories. You can customize these listings by uploading photos and changing headers under Display options.

6. Set Up Taxes

Calculating sales taxes can be complicated, with store locations, customer addresses and various state laws coming into play.

Fortunately, the automatic tax calculator can provide some help to online stores based in and shipping to U.S. addresses, and using the Business plan or higher, by taking the figuring off your hands.

Other origins or destinations require manual setup based on province, territory or country, although rates are pre-populated for Canadian addresses and we provide help to determine rates for other locations.

Click onto your Store > Setup > Taxes to establish your business's sales tax rates. You'll need to provide all your store locations if you have more than one.

7. Set Up Shipping

Set-Up-Shipping

To add shipping, go to Store > Setup > Shipping > Shipping address. There, you can enter a new address or use the one from your store setup page.

For the nuts and bolts of your shipping operation, including shipping rates and carriers, you have a number of choices. Whatever route you go, we can help your online business set up a professional logistics process.

The Shippo app allows you to create labels, compare rates among multiple shippers including FedEx, UPS, DHL and the U.S. Postal Service, and enjoy shipping discounts. The app also offers automatic tracking and customer email notifications.

If you're on the Performance Plan and use Shippo, you may choose real time shipping (RTS), which at checkout shows your customers shipping rates generated by your selected carriers based on the contents of each order. You can add to or subtract a percentage or dollar amount from the shipper's rate if you choose.

To use RTS, which covers shipments originating in North America, you'll need to know the weight of your merchandise and the dimensions and weight capacity of boxes you'll use; we set a default shipping box, which you're free to change.

Rather than using RTS, you may choose, instead, to configure and enter shipping rates manually based on various factors, including customer location and order weight, price or item numbers. Or you can mix RTS and manual shipping rates.

You may decide to use a flat rate for all orders, or offer free shipping to help win the sale.

If you're selling products like clothing, phone cases, posters, mugs or towels based on your own designs, you can use the Printful app for your online store and leave all the printing, shipping and handling to them.

Whatever shipping decisions you make, you can enter the specifics under Shipping > Rules.

8. Develop Your Branding

Develop-Your-Branding

Branding is more than your company's name. It's your story, your values and the look and feel of your online business. Website design, store logo, photography, fonts, color, storytelling — product descriptions included — all establish your branding.

It's a chance to use your creativity to make your store a bit of an adventure, for you and your customers.

StayJax uses their Our Story page to reinforce their value proposition and let customers know the personal and funny story behind bringing their idea to life.

An embedded landing page video, with a note that StayJax keeps your car clean and your pup safe, quickly informs shoppers of the benefit of the product in an engaging way.

The pet-friendly dog mat company has crafted an appealing and professional website design that matches their brand. The images showcase the product in action, with a dog in a car, and on a clean white background that shows shoppers the details of the product.

What are the values you hope your brand will convey? Start by defining a few primary thoughts on your company's goals or vision, and then writing down key words that you connect to the business.

Once you've chosen the descriptions that suit your store, consider the looks that will capture those themes.

Readily available tools, including video backgrounds, flexible headers, a logo upload feature and the ability to express yourself with your typeface, will help you build the precise brand image you want shoppers to see, and remember, when they encounter your business.

9. Market Your Store

Market-Your-Store

Once you've set up your beautiful, enticing online shop, you'll want to let people know it's there and keep your customers coming back. You have a number of helpful marketing tools at your disposal.

Get creative with social media, using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or all three, to help drive traffic to your store. You might offer a gift card or another giveaway to the first 50 customers, or a coupon for all shoppers.

You can use social media effectively to tell your story, start a conversation with visitors, showcase products, promote special events, post photos and updates and let customers share their experiences with you.

Avoid letting your social media platforms come across as heavy handed sales channels. You're aiming to engage with customers, to develop a relationship with them, build loyalty and drive their interest in your business. Be prepared to respond to their comments, whether positive or negative, in a friendly, upbeat manner.

The Performance plan also allows you to craft gift cards for your store, and the Business and higher-level plans enable you to offer coupon codes.

Use Promote to whip up sophisticated, customized email campaigns, capture leads and add contacts.

Using Google Analytics with your website provides data so you know whether you're on the right track and where you might need to make changes. You'll learn who visited your store, how they found it, what they did on the site and whether they made purchases.

10. Savor The Experience

While launching your online store may involve many steps and much to remember, keep in mind that it's a chance to show your ingenuity, express yourself and create a unique and profitable business.

Enjoy yourself while embarking on your entrepreneurial adventure, and keep in mind that any venture, online or off, is a work in progress. Keep what works, change what doesn't, grow and prosper!