5 Things Business Owners Need to Start an Online Business

Today’s technology makes maintaining and expanding your brand’s digital presence easy, and many business owners are discovering just how accessible it is to run a business online. If you’re considering taking your company online, here are five steps to help you get started.  

Do your research before launching your online business

Unlike brick-and-mortar retail environments that require considerable material resources and time to establish, taking your business online can help you maximize profits while keeping operating costs low. But launching your online business is not as simple as starting a website — there are several things to consider before going live if you want to make the most of your digital platform.

Operating online doesn’t make your business exempt from the typical legal regulations that govern new businesses, so be sure to obtain all the necessary permits and licenses before you launch. And just as you would with a more traditional business venture, you’ll want to make sure you have spent some time developing a business plan and marketing strategy. Then, consider the digital elements that make running an online business unique. Your website will be the base of your operations, so focus on designing a website that is enticing, unique and easy for customers to navigate. If your business sells tangible products that will need to be shipped to customers, you will also need to consider what distribution method will be the most efficient and cost effective. Take care of these tasks ahead of time to set your online business up for a smooth launch. 

Make your site mobile-friendly

Nearly all consumers these days do at least some of their shopping online, and the number of them who do so using a mobile device continues to grow. If you want to make the most of your online business, you need to optimize your website for these mobile shoppers. Sites that take too long to load or have confusing navigation can frustrate potential customers, causing them to give up and you to lose out on a sale. Invest in optimizing your mobile pages so that they are lighter, faster and intuitive enough to keep users on your website. Then, guide them through the buying process with bold calls to action and a streamlined checkout process so convenient they’ll want to come back. 

[Read more: Website Design: What Makes a Great User Experience?]

Attract visitors to your site

Once you’ve built and optimized a website for your business, you’ll need to entice potential customers to visit it. While a high volume of users can help you with exposure and brand awareness, the quality of the traffic to your website is just as important as the quantity. To get the biggest return on your digital marketing investments, try to drive visitors to your website who will be most likely to convert. Linking to your e-commerce website from your social profiles and other owned media is a great way to reach customers who are already interested in your brand. You can also experiment with influencer or affiliate marketing, giveaways, or customer referral programs as ways to showcase what you have to offer to the most relevant communities. 

Now that your website has visitors, the trick to turning them into customers is to optimize their user experience. The fewer clicks required of a customer in order to make a purchase, the more likely they are to do so. To ensure you are taking advantage of all the new traffic you are driving to your website, make the shopping experience fast and easy for users with assets such as targeted landing pages and one-click purchase buttons.

Choose a credit card processor

In order to do business online, you need a way to process credit card payments quickly and conveniently. There are several factors to consider if you want to implement a checkout process that benefits both your business and your customers. On the front end, you’ll want to develop a clean user interface to reassure customers that doing business with your company will be simple and secure. Behind the scenes, you will need to decide how your business will accept payments. Merchant accounts, third-party processors or one-stop e-commerce and sales platforms like Etsy or Shopify are all options that entail different features, fees and levels of customer support. Take time to research several options before deciding which payment processing method will work best for your business.

Create an email marketing strategy

Email marketing is an affordable and accessible strategy employed by 87% of all marketers, but crafting effective emails that drive traffic and sales can be tricky. Luckily, with the right techniques, any business can take advantage of the benefits email marketing has to offer. Start with a compelling subject line that will actually entice readers enough to click through. Once you’ve hooked them, keep your message concise and engaging with short paragraphs and eye-catching graphics. Don’t forget to wrap up with a call to action for readers, and keep experimenting with different phrasing and formats until you land on something that works.

Expand your brand presence using social media marketing

These days, social media is an essential part of almost every business’s online marketing strategy. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide an affordable opportunity to grow your brand awareness by showcasing the things that make your company unique. To make the most of your social media marketing efforts, you’ll want to develop a guide that you and your team can use to keep your online presence consistent. Though your audience and strategy will vary slightly across platforms, the elements of your brand, such as your logo, color palette, typography and tone of voice, should all be constants used to reinforce a cohesive brand identity.    

Invest in content marketing

Content marketing is a growing and multifaceted marketing strategy that businesses of all sizes can benefit from, but it can be an especially powerful tool for small businesses looking to reach new customers and strengthen existing relationships. To develop a content strategy for your online business, you should start by defining your target audience and what problem your content can solve for them. By examining your content from the perspective of a potential customer, you can maximize your returns by identifying what content would be the most relevant or helpful to them and which distribution channels will be most effective.

[Read more: A Complete Guide to Content Marketing]

Know when to work with an online marketing service

Of course, marketing your online business doesn’t have to be a DIY task. A range of online marketing services exist to help small business owners with everything from SEO to web design, and what works best for your company will depend on your budget, needs and skill set of your in-house team. Some online marketing services are connected to specific platforms or products while others take a more holistic approach using an agency model, and both approaches come with their own costs and benefits. If you do decide to outsource your marketing efforts to an online marketing service, explore reviews by other business owners to identify the most reliable options for your business and budget.

Want more tips and strategies for growing your business? We’re here to help. Signup for BackToBiz our free small business recovery program with over 400 lessons to help you rebuild, grow and succeed in small business.

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CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an editorial website with a mission to serve growing businesses across the U.S. Find the resources you need to start, run and grow your company, including information on federal aid programs and grants.