Increasingly, businesses are taking advantage of the tools at their disposal and using the internet to sell their products and services. Not only can online franchises offer the chance to reach more customers, but also help business owners work flexibly.
According to government data, the digital sector generated £149 billion for the UK economy in 2018 - but that figure will have increased significantly throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Before the lockdowns, the government had announced plans to increase the size of the industry in the years leading up to 2025 until it produces £200 billion in revenue.
Clearly, online franchises hold lots of potential for savvy entrepreneurs. If you join one, you’ll be able to benefit from working under a recognisable brand and established business model. Opportunities in the sector range from retail to consultancy, gaming, tutoring and hospitality, so there should be an online franchise to suit everyone.
Why starting an online franchise is a great idea
- Reach more customers - Brick and mortar businesses are limited to serving people in their local community, but online franchises can target the 4.5 billion internet users across the world. Before you know it, you could have an international following.
- Make sales 24/7 - While most businesses with a storefront can only welcome customers for several hours a day, you’ll be able to cater to people at any time of the day or night.
- Save money - If you don’t have to rent a premises or pay for its utilities, tax and insurance, you can limit your investment costs and reach your break-even point quickly.
- Improve your work-life balance - When you run an online franchise business, you can work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. Plus, you’ll probably be able to choose your hours to fit in with existing commitments.
Top tips for starting an online franchise
1. Create an effective website
The first step in the set-up of any online franchise should be to launch a fantastic website. It’ll form the foundation of your business, and customers will judge it harshly if it’s not up to scratch. Keep things simple with a minimal colour palette and selection of fonts, and make sure it’s fast and optimised for mobile use.
2. Include high-quality images
If people can’t see or visit your business premises on the high street, they’ll be relying on your online content to decide whether to buy from you. Including high-quality photos and well-designed infographics on your website and social media profiles will help you establish yourself as a professional and reliable business.
If you don’t yet have a selection of images, consider using stock photographs and gradually replacing them with your own as you build up a portfolio.
3. Take advantage of social media
Online franchise owners have a huge opportunity when it comes to social media marketing. The platforms offer the chance to create cost-effective promotional activity and monitor the results through analytics.
Depending on the type of business you’re running, consider setting up profiles on some of the major sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. You could even use platforms like Snapchat to target a younger demographic.
4. Consider SEO
Search engine optimisation helps you rank higher on sites like Google. By developing high-quality copy using a large number of keywords and incorporating links to other website pages, you can boost your ranking position. Read our comprehensive guide to SEO to find out more.
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5. Prioritise customer service
When you don’t have friendly assistants interacting with the public all the time, it can be difficult to deliver a personalised service and establish a close connection with your customers. You can start to rectify the issue by finding out what matters to them and incorporating those factors into your operations.
For instance, if the data proves your customers respond well to freebies and deals, why not do a little digging to see which of your low-cost products are most popular. Then, you could give them to loyal customers as gifts. Alternatively, you could offer rewards vouchers, if people prefer.
6. Find a community
There are plenty of high-profile business events and exhibitions organised across the UK, and online franchises also have the chance to join communities on the internet. Industry forums and social networking sites are fantastic places to meet like-minded people and share tips and insight.
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7. Position yourself as an expert
Proving your credentials as a specialist in your sector will help you establish a good reputation. As an online franchise, this is relatively easy to do, through blog posts, social media content and newsletters. Customers will appreciate being able to access these resources free of charge.
Present any interesting industry data and discuss your findings in an engaging way. You could also keep an eye out for any trends and create relevant content to reflect the topics on everyone’s lips.
Example of a great online franchise opportunity
Want to start your own Just Eat-style delivery business? This low-cost food franchise opportunity takes restaurant dishes right to people’s doors after they order online. The company was founded in 2018 and has a string of branches across the North West, but is now focussing on nationwide expansion.
- Becoming a Local Eats franchisee: You’ll partner with restaurants and food businesses in your local area to help them get their products to customers. You’ll have your own support and admin team as you work to grow your franchise unit.
- How much you need to invest: A Local Eats unit only costs £5,000 to launch, and you can aim to generate around £150,000 annually after two years.
- What you get for your investment: Local Eats gives you everything you need to get up and running in just 10 days. The package includes face-to-face or online training, as well as your own website and apps, and the franchise’s proven marketing resources to help you get word out about your business.
Takeaways quickly ditched national chains due to our lower commission levels. This gave us so many exclusive offerings and this meant customers transitioned over to us too as they love to support local businesses, keep money in their local area and take advantage of the discounts and promotions that takeaways could afford to run due to the savings they made.
—Barrow Eats owners Sam and Scott
Invest in an online franchise
Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas on how to start an online business. Here at Point Franchise, we make it easy for budding entrepreneurs to find the best franchises out there. See our list of opportunities in the online business sector to get started.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©