Building an online revenue stream

There’s money to be made online, and it’s important your new business doesn’t miss out.

The trick is to know what your customers want so you can focus your energies and budget on features and content that have a much higher chance of attracting customers and increasing sales.

Targeted strategies

Many business sites are now offering online shopping features. But the key is to measure the market first to make sure your time, money and effort bring maximum returns.

Survey your customers

Ask them about:

  • Their online habits (where they go, how often they go, what they buy).
  • The words they search for when trying to find products like yours.
  • Their purchasing decision-making processes (you may find there are hidden opportunities to position your business as a trusted online resource).
  • How easy it is to purchase from you.

This last question is important, because having a website with online shopping features means you are effectively open for business 24/7, can streamline sales processes, and retain customers by making it easier for them to shop with you.

Easy web development

Website-building platforms and services have sprung up to significantly reduce the costs of going online for small businesses.

If you’re considering hiring a web developer to build you a website, first check out the solutions provided by platforms like Shopify, which can give you a customizable e-commerce site based on popular designs, quickly and at low cost.

Even Wordpress – the popular site-building tool for bloggers – can be used to develop your own website at minimal cost.

If you think you need a web developer, confirm that a customized site is something your business needs and something customers will actually value before you spend any money.

Make a great impression

Great websites typically have certain things in common.

  • A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. Visitors often browse through the answers before deciding to purchase.
  • Customer testimonials. If possible, and with their permission, show names of customers to add more credibility.
  • Clear explanation of steps a customer needs to take to complete a purchase.
  • A privacy statement (many sites have one that you can adapt to identify your practices) and evidence of credit card data security to reassure customers.
  • Easy navigation. Buyers can intuitively see where they need to go to find what they need, and don’t need to search for your business’s contact details.

Enhance your site

Whatever the focus of your site, here are some essential tips.

  • Get staff and a select few customers to test the site and report on usability. Try shopping on other sites and imitate the features that make the whole experience as painless as possible.
  • Refresh content regularly. Keep adding new information and resources. Quality content that drives traffic will improve your search engine ranking.
  • Consider improving your site’s search result rankings by using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques. Talk to an expert for advice.
  • Measure the key metrics for your site to discover what needs to be changed to improve results. Get help from Google Analytics or similar services.

Explore other online opportunities

Once your business is up and running, you can:

  • Use the site to capture (with permission) customer details through by inviting them to sign up for your e-newsletter, or access to a premium section of the site with special resources.
  • Learn how to comply with the Privacy Act from the Marketing Association’s Best Practice Standards.
  • Consider affiliate schemes, selling through other websites, and reciprocal links.
  • Start a blog to build interest in your business and position yourself as the expert.

Finally, treat a website as a work in progress. Create a budget for further development and updating the site to keep it fresh and worth visiting.

Next steps

  • Talk to your customers about the user-friendliness of your current website or what they would like to see on a new website.
  • Investigate options for building or upgrading your website – talk to mentors and non-competing business owners who sell online, and find out what products or web design services they used and how satisfied they are.
  • Ensure you budget both funds and time for researching and planning the website’s content, functionality, design and overall look.
  • Get inspiration from the websites of other businesses – but always keep in mind what is going to best suit your business’s target markets.
  • Get staff, advisors and a select group of customers to test and give feedback on your new website or new online shopping features before they go ‘live’.

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