The pandemic has made life difficult in innumerable ways, but it has also presented business opportunities to savvy entrepreneurs. Company closures left spaces for startups to fill, and the unprecedented environment prompted the creation and development of specific markets. For example, IBM’s U.S. Retail Index estimates that the coronavirus and resulting social distancing measures have accelerated the transition from in-person retail to e-commerce by about five years.
Many entrepreneurs are looking for new revenue streams and the chance to finally start their own businesses. The U.S. Census Bureau reported an 18% increase in applications for employer identification numbers by September compared to the same period in 2019. This is the largest increase in new businesses since 2007.
If you’re one of the 3.2 million people who applied for an EIN, you might need a little help getting your new business off the ground digitally. Based on our website traffic at Teknicks, we’ve seen increased interest in startup educational information on franchising, app creation, blogging, SEO, Google Analytics, website creation and other web-based inquiries related to starting a business online.
You’ve already overcome the biggest hurdle of entrepreneurship (self-doubt and inaction), so now you just need to build and launch your business online.
Starting a company amid the pandemic
Even during economic booms, 20% of businesses fail in the first year. The entrepreneurs who succeed must navigate the new way we live our lives. Your website should become your company’s storefront, your services must comply with any social distancing restrictions set in place, and your products have to be sold virtually.
Unfortunately, supply chains are stretched thin and certain products are difficult to come by. Shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx have struggled to cope with the surge in online shopping throughout the pandemic. To turn a profit right now, you’ll need to position your startup well in the digital marketplace and ideate solutions for the pain points of this mid-pandemic business environment.
The good news is that some traditional startup hurdles and expenses are no longer problems. Because many people are looking for work in the wake of layoffs and economic turmoil, it’s an employer’s job market. This means that you can search for and hire talented individuals as your first employees. Additionally, rent and interest rates are low, letting you finance large purchases at a fraction of what they cost pre-pandemic. The only trick is pinpointing what you need to successfully launch your business online when e-commerce is bigger (and more important) than ever before.
How to start an online business
Ensuring a strong launch for your online business is critical in the age of COVID-19. It’s possible to weather the pandemic storm and emerge stronger, but you have to set the digital foundation.
Purchase a domain
The domain you choose should be unused, catchy, evergreen, keyword-based and free of trademarks. Research search terms related to your offering and business using free tools like WordStream and check your potential names on social media, search engines and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.
Once you’ve identified your name, you need to find a domain registrar to buy it from. Because domains are a long-term purchase, you’ll want to buy from a reputable provider that protects your privacy, offers transparency around its practices and prices, and has separate support and sales teams.
Conduct marketing research
Marketing research helps you understand the best ways to reach your target audience. You can then use your insights to test different messages, designs and offers across your website and advertisements.
For example, you can start by using one channel (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) as a level playing field. Then, come up with two or three messaging angles. Whichever message performs best tells you what your audience would like to see and engage with. This lays the foundation for all your future marketing efforts.
Promote your products and services
Now that you’ve started a business and know what your audience is looking for, you can start promoting your offering. Social media is a great place to start, and although most platforms have made it more difficult for brands to gain traction organically, paid ads offer a quick, inexpensive way to get your products and services in front of the right people. You can also focus on creating content for your inbound marketing strategy, like SEO-focused blog posts. This is a great way to improve your website’s discoverability, but you shouldn’t expect immediate results from this alone.
Measure your success
Customers generate data with every interaction. By analyzing that data, you can determine what your audience needs and optimize all touchpoints accordingly. Plan to develop a full web measurement plan that helps you visualize your ROI.
This follows a three-step process:
- Identify your business objectives,
- Create goals and
- Select key performance indicators.
For example, your business objective could be increasing sales, your goal could be optimizing your email marketing, and your KPIs could be the click-through rate and conversions.
Optimize your conversion rate
Is something preventing customers from buying? If your analytics tell you that many leads are coming to your website and not converting, you likely need to focus on conversion rate optimization. This adjusts your website’s user experience and can be as simple as adding image-based calls to action at the end of blog posts or as difficult as reworking the path to checkout.
But before you start applying solutions, you first need to know what the problem is. Ask questions like “What channel has the lowest conversion rate?” and “On what page do people leave my website?” Turning visitors into customers is more important than just driving traffic, so you’ll want to continuously work on conversion rate optimization.
There’s no such thing as an easy environment for starting a business, and the pandemic, in particular, has caused a lot of disruption in the business world. However, it’s also presenting entrepreneurs and startups with unique opportunities. If you can navigate the current climate and launch your online business, you’ll be positioned for success in 2021.