Starting an online business

The last 10 years have seen a dramatic change in the way consumers purchase products and services. The vast majority of transactions now take place online or are influenced by the internet whether purchased directly online or research carried out by consumers prior to purchasing from the high-street. The increase in purchasing products and services online has lead to a steady decline in the high street of big well known brands as more people shop online. Where previously websites would be used to generate additional revenue, in fact having a store online is now the most important decision any business can make. As a result many businesses have started exclusively online which can minimise risk, costs and resources.

Types of online businesses to start

There are so many ideas for an online business nowadays that include the following;

1. Set up an eCommerce store

2. Buy and sell websites

3. Write and publish an eBook

4. Start an online SaaS business

5. Make money by affiliate marketing

6. Create and sell handmade items

7. Create a digital product store

8. Create an app

9. Work as a freelancer online

10. Create and sell stock photos

11. Buy and sell domain names

12. Create presentations

13. Develop an online personal trainer platform

Starting an online business

To start online business, the first steps will be the same as with starting any new business, decide on a business idea or what you intend to do, conduct market research to identify your target market, assess your competition, demand and what will distinguish your product or service from others. Have a pricing strategy and ensure that you have a detailed business plan.

You can start an online business as a sole trader and with any company you will need to register for VAT should your sales exceed £85,000. As a limited company, you will still need to pay tax as you would as a sole trader.

Marketing your Online Business

As with any business looking to be successful online, marketing your business through AdWords or SEO will be crucial to ensuring that you have a presence online and customers can find you when searching for your products and services. SEO or search engine optimisation is where you optimise words that you want to be searched for within Google. Optimising for these words is to ensure they have a high place in the search engines such as Google. When potential customers search for these keywords when looking for your products or services, SEO is about optimising for these keywords so your website ranks highly on the results page. AdWords is another for SEO which is paid for advertising. Here you are charged for on a pay per click basis.

Creating a business website

If you are looking to have an online business then of course you are going to need a website. You can either create your website which is must easier nowadays or hire a website designer to do it for you. If you do it yourself then of course you can save money but the results may not be as good as hiring a professional to build the website for you.

There are also many online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon which can be a good platform to promote your products and test the market before investing in your own website.

Sites like Go-daddy are excellent platforms for beginners with no experience to easily set up their own website. Here you can buy a domain name and registration, hosting and installing WordPress is much simpler now meaning you could have a new website up and running in no time.

Your Website Information:

This must include:

  • your address and contact details,
  • privacy policy,
  • terms and conditions,
  • information about your products and services
  • exchange and refund policy,
  • quality and commitment
  • information about delivery and payment.

It is also important for customers to see the most up to date prices and stock availability as well other information such as VAT and post and packaging. Customer usability is crucial and the more information you provide to your online customers, the more likely they are to buy a product. The online journey needs to be as quick and simple as possible for customers.

Collecting Payments

To collect payments online from customers, your website will need a shopping cart function, as well as a secure means for customers to enter their payment information. Web designers or online website building services will all other this service.

To trade online and receive payments, you will need a merchant account from a provider such as PayPal. You will be charged on each transaction.

Before you starting a new business online, make sure you have tested your website, asking potential customers what they think. Usability is crucial as customers want to be able to search and find products easily and to check out quickly and safely.

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