10 Steps to opening your online business
1. Write a Business Plan
Is your new business worthwhile?
First, you need to know if your idea is viable. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of your store launch, only to find out that, for one reason or another, your idea just isn’t going to work. So to answer this question, you’ll need to write what’s called a “business plan.”
5 reasons to write a business plan:
- It lets you analyse your competitors to define how your store will stand out (“differentiation”)
- It offers a roadmap of the tasks ahead, and uncovers weaknesses in your product or brand idea
- It helps you define who your potential customers will be
- It encourages you to set short-term and long-term goals and tasks
- It provides a documented plan to share with investors and future partners.
As the first and foundational step of your e-commerce journey, rushing through your business plan isn’t a great idea. A well- thought-out business plan takes time and attention to detail, but the result is an actionable plan that could save you a lot of time, money, and headaches down the road. So take the time to write a good plan on the front end.
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- Sign up for our Free Forever Starter plan and we’ll send you a questionnaire to help you develop your business plan
- Sign up for any of our paid plans and we’ll help you write you busines plan (this offer is valid until 30 September 2020) better understanding of what an actionable business plan might look like.
2. Should you Register the Business?
Will you be a Sole Trader or a Limited Company?
When launching your new business, you can start as a Sole Trader or a Limited Company.
In the UK, if you start a business without registering the business with Companies House, then that business will be considered a Sole Trader by default.
As a Sole Trader, there is very little distinction between you the business owner and the business itself. Any business debts become your debts and your personal assets – including your house – are not protected.
Registering a limited company has one primary benefit that is worth considering: the business is its own legal entity, so as a shareholder you have limited liability (hence the name ‘limited by shares’).
This allows you to limit personal responsibility in the event of debts, liabilities, or litigations.
3. Set Up a Bank Account
Accounting requires good record-keeping and a documented flow of funds in and out of your business. So setting up a separate business bank account is the first step toward hassle- free accounting for your small business.
Not only does it make it significantly easier to keep track of your business-related expenses, but if you’re a business entity other than a sole trader you’re also legally required to have a dedicated business bank account.
Before you go to the bank, make sure you have the required documentation with you, such as your:
- Business address, including postcode, contact details (landline number, mobile number, email address)
- Companies House registration number (for limited companies and partnerships)
- your estimated turnover
- Personal details from you, plus any partners or directors including:
- Full name
- telephone number and email address
- current personal address (and previous address if you’ve been there under 3 years)
4. Find partners and suppliers
By the time you open your store, you’ll need to have found several reliable suppliers for your products or services.
Suppliers are your first line of defence to maintain inventory, meet your customers’ expectations, and keep your business running smoothly.
Even the smallest delay while a product is out of stock puts you at risk of losing customers. When you do sign deals with your suppliers make sure to read the contracts carefully to ensure you agree with all the conditions of supply. It’ll save you a lot of time, money, and missed sleep later on.
5. How will you deliver?
To decide how you’re going to deliver your products and services you need to answer these questions:
- Are you going to provide your services in person or remotely using tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom?
- Do you intend to ship your products with postal or courier services?
- Are you going to ship nationwide, worldwide, or in your region only?
- How much is delivery going to cost?
- Are you going to offer in-person collection?
- Is it possible to return your products? What is your return policy?
6. Choose Payment Options
How will you get paid?
Which payment options are you going to enable for your customers? Credit cards, electronic payment systems, cash, checks, money orders, BACS transfers…
The more options you offer, the more likely your customer are to complete their transactions.
Convenience is key for your customers. But think about what’s best for you too: compare transaction fees, simplicity of refunds, support, and any other key features that will help you make an informed decision.
7. Buy a Domain Name
You can absolutely sell things online without buying domain name. And with SAUE Commerce, we make that really easy.
If you’re planning to grow your brand however, it’s a good idea to at least know what’s available and how much it’s going to cost down the road.
But, of course, the best way to protect your brand is to go ahead and buy your domain while it’s available. Domains are generally very affordable and owning your own domain will protect your copyrights and trademarks, build brand awareness, and increase your search engine rankings.
If you put off getting a domain name for later, you’ll save some money, but your competitors could also buy it while you’re waiting. A good domain will cost you a few bucks, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than buying your domain back from a 14- year-old later.
8. Write Product Descriptions
A product title isn’t enough. Your customers can’t hold your products in their hands, so it falls to your product description to tell them everything they need to know.
What does it look like? What does it feel like? What features does it have that make it awesome? You need to explain why your product is great, and more importantly, why your customers should choose it over a competing product.
If you sell clothes, describe the material, garment care, how to choose the right size. Explain how to wear your clothes and recommend accessories and other products to pair with it. And it’s important that you write your own descriptions — you can look for inspiration, but don’t carbon copy your content from other sites.
Good product descriptions will also contain keywords and phrases that your customers are likely to search for on popular search engines like Google.
9. Build your Social Media Platform
Before you launch your webstore, make sure you’ve created your social media pages.
Social media is a great source of traffic, and launching your pages early gives you the opportunity to drum up interest and buzz around your products before your site goes live.
You don’t necessarily need to be on every platform. Just choose the social media that your target audiences are using, then create business pages to promote to them.
Publish news about your company, share product pictures, and announce the opening of your new online store. If you have a potential customer base, you can announce pre-order.
If you’d like to generate some extra excitement, then arrange a contest or giveaway to build engagement around your brand.
But make sure you follow your chosen platform(s)’s Terms and Conditions for contests.
10. Create your online store
With sauecommerce, you can create an online store from scratch or quickly add one to an existing site or social media page.
You can do it all in just a couple hours without any experience in programming or design.
Then fill your store with all the amazing content you’ve prepared: upload pictures, add your product descriptions, select your payment options, and choose your shipping methods.
By the time you’re done, you’ll have a fully functioning online store that’s ready to accept it’s very first customers.