10 Steps to Start an Online Business

Starting your own business is not easy. Obviously, you need to plan every step in advance. Everything seems logical in theory, but once you start the process, many questions arise. Where to begin? How to build a strategy? How to protect yourself from risks? We offer a checklist with which you can properly start your own business.

1. Business plan is a must

You cannot deny it. If someone says that they started a successful online business without a preliminary plan, they are either lying or manipulating facts. Can a car be produced without wheels? It is possible, but you will not be able to drive it. It’s the same with your own business on the Internet.

What is a business plan? It is a complex document that includes:

  • general information about the project: a description of the business, start-up investments, planned return on recoupment and projected profit;
  • analysis of the market niche, as well as trends influencing it, tendencies, predicted phenomena, positive factors and risks;
  • marketing plan, which lists the planned methods of positioning and promotion of the business, the amount of planned costs for this, the results of the analysis of the target audience, as well as factors influencing the formation of prices;
  • results of the analysis of competitors: a list of the main companies operating in the same niche with an analysis of their advantages and disadvantages, listing the methods of competition;
  • product analysis: from the principles of suppliers selection to the goods delivery to the client;
  • operational plan. A detailed description of the business, up to listing the resources needed for it;
  • financial plan. Set of calculations for conducting business activities. This includes the amount of investments, the principles of budget allocation, the amount of planned income and expenses in the first year of operation, the calculation of investment efficiency, the projected payback period. No investor or creditor will consider a business plan without these calculations.

2. Business legal status

Check out the list of business structure options on the IRS website and find the one that works for you. Having a legal status provides a legal basis for doing business. For a budding e-commerce entrepreneur, the following options are suitable:

  • sole ownership is the simplest form. The owner independently makes management decisions and is ready to be responsible for their consequences;
  • LLC is common ownership. Each of the participants has invested a share in the project and is involved in making strategic decisions;
  • partnership means conducting business on the basis of a legal agreement. The goal of each owner is to make profit.

After choosing a suitable structure, you can proceed to registering your business and then follow the plan.

3. Assortment planning

Even when drawing up a business plan, you had to realize what you were going to sell, from whom you would order it, and what retail price you would set. Now it’s time to plan your assortment in detail by analyzing the characteristics of each product. Having received a ready-made list, you can contact suppliers and discuss conditions.

4. Choosing a marketplace

After successful planning of key business processes, you can start developing a commercial website. You should start by choosing a suitable site for work. To do this:

  1. Understand what the site should be like. Is this a niche store or a shop on the Internet?
  2. Describe your target audience, position your business.
  3. Think about how you plan to expand your business.

This will help you choose the right online platform for you. In most cases, you can start selling on the Internet without developing your own website: using the resources of the marketplace. For example:

  • AliExpress is easy to get started with: the entry requirements are simple. In order to sell profitably, you need to find options for cheap logistics;
  • Amazon has a serious selection of sellers. It is necessary to comply with the requirements regarding partners, product range, quality of service and objectivity of pricing;
  • eBay is for b2b, and the requirements for sellers on this site are quite strict.
  • If you don’t want to depend on marketplaces, you can create your own website using an online constructor. You can check the list of the best ecommerce platforms and choose the right one and find out the conditions for entry.

5. Create a brand

How to become noticeable against the background of competitors? One way is to use visual branding elements. It is possible to gain loyal customers not only with the help of a favorable pricing policy, but also by achieving recognition. To identify a business, you need:

  • name;
  • logo;
  • tagline;
  • branded visual details.

The last point includes the site header, photos for store profiles on social networks, publication templates, etc. You don’t need to be a designer to create. There are handy step-by-step constructors for developing a logo and other branded elements, for example Canva or Logaster.

Keep in mind that your website design should be in harmony with the expectations of the audience of a particular niche. For example, a bright color scheme is suitable for a children’s goods shop, while neutral colors are better for a computer store.

6. Domain name selection

The perfect domain name is the same as the brand name. However, all simple domain names of up to 7 characters are already taken. Therefore, you have to be creative. It is important to follow the rules:

  • as few characters as possible in the title;
  • the domain name must be read correctly on the first try;
  • the name should define the specifics of the activity;
  • there are no ambiguous interpretations of the name.

7. Website development

If you decide to create a website on a specialized platform, the development process will be a set of simple settings, filling in product pages and uploading content to section pages. You need to foreseen:

  • create pages “Payment and Delivery”, “About the Company”, “Contact Information”, “Return and Exchange”;
  • divide the assortment into thematic categories to make it easier for customers to choose;
  • write and upload the “Privacy Policy”, “Sales Agreement” and other documents necessary for the legal operation of the online store in your country;
  • start your blog: it will attract new clients and keep the old ones.

Indicate the characteristics of the product and price on each page, attach photo and video materials, and reviews. You can also provide details on the availability of remaining items, shipping costs, and provide a link to reviews.

8. Setting up a custom shopping cart

On the one hand, everything is simple here. On the other hand, the competition in the e-commerce niche is huge, so even the color and size of the cart icon matter. To create a comfortable interface for users:

  • provide access: make a large button and a prominent icon;
  • ensure that the cart page is clear without instructions;
  • allow changing orders at all stages;
  • make sure that unexpected extra charges do not appear during the purchase formation;
  • provide easy navigation for users;
  • make it possible to order with or without registration;
  • specify other options for ordering (for example, through a call to the manager).

9. Promotion and advertising

Sales depend on the number of attracted customers. Develop your store in two directions:

  1. Near-term perspective. Contextual advertising is an effective tool for attracting customers. Learn to publish ads and set up targeting, analyze results and calculate performance (or hire specialists). If the advertising is set correctly, customers may appear on the first day of the campaign launch. A significant disadvantage of this method is the reduction of the client flow after the advertising stop.
  2. Strategy for the future. Optimize your site and promote it in search engines. Customers from organic search will cost you less than those who came from contextual ads. The higher the site position is, the more traffic it will have. Also you need to launch an email marketing campaign to improve your customers experience and get additional sales.

10. Work

So, the site is working, the traffic is growing, the dynamics of sales please. Is it time to relax? No! It’s only the beginning. When you have achieved your first successes, continue:

  • check your site, look for bugs and fix them;
  • try to ensure the availability of all goods and the renewal of the assortment;
  • follow the news and trends;
  • communicate with the audience: respond, react to criticism;
  • initiate contests, promotions, and discounts;
  • explore data from analytics of site performance and sales to find ways to improve performance.

Conclusion

These ten steps are almost universal instructions for getting ready to start a business with minimal risk. Naturally, we cannot guarantee that these tips will provide you guaranteed success. You need to make your own decisions. Do this deliberately to systematically achieve success.

Dmytro Leiba is a marketing specialist at Logaster. He has hands-on experience in marketing and branding. In his spare time, he enjoys reading about business, marketing, branding, and sharing his knowledge with others.

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