In this “How to Start an Online Business” guide and in related posts that are linked to it, we will guide you through the process of earning money by launching your own online retail business. You can find other examples of how to start an online business by checking our freelancing and blogging guides.
The digital world has skyrocketed exponentially, given the increasing demand for virtual consumers. The ease of online purchasing has enticed consumers to go digital.
Online presence increases your brand awareness, attracts new customers and saves on operational costs. It also allows a convenient and easy way for customers to access your product.
Whether you are starting a new online business or building one for your already established business, there are a number of steps you should consider before taking the plunge.
To give you a practical step by step guide, we will take an example of how to start an online business that sells products on the internet – an e-c0mmerce store. E-commerce is growing at a very fast pace and provides you with an opportunity to put your products in front of a target audience at a very low cost compared with having to open up an actual retail store. On the other hand, there are many sites like www.shopify.com that allow you to set up your store without any technical expertise.
So let’s get to it and detail how to start an online business.
Planning before you start your online business
As with every business decision, a plan must be established. A business plan helps you to ascertain a roadmap for your business’ operation. Without effectively planning you tend to lose sight of achieving both short and long-term goals. The same goes for your online site.
To help yourself answer the question of how to start an online business successfully, start off with documenting your business model with ideas that’ll make you money.
If your online site is a new business venture, first consider whether there is a market for your product. If your online site is for an already established business, then consider which products you will offer.
Domain Name and Webhost Options for your online business
Prior to the design stage of your site, the choice of your domain name and web host is essential. The domain name is the forefront description of what your company is all about. Your web host is also crucial because it’s the platform on which your website will run on. The type of web host determines how smoothly and reliably your site will function.
Designing your Online Business Website
How to start an online business requires that you pay attention to the user experience across all touchpoints. One of the most important of these touchpoints is your website and here are a few tips for you to consider:
• Your site should replicate your existing company image (i.e. logo design, colors, company information). It needs to properly articulate your brand image.
• Even with the most creative sites and design excellence on board, customers are also looking for a smooth process. Therefore, the site should support user-friendly interaction. The overall experience should be one that is easy to navigate; from when they land on your page right through to making a purchase. Make sure that your website is pre-tested and is void of page/image loading glitches as well as ordering processing mishaps. You don’t want to lose your customers from the get-go.
• The site should have visible links to your associated social media platforms.
• Given the increased use of mobile and tablet technologies for online browsing and purchasing, you need to make sure that your site is accommodated for multiple browsers and device compatibility.
• Provide images that match your products being offered. Images provide a visual interpretation for customers. It helps them to identify if they have found the product they are seeking.
• Provide descriptive details of the product(s). This can include product dimensions, colors, availability, and any other related information. You could also provide links to other products that relate to their chosen product choice. This is also a great way to upsell other products and increase profits.
• You should consider providing whether the product is available or not. Customers can find it extremely frustrating to find out that the product ordered is actually unavailable.
Available Purchase Methods for your Online Business Consumers
How do you start an online business that would allow your clients to pay seamlessly? Nowadays, solely relying on Visa and MasterCard payment options is not enough. You need to provide the most desirable options that your customers may use. Other options include PayPal, Paymate, QuickBooks Payments, and E-way. These are great alternatives that many use, as they are not linked directly to their banking details.
Securing your Customers Details and Payments in your Online Business
How to start an online business that is secure? The nature of online security is vital to your success. Your customers should feel that their information and payment processing is secure. This needs to be effectively conveyed when they are entering their personal details (contact and payment information).
Make sure that your site uses a known security platform that ensures peace of mind transactions. In addition, keep your security features updated and monitored. Not doing this will reduce your company’s credibility. This also pertains to keeping your site safe from hackers taking over it. Imagine all your hard work of establishing a great website, yet only losing it to a hacker!
Provide Delivery Options and Dates
Be sure to give customers a choice regarding shipping options; standard, upgraded or international delivery. Depending on the product(s) being offered you may also set an option to collect in-store.
In addition, you should specify delivery dates and times. That is, their order will arrive within or before a certain time; by 2 pm between 10and 4 pm, for example. Successful online retailers always provide specific dates and time, so not to keep their customers second-guessing and stressed when their shipment will arrive. This is especially crucial during festive seasons.
Many websites offer free shipping. The advantage is double-sided; it can increase your customer’s sale order and also act as a promotional strategy. If, let’s say, that the average customer order is $50, then provide free shipping on orders over $75. For orders below that, offer a flat shipping rate.
Confirmations and Receipts
It is vital for customers to receive confirmation and receipt that their order has been successfully processed. Consider using a receipt maker to make customized options for each customer or client. Provide a branded email that details the requested order. In addition, set up a link that tracks their order status via your website. Redirecting your customers back to your site can also instigate additional orders.
Set Up A Return Policy for your Online Business
What can make your online experience a success, over others, is your return policy. Even if customers don’t intend on returning their purchase, offering a return policy increases your company’s credibility and reputation.
How to start an online business that keeps customers and generates good referrals? Customer service is key! Customer service is always a must in any form of business. One of your goals should be to satisfy customers and retain them.
By putting in place a call center or an online chat feature, customers feel that they are able to reach out for help, whether it is to ask for more information or make a complaint. Not only does this increase your online credibility, but also a communication medium to enhance trust and loyalty with customers.
Marketing and Advertising Your Online Business
Without effective and advertising mediums in place, how can you create online success? The great thing about online selling is that you don’t require a huge financial budget.
Get connected with social media platforms, understand SEO tricks or take on paid online advertising. Regardless of the choices made, this is crucial in further, boosting your brands’ awareness, driving leads back to your site and of course, increasing sales.
How to start an online business and keep it growing?
Google Analytics is a great tool to track how well your website is performing. Tracking your growth allows key insight into what is driving your online sales. It analyzes and monitors where web traffic is coming from, which browsers your customers are using, the keywords that are being used to reach your website and how customers are landing on your page.
Doing this permits you to identify how to further expand and grow your online business more successful.
Consider Opening a Dropshipping Business
One business model we want to highlight is the dropshipping model.
Dropshipping is often a low-risk business venture because you don’t hold on to inventory and only pay for products after a customer purchases them. Startup costs are minimal, as you’ll only need a computer, website, and internet connection. You can also run your startup by yourself.
Startup owners can automate most of their business operations. For example, these top dropshipping automation tools can do everything from email marketing to product management with little manual input.
If you want to open a dropshipping business, understand that the market is saturated. However, it’s still possible to succeed with stellar marketing, good suppliers, and a unique product.
The basis for online success is to provide a site that customers can easily find, be simple in navigating products and be voided of problems when placing an order. It should also be one where customers receive orders in good condition, are on time, and be returned, if dissatisfied.
These may seem simple, but without these basic elements, your efforts to start an online business may fail. When allowing an efficient and user-friendly online process experience, customers will surely want to come back for more and more!
We hope that this How to Start an online business guide will help propel you into a successful entrepreneurship career. Take a minute to check out the popular guides at the top of the page to empower you to succeed in the journey.