Tag Archives: online retail

7 Steps to Start an Online Business

Having your own online business is a dream that many of the readers of this blog may have. There are however important steps to start an online business that needed to be followed.

Starting an online business, although it operates in a different channel, is not that different from starting a Brick and Mortar business. In both cases you need no do certain things in order to get your business up and running.

The 7 steps to start an online business

Starting a business may be for most people a chaotic and emotional episode. However, if you have a guide to do the right at the right time, the process may be smoother that you think. So, here are the steps:

Step 1: Planning

A Business Plan is a detailed action plan or road map outlining every conceivable aspect of the proposed venture. The plan describes what, how, when, where and why with regard to the new venture. It is thus a structured guideline for achieving your business goals.

Therefore, if you want to start an online shop, you should at least ask the following questions:

  • What kind of products do I want to sell?
  • Are there any competitors that will be selling the same products as me?
  • What should my website look like?

Read more: Planning Your Online Business 

By this time you should already have an idea what your business is about. Also about a name for your business…

Step 2: Register a domain name and choose a hosting company

If you already have the name of your shop, it is time to start setting it up. The first thing to do is to register for a domain name. However, good luck! According to Tek Eye (2017), there were 330 million domains registered for over 1.8 billion websites last year… So I think all the obvious domain names is already taken.

In spite of all the best domain names already been taken, you should try to get a name that can best represent your products or services. Registering a domain name should not cost you more than $10 (R120) for a .com extension. Visit SA Domains to see if a domain name is available.

After getting the domain name, you need to find a good hosting company. Look for a hosting company that has good servers and that will be able to run your online store e.g. Texo Webhosting.

Read more: Choose a Domain Name and Hosting Company for your Online Business 

Step 3: Choose your E-commerce package

You can build your online store through hosted solutions or self-hosted solutions

Hosted solutions:

Many hosted solutions provide a good experience to users with you doing very little on your end. However, when you use a hosted solution, you should be prepared to lose a lot of opportunity for customization.

The following three are among the top solutions:

It’s easy for anyone to set up an e-commerce site with Shopify. Some of the features you will enjoy by setting up a store with them include a custom mobile template, unlimited server bandwidth, SSL security, and a personal app store. You can try it for free for 14 days or choose a package that will suit you. Pricing starts from $14 to $179 (R180 – R2300) per month depending on the features and functionalities you are looking for.

Yahoo! Merchant Solution. The layout of Y!MS is fairly straightforward and can be easily customized. Y!MS ecommerce plans start from $19.98 to $224.96 (R260 – R2925) per month depending on the package and features you need.

BigCommerce is similar to Shopify but has limited features. The website has a clean interface, making it easy for users to sign up. You can easily add users, products, features and take payments online in just a few minutes. BigCommerce pricing ranges from R325 to R3900 a month depending on the features your need.

Self-Hosted Solutions:

If you do not want a hosted solution, you can make your own e-commerce scripts or use other open source or commercial shopping cart scripts.

Zen Cart is a popular open source script that will work in most web hosts. The script is free to download. The only downside of using the script is that your website will feature a “Powered by Zen Cart” message at the bottom.

Magento is another good script you can use for your e-commerce website. The script is written in PHP and is frequently updated. As is the case with Zen Cart, you will feel more comfortable using Magento if you are well-versed with HTML and CSS.

If you are comfortable using WordPress, you can easily set up an ecommerce store using various free and paid plugins. Examples of popular plugins that will enable your WordPress site and have ecommerce capabilities include WooCommerce, WP e-Commerce, Cart66, and others.

Read more: Choosing an eCommerce Platform for your Web Store

Step 4: Taking Payments Online

Credit cards provide customers with an easy way to make payments at your store. Apart from credit cards, customers may also wish to pay through other methods such as PayPal. You will want to accept payments through the methods that your customers trust and use. To accept credit cards online, you will need a merchant account.

Read more: Starting Your Web Store – How to Receive Payments Online

Step 5: Add Content and Products

After you have set up your domain name, hosting and shopping script, you are ready to start selling online. You now need to add your content and products. From this point onwards, you will also need to do some maintenance and tune your website design to match the needs of your customers.

Indeed, “The quality and relevance of the content of a retailers’ webpages can mean the difference between a sale and a bounce” writes Douw G Steyn recently in Bricks2Clicks.

