Friday, October 22, 2010

How to Start an Online Business 101

Welcome back everyone, I hope that everything is well with you. I wanted to post this blog not only for those who want to start their own online business and for those of us who already have businesses online. Because as an online retailer, we should never stop learning.


From: The Everything Start Your Own Business Book
Author: Rich Mintzer

Rivaling traditional retailers today are online retail businesses. For the most part, e-tail (as it’s affectionately called) has not made a significant dent in the retail world… yet. In fact, many people still research products on the Internet and then walk into a bricks-and mortar retail location to see and purchase the products. Certain products, such as books, CDs, and toys have shown tremendous results over the Internet. For someone who wants to maintain a low overhead, selling a niche market item via the Internet can also be advantageous for a small business. Specialized services such as gift items or custom-made products such as a golf clubs have also enjoyed success. The Web has also proved a marvelous way to promote and increase sales for established bricks-and-mortar businesses that do additional sales over the Internet but don’t base their entire business on e-tail sales.
One of the biggest concerns of many customers shopping over the Internet is not knowing from whom they’re buying and not feeling confident that their privacy is respected and maintained. Other than dealing with established online companies, many people are reluctant to give their credit card number to unknown and possibly unsecured source. While many source show more breaches of security with traditional credit card methods used in retail stores, consumers are still wary of cyberspace. Fraud and privacy issues as evidenced by the ever-increasing rash of unwanted spam mailings that occur whenever they sign up or put their personal information on certain Web sites. If you’re going into e-tail, be sure to make yourself as accessible as possible with a toll free number, good customer services policies, a business address, and so on. People have become quite concerned about the anonymity of many e-tial-only businesses.
Another problem of starting a Web based business is unlike hanging a sign out front-as you would do for walk-in business with a retail location-you need to find a way to draw people to your site. For many entrepreneurs, Web marketing has not been an easy venture. The glut of reported, demise of many those sites, has not been as favorable for new e-tail businesses in the new millennium. It has become increasingly difficult for Web startups to find venture capital. While this trend may change in the near future, at present most people looking to start up an Internet business are thinking small or looking to start up an adjunct business (to a bricks-and-mortar business) but not use the Web site as their primary business source.
There are plenty of Web-based success stories, and if you find a niche, a way to market yourself, and enough venture capital to survive, you can still get a Web-based e-tail business off the ground. To your advantage is that you can very likely get by without many (or possibly any) other employees. Other than possibly needing someone to help set up and run the site from a technical standpoint, it’s quite possible that you can handle the orders yourself with a fulfillment house. You also don’t need an inventory, an alarm system, a night watchman, or a shovel for clearing the snow off the sidewalk so that customers can get to your shop.
To succeed with an e-tail business, you need to think like an online consumer. It helps to either be one yourself or, at the very least, talk to regular online consumers. Get to know what people look for from an e-commerce site. Browse numerous sites to get a feel for how they look and how they operate. (Visit or for Web site reviews.) Evaluate which sites are easy to navigate and purchase what you want and which ones are not. The point of ordering is the most important juncture of the process. If customers are clicking repeatedly to get through the process, they will simply click off of the site. You need a fast dependable, foolproof server. You need to be able to handle various payment methods, not unlike a bricks-and-mortar location. Because the Web is global, you may improve your sales potential by being able to handle foreign currencies as well. Finally, you need to have very reliable methods of shipping; otherwise your reputation will diminish quickly. Web sites have gone out of business by taking more order than they could handle or ship.

Remember, you’re providing customers with the ability to shop from the comfort of their own homes or offices. Ask yourself: How can you capitalize on that? How can you gain their trust and confidence? How can you make the shopping experience easy and time efficient?
E-Fact One of the largest target audiences online is the college student. About 90 percent of U.S. college students have access to the Internet--most through their schools. College students spend an estimated $700 million online annually. Now that's buying power!

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