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5 essential factors for a successful online business

In the last decade, the business world has been transformed. The internet is the second industrial revolution. Not too long ago, any transaction or enterprise only existed on a face to face level, in cash or cheque! Now: vast numbers of businesses exist only on the internet; and most transactions are made in the ether, with a phone or a tap of plastic. 

Even companies that don’t just work online need to have a strong online presence. But having an online-only business is a whole other ball game. It’s a new frontier with a new and emerging set of tools and skills that are needed if you want to grow and succeed. Here are some factors to help you do that.

Social media

Social media has become an essential marketing channel for online businesses. Almost 70% of the UK population regularly use social media; for most of them it is their primary source of news and information.

So social media needs to be fully integrated in any successful online business. Start with the social media platform where your target customer hangs out. Create campaigns that intrigue people, pique their interest and encourage them to share and spread the word about your brand.

Images and video are the most shared type of media. They have the added advantage of building familiarity and trust. You can also re-purpose content across the various platforms.

Facebook is the most popular platform for many demographics. But it is difficult to gain free visibility from a Facebook business page; on average only around 6% of your followers will see updates from business pages. Groups are more engaging. And Facebook Ads are worth considering. You can target adverts precisely in terms of area and demographics — and you will be able to see detailed statistics on who is engaging with your posts. It’s real time market research on who your brand most connects with. 

Customer service

Customer service can seem ‘old school’. Not a bit of it. The power of reviews can make or break an online business — if you want to stay top-ranked in those reviews then excellent customer service needs to be second nature. 

Just picture this: a client wants to book a service or buy a product through your online portal;suddenly something malfunctions and they can’t complete the action. Their next course of action would be to reach out to customer care in order to fix the problem so that they can complete their purchase. If your response time is poor, or nonexistent, it’s a safe bet that potential clients will not come back. They’ll just look for another service provider that has a more responsive customer care system. 

It’s important to deal with customer complaints as effectively and quickly as possible. There are options like AI chatbots, live chats with agents, 24/7 phone customer service, email, and so many more to ensure that customers stay happy and your reviews stay rosy. 

Search engine optimisation

SEO (search engine optimisation) is about improving your website’s ranking in search results. The objective is generally to get your brand ranking on page one for your products or services, in your area. Over 90% of people never look at page two of search results, so minor tweaks to your SEO strategy can make or break your business. 

Improving your SEO performance starts with working on the content of your website. If your content is low grade or out-of-date, then customers will quickly move on. This tells the search algorithm that the page does not meet the needs of the searcher and that it should be downgraded. 

Another important aspect in optimising your website is ensuring the navigation and browsing experience is easy and smooth. People don’t like to encounter complex layouts that would waste their time trying to figure out how to move from one page to another. They’d rather just leave and check another website. Google also takes poor user experience on your site into its ranking, which means it could seriously affect your position. These details are quite crucial if you want your business to be successful. And speaking of the previous point on customer service, it’s also a part of SEO to make sure the contact information for your brand is available and quite easily attainable –– not having contact information can easily destroy your ranking in the search results.

Transparency

Trust levels are low for unfamiliar online businesses. There are scam merchants out there, who oversell and under-deliver. People become wary of buying products they’ve never seen in real life or getting services they might not have tried before. This is why transparency is key for online businesses wanting to succeed. You have to reassure your customers that what they see is what they’ll get, and never promise something you can’t deliver. Contact information should be easily visible.  Testimonials and reviews are the most reassuring of all. People love reading reviews before they take any major step online.

Leverage data

The beauty of having an online business is that you have access to so much data that could really help your strategies grow and evolve.

In itself, running an online business is an ongoing market research project, with real time statistics. Get familiar with that data to constantly optimise and improve your business. Google Analytics is a veritable treasure trove of information about your customers and how they engage with you; it’s also completely free. Take the online training and become an expert. You get all sorts of information on your consumers from their purchase patterns and ages to their gender and social level. This helps you determine what kind of approach you should take to target different customer groups. 

At the end of the day, it all comes down to how much effort and time you’re willing to put in. Online businesses are easy to start, but growth and success takes intelligent use of data, effective customer service and perseverance. If you develop these skills and use the essential online business tools we’ve outlined, success is never certain, but it is much more likely.  

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