Starting an online business takes planning and a few tools. Preparing before launching your business helps you be more successful. You spend more time interacting with customers than trying to finish building the first phase of your new company. Every business has its own unique needs, but most online businesses need at least these eight things.
Webhost and Domain Name
Many online businesses make the mistake of using a free web host and a sub-domain. Customers usually trust websites with their own unique domain name. For instance, customers would prefer “yourbusiness.com” to “yourbusiness.freehost.com.” You need an online presence to start an online business. Find a reputable web host with 99% uptime. These typically cost $5-$20 per month depending on the features the host includes.
You will also need to purchase a domain name. Most businesses choose a .com address. Some webhosts include a free domain name. If you plan to switch hosts in the future, consider buying the domain name from a separate domain name registrar to make it easier to transfer to another host. Domain names range from $1-$15 on average per year. The lower prices are usually special offers for the first one or two years.
PayPal allows you to accept a wide variety of payments. If you run your own e-commerce store, you need a way to accept payments. PayPal is a secure method many customers trust and recognize. The account is free to setup. Most businesses will need a Business account which does charge transaction fees. These are only a small percentage. PayPal also provides and exportable account history, monthly statements and filters to help you with accounting.
Your buyers do not need a PayPal account to buy from you. PayPal will still process the payment, but the buyer can pay with a credit card. If PayPal is not available in your country, choose another widely accepted payment processor for your area.
Social Media Accounts
You need a way to promote your business. Set up accounts on at least two different networks. The networks you choose vary based on your online business. For instance, Pinterest and Instagram are ideal if you will be posting mainly images. Twitter and Facebook are best for mainly text and a mixture of text and image posts. Try to set up the accounts with the same name as your website.
Make these accounts easier to manage with a social media account management tool. Many services are available that allow you to link numerous accounts and view and manage them from one screen. One of the most popular tools is Hoot suite which is available in free and premium versions.
Shopping Cart Software
The easiest way to get shopping cart software is to choose a webhost that supports e-commerce websites. These include shopping cart software. All you have to do is install the feature. You do not need this if you are selling products through third party marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, Ebay or Zazzle.
You have no idea how much traffic your site is receiving or if your marketing efforts are working without analytics software. This software tells you which pages receive visitors and how many. It also tells you how long they stayed on each page. You will also discover where traffic is coming from, such as from search engines, social media or back links from other sites. Many webhosts incorporate Google Analytics because it provides most everything you need to check your site’s performance. You can also set this up yourself.
Posting on social media is not the only way to market. You can place ads for your company on a wide variety of websites. Many online businesses promote their company or products with paid ads through Google, Bing, Yahoo, social media sites and individual websites. The cost of running an ad varies based on where you place it, how long it is posted for and the format of the ad (per click or per impression). Most companies wait until the launch date to run their ads. You can create them in advance and schedule them to run later.
Product Delivery Plan
How will you deliver the products you sell? If you are selling physical products, you need a plan for shipping. You will also need to list shipping costs on your website. If you are selling digital products, you need to plan how users will download their purchase. Some sites send an email with the product link. Others allow the buyer to immediately download the purchase from their website. The delivery method should be clearly posted on your site so users know what to expect.
Email Newsletter Service
Email newsletters are one of the easiest ways to stay in contact with interested visitors or customers. Visitors sign up to receive the newsletter and you send them regular updates on new products, site news, promotions and more. Doing this manually is time consuming and you might miss people. Aweber and MailChimp are two common options. They make it easier to keep track of subscribers and send out the right newsletters to the right people.
Optional – Outsourced Help
If you need help setting up a website, designing logos for your company, writing a blog, managing customers or anything else, you can outsource various tasks and projects. This is cheaper than hiring someone to work with you full time. Numerous websites allow you to find and hire the right talent for your needs. This is optional and you may not need any help to start with. You may find you need help with accounting, marketing or other tasks as your company grows. The good thing about outsourcing is you can do it for short or long periods of time.
Taking a few months to set up everything before you try to launch an online business is important. You do not want to miss something when you try to set up everything the day you want to open your business. Preparing now will help ensure a more successful online debut.