Ditch Offline Business- Why is it more important than ever to take your business online?

Google has an average of 5.5 billion searches made every single day, 130 trillion pages it indexes while people search 5.5 billion times a day. That’s just Google, there’s Bing, there’s Yahoo, there’s Yandex, there’s Baidu, YouTube and the list goes on.

Well over 4 billion people are already online. If this doesn’t entice you to take your business online, I’m not sure what will.

If you’ve stumbled upon this post, it means you’re interested in taking your business online. But if it was a mistake, this will be the best mistake you’d commit in your lifetime.

To begin with, I’m going to spill some numbers in this post, as I’ve read somewhere, ‘numbers don’t lie’. Since this is a decision of your lifetime, I want to completely convince you in the liking of the internet. And numbers will do that for me.

So without further delay, let’s dive in.

Interesting numbers about the internet

Before you decide to take your business online, it is important to understand it from a bird’s eye view. And to do that you need to first talk to numbers, and here are some of it.

  • 58% of the human population is already using the internet
  • Of which 51.6% of humans are surfing the web through their thumbs
  • On average, humans spend at least 3 hours on their mobile
  • Google generated 95% of its revenue from the ads it runs on its display network
  • 1.7 Billion websites are live today
  • Every day, 120,000 domains are registered & 100,000 domains are either deleted or transferred
  • 80% of internet users own a smartphone. They all don’t surf on mobile, but your website needs to mobile-friendly if it wants any attention
  • 80% of social content is consumed on smartphones
  • 53% of the website traffic comes from mobile phones
  • 62% of smartphone user made a purchase online using their smartphone
  • 25% of small & emerging businesses invest in various forms of online marketing
  • 75% of the advertising budget was spent on mobile
  • Global sales of e-commerce in 2018 was $2.8 trillion and is projected to be $4.8 trillion
  • 58% of internet users buy online because of the 24/7 availability

The list can go on and one, having no end. But I’ve kept myself to sharing only the best & most important ones.

If you’re convinced with the numbers, let me take to ride on the most basic element of your internet business.

No! You don’t have to have a technical bone and I’m not going to bore you by explaining how the internet works, it’s more fundamental than that.

To build a bit of background, I want you to understand something that’s gonna keep your business up & running.

Search engines.

How do search engines work?

Search engines have two major components, web crawler/search engine spider and index/knowledge graph.

The web crawler crawls the internet look for new information. It basically crawls through every single URL that’s online. Yet, Google has claimed that its database is just 0.004% of what’s online. So the crawler needs to crawl and find new information, endlessly & efficiently.

Crawler basically is a program that learns everything about your webpage & sends that information to the knowledge graph.

A knowledge graph is a place where all the magic happens, the secret sauce, the search algorithm is executed in the knowledge graph and a list of search results are served to the end-user in a fraction of a second.

Instead of getting into much detail, that’s how a search engine works. If you don’t have any idea of the technicalities or if you don’t care about it, it’s okay.

You don’t have to know any of it. But, if you’re really interested, here’s an anatomy of the search engine from two students who couldn’t find the right information for their college project, and instead of complaining, fixed the problem.

If you’re thinking of ways to market your business on the web, you’d need to understand the types of search engines that people are using.

Types of search engines

Text-based: Google, Bing, Yandex & Baidu, etc

Video-based: YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, IGTV, etc (though YouTube is the only place where people actually ‘search’)

Images-based: Google, Bing, Flickr, Yahoo, Pinterest

If you ask me, I wouldn’t be convinced about taking my business online. Since I don’t know what I’d get( or save) by doing so.

If you too thought so, here are some benefits.

Benefits of taking your business online

Before you taste the internet, I want you to feel safe. Safe by knowing the benefits you’ll reap as a result of your decision & efforts you put in.

Here you go.

#1 Easier & broader reach

With the internet, you can reach globally, irrespective of your demographic location. You decide your target audience, plan your marketing campaigns accordingly, and give it all.

Here’s a neat calculation of the potential of the internet.

