How to Start an Online Business in 10 Actionable Steps
Thanks to the internet and the trillions of resources it features, almost anyone can now set up an online business.
An online business pertains to commercial transactions made through the internet. It traces its history back to the 1970s when electronic data interchanges and teleshopping took hold of consumers.
Since then, it has helped revolutionize the business industry, with more than 1.8 billion people shopping online every year.
Online businesses show no signs of slowing down, with forecasts showing that:
- Global e-commerce revenues will continue to grow to $4.8 billion in 2021
- Online sales will continue to increase, with 2020 sales rising by a whopping 23.3% compared to last year
- By 2040, roughly 95% of all purchases will be made online
Why Start an Online Business?
With the numbers above, there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider opening an online business. After all, an online shop provides the owner with:
As long as you have your laptop or smartphone with you, you can operate your business wherever you might be. You can start early or work during the night – it’s your choice.
Most online businesses don’t need a brick-and-mortar store. It doesn’t need a lot of employees, too.
Depending on your sources, you can opt for a dropshipping agreement that allows you to maintain revenue without spending a lot upfront.
Global market access
Having a standalone store in the city means you only serve the locals and the visitors that may come your way. By starting an online business, you can extend your reach to other parts of the country and even the world.
This can translate to more revenue since 57% of all online shoppers have the habit of buying from overseas businesses.
Less paper wastage
Most business transactions are saved in servers. There is no need for a lot of paper, so you end up saving Mother Earth as well due to less carbon footprint.
Likewise, an online retail website offers many benefits to clients.
A customer can have unprecedented convenience since he/she can access the website no matter what time it is. It also provides more savings, since there are not a lot of overhead business costs in the first place.
How to Start an Online Store
Whether you are a business veteran or a budding entrepreneur, the easiest way to start an online shop is to follow this step-by-step tutorial:
Step 1: Explore a category with unmet retail needs.
There are about 24 million online retail websites in the world. It is indeed hard for a small business to go head-to-head with a more prominent company that’s been selling online for so long.
So instead of looking for a product to sell, you should start searching for a market where there is an unmet need.
How do you know which category has a high demand yet a low supply that you can potentially fill? Well, through market research, of course!
With a stable internet connection, you can easily do the following:
- Check online forums to see what people are looking for and what problems or concerns they are trying to solve.
- Research the keywords that many users are searching for but don’t come with much competition compared to others.
- Visit your competitor’s website to see what they’re doing to meet the demand. Look for any shortcomings or issues. You can generate more revenue by addressing this concern in your store.
But while online businesses usually deal with selling products, it’s not always the case. If you don’t have a lot of funds to buy physical stocks, then you can always offer your services like selling ebooks on Amazon.
Here are some online business ideas that don’t require a lot of money:
Paid search advertising, search engine optimization, and social media management are just some of the hottest consulting gigs of today.
Remote Tech Support
Many small businesses do not have the money to get a full-time IT professional. While some may rely on your educational qualifications, some prefer experience and tech know-how.
If you have a knack for writing, graphic layouts, web design, and other web-beneficial talents, then it’s time for you to peddle your services in the market.
If you are an education professional or an expert in a particular subject, then you could set up your tutorial service. You can make more money by creating and selling your digital courses.
If you have noteworthy task management and organizational abilities, then you could peddle your services as a virtual assistant. This usually involves typing data, responding to email queries, and other basic administrative duties.
Step 2: Decide on a business structure.
There are three types of business structures you can explore: sole proprietorship, limited liability company, and corporation.
This is the simplest business structure as it needs no paperwork, to begin with. However, this offers no protection from liabilities such as debts and other obligations.
Limited Liability Company
Also known as LLC, this flexible business structure comes with less reporting and record-keeping duties.
This structure is ideal for businesses that wish to generate financial investments from other people.
Should you choose to go with an LLC or corporation structure, then you need to file papers in your respective state.
Step 3: Choose a business name.
Your online business is your baby, so you must name it well.
Make sure to pick a unique name as it can help you do the following:
- Market your online retail website
- Improve your chances of getting a matching domain name
- Comply with state laws
- Minimize your chances of being accused with trademark infringement
With many businesses out there, it’s wise for you to search your prospective name on the US Patent and Trademark website. This will save you the headaches of copyright lawsuits that might happen in the future.
Step 4: Get your finances in order.
If your business is a corporation, then you need to visit the Internal Revenue Service website to get your federal tax ID number. However, if you went for sole proprietorship or LLC, your social security number will be enough.
It’s also important to create a business bank account for your revenues. Likewise, you will need to register with PayPal or other related services to process online payments on your website.
