How to start an online business

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How to start an online business

SOME of the biggest online companies had humble beginnings – in a university dorm room or in a garage.

Many of us stuck in the nine-to-five rat race dream of achieving major success, and all the trappings of freedom that come with it.

With more and more people turning to the internet to shop, the world is literally the oyster of the online entrepreneur.

But like any bricks and mortar business, there are factors to be considered such as finance, marketing and, in particular, the online shopping model.

Here are a few tips on how to start an online business:

Find a niche

A lot of research goes into this. Do a thorough research to see what is lacking in the market. Is there some need that has to be fulfilled? Is there a gap that can be filled with a product that people will suddenly feel that they want?

Learn all there is to know about your product. What sort of purpose it fulfils? How much would it cost? You would need to know the product inside out.

Also important is the market for the product. If there is no market, there is no point in putting a product out there.

Say you wanted to become a business coach. Knowledge about every aspect of being a business coach would be a must. So you would have to choose a particular field in which you have solid experience. You would need expertise and skills and knowledge to show to an aspiring entrepreneur or a business owner to make them buy your service for their success.

Design your online gateway

Your website is your shopfront. This is where potential clients would come to learn more about your business and your product.

A rudimentary website in this day and age may put some off. There are experts who could make your operation look professional.

Showcase your qualifications, skills and expertise; highlight previous jobs, portfolio and testimonials. Above all, draw attention to your product.

Make the user want to stay on your site to learn more. An easy-to-use interface could keep them on.

E-commerce engine

E-commerce or electronic commerce, according to Wikipedia, is the trading or facilitation of trading in products or services using computer networks, such as the internet.

There are different models for online trading – one example is the online shopping website for retail sales direct to customers. There are several types of shopping cart software available for you to choose for your online store.

Choose what you want according to your business needs and the product and service you offer.

Build your online social presence 

With so many jumping on the social media bandwagon, it makes for a very crowded space. So how do you stand out from the rest?

You will have to decide what you want to project of your company and your product on social media. Decide what message about the company you want out there – is it just your product via attractive photos or do you want to drive the user back to your website with updated company information?

After-sales support

Following up a sale is important because an engaged customer is precious.

One way of keeping in touch with customers is via newsletters that tell of discount deals or new products.

Harness social media to get feedback from consumers. In the digital age, customers want to give their opinion. You will know whether your service is good or bad in the eyes of the market.

When you follow-up with a customer, not only would you be able to hang onto them in a crowded market space, but you could up sell to them.

Getting their feedback on products or services builds a bond.

Email and SMS alerts could also be used to push sales deals.

But do not overdo it. People are inundated as it is with email, messages and offers. Use this tactic wisely as part of the after-sales support.

Types of online businesses

The Australian government business website lists four types of online businesses – websites, online shops or marketplaces, blogs and social media accounts.

It also lists the advantages and disadvantages of online businesses: