How to start an online bussiness?
Do you know that multi-billion-dollar brand Virgroup, now operating in industries ranging from aerospace to communications, was started in the late 1960s by Richard Branson when he was a teenager with a nose for entrepreneurship? Only 200$ and his wits, that amazing story has been a powerful motivation for anyone who dreams about build their empire or just start their own business.
Today with the internet’s exploration, especially in business, anyone can start doing online business with a computer. While giants like Amazon and eBay dominate the online business marketplace, there still have many more opportunities for solo internet entrepreneurs to start up a profitable online business.
We firmly believe that anyone can start a business today, as long as you have an idea and the hustle.
Although there are uncountable strategies available for online entrepreneurs to learn from, we still want to share with you a proven sequence of steps that you can follow to avoid stupid mistakes and guarantee your success for the first start. Anyone, from newbie to seasoned online entrepreneur, we believe that our hard-won experience can provide you valuable advice that nowhere can be found.
Table of content
- A brief introduction to online business - your promising land
- Steps to start an online business
- Step 1 Come up with a great idea
- Step 2 Find a need and choose your target market
- Step 3 Conduct competitive analysis
- Step 4 Understand laws
- Step 5 Source and manufacture your products
- Step 6 Choose a platform and build your website
- Step 7 Drive more traffic
- Step 8 Increase your revenue by upselling and cross-selling
- Common mistakes when you first start your online store
A brief introduction to online business - your promising land
The history of eCommerce in 1 minute
Today, the thought of living without eCommerce seems unfathomable, complicated, and an inconvenience to many. It was not until only a few decades ago that the idea of eCommerce had even appeared.
Dating back 40 years ago, eCommerce was born, and from that time, it continues to grow with new technologies, innovations with thousands of businesses entering the online market each year. The history of eCommerce is closely intertwined with the history of the internet. Amazon was the first one paving the way for the modern-day eCommerce store.
Type of online business
Any kind of business or commercial transaction which include the exchange of products, service on the internet can be defined as the online business. That means as long as you sell something online, you are one part of the Ecommerce business. An online business can take many forms. We will introduce some of the options that you can choose to create.
In general, you need to create your own self-hosted website, source, and list products on the site, customers make direct purchases and payments via your website, and you ship products to them directly.
With this kind of business, you have the ability to control your site and service, and customers can navigate your offerings and request assistance easily. Apple or Adidas is a great example that you can see.
When you choose to become a drop shipper, you will not keep your products physically stocked at your home or office. You cooperate with a third-party drop-shipping company that stores and delivers your items instead. In addition to the low capital requirements and flexible location, this option gives you a wide selection of products to sell. Easy to test, easy to scale, dropshipping may pique your interest to get started.
When talking about doing business online, you may instantly think about selling or buying physical products. However, blogging is one of the ways to earn money online. You can freely choose to create:
- Traditional advertising
- Sponsored posts
- Promote product
If you are interested in selling physical products, you may consider running an online business to provide services and deliver them via the internet. The following are online services in high demand:
- Building websites and apps
- SEO services
- Social media consulting
Who you are in the online business market
No matter who you are, knowing yourself is the first step towards building your legacy brand. Are you an entrepreneur deciding to kick off a new brand this year? Are you an entrepreneur planning to scale your developing brand, aiming to gain more market share from independent websites such as Amazon and eBay?
Now, it is time to asking yourself such a question. Even you believe or not; if you do not know who you are, you are likely to fail at the beginning.
Steps to start an online business
We are going to present some of the most necessary steps that walk you through the maze of ideas, confusion, and hesitation before building an online store. Let’ jump in!
Step 1 Come up with a great idea
We have never seen any successful business without starting with a great idea. That is the compass you can rely on even in the short terms or long term plan.
Any problem that you have experienced in your daily life, whether it annoys you a bit or potentially uproot you in an entire day, can be a source of inspiration for your startup idea. If you can find a solution to that issue, you can be pretty sure that there are other people out there having the same thing, and you can definitely give them a hand.
With the original concept of bringing the social experience of college to the internet and help people communicate with each other, Mark Zuckerberg could not imagine how his initial Facemash would become the world’s most popular social networking page and dynamic platform for business today.
Finding a great idea is not as complicated as you may think. Do not just google it, let’s generate a consistent flow of new ideas is to approach it from as many different angles as you can think of.
After coming up with an idea, try to spend some time to test its feasibility and answer these questions below:
- What is your business about?
- Who are your target customers?
- What is your target market?
- What product or service will you offer?
- Who are your competitors?
