The way we shop has changed dramatically over the years and by 2020 experts are predicting that 90% of transactions will take place online or be influenced by the internet. Businesses have been using websites to generate additional revenue for a long time, however in recent years there has been significant growth in online start-up businesses. With an online business you have the potential to reach millions instead of relying on who walks through the door, there is less risk, cost and effort.
Thousands of people set up their own online business every year. They all have valid reasons for doing this-wanting to work for themselves, spotting potential gaps in the market and the dream of making lots of money! And why wouldn’t you! In order to succeed a good business plan is needed as well as your commitment and motivation.
Write a business plan
The plan must clearly show the results from your research and how you intend to turn your idea into a business. There is help available online with writing a business plan. It should showcase your vision for the business, where you want to take it and how you plan on getting there.
As with any business regardless of its size, you need to conduct some research to identify your market before you start anything. Identify who your customer is, talk to stakeholders and get some feedback. Asses the competition and set a pricing strategy. Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board if you find a flaw in your idea, a weakness now will cost you money in the long run.
Register your Business
According to law you need to register your business, you will need a business name in order to do this. You will also need to register a domain name. Think of something relevant to your business, short and catchy and easy for people to remember. Visit a domain registration company to test some names to see if they are available. Once you have found one you like, get it registered!
Create a website
The first thing you need to decide here is whether you create your own website or get someone to do it for you. If you do it yourself you are saving money, however the results might not be as good as a website designer doing it for you. Paying a professional will get you better results, if you choose to do this set a clear budget and brief to help minimize the cost, it’s easy to get carried away. Remember your site needs to reflect what you are selling, and it needs to be engaging and easy for your customers to use. Communicate with your developer on a regular basis to ensure you get exactly what you want.
Display important information
As an online business there is certain information that must be displayed on it:
- Your address
- Contact details
- Terms and conditions
- Exchange and refund policy
- Quality commitment
- Delivery details
- Payment information
You need to keep your stock availability up to date along with pricing, VAT and what the postage and packaging costs are per item. It is better to have this information readily available for your customer so that their user experience is as pleasant as possible.
Set up a merchant account
You will need a shopping cart function and secure means by which your customers can pay. Web developers should provide you with this. Ensure you request a security certificate also known as an SSL. This will secure your transactions and any data. Think about using PayPal to collect payments but don’t dismiss your bank. It is worth enquiring with them as to what they can provide for you.
Create a brand
Once you have your business plan you can work on creating your brand. You may already have a logo which is great, now you can begin to think about how you want your brand to look and feel. Consider how you would like customers to perceive your brand as well as your employees.
From this you can create a brand strategy which will feed into your marketing efforts. Thinking about your brand in the early planning stages will ensure you have branding success.
Spread the word
Whatever your business, wherever you are you need to be social. Get your name out there and in the air. Opt for the business accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If appropriate to your product think about Pinterest, YouTube and Tumblr. There are so many social media channels out there but you haven’t got time to use them all, be selective and concentrate on a few. Provide them with quality, engaging content and you will see the rewards. Whichever you choose remember to be proactive with them, an inactive account will reflect badly on your business.
With all this in place you have the infrastructure to start running a successful online business. However remember that this isn’t without risk, make sure your website is protected from online threats and back up any important data. Test your website before launching it so you know it’s ready and at its best ready for your online customers.