How Your Online Business can Avoid the Startup Cemetery

October 18, 2014

6:00 pm

Entrepreneurship is on the increase in America – it is estimated that almost 13% of Americans set up their own businesses in 2012, which was the highest level of entrepreneurialism since 1999.

This growth could be down to the internet – the number of shoppers choosing to buy online overtook the number of those spending in stores for the first time in 2012, with 47% of consumer stating the internet as their preferred shopping destination. 52% of small businesses being based at home suggests that business innovators are exploiting the increased interest in buying on the web.

Despite the apparent vote of confidence from entrepreneurs keen to exploit opportunities online, 80% of new businesses still fail. To avoid becoming just another figure in the startup failure statistics, consider this advice.

Do what you love

Creating a business offers the opportunity to let your interests and passions shine through. Given the opportunity who wouldn’t want their job to be something they are passionate about? If you go into business without an interest in your product or service and just want to make money, your initial bright-eyed enthusiasm will soon be replaced with boredom.

This was the approach of Sophia Amoruso, who started her retail enterprise Nasty Gal by doing what she knew best: fashion. Amoruso used her keen eye for clothing to buy designer goods for a steal in second-hand stores and reselling them on eBay. Her interest in what she was selling shone through in her service, making customers share their positive experience with others in the fashion circuit. Nasty Gal is now worth an estimated $100 million and is the fastest growing retailer in the country, showing that caring about your business really matters.

Define a USP

One of the most important parts of starting a business is defining a Unique Selling Point. What do you offer that others don’t and why should customers come to you instead of competitors?
A USP is vital to any business because competition is fierce, especially online. The internet allows consumers to compare prices from a range of websites against what they can get in store, so offering customers the most for their money is imperative. Providing a little something extra with your service is also important to set you apart from the rest, this could range from free delivery to a discount offer.

Cater not just to computers

As an online business your website acts as your storefront giving your customers their first impression of your company. If your site isn’t easy to use or access, then you may turn off potential customers – after all, it’s easy to conduct a search and find what you’re looking for elsewhere.

A survey of consumers’ Christmas shopping habits conducted by Accenture in 2013 revealed that 19% of people were planning to research and buy products via a tablet device, and 18% would do the same via a smartphone. This shift in shopping activity highlights the importance of developing a responsive website to serve those using mobile devices.

Plan ahead

To secure the future success of your business you need to prepare for it. If you don’t forecast and plan for growth, you may find yourself struggling to keep up with delivery as sales climb, which could lead to self-combustion.

Although maintaining sales and increasing revenue is the aim of almost any business, an online business has to first consider how or if their site can facilitate that. For example, when a startup first gets a website up and running it is likely that it will be hosted on a shared server as it is an inexpensive option for new businesses.

However hundreds of sites can potentially live on one server and if just a handful of these sites start to see significant increases in traffic, using up limited resources, then the entire server and all sites hosted on it (including yours) could crash. Your site’s page load speed is also likely to be affected as one server has to load the data from a large number of sites and as 40% of customers abandon a website if it takes longer than 2 seconds to load, this can have a significant impact on sales.

As the business grows and visits to the site increase investing in a dedicated server will be a worthwhile investment. This means that the site is less at risk from going down and be much quicker to load, meaning that you won’t lose customers.

These tips should put your online business in good stead for success and allow you to side-step the startup cemetery.

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Elizabeth and editor specializing in finance, business and careers. When she's not writing, she enjoys hunting for the perfect coffee, walking on the beach and fiendishly difficult SuDoku.

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