Despite the economic recession, evidence suggests that online businesses can still flourish: Forrester Research forecasts that e-commerce sales in the US will continue a steady climb of 10% annual growth during 2014.
It looks to be a perfect time to switch to dot-com (or dot-org, or dot-whatever); however this can be intimidating for those new to trading on the Web. Here are five key steps to get you started:
1. Business First, ‘E’ Second
An online business is still a business, so you need to set up shop properly. This means building the legal structure associated with a new company. Legalities involve some big decisions: should your e-business be a corporation, a partnership, or an LLC? Your choice may have a direct impact on the success of your e-business – customer trust is vital.
If you need advice with this initial step, IncPlan USA can help you choose the correct legal structure for your business, and provide you with a service package for US incorporation and bank accounts.
Before rushing to get a website online, sit down and think about your business plan. What are you selling? Where will your customers be? How will your business actually work?
This does not have to be a drawn-out task, but being clear about how your e-business will be marketed and managed will help avoid unwanted and expensive surprises.
3. Get a Website
OK, let’s do it! Time to make your online transition. First choose a domain name. It must link to your product or service and it must be distinctive. It will be the ‘first impression’ that customers have of your company. Check that your name is available: just type ‘buy domain name’ into your search engine. Decide if you want dot-com, dot-net or dot-org – some businesses buy all three to protect from competition.
For designing your website, you have several options.
- Design it yourself, if you have the skills
- Hire a web designer
- Build your site from templates provided by your Web hosting company
Many small businesses get started using thirty dollar products like Shopify or Yahoo! Your search engine is again your best friend – type ‘e-commerce site builders’ for a list of popular options.
The key consideration here is ‘risk’ – don’t bet your successful business on anyone you don’t trust.
The ASOS website is – not surprisingly – called www.asos.com. However, the original idea of the business has long been overtaken by the range of fashion products that they offer. The simple website design, though, has barely changed.
4. Start Trading
Once your site is working, you can reveal it to the world – and start online marketing. Options include search engine optimization, putting your website on Page One of relevant search results. You could also buy per-click advertising, or use outreach techniques to get your links and banners on complementary websites. Social media sites also offer great possibilities. There are many avenues to explore, but whether you decide to do-it-yourself or hire an expert to help, always measure your results: this tells you what’s working and what to change.
Markets change all the time, and the Internet is the biggest market of all. This means that your e-commerce business needs to evolve and innovate constantly. You need to monitor market trends and routinely evaluate your progress, your competition, and your customers.
Don’t be afraid to change. It’s change that will make you successful
Five Steps to Success:
- Business First
- Build your site
- Get online