Say you’re targeting US & UK for an e-book on the keto diet. You have reached around 100k people in each country per month and out of that 1% buy your e-book that costs $10. That 2000 people paying you $10, which reciprocates to $20,000.

$20 grands a month isn’t a bad amount on an e-book that costs you $100-$200 in the making. Considering the marketing part, you can add another $1000-$2000 including social media and content marketing. Even if you go all aggressive in marketing, you’d still bag at least $12,000 to $15,000 in profits, every single month.

That’s just for two nations, for 1 month. Imagine if you keep reaching a broader & wider audience for years to come.

That’ millions we’re talking about. Millions!

#2 Market your products & services

If you’re starting out like Facebook started out in 2004, the internet can be a great boon for those who want to simply add more users & reach more people to market their brand.

Even if you’re well established offline, you’d still need to market your online presence before you even think of making any money.

The Internet makes it so much easy to market your brand like people who don’t even know you buy things from you, just because you invested your time building relationships with them.

That’s how you roll.

#3 Easier to build relationships with your customers

The people you’re targeting have no idea who the hell you are unless you’re Seth Godin or Elon Musk or any such public figure, you’re going to get judged, trolled & questioned.

How’d you fix this? You cannot avoid this from happening, however, you can fix this by building relationships. And just as real-life, relationships require time to build, it’s the same over the internet too.

This isn’t tinder, you’re not gonna get right swipe just by people looking at your brand.

You can’t be like ‘hey, buy this from me for $997’. Why would anyone even pay you $0.97 to you? Unless you build a relationship, no one’s gonna pay you.

If you’re just starting out or planning to do so, build a relationship with your target audience first.

#4 Improves your company’s brand value

Why go far. Take Facebook for example. It was a college project, which began as a prank at first. The brand has 2+ billion active users every single month.

Imagine if Facebook didn’t show up on the internet. It was Mark’s decision to take the idea online and make it a business.

From zero to worth billions, Facebook did all that just in a decade.

That’s how powerful the internet is.

#5 Passive income

I was on a vacation for 21 days last month, didn’t carry my laptop, yet generated enough traction that would reciprocate into monetary value.

Warren Buffet says “If you don’t figure out a way to make money while you’re asleep, you’ll have to work your whole life”

Moreover, the reach that the internet gives is huge. And the income that you’d make out of it is so reliable that you can plan your vacations without worrying about the income in your absence.

That’s magical. I can’t imagine a desk job, even if it pays higher than what I’m earning right now.

#6 Better customer support (everything comes at a cost)

While you build your business online, your customers would seek help regarding their issues with your product. And customer support is crucial for that.

In a study, Microsoft found that 96% of people believe that customer support is an important factor in the choice of loyalty to the brand.

Furthermore, in the same study, Microsoft found that “Brands are viewed more favorably by 77% of consumers if they proactively invite and accept customer feedback”.

You can find more studies and numbers on customer support, but I will confine myself to just two.

#7 A very low start-up cost

This doesn’t hold true for all businesses. If your business model is completely digital, i.e. it doesn’t involve the selling of any physical product, you’d have your business up & running in less than $100 per year.

Ideally, if your plan is to start a blog (to begin with), you can do that free. The free blogs include writing on Quora, Medium, Blogspot & wordpress.com.

If you’re serious about your business, I wouldn’t recommend this. Spend some cash and start a blog of your own.

I have to admit, the internet was brought into existence for businesses to thrive. This is the right time to take your business online.

But have you ever wondered, ‘What type of businesses flourish online?’

Let’s have a look at that.

What type of businesses you can take online?

I’m a big fan of the internet, what I started as a hobby is my business now. I had zero knowledge about business and the work culture.

I learned a bit from my first (and the last) job and the internet taught me enough to take my business online. But how does that answer your question?

Well, the answer to your question is an open-ended one. There’s no rule book that certain businesses can be taken online, and certain businesses can’t be taken online.

I’m yet to come across a business that can’t be taken online, almost all industry is actively making money online. The difference lies in how they make money. Like you can’t sell real estate properties online, you can, however, make the bookings and register for property online.

