Everyone wants to run an online business these days, but only a few succeed in the venture. The reason for people failing is not often the lack of passion or even skill – the real culprit is the inability to know where the focus should be at which point when starting the business. It’s about getting started without thinking ahead. So, if you want to avoid the failures of new online businesses, consider these five essential things.
Fill a gap on the Internet
Undoubtedly the hardest part of starting an online business is finding where you fit in the grand scheme of things. Your business must fill a gap in the online market – you must be useful. If your business doesn’t serve a purpose or there aren’t people out there looking for what you can offer, you won’t be in business for more than a few weeks. The only way to truly drive traffic to your site is to be useful and fill a need.
Now, you might have a great idea and passion for the beauty industry. But the Internet is already full of online beauty sites from retailers like Look Fantastic to beauty bloggers like Sam and Nic. So, what is your unique value proposition? What can you offer to your customers? Knowing this will help you launch a successful business venture.
Nail the visuals
For good and for worse we are obsessed with looks these days. The Internet did not just turn us into selfie-taking, food-pic taking maniacs, but we also emphasise visual when it comes to browsing the Internet. We all know those dodgy-looking online sites that have the same template design as the very first websites in the 1990s.
If you want the customers to browse your website or online store longer than two seconds, focus on the visuals. Spend a lot of time at the start streamlining your logo, the fonts, and the colours – create a visual image that is appealing and tells a story.
StartUp Mindset has a great post on developing corporate identity, which is essential reading in order to understand the connection of what your business does to how it looks.
Be everywhere you need to be
Any online business that wants to survive in the modern world needs a wide-ranging presence. You need to attract the right online stores with your products, be on social media, have a website, and engage other forums and channels. But you shouldn’t try to be everywhere, but rather be everywhere where you need to be.
How can you know this? Much of the right channels and sites depend on your online business. A business that heavily relies on visuals, such as a graphic designer, must be on platforms like Instagram. If you’re more about abstract help, such as a personal development coach, publishing videos on YouTube can be more effective in getting your message across.
Test your online presence
When you launch your online presence – whether it’s the website or the app – don’t forget to test and re-test everything. Things in the online world have to run smoothly or you start losing customers. No one has time for slowly loading images, purchases that don’t go through or the dreaded ‘Error 404’ messages. The only way to avoid this is by testing and making sure you test on a variety of machinery. If all this technical jargon scares you and goes way over your head, make it a priority to find someone who knows this stuff.
Don’t forget about the little details
It can be easy to get lost in the fancy world of online businesses and entrepreneurialism. Your life will be filled with things like cloud-based solutions and integrated software. You’ll be writing mission statements and creating your business philosophy. The focus is on the high-flying ideas and so you forget to think about the basics.
Is your computer good enough to deal with the workload? Do you have a phone line that’s solely for business use? Have you remembered to start thinking about the taxes? Do you get a salary?
Launching an online business can easily distract you from these little details. Suddenly you’re talking to a potential client when you realise you don’t even have a separate business number – the evenings at home become a nightmare. You might be sitting in your office planning your next move while you run out of printing paper or ink.
While you need to spend time thinking the bigger picture, don’t forget about these little, everyday things. Take a day to go through the practicalities of running a business – sorting out your phones, e-mails, office equipment and so on. Above all, don’t forget to be frugal when it comes to these essentials. “Check for offers and vouchers with popular office retailers like Staples and sort your phone lines at economical rates with Vodafone.“
Starting an online business is rather like starting a traditional brick–and-mortar store. You have to focus on things like the business plan, market research and tax planning. However, the above are the essential quirks of an online business – the things that can be distinctly different to any other type of business.