Modern entrepreneurs have an incredible advantage over previous generations. While it once took loads of capital and access to large amounts of physical resources to launch a business, it’s now possible to take a business from idea to reality without even leaving the comfort of your own home. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword, however.
While it once took loads of capital and access to large amounts of physical resources to launch a business, it’s now possible to take a business from idea to reality without even leaving the comfort of your own home. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword, however.
The ability to easily launch an online business means there are very few barriers to entry. As a result, people often confuse the simplicity of starting a business with the ability to grow a successful business. While anyone can launch a business, not everyone can monetize and scale that business into a successful corporation.
If you have an idea and feel like you’re ready to start your own online business, congratulations. Assuming you’ve performed adequate market research and developed a comprehensive strategy, you’re well on your way to becoming a modern 21st-century entrepreneur. With that being said, your job is just beginning.
When starting an online business for the first time, there are a handful of things you must know in order to be successful. In particular, you’ll want to make sure you have a firm understanding of these four concepts.
1. SETUP IS METICULOUS AND CRUCIAL
The first thing you need to know is that setup is a pain. While you’ll hear people talk about how easy it is to setup a website and get your business off the ground, the reality is that it takes a lot of time to create a functional and aesthetically pleasing site. In other words, it’s simple to put a basic website on the internet, but it’s extremely challenging to publish a website that actually works. Here are some of the basic things you’ll have to do:
- Find a hosting company. The first task is finding a website host. There are a handful of options, but you’ll want to make sure you find the best one for your situation. HostGator is quickly making a name for itself as one of the premier solutions, but don’t ignore others like Web.com, GoDaddy, and iPage.
- Select a CMS platform. The next biggest decision you have to make is which content management software platform you’re going to go with. WordPress is by far the most popular option – proudly boasting more than 74 million websites on the internet today – but Joomla, Drupal, and even Squarespace are considered worthy alternatives. Just make sure you read up on the pros and cons of each.
- Invest in design and development. After getting the basics setup, you then have to turn your attention towards design and development of the site. You can either use templates and a CMS builder to help you get started, or contract the services of a professional. While the former may be tempting, the latter will leave you with a better-finished product.
- Test, test, and test some more. Finally, once the website is up, you have to invest in meticulous testing before you even think about launching your website. The difference between great online businesses and average ones is the ability to identify and remove issues before they become serious problems.
As you can see, the mere task of setting up a website for your online business takes both time and effort. While you may see advertisements that claim you can set one up in a matter of minutes, don’t fall for this myth. A functional website takes weeks to develop, if not longer.
2. CONTENT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT
The second thing you must know is content is the lifeblood of any successful online business. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling physical products, services, or intellectual property, content is what allows your business to thrive. The key, however, is identifying which types of content are worthy of your investment and developing a strategy that satisfies these needs.
In all likelihood, your strategy will intersect three different types of content distribution. They are known as paid, owned, and earned. As the name suggests, paid content refers to content which you’ve paid for. Generally, this comes in the form of social media advertising, sponsored content, native advertising, and display advertising.
Owned content refers to content that’s distributed through your own channels. The most popular type of owned content is onsite blog content, but this might also include email marketing and other channels.
Finally, you have earned content distribution. This is content that others voluntarily share for you. Earned content includes things like social media shares, press releases, media reviews, non-sponsored blog posts, and more. If you want a successful content strategy, you’ll likely need a blend of all three types.
3. SOCIAL IS THE FUEL TO YOUR ENGINE
When you think about a car, what makes it go? While there are certainly a lot of different aspects, including the key, ignition, gas pedal, and engine, you can’t go anywhere if you don’t have gas in the tank. In today’s e-commerce business climate, the same could be said of social media. While you can have a website, products, and content, you’re going to have trouble scaling without social media. It’s the fuel to your business engine.
Online sales are largely driven by word of mouth. If you want to gain traction and enjoy success, you need visibility and shares. In 2016, that almost always comes in the form of social media – and Facebook and Twitter in particular. There’s obviously a lot that goes into being successful on social, but realizing the importance of social is the first step.
4. YOU CAN’T IGNORE KPIS
One of the first problems a new online business owner encounters is the inability to understand how their website is performing. If you want to avoid this issue, there needs to be a strategic plan in place. In most cases, this means identifying and analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs).
“A performance indicator is simply a quantifiable measurement or data point used to gauge performance relative to some goal,” writes Mark Hayes of Shopify. Depending on your specific goals, the KPIs you use will be unique to your business.
However, generally speaking, some of the top KPIs for e-commerce businesses include hourly, daily and weekly sales, shopping cart abandonment rate, conversion rate, new customer orders versus returning sales, product affinity, average time on site, customer service email count, average resolution time, and more.
While establishing and reviewing KPIs can be time intensive, a dedication to this task is what sets average online businesses apart from the successful ones. Ignore this responsibility at your own peril.
BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL ECOMMERCE BUSINESS
Over the past few years, the fact that anyone can launch an online business has incorrectly led to the myth that building and scaling a successful online business is easy. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. If you want to build an online business that’s profitable and successful, there are a number of things you have to do correctly. At the top of that list are the four things mentioned in this article.
From setting up your website correctly and populating it with stellar content to leveraging social media and identifying the right KPIs, there are many things you must do behind the scenes to make your business successful and functional. Keep these tips in mind and continue reaching for success this year.