How to start an online business - step by step guide
Published on 23rd May 2023
For many people, starting an online business is a dream come true. However there are many who want to start an online business but don’t know how to set it up. In the UK alone, more than 24,000 online businesses were launched in 2022; another record year.
An online business is often a preferred choice due to low start-up costs and the potential to access a worldwide audience. The cost of building a website is extremely competitive these days and in the current cost of living crisis, many ecommerce businesses have been started as a side hustle to other jobs.
Starting an online business – your step-by-step guide
It’s not complicated to start an online business but there are a number of steps that should be followed to give it the best chance of being successful. So, we’ve put together our step-by-step guide to launching an online business to help you.
Step 1 – Market research
Before you get to the point of building a website and launching your product or service, there’s a whole lot of work to do on the research. In most cases, you’ve already decided on your business idea and may even have come up with a company name. But before you go ahead and commit to spending time and money, conduct your research and test your potential market.
As well as asking family and friends to test out your products or services, ask them about their favourite online stores, what they’d like to see and how they found their online experience. Here are some other market research techniques to consider:
Competitor analysis – delve into what your potential competitors are doing, how they market their products and who their customers are.
Defining your target audience – think about who your target audience is likely to be. Consider gender, age, income bracket, profession, interests and hobbies.
Get feedback – as well as family and friends, think about running a focus group or organising an online questionnaire.
Step 2 – Online business model
The next step is to think about your online business model. If you are selling products or services, you will need to set up an e-commerce business model to generate revenue from sales.
On the other hand, if your online business is based on providing information to users or entertainment, there are three main types of business models to generate sales:
Advertising – other companies pay you to advertise their business on your website, such as sponsored content or adverts.
Subscription – customers are charged either a one-off payment or regular subscription fees to access your online service or content.
Fremium – you provide your customer with access to a basic version of your online service for free, but they have to make payment to view/use extra premium features.
Step 3 – Website build
Once you have gathered all the above information, now’s the time to start building your website. The cost of websites is far more competitive than in the past. There are three principal ways to approach your website build:
Build it yourself – you will need to have a certain level of technical knowledge to build a website from scratch yourself, such as coding.
Use a website builder – many of today’s website builders are fairly simple to use with drag-and-drop features and other online tools. While this is a cheaper option, you may not be optimising your website to its full potential.
Use a website design company – if you are struggling to find the time, don’t have the knowledge and expertise, or just want the guidance of a professional website designer, it is better to hire a website design company. Costs can vary but at it’seeze, we provide a range of ecommerce website packages that are highly competitive. You aren’t just buying a website; you are also getting our years of experience and knowledge, as well as ongoing support and guidance.
Step 4 – Add optimised content
Now it’s time to fill your website with your content, including product or service descriptions, contact us for details and information about your company. Make sure your content is:
Well-written and error-free – consider hiring a specialist content writer.
Keyword and keyphrase rich – avoid keyword stuffing or Google could penalise you.
Clear and concise but also explains your products or services, as well as highlighting your USPs, your interests and inspirations.
Answer the reason why users have come to your website/landing page.
Fully SEO optimised.
This should apply to all your online content and should be consistent across all your online channels, such as your social media platforms. It is often a good idea to include blogs or articles on your website, particularly if your service or products don’t naturally carry lots of written content. The benefits of a blog include:
Demonstrates your knowledge and builds your reputation.
Provides more online content for search engine bots to crawl and rank for search query purposes.
Retains customers on your website.
Allows you to talk about your products or services in an easy, relaxed, personal way.
Helps you to interact and engage with your audience.
Although you may find it time-consuming, it does pay off in the end.
Step 5 – Adhere to online business regulations
There are certain online business regulations you will need to comply with. You may also have to comply with certain industry-related legislation, depending on what you are selling and/or promoting, including:
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) – introduced in May 2018 and designed to give consumers more control over how their personal data is stored and used, online businesses must ask consumers for their explicit consent to gather, store and process their data. You must be transparent about how you will use their data, allow customers the right to access their data and comply with their requests.
Step 6 – Add social media channels
The social media channels you choose can significantly enhance and boost your online presence. Plus they are a great free tool, unless you opt for social advertising. It gives you an even bigger opportunity to reach a worldwide audience. But be careful in which social channels you decide to use – not every channel is suitable for every business.
Make sure your brand image is consistent across all channels and with your website. Post regularly and keep it varied, adding blogs, sharing links and running competitions or promotions. Add your social media profiles to your website.
Step 7 – Generate traffic to your website
As well as your SEO activity and social media profiles, there are plenty of other ways to generate traffic to your online business, including:
Pay-Per-Click advertising via Google Ads or through your social media channels.
Email marketing – sending regular email content, like e-newsletters, special offers and blog content, to your customers and database.
Affiliate marketing – placing your business adverts on other relevant high-authority websites.
Now you know the steps to setting up your online business, it’s time to get going and realise your ambitions.
Our network of it’seeze website consultants throughout the UK and Ireland are on hand to help you get started with your online business by providing a range of packages for fully optimised websites. We will ensure we deliver an effective website, enhancing visual online content and being able to generate enquiries as well as sales. Get in touch with us today.
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