Starting an online business may seem daunting especially if you are not familiar with internet technology. But it has never been easier or cheaper to start operating online than it is now. Even without a website, there are various platforms that allow entrepreneurs to start trading online with minimal technical knowledge or capital. And social media has rapidly emerged as a diverse platform where you can also start an online business.
We have simplified the process of starting an online business into 4 broad phases. If you are considering starting a business then you should already have a product or service to offer the market. In the event that you have not developed your own product or cannot identify a service that you can render, then you may want to consider selling the products of other businesses for a commission. This is known as affiliate marketing and is not discussed in detail in this article.
1. Establish Your Online Presence
In order to establish your online presence you will first need a digital property of some sort. Digital property refers to any piece of online ‘real estate’ whether it is a website, blog, storefront on an ecommerce marketplace or even a social media account like a Facebook page. It is an online portal where prospective and existing customers can interact with you, browse through your products, purchase it and where you can deliver after sales service.
2. Market Your Brand and Products
A business without a marketing strategy is unlikely to ever get off the ground. You need to market both your brand and products. With the internet this means using one of three main channels – search engine marketing, social media marketing and email marketing. Be careful about unethical marketing tactics like buying email lists and spamming unsuspecting consumers. It can also cost you dearly in legal action.
3. Constantly Improve Customer Experience
Your business needs to evolve to ensure that you are constantly improving customer experience. While many customers will be willing to deal with you though a Facebook page at the start of your business, they will eventually want to see a professional website and expect real-time credit card transactions. Also ensure that your offline business processes, like shipping and returns, is in keeping with a growing enterprise.
4. Diversify Your Sales Channels
Many businesses will market their businesses across various channels but are not as adventurous with their sales channels. As a new business you will need to look at as many legitimate options as possible. You may be selling primarily from your website, but including other options like selling through auction websites such as eBay or South Africa’s Bid or Buy, established online retailers like Amazon.com and online marketplaces like Etsy, can increase your market penetration and give your customers more options to buy your product through their preferred channel.
5. Strengthen Your Brand
Never lose sight of your brand by fixating too much on the product. While product pricing, quality and distribution is important, your brand is just as important. Eventually it is your brand that will garner customer loyalty and ensure that you can secure consistent sales even with minimal marketing. A strong brand will allow your business to grow even in the midst of a competitive business environment and stay afloat during strained economic times.