Starting an Online Business

Planning out your marketing strategy and getting your website right before you launch is paramount if you want to succeed with selling online. So if you’re considering starting an online business then hopefully this post will help you with some of the key things to consider before you begin.

Here at Creare we have had the privilege of working with hundreds of successful start-ups. These range from those who have previously run other successful online businesses, to those who have never managed a website previously. If you’re in the latter group then it may at first seem a little daunting to start considering your offsite payment gateways from your SSL certificates and your product options from your categories…however, if you approach each element of your website with your ultimate business aims and objectives in mind then you’ll be set up and trading in no time!

First things first

Before you start investing any time and money into an amazing new website to showcase your products or services, have you researched the marketplace fully to understand where to position yourself and what will make you stand out from your competitors? The internet is a busy place, so whatever you want to sell to your customers, you need to be confident that you’re offering something different – whether that be ridiculously low prices, an outstanding level of customer service or a completely unique product, make sure you shout about why people should buy from you.

If you don’t tell your website visitors how great your products or services are, who will?

Once you have got a firm marketing strategy in place with a clear message to communicate to your customers, make sure you pass this on to your creative team. They will of course complete their own research and undoubtedly ask you lots of questions to ensure they pitch the website just right for your business and industry, but add to the knowledge they build up with anything that you have already prepared. This will ensure that the design and development team working with you can truly understand how to visualise your ideas and build them into a fully functioning and user-friendly website.

Time is precious

Visitors to your website will have little time to spare. Remember this when you are preparing your site structure, content and product or service details. The majority of people landing on your website will make decisions about whether to consider buying your products or services within a matter of seconds – therefore try to make their journey through your website really clear and really simple.

Understand what your customers want and then present it to them, quickly!

For example, if you know that your most popular product this summer (when it finally arrives) is going to be your “Deluxe Twin Grill BBQ” then make sure this is prominent on your homepage with a clear price point and an obvious call to action to instantly “Buy Now”. If you make the only option to find this product a frustrating click through multiple over-complicated and ambiguous category structures such as “Home > Living > Outdoor > Garden > Summer > Cooking > BBQs” then you can almost guarantee your potential customer will lose interest and bounce.

CTA Example

By all means, place your products or services within a couple of levels of user-friendly categorisation, displayed within a mega menu or similar, but ensure that you also introduce additional routes through to your most popular categories or pages using direct links and useful visuals. Guiding your customers straight to the products or services which they are most likely to be searching for from your homepage will improve their experience of your website.

Be transparent

Those who shop online want to know what they are getting for their money and when they can expect it. And they don’t like surprise hidden costs. So when you’re considering your strategy for shipping costs for example, whatever you decide, make it very clear to the customer even before they start browsing your products what they will be expected to pay for delivery.

Online shoppers love free shipping and next day delivery so if this is something you are able to offer then promote it loud and clear on all pages of your website.

Build trust

If you’re an online start-up then chances are, the majority of visitors landing on your website will not yet be familiar with your brand. Therefore it’s really important to build up their trust. One of the ways you can do this is by showcasing customer reviews or case studies which you may be able to gather early on after you have launched. Also, if you have any accreditations or partner organisations that you work with, then display their logos on your website as trust by association can be a strong psychological trigger.

Promoting yourself on social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook can also help you gain a public following that can serve to strengthen the appeal of your brand as potential customers will see that others have already decided to trust you. If you actively encourage social sharing on pages of your website and integrate campaigns directly on your social channels to draw customers back through to your website then this can also be a very effective marketing channel to take advantage of.

Another point to consider is that if you’re taking money or collecting personal details on your website, then installing an SSL certificate and ensuring that your website is fully secure will also mean that savvy visitors using modern browsers will feel more comfortable seeing the familiar secure green tick or lock when they land on your website which lets them know that you care about keeping their details secure.

Make sure you can be found

So you’ve got your brand new awesome website live. Fantastic! However, this isn’t where you wait for the business to roll in, you’ll need to ensure that you invest in a targeted marketing campaign to gain exposure and traffic to your website. One of the key elements of this will be building up organic rankings for relevant searches on all of the major search engines with a tailored SEO campaign.

Be honest

Overall, when you build an online business, be honest with your customers and offer a genuine product or service that is of value and you can’t go far wrong! Tell your customers who you are and what your story is – people like to deal with people – so try to ensure that you add a personal touch of personality to your brand which will make visitors feel like they are actually buying from your team, rather than a computer.

Give us a shout if we can help you at all on your online start-up journey and feel free to add thoughts and tips from your own experiences below.

Have fun and good luck!