Starting an online business? Avoid these common pitfalls

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You may have done your homework and found out what you need to have before you start and run an online business successfully, but do you know some of the common mistakes to avoid?

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Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio

Considering everything that’s happening during this COVID-19 pandemic, starting an online business seems like a wise move at the moment. Not only will it give you a source of income (or an additional one, if you are employed), but you will also be able to run your own business on your own terms. However, this comes along with a considerable amount of responsibility to you and for the business. You may have done your homework and found out what you need to have before you start and run an online business successfully, but do you know some of the common mistakes to avoid? Well read through and get some pointers.

1. Have you done your homework? Research is important!

Mary lost her job in February 2020 just before Coronavirus hit Kenya. She immediately started looking for another job but kept her mind open as she considered other options. Her friend Lucy invited her for lunch and a chat at their favorite fries and chicken restaurant. Lucy tells her how well her online business - Lucy’s Sports Shoes is doing. Lucy encourages Mary to try her hand in online business, and who knows, she just might not be job-searching after a few months. Mary goes ahead and invests her savings in buying ladies office shoes as initial stock, hoping to make good returns in a few weeks so she can buy more stock and make more sales fast. But Mary didn’t do her research properly, because in March after the lockdown, few people were going to work, which meant that even fewer people would be looking to buy office shoes. The fact that her shop was new and didn’t have clients and she was starting from scratch, made her prospects worse. If Mary would have done her research on which products were more marketable during this period, she would have made a better product choice to start off with, especially during an unstable period.

2. Client and Content, the two KINGS of online business.

I’ll let you in on a well-known, well-kept open secret...if you want to have an easy time growing an online business, you have to get your content right, and you have to be nice to your clients. Having an online business means that your clients will post a lot of queries and questions on your platforms, because they cannot touch, hold or physically see the item or service and if they don’t get the answers they need on time, then they will not have the confidence to buy from you. Always describe the service and products you are selling correctly and accurately and give as much detail as possible. Avoid the “DM for details / prices” line. It’s suspicious and doesn’t inspire confidence in your product / service or brand especially if you are just starting off. The customer is KING! Yes, even online. You will quickly realize that your most reliable source of repeat sales is a satisfied and happy client, who will also refer you to their friends, colleagues or relatives. Treat your clients right and your online business will thrive.

3. Where are you selling?

With several platforms available for any online business just starting off and looking to attract new clients, the choice of platform is majorly determined by who your target market is and which platform they can be found on. While it may be tempting to be on all the platforms to maximize on visibility, in the long run, this may not be sustainable especially for a small business or a business that’s starting on a minimal budget. Having a website, being on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube, Medium, Wordpress will eventually wear you out especially if you need to plan and manage content and the pages for your business. It’ll be much easier and wiser to choose one or two main platforms to focus on and have one or two secondary ones to support the primary platforms. You can decide to have a Facebook Business Page linked to your WhatsApp Business platform and supported by an Instagram page. Or you can have a website as the main platform, supported by a Twitter page. If the platform you choose allows you to either advertise, have email marketing or send message broadcasts to reach more clients, then even better for the business as you are looking to grow fast, acquire more clients, get more referrals as soon as possible, with as minimal resources as possible.


"The choice of platform is majorly determined by who your target market is and which platform they can be found on." Linda - Shopatadora.


4. Just because you’re online doesn’t mean you’re faceless...

When I was just starting out, I was a client to another more established wholesale online business located in a different town. They were popular so they didn’t see the need to have great customer service, especially towards clients who would buy a few items. They would get bad online reviews on different Facebook groups because of this. One of the biggest misconceptions about having an online business is that you’re not as accountable as you would be if you had a brick and mortar shop. This is highly incorrect. Your service and brand are under as much scrutiny as that of a physical shop. You have as much responsibility to build a great reputation for your brand. And it doesn’t matter that you are just starting off, you need to ask yourself what brand qualities you want your online business to be known for. Is it great service? Great products? Amazing after sales service? Make this a priority and let it reflect in every sales process and build on it with every opportunity you get.

5. Are you overselling and under-delivering?

I am sure you have heard the most common catchphrase that is associated with online selling… ‘What I bought versus what I got’. Most people who shop online are already cautious because of numerous incidents of people they know (sometimes they are the victims) who ordered and bought an item and what was delivered looked nothing like what was in the photo that convinced them to make that order. That ill-fitting dinner dress that was described as a fitting bandage dress. The baker who promised to deliver a baby shower cake that had the guests wondering if the cake topper was a baby or a shriveled cabbage? There are many unfortunate cases of disappointed clients of different online businesses. You will not be able to build an online business successfully if your clients repeatedly complain about the quality of your products or feel cheated because what they saw did not match what was delivered. Clients want to buy from and support online businesses, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, but they need to be reassured that what they see is what they get.

6. You don’t need to have much to do more!

You don’t necessarily have to have a huge budget to attract clients or create a brand that resonates with your clients. You can make do with a minimal budget and make use of several online apps and tools to help you brand and market your business. Using applications like Canva to generate catchy cover photos and offer or sale banners for your pages for free, InShot to create videos of your products, MailChimp to send bulk email and email marketing. Marketing has also been made easy, especially if you link your Facebook with your Instagram Business pages and WhatsApp Business platform, you can promote your posts for a minimum of $1 per day to boost your marketing efforts.

These are a few of some of the pitfalls to avoid and ensure you run your online business smoothly. All the best!


Author bio: 

Linda Obilo has 8 years experience as a Digital Marketer working with different brands and runs her online shop on Instagram Shopatadora.

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    Esther | August 18, 2020 08:57

    Wooow! Wooow! Wooow! So uplifting

    Boston alidi | August 14, 2020 12:48

    Thanks you

    Giksper | August 10, 2020 11:39

    Thank you

    Giksper | August 10, 2020 11:36

    Thank you very much giksper ephantus. ..instagram

    Millicent | August 09, 2020 10:15

    Intend to start counselling classes inline so needs your start up advice


    LINDA | August 10, 2020 09:11

    I hope the article has shed some light on some of the things you need to do before starting. Thanks for reading Millicent.

    SEBUUFU | August 06, 2020 09:00

    great lessons learnt


    LINDA | August 10, 2020 09:09

    Great stuff! Am the best in your endeavours 👍🏽

    Collins | July 30, 2020 09:56

    Thank you


    LINDA | August 10, 2020 09:10

    Thank you for reading Collins 👍🏽

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