Why not to start an e-Commerce business?
Dropshipping, said to be a very simple and effective way to get started in e-Commerce,
isn’t as easy and simple as people think!
(dropshipping is a type of retailing where the retailer does not keep goods in stock, but instead passes the customer's order and shipment details to the wholesaler, who then dispatches the goods to the customer directly. The retailer makes their profit on the difference between the wholesale and retail price)
5 reasons why you should think twice about starting up an e-Commerce business
In working to help develop e-Commerce websites for small businesses, I have seen a few successes and failures over the last 12 years. There are myriad articles to be read on how to start an e-Commerce site, and how to market your e-Commerce site, but there aren’t many articles on why NOT to start an eCommerce business!
Below are the first 5 reasons why you should think twice about starting up an e-Commerce business. These are a few key areas that, in my experience, offer the greatest potential for failure if not properly identified. Conversely, if you excel in each area, more power to you!
Simply put, many people decide to pour their life savings into a e-Commerce business because they think it’s cool and hip (which it is), and it will be an easy way for them to make money (nothing is easy!). However, without experience in retail sales, and web technology, your chances for success dwindles to nearly zip.
It’s true, you can surround yourself with knowledgeable people and put their experience to work for you, but that costs lots of money. If you don’t have a background in retail sales or technology, you need to define your value to the company and how that will aide in creating a successful business.
With thousands of turn-key, template website solutions out there, it’s getting more and more difficult to differentiate your business from a sea of competitors. What will make you different compared to the thousands of other sites competing for the top 10 positions on the search engine result page? Why would your visitors and customers share your website with their friends? What makes them come back?
If all it took was €25 a month, and a drop-shipping agreement with a product supplier, wouldn’t there be a lot more successful entrepreneurs? Think through how you will truly differentiate your business-it’s going to take a lot more than a template website and a variety of products.
Here are some areas to focus on:
- Competitive/low prices
- Resources/education materials to inform your customers
- High demand products
- Excellent customer service
- Fast shipping
- Varied product selection
- Newly released products
- Working/professional design (no broken graphics/layout)
- Unique and actionable content
- Large pictures, videos and informational descriptions
Referencing point 2 on competition, having a budget of a few bucks a month isn’t going to cut it when developing an eCommerce business. You might have been able to shoestring it back in the 90’s, but with the new SaaS (software as a service) ease of entry, anyone can start a webstore with a fist of dollars and a dream. This means that you will need to invest more money into differentiating your business.
There are many variables to look for when forecasting your budget for an e-Commerce business. It’s much more than the initial website design, programming, and hosting. Looking past the small domain name fee’s, SSL certificates, and payment gateway charges, you need to focus more on your employees, your site content (pictures, product descriptions, videos), and your marketing.
The real expenses start to pile up when buying inventory, developing marketing campaigns, and building your product catalog. Don’t rush into building an eCommerce business without budgeting properly, or knowing how much it’s going to cost to be successful. I’ve seen many cases where budding entrepreneurs invest nearly all of their money in the initial website build out, and then have little to no dollars to invest in marketing and talent.
If you’re not a manufacturer, choosing what you are going to sell is nearly as important as choosing your supplier. Without great vendor relationships, you could end up with just a few of these issues; limited availability of products (out of stock/back ordered) and limited product variety, receiving orders that you cannot fulfill, and facing customer service issues with returns and lost shipments.
The web businesses that do well stock their own inventory, or most of their own inventory, and drop ship a small portion of their product catalog (the number of products they can’t keep on hand). There’s a plethora of “drop shippers” out there that will fulfill your orders, but you give up a lot of control when you choose this route. Unless you have great relations with the drop shipper, or amazing software that syncs up your systems, make sure not to be at the mercy of your drop shipper.
If you’re a start-up, and plan on drop shipping all your products, you have a great challenge ahead of you! It’s quite easy to startup a new web site with some turnkey software, and link up with a drop shipper to send out your products. However, how do you differentiate yourself from the thousands of other sites selling the same products? Can you offer better service (difficult when you don’t have control of the shipping), better prices (depends what you negotiate with your drop shipper), seamless returns, etc…
Unless you have an epic plan and strategy for drop shipping all your products, you would be better off setting up an affiliate site, and earning money from referring visitors to other websites.
If you look at some of the most successful web business, you will see they all have one specific thing in common, regardless of what they sell: it took time for them to become successful. This means that after investing either a few hundred bucks, or tens of thousands of dollars, you need to plan for the time it takes to get traction.
For instance, it will take time to; get recognized and gain rankings in the search engines and shopping comparison sites, build your email subscriber base, recognize which PPC keywords are profitable and which are not, develop a strong affiliate base, build your social media profiles with fans, get reviews for your products, get customer interaction through contests and testimonials, learn which products are hot, and which are not, price products correctly, price the shipping of products correctly, etc…
While the development of your site may take a few months, or nearly a year, that is not the end-game. Once launched, it will take time (maybe years) to develop your groove and build your following. The better prepared (financially and mentally) you are, the better chance you will have at success.
Any weakness can be overcome with some time and elbow grease. However, it’s better to know beforehand how much time and elbow grease you’re going to need before you begin your e-Commerce journey!
Source / read more: practicalecommerce.com