And this now answers your question. All the businesses that are making money online can be fabricated in two broadest categories.

  • Product-based (e-commerce)
  • Service-based (e-licensing, one-time purchase, etc)

Let us take a deep dive at the individual with examples of it.

Product-based business

Doesn’t matter if you’re selling a physical product or a digital one, it can be counted as e-commerce if you sell it online.

If you’re a fashion designer, you can set-up a store online and start selling to the world. But if you’re a graphic designer, you’d be selling your graphics online, which, in most cases will remain digital.

You’d still have a cart in both cases, making it an e-commerce business. Just by having a cart doesn’t make it an e-commerce business, but you get the point of selling.

Commerce is basically an ‘exchange of goods among two or more agencies’ (individuals).

So technically, no matter what you sell online, you’re an e-commerce business owner. But the difference in what you sell.

These are just two examples, it can be anything. From a staple pin to titanic, you can sell anything. You just need to reach the right audience.

Service-based business

Apart from blogging & digital marketing, I’m pretty good at photography. If I decide to start a photography business (which I have currently, but I don’t charge anything) and trade my skills for you.

That’d be a service-based business since I’m trading my skill as service to the people I get in touch with, online.

Another example is that if I were a software developer, I’d create a licensing business of the piece of software I create. Or even cater customized software from any part of the world.

I just need to market myself in parts of the world, I want business from.

And that’s where the whole world is pouring in money – Digital Marketing.

Adobe & Microsoft are classic examples of a service-based business that selling Software as a Service (SaaS).

Okay, you’re somewhat convinced to take your business online. But what about the How part? We’ll see it right now.

How to take your business online?

While the process is a lengthy one, and off-topic for this post. But I will surely brief you on this right here.

Easy steps to get started with your online business

  • Begin with thinking of a name. Decide the extension you wanna have
  • Finalize the web-hosting provider & content management system
  • Design a content strategy for your content marketing campaigns
  • Produce content and repurpose it across other platforms & media

If you don’t understand any of this, here’s an analogy.

Imagine you’ve bought a plot to build your house on top of it. You build a house and get a registered address of it.

Now, the plot is the web-hosting space (where all the website files will reside), the domain is the address and the house you build is the actual website.

No one can locate you without the proper address, and you can’t build your house without a plot.

Web-hosting providers that I trust & use is Bluehost. But you can opt for any web hosting provider depending on your requirement & budget.

Here are some trusted web hosting provider in the market

Speaking of domains, you can either register domain on the hosting platform (which I personally do not prefer). I use Google Domains, which is cheaper than all the hosting providers, in addition to this, you get the privacy protection by default. Which is a paid feature in the case of the hosting providers?

This is important as your whois data will be public and you’ll receive all sorts of calls, messages & emails that annoy you.

Next is the content management system. If you don’t have a technical bone in you, you’re going to need a content management system.

There are very few options available. One of the best content management system is WordPress. Furthermore, it’s easier to get confused with wordpress.com and wordpress.org (self-hosted websites). Here’s the difference between wordpress.com & wordpress.org.

Easiest ways to take your business online

  • Social media: If you’re running on a shoestring budget, social media is a great way to begin gaining traction online. No social media charges you to use their platform. You just need to invest time & effort to produce content for social media platforms. Your primary goal should be to engage with your target audience.
    Furthermore, you should keep one thing in mind, social platforms want to the users to spend more and more time on their platforms. If you can create content that helps them make the users spend more time on their platforms, they’re going to boost the post & show it to more people.
  • Email Marketing: If you have some pocket money saved, you can spend on email marketing software and start building an email list from social media and free blogging platforms like Quora & Medium. Email is still the closest you can get to your target audience, you can be as personal as you want and yet make sales. Furthermore, people check email more often than social media.
    By properly articulating your email marketing campaigns, you can not only reach more people, but you can also have more sales, just by email marketing. You don’t have to get in front of a camera or write a ton of blogs.
  • Blog: This has the highest conversion rate, the most cost-effective of all marketing channels. Sure, it requires more effort (if you’re doing it alone) but once the traffic kicks in, it’s just you who’ll reap the results.
    No other marketing channel will even closely match what blogging can do for your business. The blog will need an initial investment of around $100/mo, but soon enough you’ll make thousands of such $100. As all good things take time, even reaching a substantial audience will take time.

