How to Start a Business Online: Practical Tips and Creative Examples

Can you imagine getting a haircut, having a photo shoot, or a visit to a restaurant all online? In 2020, this became a reality and helped hundreds of entrepreneurs overcome the crisis. Today, any type of business that wants to remain profitable and easily adapt to changing conditions needs an online platform. In this article, we will explain in detail how to get your business online.

3 Reasons Your Company Should Have an Online Presence

In 2020, due to the pandemic and the global crisis, consumption habits have changed dramatically. Due to the lockdown of many businesses and social isolation, even the most conservative people have had to buy goods and services over the Internet. This was evidenced by the statistics provided:

  • From January to June 2020, the number of visits to retail websites increased unprecedentedly – ​​from 16.07 billion to almost 22 billion per month: in previous years, there were no such increases, even during holiday periods.
  • Data from British retailer Waitrose showed that today 77% of consumers buy at least partially the products they need online, up from 61% last year.
  • According to Adobe’s marketing research, online shopping growth has also not slowed as quarantine restrictions eased. Thus, 54% of consumers said they will continue to shop online “for the foreseeable future”.

Companies that we’re able to quickly adjust to the new model of customer behavior and improve their experience were the most successful. This was especially true for micro and small companies that are particularly sensitive to any market fluctuations. Let’s highlight three main reasons to go online:

  1. To keep the profit. Can’t sell in a physical store on the street? Keep your profit by offering your customers online shopping as an alternative.
  2. To strengthen the emotional connection. In difficult times, a winning business is one that is flexible and can meet people’s needs for comfort, stability, and security. Taking care of customers will affect your future attitude towards the brand.
  3. To expand your target audience. An online business allows you to interact with the world and stay in touch with your target audience without them forgetting about you.

What You Need to Go Online: Essential Tools

The main concerns of entrepreneurs who have never worked online are how long the transition will take and what they will need. We will explain everything steps by step.

How long will it take

You can start selling on the Internet in two weeks. Obviously, time depends on the details of the business, but a general recommendation is this: start with a simple online platform, a minimally viable solution, and improve it as time goes on. This will help you not to waste valuable time or stop communicating with your customers.

What Tools Will You Need

Let’s talk about what is essential and how to improve your online model.

A website or an online store

Of course, you can sell on external marketplaces (Amazon, Etsy, etc.), but having your own website is an opportunity to operate by your own rules, show your personality and promote yourself on the Internet. To create a website, you will need to follow a few simple steps.

1. Choosing How to Create a Website

You have two options: hire a web designer or create a website from scratch on your own. Even beginners can create a website from scratch, just choose an online website builder to create a website using ready-made templates. These can be popular platforms like WordPress, Wix, Tilda, or Shopify (the latter is only suitable for online stores).

2. Register a Domain Name

This name must be unique and the same as the company name. Note that the most popular domain names are already taken – this particularly applies to the most popular international domains using the .com option. In that case, try another extension, such as .net, .info, or a regional domain (.br for Brazil, .us for the US, etc.).

3. Create Site Content

Remember that the platform must be user-friendly. To get started, think about the following:

  • Product description and prices. Try to describe the features in as much detail as possible, answering any questions customers might have.
  • High-quality photos and/or videos. Take time for a photoshoot: Take photos and videos of products in good lighting, from multiple angles, so shoppers can see them clearly before placing an order. If you offer services, make a video to describe them.
  • The “About Us” section. You shouldn’t brag about your accomplishments, it’s better to explain how you can help people.
  • Payment and delivery terms (you will find more about this below).
  • Contact information. These can be any convenient forms of communication: phones, email, or links to social media.
  • Brand identity. Logos, company colors, and fonts will help your business be recognized and remembered. To quickly develop a corporate identity, use Shopify’s online generator to get dozens of logo design options, colors, and fonts based on your brand name.

4. Custom SEO

SEO optimization is the task of ensuring that customers find your website on search engines. To do this, make a list of keywords that your products are searched for and include them in the titles of your texts, in the body of texts, and in the descriptions of the photos.

