Continued adoption of the internet, the introduction of smart devices and a growing appetite for shopping remotely, are driving online presence with an exponential potential reach. Whether you’re a digital start-up or existing brand maximising your influence, this is the essential guide to starting an online business.

1. Start at the beginning

Whether a new small business or developed enterprise, be sure that your product or service solves a real need for the online consumer. Successful online concerns fill a genuine gap, offer a product or service with a unique twist, or have a distinguishably superior offering. Taking your business online can be an effective, convenient and cost-effective way of growing sales and by identifying your niche, you can secure a strong stake in this fast-paced, highly populated marketplace, significantly improving your chances of maturing into an established brand.

2. Plan your path to success

Research the viability of your business within its online sector; build a strategy around your vision and mission to maximise the opportunity to not just be operational, but successful. Be realistic, but don’t shy away from aspirational planning. Creating, managing and scaling any business takes dedication, handwork and creativity. Make sure that your plan lays way to the heights you want to achieve.

Clarifying and setting goals, defining a period of time in which to reach these, drawing up sales, marketing and operational plans as well as financial forecasting is likely to improve your ultimate success and will be key to securing any financial support if required.

3. Organise your web assets

If you can’t be found easily online, you are missing a huge opportunity! An estimated 1.79 billion people shopped online last year and forecasts indicate that this is an increasing trend. You will need to put in place a suite of digital touchpoints that will convey your message, engage your audience and offer an enhanced customer experience, all of which should be supported across the spectrum of mobile devices.

Names.co.uk offer a selection of services and products to get you online, connected and selling.

a) Secure your domain name using a registrar. This is the address that prospective customers will type into their browser or that appears in their search, so it should reflect what your business does, be meaningful, punchy and most of all unique. It’s possible that your first choice might not be available, so you may need to be flexible and creative. Make sure that you safeguard your name and logo.

b) Engage a website host to store the web pages and apps that will deliver your web pages to the consumer. This is where your customers will access your online business via their browser and connect with your product or service through pictures, text, videos, as well as offering them a secure way to pay. Be sure to choose a host that can keep up with your projected growth, offering the security, support and bandwidth for demand you’ll require into the future.

c) Build a website that is easy and safe to navigate, that clearly displays your offering and that can be seamlessly advanced as your business scales. A website builder will provide access to templates that you can populate. You can also be the master of your own Content Management System (CMS) with relative ease or alternatively, web designers will offer you a bespoke website.

d) Create social identities across all of the major platforms. According to hubspot.com, the number of social network users in the USA alone is expected to reach 257.4 million by 2023 (Statista, 2019). Popular social media sites such as FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn give your business a personality that consumers will love to buy from.

4. Drive traffic your way

Having a digital presence isn’t enough on its own, now it’s time to increase promotion and get your online business seen. A robust digital marketing strategy will include a defined campaign of scheduled social network posts, targeted paid ads based on customer demographic research and search engine optimisation (SEO) including the copy on your website.

According to a recent article on Forbes.com, research from Ascend2 shows that 82% of marketers believe the effectiveness of SEO is on the rise. Achieving high rankings in the search engines is fundamental to the success an online business. Likely be one of your largest sources of traffic, names.co.uk can offer support with optimising your site.

5. Convert hits into sales!

Your customers are streaming through your virtual doors, so make sure that every hit on your site is a maximised opportunity to sell your product or service. Get to know your audience using external and internal data sources, then personalise their experience with custom landing pages, engage with your consumers using a tone that evokes an emotional response and builds trust. Potential buyers are far less likely to abandon their basket once that connection is made.

Looking for more tips and tricks?

Check out our guide to moving your business online, or our top tips for what makes a good website.