We will not dive into these matters here; we will talk about them later. However, having the right idea is not enough, making it great by owing it.
You already own a great idea; however, it is a pre-step in the long run. Now, you should find the need and figure out your market among millions of options out there.
The best online businesses meet up with very specific human needs or solve complex human problems. Basically, you have to find a pain point-something that’s important for a widespread set of customers. In the past year, nearly 2 billion people buying goods online, which means more and more people will be searching for solutions online and will be willing to trust online businesses who can describe their needs better than they can.
There is nowhere than the internet you can look for customer’s needs and want. That worldwide web may help you much more than you can imagine.
- Visit online forums to ask people about their problems
- Use the search engine to find out what people are looking for
- Check some of the sites that already developed and take note of what your potential clients are searching for.
- Step up, and you can find it yourself.
Once you got an idea of customer’ s demand, you should specify your target market, which is your target audience. We would say that it the most tricky part of the whole process. One mistake many business owners may have is that they believe that they know target customers will. But, the truth is the understanding of customers is quite limited. Drawing a profile of customers with the following information is always needed:
- Where they live? How old are they? Are they married?
- What is their profession?
- Which is the social platform they use? What is their shopping channel?
You need that data to form deep knowledge about your target audience, not only for the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey but also for future development.
Step 3 Conduct competitive analysis
The next step that you should take is to conduct competitive research, which is the backbone of a strong marketing strategy. After all, if you can’t identify your competitors and their marketing tactics, you will struggle to differentiate yourself and your product from the crowd.
Who are your competitors? Your competitors are not necessary the firm who sell or market the same products as your business; they can be the companies or publishers that don’t sell or market the same products but meet the same need in an alternative way.
Finding your competitors doesn’t have to be taxing or complicated.
You can get clues to where are your competitors from:
- Local business directories
- Advertising or reports
- Exhibitions and trade fairs
- Searching on the internet for similar products or services
- Information provided by customers
What do you need to know about them? Let’s invest time and efforts to find out:
- The products/services they provide and how they market them
- The prices they sell
- How do they distribute and deliver products?
- What are their devices that enhance customer loyalty, and what is the back-up service they offer?
- What are their brand and design values?
- How can they innovate business methods as well as products
- How do they use IT to support business operation
- Who is the business owner and what sort of person they are
- How do they do on media platforms - check their website as well as local newspapers, radio, television and any outdoor advertising
Evaluate the information you got about your competitors. This should tell you some gaps in the market you can exploit. Now, put the information into three categories:
- What can you learn from and do better?
- What they are doing worse than you?
- What they are doing the same as you?
Here are some of the tools you can use when conducting competitive research include:
- Jungle- For competitor monitoring
- Twitter Search- A search engine, but for Twitter
- Seotify- A competitive analysis heatmap
- SimilarWeb- A competitive and traffic analysis tool
- Ahrefs- One of the best competitive analysis tools
- Whatruns- A free Chrome extension to discovery technologies on sites
You can learn from your competitors but remember: try to innovate, not imitate.
Step 4 Understand laws
Doing an online business means you are playing in a large field with different rules and laws. Understanding international online business laws, you need to comply with plays a fundamental role in protecting you and your customers.
Here are the most important business laws you need to know for internet selling
- Terms and conditions for privacy and security
- Intellectual property( Trademark,Copyright,Patent)
- Permits and licenses
- Payment options
- PCI compliance
- Age restrictions
- Business insurance
Related post: International online business laws you need to know
Step 5 Source and manufacture your products
“Understood- How you source products will serve as the foundation for your business, guiding your day-to-day activities.”
Products are the core of your business operation. How does your business attain a product to sell will determine the effectiveness of the operation.
There are different methods that sellers use to source their products. You can consider three primary sourcing options.
Create your own product or service
If you are about to craft your product and service, you need to make sure that:
- You will have full control over your products and brand
- The investment cost is typically low
- Think ahead about how you will scale and possibly grow your product line over time
Here is the checklist for you:
- Source materials: what is your material, where you get them, how much they will cost.
- Determine how you’ll ship orders:
- Calculate how long do you your products take to make
- Consider where you’ll store your inventory
- Make a plan for communicating timelines on how long it takes to craft a product and complete an order
Work with a manufacturer or wholesales
If you decide not to make your own product, hiring a manufacturer or wholesaler is right for you.
Answering these questions helps you evaluate the manufacture or wholesales you are considering easier:
- What will the final cost of production and shipping be? Are there any potential hidden fees
- How long will it take to create, fulfill, and ship the product?
- What are the contracts and terms?
- What do support and communication look like?
