Guidelines for choosing a name for your online store
Choosing a name is both an art and a science. As you think through your choices, these guidelines can help you through the process.
1. Make a list
Brainstorm and write down all the words and phrases that feel relevant to the store or business you’re creating. Be creative, but also keep it simple. Consider words and phrases that fit the brand identity you’re cultivating. Use available tools, like dictionaries, a thesaurus, and online business name generators for ideas. Anything goes at this point.
2. Narrow it down
Start eliminating the words and phrases that don’t resonate and prioritize the ones that do. Short and catchy is usually best, so start thinking about what will be easy for your average customers to type into an online search or pronounce to a friend. Start checking for domain availability for the best options. (More on this later.) Make sure your final list has at least one very literal name. For example, Five Guys Burgers and Fries says exactly what it sells. To cover another base, make sure you have at least one option that incorporates your name or some other personal detail. (Think of McKinsey and Company, the consulting firm.) Other options you might include are acronyms, as in AT&T, or simple but thought-provoking words, like Google or Apple.
3. Get creative
Words that rhyme or that start with the same letter can be good options. Another may be to make up a word or modify an existing word—either in pronunciation or spelling (think Flickr) to create a brand name that makes people think. Beware of being too offbeat or choosing something that resonates with you but would confound your target audience. Not everyone gets a play on words or a subtle reference. Many times, literal, descriptive brand names of 1 or 2 words work best.
4. Compare and test
Look up your competitors and compare your online store name ideas to theirs. Make sure you can stand out and attract customers away from existing brands rather than appearing to be another cookie-cutter version of similar businesses. Conduct tests with friends to see what resonates with them. Ask if the name embodies the business. Is it easy to pronounce, spell, and remember?
5. Make sure the name you want is available
Besides checking the domain name, check social media platforms to see if your brand name is available as a username. Also, if you’re in the US, check the US Patent and Trademark Office to see if your brand is legally open for you to trademark. Then, make sure to grab your domain name and social media accounts while they’re still available.
Registering your business makes it a legal company, allowing you to create a brand and build better, more trustworthy relationships with customers. When registering your business, you must choose a business structure. Depending on your business, you may be a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or C-Corp. This is also the time when you'll register your business name or DBA.
When registering your business, you'll need to register with the IRS, and state and local agencies. The IRS will give you an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes. Meanwhile, you'll also need to register with your state, especially if you have employees and will be responsible for payroll taxes.
As you narrow down your choice and finally select a name, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind.
- Avoid alternative spellings that may be hard to remember.
- Don’t choose a name that speaks to limited products or services, in case your business expands or diversifies later.
- Think twice before including place names in your business name if you might expand into a franchise. Also, specific geographic names can give the wrong impression when a store is virtual instead of physical.