How to Start an Online Business
We have been advised to maintain social distancing in this time of a global crisis. Although this change is not permanent, imagine if it were — how would businesses sustain? As restaurants have proved during this critical period, just about any business can be conducted online. In fact, it’s likely that by 2030 we could see entire businesses operate through mobile orders, whether they’re retail, food service or something else. It all depends on how effective the medium connecting businesses and consumers is.
Businesses that successfully adapt during this COVID-19 crisis can potentially increase their sales, simply by targeting both traditional in-person channels and online sales.
Now the question, of course, is how to successfully build an online showroom or store imitating your physical presence. Here are the steps you can follow to achieve just that:
First, ask yourself what you are passionate or knowledgeable about or what you are good at doing. This will dictate what type of product or service you will sell online and how you will sell. Although overall strategies may seem similar, they are not the same.
For retail business, you will need to make all of your products available for purchase online. But sometimes it makes sense to focus on specific items which are trending or customer favorites. When some items aren’t suitable for online shipping, you still may offer the customers the facility of curbside pickup. Past sales and feedback from buyers will give you the insights you need to select and prioritize your products.
For service-oriented business, can you provide what you do over the email or through social media platforms instead of in person? For something that usually must be done face-to-face, like grooming or beauty services, consider offering DIY kit to customers and brief them on how to use it on a video meeting.
If you’re planning to run a restaurant, you might consider making your whole menu available to order from a website. Or, if that seems hard to do or beyond your budget, you can offer limited items consisting of bestsellers and easier-to-make dishes which are profitable on Facebook.
Initially you might be able to handle packing and delivery yourself when your business is small. Eventually, however, you’ll likely need third-party shipment partners. Since higher shipping rates can limit sales, the goal is to get a partner with fair fees for on-time, damage-free product delivery. In either case, shipment and delivery options and a clear return policy will help your customers feel secured and risk-free.
For businesses like restaurants, you can partner with delivery services such as UberEats or FoodPanda and set up online system to receive orders. This will help ensure you operate a successful business whether or not customers are dining in your restaurant.
This step is about selecting the tools and technology to sell what your business has to offer. It might be ecommerce website, a mobile app, a third-party delivery service or something else. Decide how you get the system set up and running. Regardless of the nature of your business, make sure you’re going to get reliable service, support and scalability from the platform you choose.
For retail business, you can use options like Shopify, or you can have someone build an ecommerce site for you. Either way, think of the platform as the virtual outlet or showroom for your store.
The ability to link the online platform with the other systems such as your Accounting Software is critical. Integration with accounting and inventory management software will allow easy tracking of every transaction and inventory item. This setup will let you benefit from efficient and automated processes.
You will need to have a website or a business page on social media platform like Facebook. When creating this site or page, the most important thing to focus is the brand. Online visitors will quickly leave your site if the layout and look is not intuitive and easy to navigate. So keep make sure shoppers find what they are looking for with ease. The design of the site also needs to give the vibe customers expect from your business, as the familiarity in design can help customers feel more trusting and comfortable.
Designing a mobile-friendly version of your website ensures you can give the website visitors an incredible experience no matter where they’re visiting from. You don’t miss out as many shoppers look for items on the go. It’s been predicted that ecommerce industry will keep growing with almost half of ecommerce sales coming from smartphones.
For an ecommerce website, abandoned items are a common issue. If you have set up your ecommerce site, ask yourself what you can do to help shoppers finish their transactions. Tweaking the shopping cart screen by implementing features such as opt-in push notifications can yield improved result. So to get the best possible result, you will need to tweak the pages of your website to the best of your ability.
You’ll also want to focus on customer support. The better your customer support is through email, chat or video, the more happy and loyal customers will be. Bots can help, but maintaining the human touch makes a difference in retaining customers who can produce very high life time value for your business. You will also need to host your website on a server from quality service provider cause a slow server response can cost an online business big bucks in the long run.
Even if your business is fully digital, decide if you want to sell any physical products or merchandise. If you do, make sure that retail sale is set up for your business.
To run effective online marketing campaigns and to better serve your audience, collecting certain type of data from your shoppers will be helpful. Collecting some type of information is a must for basic transactions, such as credit card numbers. But other data can help you understand customers’ preferences and who they are. Customers expect you to keep this information private and deserve to know how you’re using this data. They also need assurance that the transaction environment is secured and is safe from fraudulent activities. Using SSL certificates is a must to ensure that the data transferred is encrypted.
You can market an online store in various ways. For example, you can print banners, flyers, business cards, and coupons to include with purchased items when you package them for delivery. As a long-term strategy you can start creating good and useful contents for your target audience on social media platforms. Don’t underestimate the power of email which still has one of the highest ROIs of any marketing option. Click ads like Google Ads works too.
At the present time you’ll also want to give utmost attention to social media. These platforms provide a free way to interact with customers and help find new ones. Although you can promote your products or services with quality posts, the focus should always be on providing content that builds a real connection with your target buyers.
Lastly, experiment with new ways to find best channels to reach your target audience. For example, if you find that product demonstrations have increased sales, you could run marketing campaigns based on demonstration videos.
After you’ve followed all these steps, it’s a matter of conveying your intent to your customers and helping them make the purchase decision in a cooperative way. Addressing their objections, soliciting their feedback and offering regular updates can make them more trusting. Once customers start buying from your online store, feel free to adjust your website based on market shifts and new goals.
In the end, your success in this endeavor will mainly depend on how well you take advantage of the technology available to imitate your brick-and-mortar online. Not only will it keep your business afloat during this pandemic time but it might just increase your sales.
The businesses that made themselves crisis-proof utilizing the technology to automate their processes are the ones that have struggled the least in this critical time. Many have even flourished! So, there is nothing that should stop you from setting up an online business in Bangladesh.
If you found this post useful and interested in setting up an ecommerce store with integrated accounting system in Bangladesh, feel free to get in touch with us.