According to statistics released last year, internet business contributes to more than 8 per cent of the UK’s economy – a larger share than any other country in the G20.
Online businesses are continually emerging in Britain and are collectively worth around £121bn – that’s more than £2,000 per person according to researchers at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The UK also carries out far more retail online than any other major economy – accounting for around 13.5 per cent of all sales.
If you are starting out, you would expect the time is right to do it online. But making your first steps as an internet business is no easy task and there are certain things you should remember before heading into e-commerce for yourself.
Identify your market
If you have an idea, that is all well and good, but you should establish who you will be trying to sell it to. This should give you some basic ideas about the feel and look of your website, such as the localisations and designs you will be using. Take the time to research your competitors and make sure you are not offering the same thing as another, more established business.
You can do a lot of damage by changing your domain name at a later date. Make sure the one you choose fits your brand, is easy to spell and avoids using complicated words or formatting. If you want your domain name to match your company exactly, it may be worth waiting until you see what’s available.
Some registrars offer apparently free domains as part of a hosting package. Not all of these are dodgy, but make sure you confirm the domain is registered in your name.
A lot of the time web hosts will offer domain registration and it is often easier to have both in the same place.
Find a host
Much like a landlord, a web host will rent you the space on their server to host your website. You should evaluate all the features you are being offered, which includes things like storage capacity and security.
It sounds simple, but you can either design a site yourself or get someone else to do it for you. If doing it yourself, WordPress is a popular free tool. Once you go beyond this, if you have little experience in the field it can quickly become complicated.
Paper money does not exist online; electronic payment is the cornerstone of internet business. For one, it allows clients to act on impulse and you should assess with payment service will work best for you – PayPal, for example, is quite widespread.
If you want to make money, you’ll need people to visit your site. Firstly, make sure you use your URL in all marketing materials – whether it be letterheads, business cards or emails. You might also want to look at SEO (search engine optimisation) – techniques designed to improve how easy your site is to find.
This includes optimising your site to perform well for specific keywords. Doing this right from the start is essential to long-term visibility.
Social media presence is vital; Facebook and Twitter especially are important tools for online business.
They, along with the likes of Google+, allow you to engage with your target audience and attract new customers. It is important you establish and secure your brand name early to ensure you dominate the first page of search results.