The next important step is to get the product that your customer has paid for, to its destination.

Step 6: Shipping and Fulfillment

Like a physical retail store, you need to maximize the visitors at your store. However, you cannot simply hand over products over the counter. Also, shoppers expect a seamless shopping experience — no matter where they are, what device they are using, or how they choose to shop. Order Fulfillment – taking the right product, putting it in the right box, shipping it, and gaining the customer’s approval – is a demanding task (Bricks2Clicks).

Step 7: Marketing your online shop

One of the biggest challenges you may face as an e-commerce store owner is generating traffic that converts on your store. There are a number of digital marketing channels that retailers can use in the online channel:

  1. SEM (Search Engine Marketing) consists of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Paid Advertising (e.g. PPC – Pay Per Click advertising).
  2. Content Marketing includes Blogging, e-Mail marketing, e-Books and video marketing.
  3. Social Media Marketing is marketing on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

So these are the seven steps to start an online business…


Just as with Brick and Mortar shops, there’s no easy way to just star and make money. If you follow these steps to start an online business, you may soon identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats that exist in the marketplace.

Good luck with you new venture!




Affiliate Marketing – Let other people help to market your products

Affiliate marketing 1 is a commission-based arrangement where referring sites (publishers) receive a commission on sales or leads by merchants (retailers). MThink reports that 90 percent of advertisers indicated in a survey that affiliate programs were important to their marketing strategy. The majority of publishers also revealed that affiliate partnerships drove more than 20 percent of annual revenue. Let take a closer look at Affiliate Marketing (AM).

What is Affiliate Marketing?

AM enables you to expand your brand’s online presence by working with affiliates who operate niche sites that attract a specific market. In other words, you let other people market your products and send you website traffic. In return, you pay them a percentage of any sales that are made that originate from their efforts (Shopify.co.za). The main advantages and disadvantages 1 of affiliate marketing are as follows:

Advantages of affiliate marketing:

  • The retailer gain more visibility in the paid and natural listings of the result pages;
  • Retailers can use different affiliates to target different audiences, product categories and related phrases;
  • Affiliates may be more responsive to marketplace changes;
  • Affiliates allow retailers to reach customers through generic phrases;
  • The reach of the retailer’s brand can be increased by using affiliates;
  • Greater awareness can be generated, especially if the retailer is not well known;
  • Pay-per-performance – the costs of acquisition can be controlled well.

Disadvantages of affiliate marketing:

  • Incremental profit or sales may be limited;
  • Affiliates may exploit your brand name;
  • The retailer’s brand reputation may be damaged;
  • The programme management fees may be high;
  • It may take a lot of time to form and maintain good affiliate relationships.

How does Affiliate Marketing works?

The basic premise with AM is that you let other people market your products and send you website traffic. In return, you pay them a percentage of any sales that are made that originate from their efforts. Subsequently this is done by giving them special hyperlinks that they can post on their website. These hyperlinks usually contain an ID code which helps to track their efforts.

Further, when we talk about AM, it is important to note that there are different types 2 of affiliates. Each affiliate type fulfills a different role in terms of value, volume and reach.

The digital platforms that affiliates can use are as follow:
  1. Reward sites – drives sales by rewarding its members through a share of commission it earns from an advertiser.
  2. Content sites and blogs – are often focused on a niche interest and feature unique content. Since content affiliates form part of an Affiliate Program’s long-tail strategy they rarely are large volume drivers. Nevertheless, unique content suggests editorial credibility and often has a positive impact on an advertiser’s search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
  3. Email affiliate – sends emails to its own (or 3rd party) data base to drive brand conversions.
  4. Comparison websites – offer consumers the opportunity to compare products of different advertisers. Although comparison websites can generate large sales volumes, they vary a lot on how they structure their rankings. This ranking is not always based on best product but often earnings per click (EPC).
  5. Retargeting Affiliates – affiliates retarget most commonly through tags that they place on the advertiser’s site and try to re-engage with consumers who have not completed their purchase. The advertiser has full control over traffic source and targeting options.
  6. PPC Affiliate – A PPC (pay-per-click) affiliate is a search specialist who drives traffic to an advertiser’s site by bidding on relevant keywords via a custom-built landing page. The key to a successful trial with a PPC Affiliate is to set up strict guidelines which help ensure affiliates are compliant.
  7. Voucher and deal sites – generate sales by offering their users a discount code that can be redeemed online against their purchase.
  8. Social Affiliates – works via highly targeted posts on social networks or sponsored tweets, which can help to drive awareness and assist in generating need. It is important to keep the creative relevant, with a strong call to action.

