Should You Take Your Business Online?
Unequivocally the answer is YES!
More than 80% of people will go online to review a product before purchasing it. There are review sites, blogs, and forums where people can go and get any information on a product or service they desire. But what happens if your business isn’t online?
If your product or service is not online then you are at risk of losing out on potential sales and new customers. The benefits of having a website for your business are immeasurable, however, we have ten of the top advantages below.
There are minimal start-up costs to create and run a website. All you need is a domain name and web hosting package and you’re half-way there. If your business is purely online you will save on overhead costs too which can add up to thousands of £££’s a year.
Marketing = Money
The internet is a great and inexpensive tool for marketing. Online advertising is affordable and easily tracked which means you see what communication is working and what isn’t. You will be able to nail down the exact demographics of your target audience and you can use Search Engine Optimisation tools to improve your Google ranking and therefore bring in more traffic. Email marketing is also a powerful tool to help raise brand awareness, build relationships and bring in sales – this is something every business should be doing.
The most effective way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint is to run it online only. Less staff is needed and your employees can also work from home – save on transport costs and utilities like water and heating. Everything can be done electronically and stored online too which helps to save paper.
Your online business will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. If you are running an ecommerce site then your business can make money for you while you are sleeping or taking your kids to school. Potential customers can browse your products and services, and review them whenever they want from the comfort of their own home. Your site can extract valuable data like email addresses and other important customer data which can help you to target the right audience more effectively.
Communication is Key
Your website is a point of contact for you and can act as an interactive business card. Customers are able to contact and converse with you via phone, email, Twitter, Facebook, and so on to ask you questions regarding your product and services. This is a great way to build relationships with your customers.
The Social Media Phenomenon
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms are extremely valuable tools to market your business. Companies can interact and engage with their customers to develop brand loyalty and industry authority. Plus it creates another sales and marketing channel for your business to grow.
Anyone with an internet connection can view your products or services online. From the countryside in Yorkshire to a busy corner shop in Japan and to a sleepy fishing village in South Africa, the internet is the world’s shopping window for your products.
Run your online business from your home – you could even run your online business while on holiday. Hosting companies like UK2.NET are creating software which makes it easy for someone to run their own business with ease. You could be creating and sending invoices while improving your golf swing.
If a potential customer searches for your company online and can’t find your website, you will automatically lose credibility in the eyes of that customer. They will, in a matter of seconds, search for the product or service you offer and go straight to the competition without a second thought.
Niche is Nice
eBay started out because someone bought a broken laser pointer off a bidding program created by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. Pierre contacted the customer to inform him that it was, in fact, a broken laser pointer he had just purchased, to which the customer replied: “I collect broken laser pointers.” Don’t think that if you have a niche product or service, there is no point in having it online. You are speaking to a global audience where your product could be more popular than you think.
However, what if you don’t have a business? Many UK2.NET clients are just beginning their online business adventure. If you have yet to make your first sale, don’t worry, we can still help you get online in a hurry. See below for a step by step account of how to create a business plan for your brilliant business idea.
A business plan is vital for any new business or entrepreneurial venture to succeed. It outlines how to reach your long-term objectives, while also generating a profit. But what do you need to know before creating this key document?
#1. Understand what your objectives are.
Most new businesses fail within five years, often due to a lack of planning. It’s vital to identify what you’re trying to achieve, and how the company might grow or diversify. Companies often evolve in unexpected directions, so don’t limit your scope by choosing a restrictive brand or website name.
#2. Look for templates.
There are free document templates online, including on The Prince’s Trust website. It’s useful to include financial appendices, again based on generic documents. These templates prove that you don’t need a marketing degree to explain a concept, identify opportunities or summarise year-by-year goals.
#3. Don’t overdo the content.
A five-page plan is fine as long as it covers the three key elements – cost, market analysis, and an overview of how the company will function. Knowing your target audience is important, but a concise summary of their demographics and buying habits will suffice in the plan.
#4. Follow the formula.
A typical business plan starts with a one-page summary, leading into a detailed description of the business’s USPs and goals. After covering market demographics and competitor analysis, you should incorporate business development plans. Conclude with marketing strategies and financial projections.
#5. Focus on USPs.
There’s no point launching a business that mimics established rivals: your new company should differ in service, choice, or value. Look for niches that aren’t being filled or customer needs not being met. Outline these USPs in your plan so potential investors understand why the company is being created.
#6. Proof and proof again.
A business plan is often the only document people can judge you (and your proposed enterprise) on. If the financial projections don’t add up, or the text is full of spelling errors, people will quietly walk away. Spell-check the document more than once, and ensure it’s neatly presented in jargon-free English.
#7. Run it past friends and family.
It’s often difficult to explain a concept or inspiration in writing. Show trusted friends and relatives your draft plan, asking whether it outlines your ideas clearly and convincingly. Act on constructive criticism, since your eventual audience may refuse funding or support for relatively minor reasons.
A well-written business plan often helps to refine proposals for a new company, steering it in a more profitable direction. If you only create one document before registering a business at Companies House, make it this one.
