‘Everything begins with an idea’ – Earl Nightingale (US motivational writer & author (1921-1989). And nothing could do more justice to these famous words than the success which e-commerce is experiencing across the globe. Gone are the days when you only nurtured a dream of becoming an entrepreneur – today, with the right strategy and vision, you can realize your dream speedily.
Deciding on an appropriate online market place: One of the key components of establishing an online business is the exploring the availability of a market in the virtual world. Perhaps you could find flavours of your idea already in existence but you are still passionate about it - aim for a niche where you could make your presence felt and stand tall above the rest. You can avail of two options viz;
- Market your product utilizing existing online market platforms
- Make a brave foray and establish your own e-store
Ideation & Conversion of ideas into a Business: In a digital world, all you need is a ground-breaking idea to realize a glaring gap, with regards to a products/services and that is enough to guarantee you infinite success for an online business. A realistic idea demands converting it into a potential business. This involves a comprehensive research of the virtual market to detect potential clients. Timely interaction to understand the existing and futuristic needs of the audiences becomes your call of the day. Testing times demand of you to make a prototype of your e-store and gather as much information through it. The feedback, critical appreciation, opinions and more will offer you a detailed understanding of how clients have accepted your product/service and how willing they are, to pay for it. This will give you an idea of competition, contemporaries and making your offering more superior than the others. With all the vital statistics at your disposal and, after a detailed analysis you are now ready to start a grand startup for which you need a practical business model.
The ideal business model: Constitutes key elements e.g. the functioning of the company, offering of the products/services, revenue generation, adaptation to new markets & technologies, all of which work towards achieving success.
E-business models include the various methods a company employs to grow into a profitable web-based business viz; Value proposition, source of revenue, competencies & competitive advantage
Value proposition: is the value your client will gain from your e-store. This could be in the form of discounts, economically priced products, timely deliverables and better service. Highly skilled personnel employed in an organisation are valuable assets which competition can never rival. The sources of revenue models are numerous.
Business models include:
Advertising: Website, (content offering at a premium), and services like Email, Blogs, IM which would include advertising messages in the form of banner advertisements
Brokerage: Individuals who would help bring both, buyers and sellers onto your e-store thereby facilitating transactions for you
Affiliates: They would assist driving a large volume of traffic to your e-store. This model offers purchase opportunities across digital platforms being explored by audiences
Subscription: A fixed / premium fee is charged for subscribing to a service – on a daily, monthly and annual basis.
Merchants: Retailers and wholesalers who may offer to buy/sell using your digital platform
Manufacturer (direct): The manufacturer caters to the clientele directly thereby compressing the distribution channel resulting in savings of revenues. You should develop novel e- Auctions, pitch for sponsorships and welcome syndication.
Research & Planning: Market research & planning play a crucial role in the successful functioning of every ecommerce business. It helps eliminating otherwise unnecessary expenses. It helps you understand their behaviours and the factors affecting them. Many e-businesses resort to research of trends to understand what products and services would be in popular demand in the years to come.
The most popular types of research are Primary and Secondary research:
Primary research involves reaching out to the customers directly whereas secondary research as the name suggests, studies information deduced from others.
Primary research: Includes telephone interviews, online polls with randomly selected members of the target group. You can also study your own sales records to gather primary research.
Secondary research: Information arrived at from details /reports found on the websites of various other organizations, blogs written about the industry.
Both these methods of research help you to:
- Identify demographics and their needs
- Their habits & preferences – Buying habits
- What will make them buy from you?
- Other research models include: Social media, Google analytics
- Industry competition: E-commerce businesses on par with you, serving similar clientele, new entrants in the same industry
The biggest challenge faced by every new entrepreneur is finding the ideal ecommerce solution because of the variation in their adaptability to different e-businesses. The preferred choice for SaaS eCommerce Platforms include Shopify, Zepo, KartRocket, BuildaBazaar and FreeKart. Others include SellMojo, StoreHippo, MartJack, PowerStore and beBiggy. Most of the top leading platforms entail the pre-requisites of a successful platform with Shopify leading the pack offering social login, speedy checkout system, orders management, products database, store customization, content management system, webmaster & sitemap, orders management, SEO and online marketing, payment gateway support offer & offer popup, content delivery network, a fine DIY Store, multi-currency, abandoned cart reminder, Google Analytics, (Pay U, Direct Pay, Citrus), gallery of design templates, at least 100 free themes , discounts & coupons, bulk product upload. The fees vary from Rs 818 to Rs 8,000 and more on the higher side depending on the choice of the platform.
