Starting an Online Business

The first step towards setting up an online business is to think of a viable business idea that caters to a market need. Your potential audience can be broad or niche but there must be a specific need that your business should target to fulfill. However, somewhere between an idea in your head and actually starting an online business, there needs to be intense brainstorming and planning which will ultimately determine your success or failure in the business. Proper market research, analysis, and planning can prove invaluable in determining your idea’s potential.  It is important to assess the viability of your idea before you dive into incorporating your business and start spending your hard-earned money on the venture. Your research and planning should give you the information you need to either go ahead with your idea, fine-tune it, take it back to the drawing board or discard it.

Work out what product or service features have the best value proposition that you can deliver initially with your limited resources. Try to identify the minimal set of features or capabilities that will allow you to get your first customers. Make those features or capabilities your first product or service. You can always add more once the revenue stream has started; remember “perfect can be the enemy of good”.

Conduct a cash-flow analysis and identify your start-up costs, operating costs, revenues, and profits. Stay conservative and do not be overly optimistic about your business prospects. Make sure you are able to identify and cope with your worst case scenario. In particular, plan your cash flows such that you can weather through your worst case scenario for a set period of time.

Figure out how your product or service might fare against existing offerings. Analyze your competition and get a sense of how to price your product or service, how to target the right customers and how to make your company stand out, particularly in a crowded marketplace.

As you assemble your business plan and answer the above questions, you will see opportunities to fine-tune your concept, avoid problems that could become disasters and ultimately increase your odds of success.

Register a domain name. To put it simply, your domain name equates to your identity in the online world. It gives your website its own unique web address. Naturally, it should be a name that can be recalled easily and one that is easy to spell and pronounce. The name should help consumers associate your company with its products or services.

Find a hosting service provide for your website. Choose a hosting provider that provides prompt and quality customer support, uptime guarantee, generous disk space and bandwidth, high level of internet security, multiple platform support, and reasonable hosting fees. Amazon Web Services is a very good option in this regard.

Design and develop your website. E-commerce sites, like any site, need to build traffic and turn visitors into customers.  However, ecommerce sites also need to address other important issues such as product catalog, shopping cart, checkout process, payment processing, security, etc. Choosing the right ecommerce platform is one of the most important decisions you will make in your business. There are many cost-effective solutions that are available in this regard.

Electronic commerce presents a tremendous business opportunity; however, starting an online business and making it successful requires time, energy, skills, money, and following the legal framework. To run a successful online business, you must be willing and able to wear many hats. This is not a small undertaking so you need to plan and prepare in order to be successful.

Mithun is an international development specialist and author of several publications on socio economic development. Mithun is a regular contributor to online article sites on the topics of on line education, underserved peoples, scholarship and educational excellence.

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