Having a strong brand name gives you an immediate advantage when you're first starting your business. As Marty Neumeier writes in The Brand Gap, “The right name can be a brand’s most valuable asset, driving differentiation and speeding acceptance. The wrong name can cost millions... in workarounds and lost income over the lifetime of the brand.”
It's important to find the right name when setting up your online store to help it stand out from the crowd. Here are a few pointers on how to find that killer name.
Table of Contents
Tips for choosing a catchy business name
- Keep it short and simple
- Be different
- Consider your online presence
- Get creative with your domain name
- Be original
- Find new inspiration
1. Keep it short and simple
Having a short, snappy name is great for several reasons: It's memorable, easy to pronounce, and effortlessly fits in the header of your online store's homepage.
Finding one can be challenging, though. Brands are launched every day, and names that are appealing to you will undoubtedly appeal to someone else, too. Fortunately, it’s a big world and there’s plenty of room for creative, compelling brand names.
Here are a few strategies you can try to get your gears turning:
- Try different combinations of short words. Two short words that rhyme or that are alliterative (e.g. “Snack Shack”) can be more memorable.
- Make up a word or tweak an existing one. Tech brands like Google, eBay and Skype have instantly recognizable names, even though they aren't real words.
- Use a word with personal meaning. It might be a nickname you have for your significant other, your pet's name (a smart idea if your store relates to furry friends), or even your own name. Using a personal name makes your store easier to identify with on a personal level—though note that stores built on personal brands can be more difficult to sell.
2. Be different
Conduct market research to discover which names are taken by your direct competitors and try to come up with something completely different.
The challenge here is to come up with a name that reflects your niche and the type of products you're selling, without your business name mirroring your competitors. By definition, if you want to be different you have to ‘zig’ when others ‘zag’.
For instance, if you're selling electronics and technology products, you might have competitors who use words like "electronics," "technology" and "future" in their names. Avoid using similar words. Instead, think differently and stand out.
3. Consider your online presence
Once you have a list of options for your store name, find out if your chosen domain—preferably a .com—is available to be registered. This might be a bit difficult, given that .com is the most popular top-level domain (TLD) and has been for a long time.
Having a custom domain name for your store is mission-critical, though you shouldn’t let your search for the mythical “perfect” domain name cause you to procrastinate—everything is open to change, including your domain name. However, there is value in picking a solid domain name that properly represents your brand from the start, so it’s a decision that warrants some thought.
You might also consider selling on Amazon, eBay, Etsy or another third-party marketplace in addition to your own Shopify store. Even if that’s not in the plan, it’s a good idea to check your business name idea on popular ecommerce sites to make sure the names are available to you, and so that customers don’t confuse you with another existing business.
4. Get creative with your domain name
If the .com for your chosen name isn't available, don’t fret: You still have the option of using a different TLD. The reason .com is the gold standard is that everyone recognizes it, but that doesn’t rule out other TLDs, which are becoming more commonplace as great .com options continue to dwindle. And you can always grab the .com after your business has generated some traction.
When they first launched, Shopify store Tattly decided to go with a .ly domain making it www.tatt.ly. Since then, they’ve been able to purchase tattly.com, which is where their site currently lives.
While some search engine experts believe Google isn't as friendly to lesser-known domains, you should still be able to rank just as high as a .com if you have a high-quality site with a good user experience. Plus, going with a snazzy domain is far more unique.
Modifiers to consider:
- [YourBrand][Main Product] (e.g. helmboots.com)
- Shop[YourBrand].com (e.g. sandytoesshop.com)
- Get[YourProduct].com (e.g. getflow.com)
- [YourBrand]co.com (e.g. shopmeekco.com)
- [YourBrand][industry].com (e.g. lifeinspirithome.com)
- [Verb][YourBrand].com (e.g. wearpepper.com)
- [My/Your][YourBrand].com (e.g. mybillie.com)
TLDs to consider:
- Based on the product you sell (.shoes, .art)
- Continuation of your brand name (e.g. muvo.health for “Muvo Health Supplements”, or feugo.clothing for “Fuego Clothing Co.”)
5. Be original
Make sure you're legally allowed to use the business name you've come up with. For store owners in the U.S., start by checking The United States Patent and Trademark Office. They have a free database that's a pain in the butt to search, but it's well worth the effort.
Also note, the U.S. doesn't have a centralized national register, so trademarks can be made in another country, or even another state. In Canada, you can search through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website, which is also pretty confusing. The only safe way to be 100% sure is by consulting a lawyer.
