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A family friend asked me about starting an online business. He has had a passion for watches for many years and has around thirty high-quality gold watches in his collection. He specialises in mid-range watches simply because he cannot afford high-end watches such as the Rolex brand. He wants to start as a part-time business owner, which he hopes will grow into a full-time business venture. He recognises that beginning an online business is a significant decision from this initial idea. If you succeed, it will require long hours and dedication to even start on this journey.
Online Business Ideas
When you decide on your business idea and make the decision to start an online business, you should first decide what type of online business model you want to run. For example, do you want to sell physical products such as clothing, books, or electronics? Or would you rather sell services such as web design or SEO?
Part of the business planning process involves deciding the kind of business you want to start; if you don’t have any online business ideas yet, brainstorm ideas around your interests until you decide on a business niche that interests you and is apparent in demand. A niche is a particular group of people who are interested in buying your product or service. For example, if you wanted to start a clothing store, you could sell clothes to women.
You will also need to find a way to get traffic to your site. For example, if you sell physical goods, you need to use a shipping company to deliver your items. And how are you to attract customers to your Store?
An online store is, in essence, a window to your business, its brand and its products. Selling online is competitive, so your business brand and products offer more value than your competition’s propositions
It is essential to have a business plan otherwise you will be lost trying to find your way in building your business:-
- To define your market, marketing activity and business goals.
- The budgets to start your business.
- What are your Key Performance Indicators to define your success?
- Do you have a budget to meet any outsourcing you will need to build your business as part of the plan?
Online Business Platform
Should it be in a Marketplace or your Online Store?
Many start-ups initially use one or more of the online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon marketplaces. These platforms allow you to start your business straight away, and they provide a traffic source to your shop from the first day of operation. As a result, many businesses have started on these platforms and developed a very successful and highly profitable business online.
Many businesses online use several different platforms to promote their business and products, including their websites. Facebook now enable you to set up a shop to sell physical goods on their platform.
These platforms would appear at first sight to be the ideal starting point for your business; however, this approach has some disadvantages. Which you should consider:
- Cost– The listing and transaction charges are significant, and you need to reflect this in your pricing policy for the products you list on these platforms.
- Control– Each platform has its terms and conditions to which you must adhere to. If you fall foul of these, you can be removed from their platforms immediately; this will mean your revenue stream will stop overnight if you transgress these rules.! This is the reason why many businesses build their website as part of their business strategy.
- Competition – There’s a continuous stream of new competitors because it is so easy to set up a business most will be competing on price alone. This may put pressure on your margins and emphasise the need to create value for your customers, and this will help develop a customer base that will have a long term relationship.
The types of technology you will need to sell online are small in number; Website, Email provider. You do not have to have them all in place before you start, but you should be aware of them and know how they work. Technology is constantly changing, so start with what you initially need to work and add new tools as your business grows.
The key required elements for your online Store
- The eCommerce platform–
- There are many suitable eCommerce platforms available; if you are going to use WordPress as the basis of the e-commerce site, the Woo Commerce Plugin is a well established and reliable option. In addition, Squarespace, Shopify and Ionos provide valuable platforms with a range of website templates for the new and expanding online business. Let’s look at the cost per month of some eCommerce sites:-
- Shopify is $29 ( £22)per month
- Squarespace £20
- Ionos starter package is £1 per month (Excl Vat) for the first 12 months then increasing to £19 per month
- Payment Gateway:- The most cost-effective option is to start with a digital wallet because these do not require a merchant account, which can initially be challenging to acquire as a start-up. For example, I use PayPal for my online payments; you can move to a merchant account as your business develop.
- Courier-Your needs to deliver your products to your customers; find a courier service that has a highly rated service at a reasonable cost. Then, at a later date, you can integrate this into your e-commerce platform.
- Accounts package– it is crucial that you understand how your business is performing and be ready to report on your business to HMRC at the end of each financial year. There are many account packages available to use. In the first instance, a free accounts package may be the best option, and Wave provides a free package for the start-up business that will provide you with all the information your business needs in its first year or two.
- Create helpful information from your Data
It is essential to use the Data you have available to help develop in developing your strategy for the future because things change, and your initial plan may not always be appropriate for your future development. In addition, the information you collect can establish if you are on track to achieving your KPIs. (Key Performance Indicators).
If you have a website, you can use Google Analytics to produce information about your site. These analysing tools can be integrated easily into any website. They are free of charge and do not require any additional software
Look at value, not costs
When setting up a business, your budget is limited, so it is easy to overspend on nice to have tools rather than the critical ones needed for your business. This is where accounts are essential to measuring your business’s cash flow and profitability against your KPIs. It is essential to ensure your branding talks about the quality and value you are offering your customers.
Building your business should be your primary focus; investing in the growth of your business is crucial for achieving your long term goals.
Outsourcing for your business needs
You may feel you don’t have the technical skills necessary to set up an online business; that is not a problem because there are many online resources to help you achieve your goals. It has never been easier to start an online business.
Can you build a website or create a brand logo. Most people can use one of the many templates from the e-commerce stores they have chosen to create a functioning e-commerce site. However, using a professional developer will almost certainly guarantee a better result, but it will cost you more. We talked earlier about the value, and that statement applies here too.
But remember, your website will constantly be changing, so it doesn’t have to be perfect from day one. Fiverr has some very talented developers to help resolve your technical needs and create the image you need in building your business.
Sales and Social Media Marketing
Driving traffic to your website or your products may involve using social media platforms such as Facebook, Google ads and Pinterest to drive traffic to your Store. Remember, there are millions of stores on the web you need to help potential customers find your Store. Once they have seen you, they need convincing to buy from you. Furthermore, once they have bought something from you, you want them to return and purchase other items.
Therefore, you need to collect your customers’ details, including email addresses. You also need to make sure you don’t lose their contact details when they leave your Store. Email marketing is still an essential element to an eCommerce store. Collecting email addresses and creating an email list from your prospective customers can help develop a strong relationship with your customers. Sending an email newsletter with your latest products or offers can cement this relationship.
Are You Ready to Put it Altogether?
In summary, if you’re serious about starting an online business, there are two things you need to do, first is to plan your business model, and second is to create an online presence. Knowing the basics of online business, understanding how search engine algorithms work, and having a clear vision of your business goals will help you avoid some common mistakes.