Measuring the success of Affiliate Marketing

Retailers must determine what they want to achieve with their AM program before starting with it. Knowing what you want to accomplish is fundamental to determining the key performance indicators (KPIs) that go along with your program objectives says John Lawrence, Senior Analyst at Visual IQ. The most commonly adopted KPIs for affiliate marketing are leads, conversions, conversion rate, cost per acquisition (CPA), revenue, and return on ad spend (ROAS). Once you’ve identified your KPIs, you need the right tools to measure against them. Traditionally in affiliate marketing, the sale is credited to the last click prior to a conversion. The affiliate partner responsible for driving a user to an advertiser’s website receives a commission for the purchase.

Optimizing your Affiliate Marketing campaign

Retailers need to use their budget for the digital marketing campaigns effectively.  Therefore you should ask questions such as “Where should I put my money to make the most of my affiliate marketing program? Which channels work best? What strategies should I employ to get the most out of my spend” according to Greg Bayer in Target Marketing. Greg offers the following advice:

  1. Test, test again and then test some more. Keep optimizing the campaign — there are always more tweaks to make while it’s in motion.
  2. Differentiate yourself from the pack. Changing up your creatives can keep things fresh for consumers and boost your revenue.
  3. Email marketers: CYA (Clean Your Addresses). It’s vital to scrub your list of inactive or closed addresses that will inevitably result in bounced emails.


Looking back at 2016, Rae Hoffman (MarketingLand) asked whether Affiliate Marketing will be a viable business model in 2016? She suggests: “As affiliate marketing emerges as a viable native advertising alternative for traditionally display-funded larger publishers, the competition in obtaining affiliate sales will increase.” Markus Taylor writing in VentureHarbour concurs that the challengers for affiliate marketing revenue will be stronger in terms of technology and resources. From tighter legislation for affiliates, to Google cracking down on thin affiliate content, and a general increase in competition on the web, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for affiliate marketers to get ahead in the game.

However, Rea gave the following assurance (pondering on the ongoing growth of Affiliate marketing): “One thing is for sure: Affiliate marketing is still a viable business model.”


1 Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F. 2012. Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice, Pearsons Education Limited, Edinburgh Gate, Harlow, Essex CM20 2JE, England.

2 Vijay Solanki, 2016. IAB Australia Affiliate Marketing Handbook.

Image: Flickr.com

Integrating Online with Offline –One of the Biggest Challenges for Bricks and Mortar Retailers

Integrating online retail with offline retail remains a big challenge for most retailers. Retailers who are for years in business are using technology that is developed for running a physical shop better and making shopping for their customers easier.

A study by Forrester Consulting reported by Internet Retailing found that although 90% of the UK retailers are now doing business online, most of them find it difficult to join their online and offline technology. Yet, only 26% of the retailers interviewed mentioned that their sales are influenced by the online channel.

Technology use by the customers of Bricks and Mortar retailers

Most of the customers of Bricks and Mortar retailers visit the retailer’s website to get information about the inventory in the shop.  And, according to the study by Forrester Consulting, 39% of customers surveyed say they are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a retailer’s store if its website does not provide physical store inventory information.

Only 32% of the retailers that was interviewed offered a function on their websites for customers to view their in-store inventory details.

Customers want shopping convenience

Results of the study indicated that half of all customers cited store pickup options as important or very important to them when shopping online. However,  only a third of retailers today already support store-pickup programs.

The customers interviewed demanded the following:

  • Absolute guarantees that the product is actually available;
  • Rapid picking and notification alerts;
  • Customers want to pay at the point of pickup;
  • Customers want the option to pick their goods up at alternative locations.

Integrating online – customer experience in the digital age

By using their smartphones in the shop, the customers are in power. They use their smartphones to check inventory availability before entering the store. The phones are also use in the store and to research the products that they are interested to buy.

Retailers that integrate online retail with their physical stores need to be masters of their stores and the digital domain.

Image: pixabay