You cross the first hurdle when you decide to launch an online business. However, it is the first of many to come. Understanding this before getting into the process will make it easier to manage. An online business can and will consume many hours of your life, especially during its infancy phase. But you can reduce this time investment with a few smart decisions that will make things quicker and free up time to focus on other matters.
As with anything, launching an online startup will end in disaster without adequate preparations being made beforehand. Therefore, you must take the time to do so before you get started. Launching your business and trying to prepare simultaneously is like putting the cart before the horse, which seldom ends well.
An essential component of preparation is some target market research. This is a process whereby you evaluate the potential of your business’s success and decide who you will be marketing your goods and services to, and how to reach them.
An online business, like any enterprise, must scratch an itch for the client. Your products and services must solve an everyday problem that potential customers have. For example, if you start an online grocery ordering and delivery service, you plan to help people who cannot get to a store and do their shopping themselves.
During COVID-19, this is a real challenge, especially for people with comorbidities who have been instructed to remain isolated. In this instance, your target market is older or ill people who live in your neighborhood.
Next, you should figure out how best to contact them to let them know about your business. In the case of potential customers in such a small area, a flyer might work. But when you are trying to reach people around the world, your best approach is digital and social media marketing. This requires strategic thinking and insight into what motivates potential customers to buy your products or services.
Know what to expect
There are several free eCommerce courses online that provide critical insights into the rigors of running an online business, one place you’ll find them is Shopify Compass. There, you can learn about the basic functions within an online business and some different operating models. This information can give you an idea you might not have thought about and change your plan entirely. It also shows what skills you need to run a successful online business. These might include basic bookkeeping, technical support issues, marketing, and logistics.
It is unlikely that you are an expert in all the above, but that is what owning and running a successful online business requires. Some free online courses give you a broad overview, after which you can select classes that specialize in the areas that you feel need development.
Taking many e-courses to expand your horizons and learn more about the online business before you start one gives you the unique opportunity to recognize problems before they escalate. This offers you an element of control over your business that other entrepreneurs might not have and gives you a better chance of success.
Once your business starts flourishing, there will not be enough hours in a day to perform all its tasks. Becoming bogged down by the minutiae of the day-to-day operations means neglecting important functions such as marketing, which aims to help your business grow.
Therefore, make a list of tasks that need to be done, and ask yourself a few questions. Is this a task you spend too much time doing or that you dread? Are you putting off this task because it is not your favorite, and is there someone else who could do a better job than you currently are? Do not judge yourself too harshly if the answers to these questions indicate that you might need help.
Once you have identified the problem area, set about employing someone to help you. It might be part-time at first, with the hours lengthening as the business grows. This includes hiring freelancers who work in digital marketing or someone to deal with complaints and queries from the site.
When it comes to warehousing, packing, and delivery, you can save a lot of time by outsourcing these functions to a third-party company. Naturally, this comes at a price, but these companies offer competitive deals, and it could cost less than managing these functions independently.
When you launch an online business, you must become an HR manager in addition to the other hats you are expected to wear. Many eCommerce business owners fail to get this essential function right. They end up hiring the wrong person for the job who does the business more harm than good. Your team is only as good as its weakest link, and, as the owner, you want to minimize any weaknesses that could ruin the operation.
The recruitment and hiring processes are not limited to hard skills, such as qualifications and experience needed for the job. They also have much to do with soft skills, such as teamwork, initiative, leadership, decision-making, problem-solving, and communication. You should be probing for information about these skills during an interview. Without them, an employee will struggle to succeed, and this could adversely impact your enterprise.
At the startup stage, the organogram is lean, and there is no room for people who cannot deliver what is required. Everyone needs to be a self-starter, remain motivated, and demonstrate a sound work ethic in keeping with the business’s needs.
This is another area where some online learning could benefit you, even before you start your business. Knowing about the intricacies of getting the right staff on board and having them hit the ground running is essential and not something you want to learn about when it is too late.
Prepare a list of qualities you expect candidates to demonstrate and look for signs of them during the interview. Ask probing questions that make the candidate apply soft skills to gauge how they do so, as this provides insight into whether they will use them if they get the job.