Starting an online business makes sense. More and more people are running their businesses and doing their personal transactions online.
Whether you want to make your new business online-only or create a more fluid experience for your customers between your bricks-and-mortar and digital spaces, here are some things to look out for.
Starting an online business
So, you are starting your new online business.
Just like any other business, you need to establish what product or services you are going to offer.
It could be something fresh and unique, something that already exists but done better, or something that totally disrupts the market. Whichever path you go down, you need to research your market and, at this stage, create some established business and marketing plans.
Ask yourself – who will be your customers? How are they going to find you, and how are they going to buy from you?
Naming and registering your online business
It doesn’t matter if you plan for the business to operate purely on socials, e-commerce platforms or to create a website; your business needs a name to exist!
If you go down the website route, the first step is acquiring a domain name. Choose something easy to remember and clearly associated with what your business offers.
Following on from this, you will need to consider either taking the brave step of using a website builder, like Wix or Elementor, to create a website yourself, or to hire external support from an agency or freelance specialist.
There will also be associated costs with setting up a professional email inbox and any software you choose to integrate with your website (although these may come further down the line after your website launches).
Another option is to use an online marketplace, such as Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. You can sell via Facebook and Instagram too.
You can also use these routes in conjunction with your own website or online store.
Branding and promoting your online business
What is your online business going to look like? You need to define your brand.
A practical first step is to design a logo and establish a ‘look and feel’ for your brand – a unique colour palette, font style, tone of voice, and so forth. It can be as few or as many elements as your like but remember; your website and e-commerce portal is your shop window.
Although something that can be done later, trademarking your company name/logo is an important step in the branding process. It’s quick to apply – although it can be several months until trademarks are officially registered – and can help eliminate business name ideas that are already taken.
You can check that out on the Government’s official trademark website.
Before you start encouraging people to visit your site, it is worth acknowledging that it can take a few months for noticeable traffic to start arriving and engaging with your content. This is because Google needs to properly index and score your site (known as SERP) and this automatic process can take time.
Meanwhile, you should be researching which keywords you want to feature on your site and create a brief search engine optimisation (SEO) plan. There is plenty of software, free and paid, that can help you with this, along with masses of articles and helpful guides.
Social media is a great way of building an audience – and you can speed this up by using paid advertising. Building a list of clients comes a bit later, but once you have done so, emailing your contacts with regular newsletters and updates helps to consolidate your brand and offer further.
Offline marketing channels may suit your product promotion better. Traditional methods, from flyers to out-of-home advertising can equally help drive people to your site.
E-commerce platforms for your online business
If you decide to manage your own sales, you will need an e-commerce platform, linked to your website.
Research or seek advice on the best e-commerce platform provider to use to help you manage your sales along with your marketing and operations.
Reliability, speed, security and flexibility are key considerations.
Integrating with your business software is something else that’s important to consider; ensure you look into whether you want you site hosted or in the cloud.
Most e-commerce platforms are run as a service (SaaS), so you will make regular payments. Try to find a solution that works for you and can adapt to your business needs.