Considering an online business? Some points to think about

Using the Internet to conduct business is similar in many ways to operating a traditional company. In fact, many traditional offline businesses now conduct part of their business online. Today, consumers research products and services online and expect to be able to buy products or services online, even from bricks-and-mortar stores. For those reasons, the lines between online and offline businesses are increasingly blurred.

Profitability (or how much money you make after subtracting your expenses), taxes, marketing, advertising, and customer feedback are other examples of factors that affect your business whether it’s online or offline. However, some exceptions set apart an online business, particularly with regards to how you deliver products and service your customers. Even the most experienced entrepreneur can get caught in the trap of forgetting those differences. Your attitude and how you approach the business as an online entrepreneur can make a huge difference in how successful you are online.

Adjusting your attitude slightly and viewing business from behind the lens of an online entrepreneur isn’t difficult. Doing so is simply a matter of recognizing that the Internet changes the way you can and should operate your online business.

When you think like an online entrepreneur, you see the invisible storefront. Although the doors, walls, and even the salesclerk for your online business might be invisible, they definitely exist. In fact, every part of your web business leaves a distinct impression. Yet rarely do you hear or see the response to your storefront directly from customers. Consequently, and contrary to popular belief, a website demands your continual care and attention — adding products, fixing bugs, replying to e-mail, and more.

Understand who your customers are. Even if you don’t personally greet your online visitors, don’t be fooled: The Internet offers the unique opportunity to learn and understand almost everything about your customers. You can learn where else they shop, how much time they spend on your site, what products they’re interested in, where they live and work, how much they earn annually, whether they are parents, and which magazines they read. Online entrepreneurs collect and use this information regularly in an effort to increase sales and better serve their customers.

Respond to fast and furious changes. The way people use the Internet to buy, sell, or search for products and services changes rapidly. Also, the rules for operating an online business as imposed by both the government and the business world in general are modified almost daily. Sustaining success online means that you must take the initiative to keep up with new trends; laws and regulations; safety and security concerns; technology; and even marketing and social media tools.

Speak the language. Communicating to your customers through a website can be challenging. Your buyers want and expect quick and easy access to information. Because attention spans are limited, content should always be relevant, easy to find, and to the point.

Communicate visually. Equally important to the words you choose are the images you incorporate into your site. Whether you use purchased stock photos or pictures that you take yourself, you want images to be crisp, clear, and relevant to the message you are communicating. In addition, product images should be the best quality possible.

As an entrepreneur, you must choose both your words and images carefully. Your site’s content, including the words and pictures you use on your web, will Help sell your products or services to visitors. Serve as interesting and useful content to share on social media, which is an important method of marketing your online business. Play a big role in search engine optimization (SEO), or the way you can increase visits to your site by placing higher on the list of rankings by Internet search engines. (Yes, images, like words, are searchable and can help increase your rankings in search engines!)

Know when (or whether) to innovate. You might be able to develop a new or different method for doing business online, although it’s probably not necessary. Innovative tools already exist, and you can often find them on the Internet quickly and cheaply. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel — you just have to know how to find and apply the tools that are already out there.

Reap repeated rewards. Establishing multiple streams of revenue or maximizing a single source of revenue is a common practice online. For instance, you might have an outstanding information product for sale on your site. The same product can just as easily be sold on other websites in exchange for a small percentage of earnings. Or you can choose to add a product from another website to your site and pay that site a percentage of earnings.