5 Basics of an E-Commerce Business

What Is E-commerce?

Put simply, E-commerce means the exchange of goods and services over the World Wide Web. It can include any business transaction done between individuals and business, whether buying or selling of traditional or digital goods, or transmitting funds for services.

Is it right for me?

On the plus side, e-commerce businesses require minimal capital and effort while enabling you to reach a much wider audience. On the negative side, you need to be able to update your online business with the fast-changing demands of the e-commerce economy.

Before you consider jumping on the e-commerce bandwagon, you need to consider the following:

1. Niche:

With millions of web pages and more being added every minute, your online business can drown away into nothingness, unless you find a niche for yourself. Whether you are a musician, caterer, writer or an artist, there is demand for your services, but to be successful you need to concentrate your energies on your chosen niche.

2. Marketplace:

Once you have decided your niche product, you need to decide where to sell it. You can either choose to sell your products on an online marketplace (similar to your neighbourhood supermarket) or set up your own blog or web site to sell it (think of it as an independent store). Either way, you need to make sure that it is easy to browse and provides a smooth shopping experience.

3. Payment Process:

All of us have waited in long lines at a supermarket at some point of time. E-shoppers however lack the patience to do so, which is just one of the reasons why they shop online. If your payment process takes ages, or if it isn’t secure, you will lose customers, money and worse than that ‘trust’ and unlike the real world, you will never be able to mitigate the effects of even one negative review. If you decide to sell through an online marketplace like eBay, your worries about payment processing are taken care of by them, but if you are selling through your own blog or Web site, then you must invest in a reliable shopping cart software/vendor.

4. Customer Support and Delivery:

The cliche Customer is King applies much more to an e-commerce business model than to a traditional business model. Online shoppers are technology savvy and research thoroughly before buying products. One unsatisfied customer, one negative review is all it will take for you lose a lot of future business dollars.

5. Marketing:

Growing an E-commerce business takes an entirely different marketing approach. You will need to be savvy about Digital Marketing Techniques, Search Engine Optimization and keep up with online trends to drive traffic to your online store and convert them to customers.

Translating Networking into Increased Business Dollars, Growth, Profits and Success

How would you assess your effectiveness as a small business owner or executive in these critical areas of business development?

  • I am a pro-active networker
  • I maximize every networking opportunity by asking: Who do you know who…?
  • I present myself in a way that is clear, succinct and generative
  • I enjoy promoting and creating visibility for myself and my business
  • I have a structure that is effective in organizing and promoting follow-ups
  • I model a professional look that represents who I am and what I do
  • I am satisfied with the bottom line outcomes of my networking efforts

If improving your skills in any of these areas would generate greater income, would you be interested? Most of us would answer yes. The question then is HOW?

First, networking needs to be defined. Lillian Bjorseth in her book Breakthrough Networking offers one of the best definitions for networking that I have read.

Networking is an active, dynamic process that links people into mutually beneficial relationships.

Business really is about relationships especially in today’s competitive marketplace where the economy has created numerous entrepreneurs who are all competing for the same piece of pie.
With the ever-increasing impact of outsourcing, the pie for many of today’s business owners has changed not only in taste but also in size. Knowing the right person or persons is critical to converting networking activities into billeable dollars.

The next step is to plan your networking and work your plan. This is really a series of steps that integrates the communication process, your strategic plan and professional image.

Turning Communication into Dollars

Understanding that communication is a process separates successful networkers from unsuccessful networkers. Effective networkers excel at active listening by:

  • Taking the time to listen
  • Being present
  • Listening using the FOR acronym – Feelings, Open Mind and Retention

These individuals respect the 55+38+7 Communication Rule and many have extended their skills into neuro-linguistic programming. Mark Twain understood active listening when he commented that if the good Lord wanted us to talk more than to listen, he would have provided us with two mouths instead of two ears.

Effective networkers also have developed an infomercial, tag line or elevator speech. In less than ten seconds, these individuals can state what they do. This short statement generates additional dialogue and interest. Creating this short statement is an evolving process that utilizes trial and error. However, the outcome is well worth the effort.

Aligning Strategic Plan with Limited Resources

In reviewing one’s sales activity, every effective salesperson understands how many contacts generate how many prospects which in turn result in a confirmed sale. A strategic plan based upon market and sales analysis helps to determine where individuals need to direct and align their networking efforts. These efforts may focus on local chambers of commerce or extend to professional networking organizations. Each effort needs to be regularly reviewed to determine the impact both on return on investment (ROI) and daily time.