Open-source ecommerce shopping carts: Offer many advantages for small businesses. Open-source solutions can be developed to fit the needs of the merchant. They contain a nice combination of features at a minimal cost. And, though the support options may be more limited than proprietary or hosted platforms, these have large communities of developers and partners to assist new merchants. All the popular open-source ecommerce solutions offer free core applications which in turn includes free & premium extensions. All of the core applications are free. Each application has both free and premium extensions which support options to augment the progress of your e-store. Notably among the popular ones are OpenCart, PrestaShop, Magento Community Edition, Zen Cart, Drupal Commerce and Spree Commerce.
Content & UI Strategy: From the inception of your e-Store, the most invaluable component of your e-business constitutes your content. Great content reaps rewarding returns. The concept of content offering has become highly aesthetic – concise, informative and attractive enough to make a client, a dedicated one for life. Content has to be complemented to effect with the most befitting visuals, informative videos and graphics wherever deemed fit. The User Interface or UI as it is better known, has to be seamless to help the clients navigate your e-store with total ease. Starting with the landing page, your content has to be well demarcated with distinct hot links, categorization of products, gender based products, with further detailing on the price, colors, sizes and availability. A well-trained back-end customer service support team would serve as your goodwill ambassadors. It is crucial to remember that the fanciest e-Store with embellishments never suffices to attract the desired clientele because you aren’t a candy store. You have to educate the clients about your products and services and you can serve them best with the most qualitative and succinct content. Your e-Store has to bear a clean look and should be like a beacon to lost ships at sea. After all, the digital world is getting very crowded and competitive.
One of the safest, assured and popular payment gateways in India is the EBS (E-Billing Solutions). It offers:
- Customer Data Protection
- Data Transaction Protection
- Transaction Risk Protection.
It conducts a pre-screening of all transactions & parameters before processing legitimate transactions. It facilitates online purchases form an e-Store and helps them to collect payment from the end customers through net banking, credit & debit cards/ international payments. Amongst the other preferred ones, of note-worthy mention are PayPal, atom, Citrus and CCAvenue.
Paypal: The most popular by all standards, it serves as a good backup in case of any contingencies with your primary payment gateway or a merchant account. Like PayPal, CCAvenue offers multiple currency processing, maximum payment options, mobile payments, risk & fraud identification, easy integration & customization and highly responsive page transactions. The fee for liaising with these payment gateway partners depends on the projected/assured volume of transactions.
In a virtual world, you are quite free of additional costs which the physical world demands of you to promote your business. Thanks to search engines like Google and social media platforms like Facebook and the host of tools they offer, you can resort to nominal expenses to market your e-business – target the right audiences via details of demographics acquired from their social media accounts, launch email campaigns, resort to search engine optimization and search engine marketing, promote your content on distinct social media platforms
The most challenging aspect of every e-commerce business lies in transcending physical boundaries for timely deliverables at the customer’s doorstep. A large amount of investment in e-commerce retail is channelled into logistics and infrastructure which form the backbone of the fulfilment process. An alliance with the leading giants in the e-commerce space would augur well if you need to fulfil your commitments effectively. Today, e-commerce is challenged by speedy modes of transportation and compact transit times and utilising the warehouses of established e-leaders will be an assurance of your goods being shipped in the most organized manner. Finding the right partner for packaging (Dynaflex) and logistics (Aramex, GoJavas) ensures the safety and timely delivery of your goods.
Getting funding from Investors isn’t easy, but it can be done if you take the right approach and match their expectations commendably. Your approach and interaction with investors should be distinct in every aspect. Every new entrepreneur would mention technology, products, marketing plans and more. Dealing with can be a laborious activity which will test your patience to the hilt. Angel investors, e.g. if they invest, own a certain percentage of your company and are likely to voice their concern in crucial decisions. It’s always a match of wits and wisdom but it takes time. You have to showcase how distinct you are from your contemporaries or what makes you exceptionally special. There are some venture capital firms which prefer to invest in ecommerce software. However, the most common queries put forth to wannabe entrepreneurs include:
- A USP – The niche core of your business supported with a realistic business plan
- The potential of the business
- Business impetus - Customer acquisition
- A highly trained and skilled management team & assured supply chain
- High growth potential supported with a dependable customer support system
- A road to profit
- Time-frame of investors’ exit
Entrepreneurship is a dream-come-true for most individuals today though it is extremely demanding because of the dynamics involved. Here, we add one more ‘D’ to state that if you have the determination, you can do it. Don’t look back!