There are so many successful online businesses grabbing the headlines and capturing the public imagination that you could be forgiven for thinking that starting one of your own is simple.
While it's certainly easier than ever before to become an online entrepreneur, there are plenty of pitfalls that can derail great ideas before they even get off the ground.
If you're planning to launch your new venture in 2020, or if you're looking to keep your existing online business on the straight and narrow, the following 10 tips could help you achieve your business goals in the year ahead.
One of the most important marketing tips for online business success in any new venture is to conduct market research for your company. After all, you might think you have a life-changing product or service that nobody can afford to ignore, but who says the public will agree?
By carrying out market research and pitching your business idea to professionals who have already made headway in your sector, you can gain vital insights and understand the lay of the land before you set out on your new business journey.
As original as your business idea might seem, the chances are you're going to face stiff competition from other entrepreneurs offering a similar product or service. To give yourself the very best chance of getting the edge on your competitors, read reviews, forum posts and comments on existing products to see what people like and dislike about the brands you're going up against.
In the era of social media, a standard website might feel like a dated concept but in most sectors running a successful online business remains very difficult without one.
Consider your website as the online equivalent of a high street shop: it's the place people can go to learn everything about your business, browse your products, make purchases and speak to you directly. And, just as you would if you were running a shop, you must do everything you can to get people to your website and give them a memorable, positive experience when they arrive.
Making your online business successful requires more than just a great product and a flashy website. All too often, new business owners fail to put themselves in their customers' shoes by testing all the possible user journeys that could take a member of the public to the point of purchase.
Testing the user experience of your online business means accessing your web presence from as many different devices and browsers as possible, taking into account the needs and limitations of all your potential customers, and continually tweaking your site to ensure it is accessible and useable by all.
Once your website is live and you're confident you can offer a great user experience, it's time to drive traffic to your business through search engine optimisation (SEO).
There is a vast amount of wisdom out there on the subject of SEO strategy for online business, from guides to the best website plug-ins and automated tools, to insight on the most effective types of content to post for your audience. Time spent listening to SEO experts and crafting a long-term plan to help your website rank in search listings is rarely wasted.
There is a danger that online business owners don’t interact with their customers as often as they should. There’s comfort in working from behind the scenes; improving your website from the back-end and using chat bots or admin staff to handle enquiries.
But it's difficult to know how to make your online business successful if you aren’t getting direct feedback from your community, so get out there and run surveys, find your customers on social media, ask questions and – most importantly – listen to their opinions on your product.
When creating businesses online, successful UK entrepreneurs don't just think about becoming the leading firm in their local area. The beauty of running an online business is that you can geo-target customers anywhere by creating location-specific content and targeted ads that encourage organic growth.
Wondering what are the most successful online businesses? The answer, more often than not, is the ones that keep their costs low while they are starting out.
Think about your business as a jumbo jet on a runway. Getting it in the air is going to take time, energy and money, but if there is any excess baggage you can remove to give it the best possible chance – such as by setting up a home office rather than paying for premises, or calling in favours from friends instead of choosing expensive suppliers – then you can expect to be flying sooner rather than later.
As the old adage goes, you've got to spend money to make money, and all successful strategies to grow online business ventures require funds to drive them.
Applying for a business loan is remarkably quick and easy. Once you find out how much you can borrow, you might identify new scope to expand your operations to horizons that previously seemed out of reach. Extra funding could empower you to welcome new technologies, people, or marketing strategies to your business.
Just as important as considering how to make your business successful is asking the question: why do online businesses fail?
No matter how spectacular your launch or how well researched your product offering, standing still in the online business world will cause your company to stagnate. Every entrepreneur has to stay ahead of developments in their sector, listen to feedback from customers and investors, observe competitor behaviour and industry trends, and cultivate an obsession with their business just to stay afloat.
Scrutinise every aspect of your online business as often as you can. What can you improve? Where can you make savings? Which unexplored markets have you yet to delve into?
The potential for growth is endless, as long as you keep moving.