Once you start your online business, what about the money you’d make? How are you going to accept payments?

Let’s have a look at it.

Best payment options for online businesses

Depending on what your business is, payment may vary. But overall, there are a couple of common ways you can receive payments.

  • Credit cards (MasterCard or Visa)
  • Paypal
  • Payoneer
  • Direct wire transfer &
  • Cryptocurrencies (if your countries permit)

These are the major & reliable payment gateways you can rely on.

Furthermore, the governmental laws in your country should also be considered as almost all countries have laws in place for international businesses.

Hire an attorney (if you’re really serious for your business) or learn it for free from the web before you make any progress towards this direction.

How you’ll make money from this business is something you should preplan, at least a draft should be ready.

Now that you have enough knowledge about the topic, I want you to know, like everything, there are some cons to this online business.

Let’s take a look at it.

Pros & Cons of taking your business online

Pros

  • Reduced Cost
  • Reduced manpower & Other requirements
  • Wider range
  • A lot of data is available to make better decisions
  • You can remarket to bring back customers
  • Advertising cost is less expensive & has a higher ROI

Cons

  • Saturated marketplace
  • Lack of interaction (in absence of support system)
  • High-quality support system
  • Complete dependency on internet connectivity
  • The threat of hackers stealing your gold mine

This was on the pros & cons of the online business. Sure the cons can be mitigated, but it comes with a cost. If you’re serious about your business, I’m sure you can find a way to fund the requirement.

But if you’ve decided to get along with online business, you need to have some best practices handy.

Best practices for online business

Before you get started

  • Choose the right platform for your website
  • Have a fully functional & simple design
  • Start building an email list from day 1
  • Plan to get more organic traffic from search engines
  • Have a content marketing strategy in place
  • Use data to make decisions
  • Remarket to gain back the lost customers
  • Start an affiliate partner program to encourage others to promote your business.
  • Use PPC to rank for competitive terms and gain more qualified customers
  • Use social proof to convert visitors into customers
  • Use FOMO to boost sales

Technical

  • Test your site early & often
  • Test your content for wrong words
  • Make sure site loads fast enough
  • Perform load test regularly
  • Create sample transactions
  • Check the performance of your network provider
  • Add cross-sells, up-sells & down-sells on your site
  • Make it easy to access customer support
  • Make the search function fast & effective
  • Get social to reach a socially active audience

Ethical

  • Find a good web designer
  • Bring samples to show what you want your website to look like
  • Get the contract ready
  • Wait for feedback to come before you make any changes
  • Understand what you’re paying for (for designers, payment gateways)
  • Imagine & treat your website like a physical store

Take your business online without a website

If you wish to take your business online without having a website, you can make use of existing platforms (and methods) as follows

  • Sell on eBay, Amazon, Alibaba or any local e-commerce platform in your country
  • Start a blog (website & blog are different)
    1. Google Adsense
    2. Affiliate
    3. Sell products from your blog
    4. Native ads
    5. Paid reviews
    6. Paid newsletters
  • Google Sites
  • Medium
  • Quora
  • YouTube
  • Instagram

Final thoughts

The Internet is sure a boon to make money as 58% of the human population is already on the platform. This makes it really important for businesspersons to switch gears and shift online.

Sure, the internet is a great place to flourish a business. But that doesn’t mean that you should less focus on the existing business offline.

It is not at all recommended to shift your focus to even the slightest degrees.

Take baby steps towards this, and you will great results in the future. And you don’t have to feel any pressure of not starting early. Remember one thing, “There will always be voids you can fill in, there will always be beginners you can target”

With that said, I leaving you with this post to interact and share your experiences and stories about taking your business online. I’m going to read every single comment and try to respond to all of it.

Feel free to share this post with those who’re running like headless chickens to figure out ways to take your business online. If you’ve made this far, I know that this post has helped you. Why not help others?