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Building your business online

With continuation to our previous article here, in this blog we will discuss about the steps to move your business online.
This article jointly focus on startup and existing small business willing to move online.

1. Design your business

The first step to move/start your business online is to understand how this world works in the virtual realm. Even though the concepts are vastly related but there are significant differences in their approach. You can find loads of funny videos in internet showing what happens when we try to match these two worlds together :-)

2. Build your website

Next most important thing after designing your business is to actually start building the website. This step would help you get aligned with your business thoughts. You can revisit your step 1 to modify/alter your designing.

Now, based on your budget, technical capabilities etc, you have ample opportunities to choose how you want to build your website.

Here, its very important to understand the complexity of your business model. For example , a consultant like Health Professional, Tax Consultant, Real Estate Agents, Lawyer etc will require a website to provide some details on them, showcasing their experiences , a form to get customer info and an appointment booking system. This sort of requirements can be classified as a low complex websites.

Your requirement might be to open an online store where you would regularly need to update your products, integrate your website with payment system, allow customer to like share or review your products, managing inventories, etc. With all these features your website can be of medium complexity.

Beyond this their can be various other services you might require for your business like Customer Service Management, Data Analytics or your resource planning and beyond. Those requirements are classified as high complexity project.

The next important thing is your budget. As my initial topic of discussion was focused on small businesses I would like to set the scope of this topic according to that.

For an individual willing to build their own low complexity website to take their presence online, with a little technical knowledge you can build your website using any web language which are free. Traditionally, you can host your website in your own web server(apache,jboss etc have no costs) which would save the pockets. The next thing would be to buy a domain(prices etc is discussed in the next topic) and a mail server. Any additional form requirement in the page or a booking system would require you to integrate your website with a data storage system. A database(sql/no-sql), excel,  MS access etc, and can be acquired with zero or very low fees. Hiring any web-developer or a web-development company to develop your site with this approach will cost in the range of $500-$2000 depending upon the requirements, quality of the website, developer rate etc. with the average rate being $900.

Going with a modern approach will be to host everything in cloud. You can set up your whole website in any of the cloud service providers, AWS being the most popular option. As the price structures are fairly pay-as-you-need the overall cost of your website development and hosting will be significantly low.
Here, hiring any web-developer or a web-development company will lower your estimate on the development time but there will be some costs involved in hosting the website on cloud and using their services. The cost can again range between $500-$2000 with an average rate being $750.

The third approach is to use any cloud based SaaS (Software as a service) to build your website. The biggest advantage of using this services is that you can build your webite with minimum technical knowledge. Using the ready to use services will reduce a lot of the development time. The disadvantage is because of its standard nature it will not have much options for optimizations. The most popular names among them are shopify, wordpress, wix etc. There are no fees for using their standard development tools but hosting your website costs in the range of $15-$50 monthly depending upon the subscription types. Most of the standard features are however sold as services costing in the range of $1 - $30 approx monthly. So building you own website would cost somewhere between $180(yearly) - $960(yearly). Please note that the web hosting cost is also included in this plan. However if you want a professional touch in your website, then a typical web developer charges somewhere between $500-$1500 on top of any subscriptions.

3. Buy a domain name

Domain selection is the next step in moving your business online. Ideally, you’d want the domain name to be the same as your business name. The cost of buying a domain ranges between $15-$20 yearly. You purchase a domain, using a domain buying platform.

4. Fill up your selling inventory (for online sellers)

For online sellers the next step is to fill up your selling inventory. Here lies the sharp difference of how you showcase your items so it gets maximum attention. Unlike a physical store where a customer can actually see the product, a virtual store has to rely on how you exhibit your product in the virtual display so the customer gets the best perspective of the product.

Product photography plays a very important role in a ecommerce market, so before you uploads your product photos make sure that it gives the right impression. Also, good reviews and comments for a product plays a very vital role once you manage to sell few of your products. You can hire professional photographers whose price varies from hourly rate to number of photos. Usually the higher number of photo they take the lower their rate goes.

5. Sort out the legal side of things

Online businesses are not exempted from standard legal procedures. In fact, you may have to fulfil a few more requirements depending on how you plan to run your operations. Some of the key legal aspects of selling products and services on the internet including proper disclaimers, terms and conditions, data privacy policy if you are collecting customer data, making your copyright etc. Apart from this for starting an online business you will also have to follow the standard business regulations like having your registration, license, permits etc. Online selling business will also have to oblige with the taxation laws.

Most of the legal information can be obtained free of cost over internet. However based on your business line you might have to take consultation from professional layers.

6. Let the world know

So once you are set with everything above your next important thing is to start getting people to notice your website. There are nearly 1.8 bn websites in the world currently. By the time you read this there may be several more. So how do you stand out from the crowd and make yourself visible to your potential customers?
Here comes the next big step which is digital marketing who spread the word about your business to the world. There are several channels you can leverage which includes social media example Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn among the popular ones, search engines like google bing etc. It takes time to establish a presence in search engines, so you should start working on SEO (search engine optimization) as soon as you get your business online. The other ways include Email marketing but there you will have to be careful about not spamming everyone and violating rules.

Usually this part of your business is an ongoing job and its hard to balance between your business and doing your digital marketing. Depending upon your growth you can hire digital marketing agencies for this job.
The prices can vary significantly and go upto $20-$30 grand a month but at the initial stage you should keep a budget of atleast around $500-$1000 per month.

Hope you find this information helpful.

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