By Jo Ray, managing director, Sage Small Business Division
Figures in 2006 showed that the average UK consumer spends around £1,000 a year on the internet (Interactive Media in Retail Group). With an increasing amount of money spent online each year, so does the opportunity for people to set up businesses that sell directly online. The popularity of websites such as Ebay and Amazon means that anyone can start a business online.
If you’re thinking of selling online, here are 10 easy steps to building and continuing to run a successful internet business:
1. Form a plan of action
Make sure you indicate where you want your company to be in six months, two years and five years from now. Try to be realistic, unless you have a huge advertising / marketing budget, sales will probably grow quite modestly to begin with
2. Identify your target market
Who is going to buy your products? Do they use the internet? How much money on average do they spend on this type of product? Research is the key to the foundations of your business and its ultimate success
3. Identify suppliers
Establish where and who you will source your products from. It might seem simple, but if costs start to spiral, you’re eating into any potential profit. Consider what your products cost. What price will they sell for and what other fulfillment costs will you incur?
4. Test your market on eBay
Before building a complete retail environment test your product sales on eBay to make sure your strategy works
5. Decide on your e-commerce infrastructure
Research and decide what e-commerce software is best suited for your requirements and if necessary, decide who to register and host your domain with. Once you have set-up your business you need to start considering how you can accurately track money in, money out as well as VAT. You’ll also need to start to manage contacts and customer, keep records of any sales quotations, invoices payments and receipts. Finally make sure your site is secure!
6. Analyse your competitors
Who are your main competitors? How can you create a competitive edge and offer potential customers something that they can’t?
7. Constantly analyse your business model
(How, What, When, Who & Why) Ask yourself as many questions about your business as possible and then answer them all in your business plan. Ask friends and family to be objective about your proposed business, take any concerns or criticism on board and provide answers in your business plan
8. Analyse your site for weaknesses
Do all the procedures work? Are there any broken links? Are your products well categorised and easy to find? Is your site easy to navigate? Is your site atheistically pleasing? These are all potential reasons why your site may not convert visitors into sales – approach your site as if you were the customer
9. Experiment with various on-line marketing techniques
Your traffic building techniques will become an ongoing task but you need to decide and plan the techniques you intend to use to build traffic momentum to your new on-line venture
10.Choose your payment gateway
Research which payment gateway is best suited to take your credit card receipts
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