The Ultimate Guide to Starting An Online Business In 2021
June 4, 2021
If a couple of years back we’d have told you that a global pandemic will occur and create problems for the entire world population, you definitely wouldn’t have believed.
Before Covid-19, we’d only read about pandemics in history books assuming it could never become a reality again, but nature had its own masterplan. 2021 was“supposed” to be the one where it all ends so people can go on living a normal life again. Fast forward five months, where are we? Probably in a worse situation than before! This is the new normal, people are adapting to it, its time our businesses did too!
Imagine a scenario, Angela is a senior at a local university In Singapore. She’s graduating soon and needs a dress for her ceremony. On usual days she would have visited 10 different stores, tried every outfit she liked and then bought the one she loved. But with the increasing cases of Covid -19 and the various restrictions in place, she’ll have to order her dress online.
People are shifting to online shopping for the smallest as well as the biggest things, literally from needles to furniture, making it the perfect time for business’ especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to move online.
If you’re an existing business owner or someone who’s looking to start something new, NOWIs the time! Some might argue saying this is not the best time to start something new considering so many companies are shutting and even big MNCs couldn’t survive. But going online is the solution. E-commerce is the safest option in these tough times.
Plus, it’s a WIN-WIN situation
In today’s time, all large brick & mortar retailers already have a strong virtual presence whether it’s their website or social media. When it comes to small and medium enterprises, taking the decision of spending the time and efforts to expand their business online can be a difficult decision to make.
With the increasing popularity of eCommerce, going online is inevitable. The lack of online presence can hurt the business’s reputation and might reduce credibility.
If a customer is interested in buying something, the first thing he does is Google and if he can’t find you then you’re already out of the race. It becomes extremely important to have an online presence but then again you don’t have to be active on all platforms. Choose a platform of your choice and work hard to make it attractive for existing and potential customers. There are a lot of option to choose from, but a website is a must. You can create a very simple website and that will solve your purpose. Plenty of sites let you design a simple yet attractive website for free.
According to WebsiteBuilderExpert, the 10 best free website builders of 2021 are:
You can also hire a web designer if you are looking for a more detailed and comprehensive website, but these platforms should be sufficient to help you with a simple website for your operations. If you have the time and money at disposal, you can also consider developing an application (app).
But then again if you are a small business owner an app might not be the most optimal choice for you. The wiser thing for you to do is find a platform that matches your product. If you sell groceries you can use Redmart by Lazada, Amazon Fresh by Amazon, Nature’s Basket and so on. If you sell clothes you can use platforms like Alibaba, Shopee, Amazon, Lazada, Zalora and the list goes on and on. The difficult part is to find the perfect platform. You can list your products on more than one platform as well.
If you have a physical store, then managing your products on multiple platforms might be too much to handle. This is where hiring an E-commerce enabler can help you. We at Atsell empower sellers with the ability to focus and build their business. We help merchants understand which marketplace platforms are the best for their business and help them achieve success on them.
Usually when an existing business goes online it takes a toll on the physical sales due to lack of attention, but currently due to Covid-19 sales are already affected.It’s important that you use this time and opportunity wisely.
Benefits of going online
According to Statista , In 2020, over two billion people purchased goods or services online, and during the same year, e-retail sales surpassed 4.2 trillion US dollars worldwide. 2020 also had e-retail account for 18% of all retail sales worldwide and this figure is projected to reach 21.8% in 2024. E-commerce has been witnessing an upward trend that is here to stay.
1. Wider reach
Once you go online you can sell to anyone anywhere. You can have customers living 5 minutes away from you to customers living 5000 miles away from you. You’ll have access to a wider customer base which means more customers and more sales.
The more the MERRIER!
Plus, having a global or even country or continent wide audience base lets you know how different kind of people react to your products and services.Sometimes they might not do too well in your home market due to various reasons like competition, needs and wants of people, seasonal factors and so on but do exceptionally well in some other market.
For example, imagine you have a winter garment business in Singapore. We all know the only two weathers Singapore has it, sun and rain. Your business has customers but they’re very few and irregular. Now if you start selling in other nearby countries you might actually make higher profits due to higher demand.
Going global can never go wrong!