Payment and Delivery Management

To start selling online, you must be able to accept payments from customers and ship goods to them. Here are some things to consider:

  • Offer various online payment methods for the convenience of customers;
  • Think about how you will deliver the goods: by courier, by courier, or on your own;
  • Please specify refund policies: within which time it is possible to return unsuitable goods and give your money back.

Promotion Strategy

With the basic tools described above, you can start selling online. The next task is to make your business visible on the Internet and attract as many customers as possible. For this, we recommend using the following channels:

  • Social media. Focus on one or two platforms that are best suited for your business: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Pinterest. Advertise that you are available online, provide a link to your website, publish posts regularly, engage with your target audience and attract them to your online store.
  • Email. If you have a customer base to do email marketing, then email all your customers and tell them about the online services you offer.
  • blog. One of the ways to communicate with your target audience is to maintain a blog with helpful tips and articles. Are you involved with interior design? Then give tips on apartment renovations and decoration. Are you a cook or do you own a restaurant? Share simple recipes. Post links to your articles on your social networks to attract potential customers to your website.
  • Recommendations. To grow your audience, partner with entrepreneurs with a similar target audience and advertise to each other (eg you sell meals and partners sell cutlery).
  • Analyze. Don’t forget to analyze the effectiveness of your promotion. Which channels attract the most people, which tools are most effective, which strategies do competitors use, and how to do market trends change.

Be flexible, stay in touch with your target audience, and seek out new creative ideas to pique their interest.

How to Bring Different Spheres of Business Online

Companies adapt to the Internet presence in different ways: selling products is easy while providing some types of services requires ingenuity. However, there is always a way: during the 2020 quarantine, haircuts, photoshoots, and even online appliance repair have become popular! Let’s give you some creative examples.

Cafe / Restaurant / Bar

Here are the traditional and innovative ways of working online:

  • Take orders by phone, social media, or the Internet and deliver them to customers.
  • Implement pay-and-go service: Customers place orders online or over the phone and only pick them up in person. For example, Starbucks has launched a new digital format – Starbucks Pickup: your cappuccino can now be ordered through an app and picked up at the store without you having to get out of the car.

Share recipes for popular dishes. Thus, Burger King launched the “Quarantine Whopper” campaign in France and told how to prepare one of its classic burgers (Whopper) at home and encouraged people to share the results on social media. In this way, the emotional connection with the brand is strengthened.

Organize dinners online. Set the time, offer to “book” tables online, deliver meals to people, and host a Zoom dinner party: you can chat and ask questions about food, business, and customers.

Language training

Teaching can be done online, taking into account the following nuances:

  • If you teach private lessons, do so on the online platform. Remember that students should be as comfortable as they are offline, so make sure you have a high-quality connection.
  • If you organize studies for schools abroad, get in touch with your foreign partners and find out how they have adapted to the new conditions. Inform your customers in detail about all opportunities such as online courses.

Store

Its task is to make people feel that buying regular products, clothes or other goods online is as convenient as in a physical store:

  • Create a website with easy navigation, product categories, and high-quality photos.
  • Advertise products on social media: it can be targeted advertising, live streams, helpful posts, YouTube videos, and more.
  • Take care of on-time delivery and refund policy.

Travel agency

While the travel industry has been through the most difficult situation during the crisis, this is no reason to give up and avoid communicating with customers. Here’s what you can do:

  • Sell ​​tours to places people can go, providing detailed information about safety and other nuances of travel.
  • Promote domestic tourism: talk about local sights, attractive places, cuisine, and entertainment.
  • Show that you care about people: regularly inform them about the tourist situation in the world, inspire them, and publish relevant news and useful tips.
  • Take online tours of places that are not yet available for travel. This will allow you to support your customers and promote your services for the long term.

Conclusions

Going online is a new opportunity to attract customers, expand services and increase revenue. To remain competitive in a volatile environment, a company must be flexible, and responsive to market changes and the needs of its target audience.

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