Next, let’s look at how you should design your new business website to be sure that your business is putting its best foot forward…
With global ecommerce sales expected to be worth £9 trillion by next year, there’s no excuse for substandard online sales portals. Consumers don’t expect to be wowed by shopping sites, but they do look for effective ecommerce design from a robust platform which won’t hang or crash.
The majority of ecommerce sales are made through websites. This is most obvious in America, where a quarter of the world’s internet purchases originate. One in ten retail sales is now made online. As a result, effective ecommerce design is a necessity rather than an aspiration, whether your firm is a local specialist or an international stockist.
If your customer-facing websites haven’t already adopted the best practices, these ten tips really deserve consideration:
1. Prioritise mobile.
If customers can’t complete a transaction as easily on their phones as they could on a tablet or desktop, they’ll defect to competitors without hesitation. Large buttons and responsive menus are essential, as is a mobile-optimised template.
2. Maintain consistency.
Having chosen a responsive site design, the next step involves developing a cohesive aesthetic. Headers, menus, and fonts should be identical on every product page, and even error pages should retain a consistent style.
3. Include all available product data.
If you sell refurbished laptops, don’t just list the make and model. Publish RAM and SSD levels, peripheral and port lists, preemptively answering potential queries. Product photos from every angle help, too.
4. Use common fonts, forms, and file types.
An ecommerce site requires stability and reliability, so it’s not the place to deploy obscure WordPress plugins. Stick to classic extensions (JPG, MP4), fonts (Arial, Helvetica) and coding (HTML5, CSS).
5. Beta test in every possible browser.
Preview the site in Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge to ensure that fonts display coherently. Test form fields on Kindles, games consoles, and fringe devices to address any issues which arise.
6. Avoid clutter.
The previous point should ensure that sidebars don’t appear centre-stage, but clutter comes in many varieties. Hover ads and interstitials ruin the UX, while white space subliminally draws a person’s eye to surrounding content.
7. Simplify and subtract.
Effective ecommerce design requires homepage ‘Buy’ buttons and one-click ordering. Enable customers to shop as guests with a subsequent opt-in for marketing literature, ensuring a simple path between arrival and order completion.
8. Streamline checkouts.
A one-page ecommerce portal should contain a bare minimum of fields. This isn’t the time to ask for consumer preferences. Never hide taxes or postage away until the end of a transaction, and make sure that the ‘Buy Now’ button can’t be clicked twice.
9. Minimise loading times.
Effective ecommerce design should bolster SEO results, but Google and Bing hate slow-loading pages. Abolish unnecessary code or CSS, weed out dead links and 404 errors, and never autoplay video clips as a page loads.
10. Use online tools for an insider perspective.
Google demonstrates weaknesses in site design across both desktop and mobile sites, while Yoast does the same for SEO. Google Analytics reveals keyword performance and also helps to optimise sites.
Other tips may benefit specific industries or stages of growth, such as a startup firm researching established rival sites for examples of best practice. Sitemap wireframes help designers understand an ecommerce platform’s structure while hosting needs vary depending on bandwidth requirements and database structure. UK2.NET is ideally placed to help with everything from domain registration and site hosting to malware protection and data backups.
Now all that’s left to add stunning content to your new business website…
Many think that a great product, an intuitive checkout process, and fast shipping are all you need for a successful ecommerce website. However helpful these attributes are, there is yet another ingredient for the perfect ecommerce recipe that contributes towards increased searchability, website traffic, and overall sales goals.
All successful ecommerce stores share one important characteristic: engaging website content which includes a helpful About Us page, product descriptions, and more often than not, a blog. It is often said that content is king and the ecommerce industry is no exception. Let’s take a look at some useful tips that can help you craft engaging content for your ecommerce website that can help promote sales, increase website traffic, and elevate your social media standings.
Tips for creating engaging ecommerce website content
While you can’t build an ecommerce empire overnight, regularly published content can boost search engine ranking and keep your website fresh. Our list of content tips isn’t exhaustive. However, it will help you get started if writer’s block has you down.
Start with your USP.
No matter what type of content you plan to publish – blogs about your business narrative, articles showcasing your great employees, or guest posts from others in your industry – just be sure that you always begin with the angle of why your startup or small business is unique.
Don’t be afraid to try something different. In the competitive digital world, it’s hard to capture attention from internet browsers. A little bit of creativity, particularly in product descriptions, can go a long way. Perhaps you don’t want to reinvent the wheel completely, but make sure that you do your best to add a splash of colour and personality.
Know what works and what doesn’t.
Speaking of creativity, not everything you try is going to be a winning idea. It’s important to pay close enough attention to what is working for your audience and what is not. Sometimes it’s okay to click the “Delete” button or start again if your idea isn’t panning out.
Always research well.
Far too many content creators are called out because they haven’t done enough research. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world when you make a mistake, but do your best to appear as knowledgeable and meticulous as possible.
Understand the trends.
Keep up with industry movers and shakers to know what is trending and what is past its prime. The easiest way to do this is to read as much as you can. You can find great information in blogs, forums, and online newspapers and magazines to stay in the know.
Only choose the channels that work for you.
We can often get sucked into a routine and continue to post content on social media and RSS feeds that are not bringing about the same benefits as they once did. If you notice that your analytics aren’t as exciting on Facebook or Medium, don’t be afraid to drop that channel and try something new. You never know what you might find!