If you are looking to sell goods or services, you are almost certainly considering starting an online business. There is no doubt that it is easier to set up a business online, than a bricks and mortar firm. And in this day and age, almost any business requires an online presence, regardless as to its focus. Here we look at how to start an online business.

Do your research

Business planning is essential but is all too often overlooked in the excitement of launching a new venture. It is worth investing some time when researching the goods or services you plan to sell. What is your unique selling point (USP)? Is your strategy to undercut your competition in order to gain market share (in which case how profitable and sustainable will your model be?); or do you plan to differentiate in some other way (for example, through the quality of service)?

There is room for innovative, creative, hard-working businesses in almost any sector but you really do need to do your homework in determining product, pricing strategy and the optimum means of promotion.

Market research

Research and market analysis is an on-going commitment to ensure your offering remains relevant. Also, beware of simply piggy-backing onto a popular trend just as it is subsiding.

Select the platform for your online business

Once you have decided what you would like to sell, you then need to decide where you will sell it. Initial considerations include a domain name, web hosting, payment processing service and how you will deliver the goods or services to your customers once they have placed an order.

Build your website

You really don’t need to be technical in building an online business. Modern web hosting and website building tools allow you to create visually stunning sites which are optimised for the search engines with a user-friendly drag and drop approach. If your chosen business involves physical products, you will require a platform which supports stock management, discount codes and other e-commerce functionality. Again, all of this is easily integrated on a modern platform.

Consider delivery options

One of the key elements of your initial research and pricing strategy will involve delivery. What are your competitors doing and what are the cost and pricing models? This has a significant impact on overall profitability.

Launch

The next step in the process of building your online business will be opening it up to customers. This step of the process is not one to rush as first impressions matter! Take your time to ensure everything looks okay and everything works correctly. Don’t let a simple typing error or broken link create the wrong impression with your prospective customers.

When it comes to marketing your business, there are numerous strategies you can use, such as social media marketing, influencer marketing and content marketing, all of which can cost-effectively promote your brand to your target audience.

Happily, the internet is home to a wealth of advice and resources, most of which are free to use and which may help you to pre-empt some of the most common mistakes.