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How to start
an online business

Author: Satta Sarmah Hightower

With advances in technology, it's become easier to take the leap into entrepreneurship, like starting an online retail business.  According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses have seen steady growth from 1997 to 2019 in the U.S. In the last year alone, U.S. Census Bureau data indicates more than 4 million new business applications were filed—that's in spite of a pandemic that shuttered thousands of businesses.

Without the huge overhead associated with brick-and-mortar retail and new public health and social distancing considerations, starting an online retail business may be the most viable option for first-time entrepreneurs or even existing retail business owners who want to pivot. 

But going fully online requires the right technology infrastructure, including modernizing connectivity solutions, point-of-sale platforms and companion mobile apps, and securing the digital workspace. If you're considering launching a business online, here's how to get it up and running with the right technology.

How to start an online retail business

Whether you're launching a direct-to-consumer clothing brand or selling your own custom art online, you'll need to establish a digital storefront and a back-end payments structure.

At the very least, when starting an online retail business, you'll need a website, web hosting services and an order management system to take and process customer orders and to keep track of sales. Depending on the nature of your online retail business, you might also decide to purchase inventory management software to track supplies and their associated costs, along with the number of items you have in stock to deliver to customers.  Starting an online retail business is an exciting time.

As many companies shift to remote or hybrid work environments, prioritize technology solutions that help your business be as agile and flexible as possible. Video Conferencing platforms allow you to talk to your customers, partners and suppliers face-to-face in real time speeding up collaboration and increasing customer engagement. Mobile first phone with business features allow you to answer calls virtually anytime and from anywhere. This means fewer missed customer opportunities and better customer experience.  Digital workspaces and cloud storage solutions can give you access to critical documents, business apps and business communications in one centralized and secure place. As your business grows, these tools will become even more important to improve your employees' productivity, whether they're in the office or working from home. 

This is just a snapshot of potential technologies that can lay the foundation for starting an online retail business. Whatever solutions you choose, a fast, reliable internet connection is a must. Some standard internet plans most consumers purchase for personal use likely won't be enough to meet the high bandwidth, reliability and availability required to run an online retail business. Instead, assess reliable connectivity options that will provide the speed that will fit your organization’s needs. For access to reliable, secure internet connectivity on the go, it also might be a good idea to purchase a mobile hotspot plan and MiFi device if it aligns with your new business's most immediate needs and fits within your budget.

Investing in managed services

Once you've selected the best solutions for starting an online retail business, you'll need to consider how you'll manage and secure your network, along with all the applications and systems that connect to it.

While you could manage this process yourself or outsource it to an individual IT expert, it may be more beneficial to use managed services offered by a leading technology provider. With managed services, a provider will assume full responsibility for day-to-day network management, monitoring your network for potential cyber threats and ensuring you have reliable connectivity and optimal performance. You also can access 24/7 tech support services to troubleshoot any network issues.

By investing in services and technology solutions that streamline your processes, you can save time and focus on the key areas that will move the needle for your business—whether it's delivering better customer service or creating one-of-a-kind products customers can't find anywhere else.

Tips to starting an online retail business

If you're nervous about how to start an online retail business, understand that doing something new always comes with a mix of fear and excitement. 

Starting a business is never easy.  It'll take time and hard work to determine how to start an online retail business, but the reward of owning something for yourself and building a brand customers love is truly priceless. You can make your evolution into an online business owner a little simpler by choosing the right technology solutions, network and collaboration services. From there, you'll have a solid foundation to launch your online retail business and eventually build it into the company of your dreams.

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