Step 5: Create an online retail website.
With the initial business requirements in order, you may now get started with the process of creating your website.
First, you need to register a domain name that matches your business name. Many companies offer domain name registration for a small annual fee.
Once you get your domain name, you can go ahead with the website design. While you may seek the services of a professional, you can always do one on your own. Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, GoDaddy, and WordPress are just some of the platforms that can help you out.
While these website builders offer professionally designed templates, you should always remember to follow these design tips and strategies:
- Use one or two plain fonts and place them against a white background. The simpler, the better.
- Utilize a customer-friendly design.
- Create easy and simple web navigation that works similarly on every web page. You don’t want to get your visitors confused.
- Use images, videos, or audio that can enhance your product or sales call.
- Feature a newsletter subscription or create a lead magnet to get the emails of these potential clients. These will come in handy for email marketing and other promotional strategies.
- Facilitate seamless buying by providing a checkout option where the buyer only needs to make a few clicks.
Step 6: Create your sales copy.
Now that you have the necessary papers in check, you can proceed with creating a sales copy that:
- Sparks customer interest with a captivating headline
- Details a problem or issue that your product can address
- Strengthens your authority as the problem solver
- Features testimonials from buyers who have used your product
- Describes the product and how it can help the buyer
- Comes with an offer and a secure guarantee
- Creates urgency and calls for action
Step 7: Make use of search engines to generate more customers.
More than 50% of online buying decisions start from a web search. As such, you need your online business to be visible in search engines, such as Google and Bing.
You can achieve this goal using the following methods:
The fastest way to generate more sales – at least for new online stores – is to capitalize on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Through this method, you get your ads posted on the search engine page.
Another advantage of having PPCs is that it allows you to experiment with different headlines, marketing approaches, and prices. More than just directing immediate visitors to your website, PPC can help you discover the best keywords to enhance your site’s search engine visibility.
Search Engine Optimization
Another way to generate more potential customers is through search engine optimization (SEO). This process involves improving your ranking in search engines.
So why is it important to rank high in search engines? For one, landing the top spot will give you a clickthrough rate of 32.5%. While number two may seem just as good, its clickthrough rate is halved at 17.6%. Ranking third, on the other hand, will give you a measly 11.4%.
To get as many visitors as possible, you need to follow these SEO tips for an internet business:
- Register with Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools
- Create a Google My Business listing
- Do keyword research (you may also get some insight from your PPC ads)
- Categorize keywords per page
- Make use of long-tail keywords
- Optimize your web page titles and meta descriptions.
- Request backlinks from related websites
Step 8: Establish yourself as an authority in the field.
Users browse the web to buy stuff, connect with friends, and seek information, among many other things. If you want to establish your reputation as an authority in the field, then you need to provide your visitors with vital and relevant information.
You can do so by doing the following:
- Create content (text, videos, infographics) that users find incredibly useful. You can distribute these through your blog site, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, online article directors, among many others.
- Add a link sharing option on your website.
- Establish your role as an expert by contributing to forums and reputable websites where most of your target customers can be found.
One of the best things about this is that it will help you generate backlinks from other websites. Search engines consider these when ranking online businesses such as yours.
Step 9: Capitalize on email marketing.
As mentioned, your online business will benefit from email marketing.
For one, 99% of consumers check their emails every day. 50% of Americans, in fact, check their inboxes at least ten times a day. As such, 40% of marketers believe that email newsletters are critical in achieving success.
Why is it essential to build an email list? It can help you do the following:
- Increase leads, generate more traffic, and enhance revenue
- Create personalized content
- Provide more valuable information to your clients
- Send timely and cost-effective campaigns
- Communicate with your consumers
- Collect feedback, suggestions, and comments
Step 10: Work on back-end sales and upselling.
If you want to keep your small business online successful, then you should work on developing your client’s lifetime value. After all, about 36% of customers are more likely to buy from businesses that follow up on them.
Remember, the hardest and costliest part is making the first sale, so it’s only crucial that you make your customers want to buy from you again.
Here are some techniques that you should try:
- Offer items that would work well with their current purchase. You can place this offer on the “Thank You” page as well.
- Give away loyalty coupons that they could use in their next visit.
- Create a VIP club for repeat customers.
In a Nutshell
While this step-by-step tutorial may look exhaustive, starting an online business is easier than most people think. Keeping it afloat, however, is another thing.
As with most enterprises, an online business will need your utmost care and devotion for it to flourish well. Armed with the right tips and strategies, you can tap on your online store’s full potential.