Planning your Online Business
A well-thought plan is necessary for the success of your online business. Your plan should cover all aspects of the proposed online business solution. A competitive analysis will equip you with the information needed to promote and differentiate your online business. Knowing your target audience and being aware of your competitor’s selection of products, prices, and promotional offers will help give your business an advantage.
Understand the laws and regulations of your country/state controlling online commerce. Many governments give tax breaks or have a different tax structures so it is important you stay aware of the tax regulations for your defined demographics.
eCommerce Software Packages
You will need to decide on software that is suitable and right for your business. Should you build from scratch for maximum control? Customize freely available open-source software? Make your decisions based on your business requirements and budget.
Next, you must decide on how you will accept payments. Credit and debit cards, direct debit, e-check, PayPal, wire transfer, etc. are all forms of payment options. Each payment method has associated transaction and other fees. Be sure to choose the method that will be most conducive for your store.
Warehouse and Shipping Options
Plan the location of your warehouse(s) carefully if you are selling physical goods. Decide which shipping options would work best for you and your customers.
Tracking and Customer Support
Plan on staying engaged with your customers through the buying process. This includes, alerting the customer products ships, providing customer support through various communication platforms (e-mail, chat, etc.), and draft a return-policy to handle returns. The more engaged you are with your customers, the more success your online business will have.
The graphic design and content on your online business should appeal to the customer. Making sure your site is easy to navigate is important for the customer’s experience. Having images of products you sell is necessary for customers, which will most likely require you to budget for a good graphic designer, copywriter, and user experience consultant.
Marketing is an important aspect when it comes to the success of your online business. How do you bring in more customers, get them interested in buying your product or service, and keep them coming back? One of the best ways to get more traffic to your site is through Search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), link-building, social outreach and e-mail marketing.
When you begin selling products or services online, you are asking customers to give you their personal credit card information. It is extremely important that your customer’s data stays protected from unauthorized access. The credit card industry has developed a list of guidelines on how best to handle and protect customer data. For instance, the credit card details from the customer's browser to your server must be encrypted. This requires the use of a secure protocol (HTTPS) between the customer's computer and your server. For this to happen, you need to invest in a digital certificate. You will also need to encrypt customer’s credit card details if you plan to store them on your server.
Your online business store needs to register and claim a domain name. You can register a domain name for an annual fee through a domain name registrar. Your store will need to identify a reliable hosting server for your online store.