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Ajit Melarkode

What you need to know when starting an online business

BY AJIT MELARKODE

The Hong Kong start-up scene is booming. With the rise of co-work spaces like CoCoon, incubators and accelerators including Startups Unplugged and Accelerator Hong Kong, and networking groups like Startup Grind, the start-up ecosystem in Hong Kong is just beginning.

Building a successful start-up is no small feat, however. It takes years to adequately prepare and thoroughly develop a business idea. And once the idea comes into fruition, additional preparation and time is needed to ensure all the pieces of the puzzle are in place before you can hit “go”.

However, with the eagerness and excitement of many start-ups to get the ball rolling and start driving sales, a big mistake is often made. Businesses rush to set up their company websites without identifying how their website will be used and the type of IT infrastructure needed to successfully support it.

Failing to do so will not only lead to a potential website crash but will hurt sales, damage reputation, and lead to customer loss.

Therefore, to successfully start-up an online business, it's important to research and understand what IT elements you need before you start building.

Determine the focus of your website

The first step when setting up an online business is to determine what you’re getting online for. While this may seem elementary and obvious, it’s a step that many fail to take – and is crucial for laying the groundwork of your website.

In fact, pinpointing and understanding your online presence will determine what services and solutions are most critical for you to invest in.

For example, if you’re mainly building a website for discovery and brand awareness, then your biggest investment should be in search engine optimisation to boost the visibility of your site.

However, if the primary reason is for eCommerce, then investments should be made on the user interface and security to ensure the customer experience is simple, quick, and secure.

Look to the future, not the present

It’s also important to build your online business with a future outlook in mind. That said, the first instinct of many start-ups when building a website is to get it up-and-running as quick as possible in order to start driving sales and traffic.

However, thinking in these terms is detrimental. Instead, companies should think in terms of the future of their business, asking themselves: who will be using the site, how many visitors are expected, and how often will the content need to be updated?

As a business grows, so does traffic and content. Therefore, an investment should be made in a flexible and scalable hosting solution, letting you build capacity when it’s needed.

This is especially important for e-commerce companies, as traffic most likely peaks during the holidays or has seasonal spurts. To be successful, companies need to implement an IT solution to effectively manage it, ensuring the website stays up and running despite variations in traffic.

Your website is a representation of you

Remember, your website is the online face of your brand. If a customer or a potential customer’s first experience with your site is poor, there’s no guaranteeing that they will come back.

Therefore, as a start-up who’s just breaking into the market, it is essential your site is optimised, high performing and always running, ensuring a seamless experience for your customer from day one.

While the importance of building a stable, scalable, and rapid website may be second thought to some, the significance of it is vast.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Ajit Melarkode

Ajit Melarkode

Ajit Melarkode, Managing Director for Rackspace Asia Pacific, oversees Rackspace Hosting and Fanatical Support in APAC, managing sales, marketing, channel, support and data center operations and Rackspace teams in Hong Kong, Sydney and Bangalore. He is an alum of the London School of Economics (LSE) and London Business School and has been a bit of a globetrotter, having led teams and assignments in 10+ countries and across North America, Europe and Asia. 

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