Once you’ve determined your name is available, go to Google or Bing and see if the names on your list show up. Could you potentially make it to the top of the first page? If you choose a generic name, you’ll have a tough time ranking very well.
It’s also important to check Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites you'll want to use for availability.
6. Find new inspiration
If you’re short on business name ideas, you might want to give yourself themes to think about. Maybe you look for a business name that has nostalgia or speaks to a trend. Other languages can provide plenty of ideas, too.
Inspiration can strike anywhere. Listen to conversations around you, survey your surroundings, and even consider your usual expressions and mannerisms.
Examples of great business names
- Death Wish Coffee
- Super Ink Clothing
- The Sock Market
- Coffee Joulies
- Fuego Box
- Conquest Maps
- Star Cadet
- United By Blue
A name like Death Wish Coffee can only mean one thing: This is some of the strongest coffee you can buy. The name sets the tone for the brand experience, as does the copy on their website and other marketing channels. It positions the product as some of the strongest stuff on the market, and customers will have to try it to find out if it lives up to its promise.
Super Ink Clothing sells printed clothing and accessories to a very specific demographic. “Our paradise lifestyle was made for creative individuals who constantly live in a state of wanderlust!” their About page states. To create their compound name, the brand combined the word “super,” which is associated with positivity and quality, and “ink,” which brings in the idea of the ink printed on the clothing. If you’re stuck between two ideas or words for your store name, you might not have to choose one over the other.
The Sock Market has taken a more literal approach to their brand name. The online store sells socks for people of all ages, from babies to adults. Built on the philosophy of bringing high fashion to the sock industry, the name for the online store indicates that it is “the” place to go to for all your sock needs.
There are two meanings for the word “Cotopaxi.” One is a sacred and active volcano in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. The other is an online store that sells outdoor gear. Rather than inventing a word or coming up with a name from scratch, Cotopaxi borrowed the name from a famous landmark that’s relevant and interesting to their customer base. They even share the story behind the name on their site.
Coffee Joulies are fake coffee beans that are thermodynamic, so when you place them into your cup of coffee, they’ll help get it to the perfect temperature. So where did the word “joulies” come from? “Joule is the SI unit of energy; Joule… Joulie… Joulies!” the founders explained in a 2011 article. They found a word that embodied the science they put into the product, and tweaked it to make it their own and more memorable for customers.
6. Fuego Box
Fuego is the Spanish word for “fire,” which is quite fitting for an online store that sells hot sauce subscription boxes. The subscription box industry has grown exponentially. Worldwide subscription ecommerce sales increased 4,461% from 2011 to 2016. Many of the most popular brands in this category have box in their name: BarkBox, Birchbox and NatureBox, to name a few. Fuego Box plays on the familiarity of the word box, and a foreign language to hit on the product.
Conquest Maps sells beautiful and unique maps, their core product being the pin board map which is popular among people who love to travel. Keeping the name of the product, maps, in the store name, they added a descriptor in front to convey the brand identity and the journey that the products represent. A conquest is a trip, and customers are reliving their trips through Conquest Maps products.
8. Star Cadet
Star Cadet is the result of a series of media, retail and ecommerce business ventures, dating back to 2010. Star Cadet’s brand story is quite long and eventful, with several failed and successful businesses along the way. Formerly called Olan Rogers Supply, a name derived of the founders name, the online brand changed its name to Star Cadet, which also works for the business’s production aspirations for the future. Here’s what founder Olaf Rogers has to say about it:
Storq sells products for pregnant women and new moms. Pronounced like “stork,” it’s a unique take on spelling the word. Storks are associated with childbirth, which makes for a fitting and memorable brand name. Plus, the letter Q lends itself to fun branding and design treatments.
10. United By Blue
United By Blue is more than just a brand; they’ve created a movement around sustainability and protecting the earth’s oceans and waterways. They sell products designed for enjoying the outdoors. Their customers are quite literally united together and with the brand by their passion for the ocean, rivers, lakes and streams. It establishes a sense of community and reiterates the brand’s philosophies.
What’s in a name?
Finding the right brand name can feel like a daunting task. But it’s absolutely crucial to put time and thought into naming your online store. That’s how customers will come to know, recognize and talk about you — and if the name’s too difficult to remember, you’re missing out on loads of word-of-mouth marketing that doesn’t cost you a single penny.
Question: Which businesses out there have you seen with awesome names? What business names have you been toying with?
Illustration by Eugenia Mello