2. Operate anytime and anywhere
Let’s state facts: Having a brick & mortar store restricts your business to a physical location as well as socially accepted operating time.Plus, you need to keep in mind public and seasonal holidays, government restrictions due to Covid-19, availability of staff, weather and the list keeps going on and on.
But all of this becomes irrelevant once you go online. You can operate your business from any corner of the world and at any time you want, even if its 2 am at night. You can reach more customers that you would from a physical store and sell to people all across the globe. If that isn’t very feasible for your business, you can also restrict expansion to your continent or country.It’s still a way more profitable for your business.
3. Ease of analyzing performance
Having an online database of all your business transactions is always more secure and efficient than one on pen and paper, even for a physical store.When you sell online, documenting your sales, payment information, inventoryc alculation and everything else becomes easier.
You can track your sales and using the information from the online database you can also identify trends. For example, location of majority of your customers, their demographics, what time of the day your sales are high or low, the mode of payment more preferred by your customers and so on.
4. Operational Cost savings
One of the biggest perks of going online is cost savings. In order to increase your profits, you need to either decrease your costs or increase your selling price. Doing the later can lead to loss of customers to competitors especially if the market is saturated. You do not want to compromise on the quality of the products so decreasing production costs or procurement costs also might not be the beat option. It all boils down to your variable operation costs. When operating your business from a physical store you incur admin costs, maintenance costs like electricity and cleaning, staff costs and so on.You can reduce this major chunk of costs to 0 by going online.
While selling online, you also have the option of sending the product ordered directly from the seller to the customer, eliminating the need for you to store inventory. This will not only help you save inventory costs, but the products will also be delivered faster making the customer happy.
Imagine a situation, you are a small business owner and do not have enough storage from large scale inventory. You run out of stock for a particular product and have customers coming in asking for them. What do you do? Saying no might affect your reputation. So now what? Oh, wait you have an online store too! All you got to do is place an order for the customer via your online store and get it delivered to their address. You gain sales and a happy customer. And a happy customer always comes back!
If you already have a physical store, going online doesn’t mean you have to shut the store. In fact, it’s an added advantage for your business. Even though your physical store can only open at 10 am and has to shut at 9 pm, your online store can sell all the time.
But if you are launching a new business, choosing online over physical might be the better alternative. You get all the benefits of eCommerce and also save up on all the money you’d have spent on establishing a physical store.
Steps to move your business online
1. Decide a name
The first step to starting any business, offline or line, is to have a name for your business, an IDENTITY.
If you are an existing business owner planning on taking your business online, you can either choose to have the same name as your physical store or you can even have a new name for the online version of your business. But we suggest using your existing name as it already has an existing customer base associated to it. You existing and loyal customers recognize you with this name so why try building a completely new identity.
But if you your online business is completely different from your offline business in terms of the products and services offered, using a different new name under the umbrella of the existing brand name might be abetter idea.
Apart from this, if you are starting a new business, thinking of a name for your business is one of the most important elements of the process. There are a lot of thing you need to keep in mind, the most important being that it truly resonates what your brand stands for and represents.
2. Choose Domain name
The initial step of actually going online is choosing and registering a domain name.
But what is a domain name?
Well, a domain name is a unique name that defines a website. Each website has a domain name that serves as an address, which is used to access the website. For example, if you’re searching for Atsell to explore our services, you would search Atsel.com as the domain name.“Atsell” is the company’s domain name and “.com” is the extension name.
In simple terms, the domain name is what existing and potential customers type on the search bar while looking for your business online.
But it doesn’t come for free. A domain name costs approximately USD 15 – 20 per year. It isn’t a huge cost and definitely affordable and worth it!
3. Find your niche
For every business owner it is important to find the niche in their industry that has unmet needs and tap into that opportunity. Once you’ve identified the niche, all you got to do is do some customer research and shape your business offerings according to their needs and wants.
The BusinessNews Daily defines niche as a specialized or focused area of a broader market that businesses can serve to differentiate themselves from the competition.
It basically means that instead of providing mediocre products and services to a broader market in a saturated industry, it is better to provide excellent products and services to the niche. This will not only differentiate you from your competitor but also increase your goodwill amongst your customers.
4. Setup a website for your business
Having a website for your business is very important. It is your business’ identity in the online world and how people perceive your business has a huge impact on their buying decisions.
