Thanks to the many technological innovations spawned by the internet, the tasks involved in starting a business have been streamlined and simplified. Gone are the days when entrepreneurs would have to sit down and hand over thousands to big city lawyers to establish the legality of their venture. Retailers no longer have to travel across town searching for the most suitable location for a brick-and-mortar storefront. In short, the barriers to entry for online startups have been torn down and the field has been leveled for a more equal opportunity marketplace.
Here’s how to start a business online:
First, startups must establish themselves legally.
This involves securing their name and setting up the legal structure of the venture.
To secure the desired company name, individuals must check with authorities to see if it’s available for state business registration, then check with a domain registrar such as GoDaddy to see if it’s available in the ever-popular .com format. When it comes to the state, it’s just a matter of requesting, completing and filing a few straightforward forms and paying the required filing fees. When it comes to the internet, it’s generally a simple matter of completing an online form and entering a credit card to pay for the registration. It’s recommended that businesses secure their domain name for at least 5 years to show dedication to search engines and take advantage of long-term savings.
To establish the legal structure of the company, whether it be sole proprietorship, LLC, traditional corporation or non-profit corporation, it is often best to just consult an online legal service such as Legal Zoom or Rocket Lawyer. The process varies from state to state and can tend to be rather involved, so it’s best to leave it to the experts. Again, thanks to the internet, the prices for setting up the legal structure of a company have gone down significantly over the last decade or so.
Second, startups must establish themselves virtually.
This involves setting up an online storefront/shopping cart and instituting payment processing procedures.
To set up an ecommerce website, it’s generally best to go with an established all-in-one hosted solution such as those provided by Shopify and Magento. The sites themselves are WYSIWYG template-driven storefronts with coordinated shopping carts and product management databases. In addition, most offer some form of payment processing service. The great thing about going with a known quantity such as those mentioned is that there is a huge community of support that is ready and able to assist their fellow businesses with advanced online retail concepts and components.
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As can be seen, it’s much easier to start a business in today’s virtual world than at any time in history. There are any number of services available to give you advice and help you in your quest for continued business growth and success.
In order to draw in holiday shoppers and boost sales, merchants often run flashy contests and promotions. Most merchants see successful results from promotions, but the degree of the success can be exponentially increased with some forethought and pre-promotion testing. If a store is unprepared or inefficiently designed, merchants can lose significant revenue both in the short and long term. That’s why in addition to being a necessary piece of your overall online strategy, testing your online store becomes especially crucial during the holiday season.
Here are three simple ways to to make sure your online store is optimized for the holiday boom!
TESTING TIP: Conduct A/B (Split) Testing for Holiday Promotions
Think outside the box. Your testing can include as many variations as possible without severely diluting your test audience.
For example: Before Medalia Art, an online store that sells Caribbean and Latin American art, ran their holiday promotion, they performed A/B testing on the best location for the promotion announcement.
The banner for the promotion appeared on the sidebar and at the top of the page for each half of the test. Yet, the test wasn’t meant to measure how many customers clicked on the promotion. Instead, it was meant to measure which version of the homepage produced a lower bounce rate and the results fell heavily in favor of the homepage with the banner at the top (60 percent bounce rate) versus the sidebar version (76 percent bounce rate).
TESTING TIP: Use A/B (Split) Testing For Holiday Redesigns
Just like brick and mortar retailers, it’s a great idea for you to add a little holiday flair to your online store to put customers in the holiday ( and spending) spirit. But don’t take our word for it! Make sure that the additional bells and holly have your customers feeling cheerful and not distracted by tracking conversions and bounce rate with A/B testing. Sending a fraction of visitors to your standard site and the others to your seasonal design will make it easy to determine the best aesthetic for the season.
Many people who have set up an ecommerce solution become disillusioned when their inbox is not immediately filled with "payment received " emails from Paypal. We've talked before about the unlikelyhood of an overnight success in ecommerce but I think it's important to explore some of the potentials pitfalls that might be stopping those would be customers from converting to actual sales.
Painful Payment Processes
Do your customers have to jump through hoops and stand on one foot to purchase your items? If they do you've already lost money. Only require information that is immediately necessary to make the purchase. For example, if you are selling a downloadable item you only need the customers email address. If the item will be shipped you will need a shipping address as well. But be careful not to require information that is not necessary. The result will be frustration and loss of interest. With online shopping, as with any other medium, buyers look for quick and easy. Cater to this and you will see more conversions.
We often run across a new trend online and immediately assume that this new 'great idea' sprung up out of nowhere. I hate to break it to you, but there is no such thing as an overnight success. Sure, it may appear that they suddenly showed up on your radar but I can assure you that it was a LOOOOOOONGGGGGG night.
Similarly, often retailers think that by suddenly creating an online presence for themselves they are automatically going to begin generating more revenue. They have visions of heading to the computer with their morning coffee and the paper, leaning back in their chair, propping those fluffy slippers up on the desk and reading through their "sales" from the day before. Sadly, this puff of smoke imagination does not happen when your business suddenly launches into the unknown territory otherwise known as eCommerce.
If you're a small business getting started with eCommerce chances are you're looking for a good way to put your best foot forward, in the online sense that is. Here are the top 5 Tips to help give you an edge in the eCommerce world.