Your Guide To Starting An Online Business
Starting your own online business is a responsible task. You understand that you have to think over everything in advance, but in practice, you get lost. What to consider? How not to forget the most important thing? How to prevent risks? We have compiled a handy checklist to help you get it right.
1. Make a business plan
Don’t trust those who say you can start a business without a detailed plan. Would you build a house without groundwork? It will collapse in a couple of years. It’s all the same with e-commerce.
A business plan is a document that includes:
- project description. What kind of business it is, how much you need to invest in it, the planned payback period, and the profit forecast;
- analysis of a niche and a sphere, taking into account trends, prospects, positive and negative factors;
- marketing plan: the planned ways of promoting and positioning the business (as well as the budget for this), analysis of the target audience, argumentation of pricing;
- analysis of competitors: a list of the main competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, methods of competition;
- description of the product and the process of its sale (from finding suppliers to organizing delivery to customers);
- operational plan: a complete description of your project including the resources needed to run the business;
- financial plan: full-fledged calculations of the planned activity: the number of investments, the distribution of funds, planned expenses and incomes for 1 and more years, investment efficiency, payback periods, etc. If you plan to attract an investor, this table will be the main part of the plan.
2. Plan your online business structure
- Sole proprietorship is the simplest form. You manage the business on your own, make all decisions, and are responsible for their consequences;
- LLC – collective business ownership. Each partner contributes his share and participates in key decision-making;
- partnership – activities based on a legal agreement. At the same time, all participants in the transaction are engaged in a united purpose – to make profit.
Having chosen the structure of your business, you can register your activity and proceed to the next step.
3. Choose what you want to sell
Of course, if you’ve drawn up a business plan, you already know what to sell, where to order it, and at what price to offer it to customers. However, in this case, we mean detailed planning of the assortment, taking into account the features and characteristics of the products. Make a list of products and ask suppliers about the conditions.
4. Decide on an e-commerce platform
When the main business processes are planned, you can start preparing for the development of the site. Start by choosing a platform for online sales. How to do it:
1. Identify the business. Is it a small local store or an online supermarket?
2. Consider positioning: who is your target audience?
3. Assess your plan to develop a company.
By answering these questions, you will be able to choose your platform more carefully. You can start selling through the marketplace without creating your own website. For instance:
- AliExpress provides easy entry conditions, and you need to provide inexpensive logistics for successful work;
- Amazon strictly selects sellers: the service has high requirements for partners, goods, pricing, and service quality;
- eBay is more focused on corporate sellers and has strict requirements for them.
You can also create your own website on a specialized platform. Ratings of the best are compiled annually: choose a suitable one and specify the conditions for integration.
5. Ensure your website or profile branding on the marketplace
Visual branding is the basis of a successful competitive struggle. To build a loyal audience, you need to do more than offer interesting products at great prices. You need to take care of identification and recognition. Create:
• visual elements.
The latter include the site header, avatars for pages on social networks, post templates, and other details. You can develop them without even possessing design skills: for example, the Logaster service offers a simple step-by-step constructor for creating a logo and other brand elements. If you need a more cost-efficient option, LOGO.com offers professional logos free of charge in a span of 15 minutes, along with tons of logo files for various needs.
Keep in mind that the look of your site should match the market niche. For example, when selling children’s toys, choose bright colors, and when selling office equipment, choose a neutral color scheme.
6. Choose the right domain name properly
Ideally, your domain name should match your brand name. However, let’s be honest: now it is almost impossible to register a domain with a simple word that consists of 5-7 characters. You will have to look for options. Remember:
- the title should be easy to read;
- the fewer symbols, the better;
- the title should indicate the field of activity;
- when connecting words, make sure that the domain name is read without ambiguity;
- domain names can only use letters, numbers, and hyphens. No other characters are allowed;
- hyphens cannot be used at the beginning or end of the domain;
- you can’t use a domain name that is already in use;
- domain names are not case sensitive. e.g. wivw.mydomain.com is the same as www.MyDomain.com;
- you are strongly advised not to register a domain name that might be in breach of another company’s trademark, unless you can prove that you have the right to do so.
7. Create a website for e-commerce
If you have chosen a platform, the development process will be reduced to the settings of sections and pages, filling it with content and items. Here are several recommendations:
- create the main sections of the site: “About us”, “Payment and delivery”, “Rules of exchange and return”, “Contacts”;
- sort the goods into thematic categories for easy selection;
- Consider blogging issues to attract and retain your target audience.
- Each product page should contain a product description (complete and technical), photo, and price. It is highly desirable to provide information on availability (number of remaining units), shipping costs, and provide a link to customer reviews.
8. Customize the shopping cart
It seems like that is the easiest task. However, even the size of the shopping cart button matters in a competitive environment. Here are a few guidelines for creating a user-friendly interface:
- easy access to the shopping cart: a large icon and a prominent button;
- convenient and user-friendly shopping cart page;
- the ability to edit the order at any stage;
- no hidden extra charges (the price should not change during the registration process);
- clear user navigation;
- lack of mandatory registration;
- availability of alternative ways of ordering (for example, by phone).
9. Launch promotion and advertising
You need to attract buyers to sell. In order to do this, you should develop in two directions:
1. Short-term perspective. Attract customers now with contextual advertising. Create ads, customize targeting, analyze audience and interaction performance. If everything is done properly, you will receive orders from the very first days of the advertising campaign launch. However, remember: as soon as advertising is stopped, the traffic will stop.
2. Long-term perspective. Provide optimization and search engine promotion of your site. Unlike expensive contextual advertising, the growth of positions in the search results will provide you with a stable and free flow of visitors to your site. You will be able to turn them into clients. Also try to launch an email marketing campaign to improve your customers experience and get additional sales.
10. Support your business
You should not relax even when everything is working, there is growing traffic, and positive sales statistics. In fact, the main work is still ahead. Here is what you need to do at this stage:
- analyze the site, identify and correct errors on time;
- monitor the availability of goods, while replenishing warehouse stocks;
- track trends and novelties, extend the assortment;
- work with customers: respond to criticism, answer questions, etc .;
- carry out promotions, sales, contests, and other activities;
- work with analytic data to improve performance now and in the future.
These 10 steps will help you structure your thoughts, prepare yourself for starting an online business, and start an online business more deliberately. Of course, this does not guarantee 100% success: a lot of things depend only on your decisions and actions. Evaluate the market, consider each decision, and strive forward to successfully implement your plans.