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The move to the online sphere has become the trademark of this digital age with online businesses being the new rage. Movies, series, books, music, and all entertainment sectors have migrated to online platforms, as has the retail sector. Now, e-commerce rules the industry. While this may not be true for all industries in South Africa, most retail and product and service industries now operate online or supplement their real-world business with online platforms.

There are two major types of online platforms trending in the e-commerce sphere at the moment. First is the e-commerce marketplace or the third-party platform, which is an e-commerce site that acts as the middle man for companies to sell their products to their customers through. Popular and successful examples of these sites are eBay, Amazon and Airbnb. The second type is the personally built e-commerce site where you can sell your own product or service to the customer through your own company website. Both of these types are growing in the world’s economy, especially in South Africa’s economy with increasing technology and internet access.

Going online is becoming the norm for many start-up businesses, however, starting an online business is not yet a familiar process. To make it just that little bit easier, here are 15 easy steps and tips to guide you through your launch of a small online business.

1. Evaluate yourself:

It is important that you evaluate yourself before you start a business that you may not be able to run. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, list your interests and hobbies and see where your strengths and interests match. It is important that you are strong in running a business that you will enjoy managing. The key to being happy is doing what you enjoy doing in all areas of your life, including work.

2. Market research:

Before delving into a business, it is important to know the industry that you are going into, and the economy of the environment that you will be operating in. First, research the economy of your country and of the world to see what is doing well and what is not. Then, begin researching industries that interest you and evaluate your research. Once this is done, you will have a good overview of which interests and ideas that you have will work in the industry of your location.

3. Find a need and fill the gap:

Next, you need to dive deeper into the industries that interest you and find a gap that has not yet been filled by other product and service providers. The goal is to find a need in the market that you could potentially satisfy, whether it be a product or service need.

4. Focus on a niche:

The next step involves focusing on the product or service that you will want to deliver. This focus will niche your business idea and help you not overload yourself with information and business ideas. However, if this focus is somewhat broad and not completely specific, it is not the end all and be all.

5. Research your target market:

Now that you have knowledge of your industry, a business idea and a focussed idea of your business offering, you can now research who your target market and ideal client is. The key to understanding your target market is researching and identifying the need within the industry that you will be fulfilling and who has that need. Next, you will need to refine this target market by identifying the ideal age range, living standard measure group and unique characteristics that will make your ideal client or customer. This is whom you will want to sell your product or service to.

6. Decide on a platform:

Next, you will need to decide on the platform type you will operate your business through. For instance, will you be operating your business as an e-commerce marketplace or through a personally built e-commerce site? Establishing this will shape your business offering as a product would be offered via a personally built e-commerce site, white a service could be the third party e-commerce site itself.

7. Start a business plan and monetise it:

Now that all your ducks are in a row regarding the business idea, the product or service being offered, the target market and the platform type that the business will operate through, you can start writing a business plan and sharing the plan to gain attention and potential offtake agreements. This will help develop the business as having clients or customers agree to use the site before it has been launched will ensure a certain number of sales upon its launch.

Here at Funding Connection, we can help you with drafting business plans tailored to your needs. You can visit the link to find out more about our business plan drafting service.

8. Make it official and legal:

This step involves registering the business name and legalising all its documents. For instance, getting tax clearance, company registration documents, etc. This is very important in starting a business because running a business and dealing with customers and clients requires a company to be legal and registered. This is also an important part for the next step.

9. Find funding:

While this may not apply to all business, many start-ups will require external funding. Whether this funding is private or government funding through funding companies, the business plan, various legal documents, and many offtake agreements and quotes are required. This step can sometimes be the make or break step as funding may not always be gained.

Funding Connection also aids companies in their journey to find and acquire funding from funding companies.

10. Create your website:

Here, you will need to build the website platform that you intend to use. This can be done through very easy websites that allow you to easily create web pages, such as WordPress and Wix. This task can also be outsourced to other individuals or companies. Additionally, this step required the site to be visually appealing, user-friendly, and effective in its purpose.

11. Test and refine your site:

Once the website is up and running, it is important to test it out and rectify any mistakes or refine any functions that need tweaks and changes. This is important as it will make your website more efficient and will help build a better reputation for the business.

12. Launch your site and make sales:

Now that the website is effectively ready for business, it is time to launch the business and begin selling the product or service. This launch should be marketed in any way possible to gain attention to the business and to ensure that sales beyond the offtake agreements occur. As the business moves past its launch, its sales will grow.

13. Market your brand:

The next step is to further market your brand and gain even more attention to the company and its product or service offering. This marketing can be in the form of promotions, through print and traditional marketing means, and through online marketing strategies via social media platforms. The aim is to use strategies that can specifically target your ideal client base.

14. Get feedback from your customers:

Once sales are increasing and the brand is becoming established, it is important to maintain a good relationship with your customers and ask for feedback. This feedback, even if negative, will help the business to grow with constructive criticism. Getting feedback will show you where to make changes and where to improve your website, product or service, or even operations and management.

15. Project yourself as an expert in the field and grow your business:

The final step to making this online business a successful one lies in projecting yourself as an expert in the industry and in the field of your product offering, thus making yourself and the business professional. This can be done by sharing your reputation with others, by marketing your product as the best in the business, and by helping others start up new business like yours and sharing your knowledge with them. This is known as coaching or mentoring, which is a great way to project yourself as an expert.

These steps can act as a guideline for anyone wanting to start an online business, and even for those who are looking to learn how to effectively migrate their business to an online platform. Use these steps as tips to guide you through your journey and you will come out on top. 


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