So you want to start an online business? Or you probably have one running already but might need some tweaking here and there? The same way some things need to be put in place while starting an Offline Business, so does in an Online Business.
A lot more comes with starting and running a traditional business or office business compared to an online business. However, that does not mean that an online business does not require planning, management, or will not experience a crisis.
This means that, for your online store to grow and maintain, you may as well have to follow the process of starting and maintaining an offline business – traditional way of doing business.
Whether you are starting an online business as a side hustle or full-term self-employment, consider the following things that could set the pace for your business affecting its success.
Think through your Business Idea.
The fact that you want to start an online business means you already have an idea of what you want to do online. The products you want to sell or services you want to offer online.
Probably it’s your hobby you want to turn to side hustle or a skill you want to use to get extra money. Whatever the idea is, how concrete is it, and what problem are you solving in the market?
Why do you want to do this business online – your mission? Do you have the passion to push the business through?
Also, check if you have the expertise and the strengths you need to keep your business it going. There are definitely skills you need to push the type of idea you have and to keep your business running.
Understanding Your Customer and the Market.
Remember there is a problem you are trying to solve with your idea. And as you know the solution you want to bring, you have to know who is going to benefit from the solution. Who are you intending to sell your products to? Research and understand your customers – their needs, spending habits, where they are, the demographics, etc.
As you understand your customers, you need to understand the market you want to join. Who are your competitors and how are they doing business? Get to know the existing market prices, pricing models, market trends, distribution methods used, etc.
Research your competitors’ websites and social media pages and the feedback they get from their customers. Are there existing gaps in the market and what can you do as a new business to fill those gaps? Is there an element that will make you different and the better choice?
Consider a Business Plan.
So you have the idea, but do you have an online business plan of what you want to do and how you want to do it?
Most people never see the need for a business plan when it comes to online business and this is a mistake. For any type of business to succeed, you need proper planning and a business plan will help you do that.
You might not need a heavy detailed business but a lean business plan that you can come up in 30 minutes or 1 Hour with basic business essentials is necessary.
At least have a summary of what your business is all about and what your keys to success are. What elements do you think you will need to include in your business to make your business succeed? What are your business goals and what metrics will you use to measure success?
How are you going to fund your business, how much do you need to start and where will you get the funds? Business plans change as the business grows and for the simple fact that the reality of starting and running a business is different from the plan on paper. However, you still need the plan to go back to later and see how much progress you are making in accomplishing your goals.
Where to set up your business online.
Your business location is very important in determining your business growth and success. And in determining your online location is much easier than trying to get the right physical location.
There are several places online you can set up your business and you just need to find the right one for you.
Depending on your ‘location’ budget, you can decide to be in an E-commerce marketplace like Shopify, Amazon, Etsy, etc. And if you are not into the e-commerce marketplace, you can choose to have your own e-commerce site – your own website and domain.
In today’s era, most people are also opting to do their businesses on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, etc. Depending on your target audience and the size of your business, you can choose the best platform(s) to set up your business.
Consider if you can fully operate online without a need for a physical location or do you need both. For example, if you are offering services like Graphic Design, you might not need a physical location, you just need your laptop to do the work.
On the other hand, if you are running an e-commerce store that needs merchandise to be shipped, or delivered, you need a physical location for the packaging, etc. For instance your house or a small corner store/office in the CBD.
What are your marketing strategies?
Advertising and marketing your business is the real deal in an online business.
You need to know how you are going to do your marketing and advertising as you put your potential customers in mind. The marketing strategy you come up with will be influenced by who and where your potential customers are.
Your business being online, online marketing will do the thing for you. Know the right online platform, digital marketing tools, and marketing strategy for your business marketing and advertising needs.
The cheap and easily available platforms are Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, but again, it depends on where your audience is.
Do your research and find out other available platforms you can use to advertise and market your business. Find out the platforms and marketing strategies your competitors are using and see which you can incorporate.
Complete information about your business.
There is information that is very important and crucial to a buyer’s process and lack of it on time can make a potential customer change their mind and opt for your competitors.
For example, why is shipping fee information lacking in your website if you ship your products to customers countrywide?
Where are the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about your business – products, services?
If you have made some sales already, have some product/ service reviews available and testimonials.
Just make sure that any important information needed by a potential customer in the buying process is available on your website, e-commerce page, and social media pages.
Your Payment/banking methods.
Your business payment method or methods is key and it’s an element you need to think about especially if you have a wide customer base.
Online business requires a cashless payment method because you rarely/never get into physical contact with the customer. For instance, if you are doing shipping across the country or continent, you need to consider a payment method(s) acceptable internationally such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay or Google Pay.
If you are doing delivery in a reachable region, you can use cash on delivery payment method.
As you decide on payment methods, think of your target audience and their demographics, location, etc. Then choose the available payment methods within that region or familiar among your target audience.
Additionally, think of how the payments are processed, the terms and conditions of these methods, the technology used if you can, how they are provided, and accessed.
Maintaining Business Activity.
Maintaining and running a business needs effort, planning, commitment, and being in the know of what is happening, what could happen, and being prepared to deal with the crisis.
Knowing what you need to have your business run as smoothly as possible is very crucial. Take care of your business’ technical issues beforehand. If you depend on suppliers and manufacturers for your merchandise, ensure there is the availability of products through-out.
Let your customers have an easy time navigating your e-commerce site and all important features visible. For example, make sure the cart features, item prices, and descriptions easily visible.
Make sure you maintain your website and take care of issues that could lead to a hitch to make sure your website and your pages are running smoothly.
Always keep a business inventory of all the products in stock/ warehouse, ready for sale, in manufacturing, raw materials, in shipping, in repair, etc. Inventory can make or break a business as it influences or interferes with your supply chain. With an inventory, you will know what product is running out, which is selling more, etc.
Eventually, starting an online business is in a way similar to starting a physical storefront business.
You need to have a well thought out idea and plan on what you want to do online, where you want to do it, how you want to do it, and what you need to successfully do your business online.