How To Start An Online Business
With all the online marketplaces out there like Lazada, Zalora, and eBay, and platforms like AyosDito and OLX, more and more people are buying and selling (and making money) online. Euromonitor International predicts a compound annual growth rate for online transactions of 11%, as Filipinos become more familiar with online payments.
So maybe you’ve decided that maybe it’s time to take the next step and start getting in on all this internet retailing action. Good thing starting an online store is just a few clicks away. And if you have a killer business idea, turning that into a reality is easier than ever. Here are the steps on how to start an online business:
Find a need, then fill it.
A lot of people starting a business usually have a product in mind first, then finding a market for it second. You should reverse this process — find a market with a need first, then fulfill that need second. Allen Moon, writing for entrepreneur.com, says: “The trick is to find a group of people who are searching for a solution to a problem, but not finding many results.” So use your internet skills and find a need that Filipinos have but that’s not being met. Given the uniqueness of our market and the many needs that are there, you’re sure to find a niche that you can deliver on.
Decide whether you want to join an already-established marketplace, or build your own website.
This step is important, because each has its pros and cons. If you join a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon, you can reach a lot of people and won’t have to put too much work into getting your products online (which is great if you don’t have the skill or time to design websites from scratch, because the platform comes with all the logistics you need) — but you’ll have to pay them hefty fees, usually as a percentage of transactions, or a flat fee for everything you sell. If you decide to build your own website, you can keep more of your profits — but you’ll have to put in a lot of work (and some money) building and maintaining the website, such as design costs, web host fees, domain name registration, and others. If you’re just starting out, it’s OK to sign up with a marketplace. Services like aCommerce will help you out with your online business from beginning to end, so you won’t have to worry too much about logistics and you can focus on delivering a great product to your customers.
Link up with a payment gateway.
If you’ve decided to strike out on your own and create your own website for your online store, you’ll need a way to receive payments. Here in the Philippines there’s still a relatively low credit card penetration rate, which makes it a little harder to make transactions online. Some banks do let you make payments to others over the counter via deposits to a specific account, but this is still an unwieldy way to send and receive money because it requires trips to the bank. Unfortunately, there’s no way people can send you cold hard cash through the internet, so you’ll need a secure payment gateway to actually get your money. Smart Money and GCash are some products you can try, as well as DragonPay or PayEasy. Each one has its pros and cons so do your research before signing up. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even use Bitcoin wallets like coins.ph to accept payments with no fees. aCommerce also has online payment methods that even includes cash on delivery, so people who don’t have credit cards or online bank accounts can still shop at your online store.
Register with the DTI or the SEC.
If there’s only one owner of the business (i.e. sole proprietorship), you’ll have to register your online business with the Department of Trade and Industry. If there’s more than one owner, you’ll have to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Go to their respective websites and find out exactly how to register so that you can rest easy knowing your online business is fully compliant with regulations.
Once your online store is up and running, you need to get the word out and start getting customers. Experiment with online ads like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to drive traffic and business to your site. Use keywords intelligently so when people search for the product or service you offer, you can show up among the top results and your ads are delivered to people in their moment of need.
Of course, these aren’t the only steps you need to follow to ensure that your online business is a success. You’ll have to put in a lot of work to maintain your business so it continues to make you money. But if you take these first steps, you’ll make it easier for yourself in the long run.