- What are the minimum order quantities? Will you have to make any commitment to a certain number of units or spending a minimum amount?
Partner with a drop shipper
If you are not willing to deal with inventory, packaging, or fulfillment, you can purchase from a vendor and list their product on your online store.
This option is not only great for starting a new business, but also for expanding the product catalog of an existing store.
Step 6 Choose a platform and build your website
Once you have got your market and product, and you have nailed down your selling process, now you are ready for your small-business web design. Because of the tight budget, web building seems to be a challenge. However, with a wide range of tools and platforms both paid and free, you can build your website yourself.
Here are some criteria that a good platform may offer.
- Affordability: With a limited budget, you should allocate your web investment to domain registration, hosting as well as images and copy properly.
- Simple to use: For small businesses, using a website builder should be something simple and have no in-depth technical requirement
- SEO: Like every Estore, you need to use platforms and tools good for SEO. Having an excellent tool for SEO means your site content can appear in search results for your target keywords and attracts your target customers
- Scalability and customizability: Your business will grow over time; therefore, you will need to add additional features for your site Ecommerce
You can create a fully-functional website live in 8 easy steps.
- Get a domain name
- Get a personalized business email address
- Select a website builder which suits your site the most
- Choose a template
- Populate your website with your high-quality content
- Add apps for extra functionality
- Optimize SEO
- Publish, monitor, adjust, and update frequently.
Related post: Top 6 website builders for small businesses
Remember that user experience is the game changer when it comes to doing business online. Make sure that you can make the most use of technology to assist the customer from the first moment to the end of the shopping journey. Simple checkout, easy navigation and search, well notification of sales motivation, shipping, etc., if you can master these features, you are ready to experience the dramatic increase in sales.
Step 7 Drive more traffic
For a newly established store, attract public attention is one of the keys to stepping up. If you are worried that you have no authority in the space, no customer reviews, no social followers, and many more, perhaps you should follow this advice:
If you are on a budget, think about posting on social media. With more than 1 billion Facebook and Instagram active users monthly, these platforms will be a great place to adverse your brand and gain more traffic.
Pay-per-click advertising is the easiest method to get more traffic to a brand-new site. These types of ads will work because it will show up on the search pages immediately and help you test different keywords, headlines, prices, and selling approaches. Not only do you acquire immediate traffic, but you can also use PPC ads to discover your best, highest-converting keywords.
Establish an expert reputation for yourself
Despite the availability of information, online users are still looking for experts who can give them reliable data. Provide free information to other sites, and you’ll see more traffic and better search engine rankings
- Give away free, expert content. Create articles, blogs, videos, or any type of content that people will find useful. Distribute that source of content through online article directories or social media sites.
- Include “send to a friend” links on the key content on your website.
- Become an active expert in forums and social networking sites where your target market hangs out.
For any business, having the email list is one of the most important assets to reach a wide audience and maintain the customer base. To get a high-quality subscriber list, we advise you to take advantage of the contacts you got from your old customers and try to present the urgency and offerings for your products.
Step 8 Increase your revenue by upselling and cross-selling
Once you already set up the website and made the very first transaction, it is the demand to scale the business operation and increase sales. Upselling and cross-selling can be used to maximize the value of a purchase, lower selling cost, improve the customer’s buying experience, and enhance customer loyalty.
Here are some useful techniques for upselling and cross-selling
- Do be pushy. Make sure that you can provide customers with additional products that genuinely offer them the added value.
- Offer a discount to encourage immediate purchase
- Keep track and find customer’s touchpoints on their shopping journey
- Demonstrate the benefits of additional or more advanced products
- Apply social selling techniques, such as social media influencers.
Common mistakes when you first start your online store
When you start your store for the first time, it seems to be easy to make mistakes. Here are a few typical mistakes that you should be bear in mind.
- Not have a clear and strategic plan( forget the content plan, have over expectation with your plan)
- Choose the wrong platform
- Do the wrong math ( not consider your budget properly, underprice your products)
- Fail to engage with customers ( have poor customer service, try to be active in every social media and platform at the same time)
- Fail to allocate your time and resources
Because of the limited time, in this post, we do not analyze this topic in detail. If you want to dig deep into this topic, please read more at “Avoid these 7 mistakes when you first start your online store”.
Now, you have got the necessary steps you need to take to start your own online business. To find success in a new business world, investing a massive amount of effort and patience is the key.
What we have suggested here is the initial guideline leading your way in the right direction, there will have more knowledge and skills required. So, keep learning from your mistakes, competitors, and experts to grow your business every day.
Now, let’s stick with the basic share your success story!