Some of you might think having a Facebook or Instagram shop is enough to spread awareness about your business but that’s not true. It’s an added bonus but you will always need a website to grow your audience.
But there are a few things you need to consider before designing and setting up your website. Since it will be a digital representation of your business you need to make sure everything aligns with your vision and mission.
What is the main goal of your website? Is it to sell your products and services, educate the visitors about your business or give them some important information. There are various elements in a website and having a clear vision in mind will help you utilize all of them wisely.
For example, if you want to educate then you should emphasize on blogposts, if you want to sell then setting up an online store is better.
You can use any of the free website building tools mentioned earlier to design your own website. They have easy to use templates and make it super convenient for you to have the website of your dreams. Make sure the aesthetics of your business match the image you are trying to portray for your business.
If you don’t feel a 100% confident about designing the perfect website for your business, you can always hire experts to do it for you. It will come with a cost, but they’ll have all the necessary knowledge required to set up your website based on your business’ needs and one which is compatible with multiple devices.
5. Choose an E-commerce platform
If you want to take your business online, getting your products and services listed on various E-commerce platforms is a great opportunity to expand your customer base. They provide free traffic to your store without you having to spend a single cent on marketing.
It is important to identify the correct platform for your business. Does the platform have enough visits? Is it scalable? Does its audience match your customer portfolio?
According to Campaign Asia , the top 5 most visited E-commerce sites in Southeast Asia are:
1. Shopee(281,385,626 visits)
2. Lazada(137,154,967 visits)
3. Tokopedia(88,889,000 visits)
4. Bukalapak(35,728,425 visits)
5. Thegioididong(28,650,650 visits)
Deciding on an E-commerce platform can be difficult and sometimes time consuming. If you are operating your business onboth offline and online platforms, you might feel overwhelmed with everything.
This is where we come in. Choose Atsell and leave all your E-commerce worries with us. We are the official partners of Shopee and Lazada, Southeast Asia’s leading E-commerce platforms.
6. Figure out payment options
One of the important factors that affects a customer’s purchase decision is available mode of payment.
When it comes to payment, some customers prefer cash on delivery where as some prefer online payment. Including more and more payment options will only increase your customer base. It is important to track which mode of payment your customers opt for most frequently and keep improving that by providing more options.
For online payment, you can have credit/debit cards, bank transfers, or even third-party apps like PayPal and so on. Your job is to make sure that every customer checks out easily and you don’t miss out on revenue.
7. Setup shipping methods
Once the customer clicks on “PLACE ORDER”, they hope the product magically appears at their doorsteps the very next day. So, it is very important to keep with customer’s expectations.
The number 1 rule with shipping is, NEVER lie about the delivery time.Customers might get upset if your delivery time is high, but they’ll get furious if you say their product will be delivered within 3 days and end up taking a couple of weeks.
Sometimes customers are willing to pay extra for faster delivery if the product is urgent, so make sure to have the option available.
8. Marketing and SEO
Before launching your business online, it’s important to create some excitement and this is where marketing comes into play. It can simply go from informing your existing customers through word-of-mouth that their favourite products are now available online too to having an extensive launch event to inform everyone about your existence.
But you need something to keep reminding customers of you, that’s what you need SEO for. SEO or Search Engine Optimization helps your website rank higher on search engines like Google. You can use key word analysis, blog posts etc to boost the quality of your website and its content. This in turn will increase the organic visits to your website.
SEO requires consistency as search engines take time to recognize your content and keywords. So, don’t lose hope if you don’t rank high on the search result page because it takes time, and the search engine is doing its work.With continued efforts your work will definitely show positive results.
9. Start Selling!
Once you have the basic requirements ready, you can finally start selling! But remember, online selling requires consistent efforts and attention. You need to manage your inventory, payments, deliveries and everything else. If you don’t want to do it all alone, contact us!
To conclude, it might seem overwhelming, but it is the correct next step for your business, especially NOW!
If you have a small business offline, this might be your best and only shot at survival. No one can predict when the world will go back to normal, but we need to accept that this is the new normal and adapt to it.
And one thing we can guarantee about the new normal is the increasing popularity and use of online shopping all over the world.