Maximizing Professional Image

Professional image is three fold: physical appearance; business stationery and personal behavior. By combining all three of these areas, individuals create greater opportunities for business development.

Physical appearance includes color, fit, and style of clothing. However, physical appearance extends into other areas such as hairstyle, cologne, posture and even vehicles. Effective networkers present a complete physical appearance that is convincing and natural.

For many, business cards are one area that is often overlooked since they:

  • Reflect your professional printed image
  • Speak to your professionalism
  • Communicate who you are

This is the time to revisit the marketing section of your strategic plan as well as your advertising budget. Hiring a graphic artist to create a professional logo will be dollars well spent as long as you understand what your business does. Creating additional stationery from letterheads to brochures is much easier once your printed professional image is established.

Personal behavior encompasses everything from handshakes to common etiquette. By walking your talk, you project a consistent professional image. With much of today’s business coming from satisfied clients or informed business acquaintances, maintaining high standards of personal behavior will help to develop additional business. The following statements may help you determine if you are walking your talk.

  • I handle all personal contacts with confidentiality.
  • I refrain from negative verbal comments regarding competitors, suspects, prospects and clients.
  • I treat all individuals with respect according to my company’s values statement and my own personal and ethical beliefs.
  • I keep my word by responding within a designated time frame.
  • I have a positive attitude at all times.

Networking is an on-going experience in which we continually hone our skills. Successful individuals continually network and build upon those mutually beneficial relationships because business in today’s global market place is all about relationships.

Small Business Line of Credit

A business line of credit is one of the most popular forms of business loans. For the business owner or operator, particularly for small businesses, a business line of credit can be a lifeline of financing that can allow them to pay their bills, meet their payroll and continue to operate even when times are tough or business is slower than usual. For banks and lending institutions it allows them to hold the business on a short credit lease while they determine their viability in the marketplace.

The good news about a business line of credit is that it usually easy to get, even for businesses that have not been in business for a long time. The bad news is that financial institutions like a bank or credit union often will want personal guarantees or co-signing arrangements before they hand over access to a business line of credit.

A bank or other lending institution usually requires a business to have been in operation for a minimum of two years before granting a business line of credit. That is because the likelihood of a business failing within the first two years is far greater than at any period in its term of operation. Once a business passes this threshold a bank is much more likely to consider a business as a candidate for loans or lines of credit.

A business line of credit can be used for short term cash flow management, to make special or seasonal purchases, to re-stock inventory or supplies or for just about any other reason that can satisfy the banks demand for its usefulness to the business. A business line of credit is not normally made available to pay for salaries or bonuses to the employees of a business or to repay creditors from other banking arrangements.

These funds can be made available to the business in a number of manners under a business line of credit. They are sometimes available in a revolving cash account that can be borrowed against up to a certain amount or even in the form of a credit card that can be used by the company to make purchases for the business as required. Some business lines of credit require minimum payments plus interest every month and others have interest payment only options.

To see if you qualify for a business line of credit it is best to approach a bank or credit union where you already do your business banking. They know you, not just from seeing your face as you make deposits or withdrawals but they also know your personal credit history and this becomes an important factor in granting a business line of credit. Banks are most comfortable lending money to customers that they already know than the off the street business. This will help you not only get the business line of credit that your business may need but also help you get the best possible interest rate for your hard earned business dollar.

Be The Boss In Your Own Business

Almost everyone you know would say that running your own business and being self employed is the best thing that can ever happen. Then the one business people see as the easiest to start is a retail store and in particular a dollar store. Normally even relying on personal savings can be used to start this kind of business. It really looks like the ideal solution to the issues of job scarcity that is going on right now.

Obviously the biggest attraction here would be the fact that the owner is his own boss and gets to take home the lion’s share of the profits and may also choose to plow some of it back to grow the business. It’s all left to the imagination what the owner may do to boost the business.

Dollar stores being the best option to many are nowadays seen springing up in most places. They are the easiest to start with moderate capital layout required to make it work quite comfortably. The main aim is to make loads of cash.

If it is the dollar store for you, the next thing is to make a list of the items you need to stock. Go over this with a lot of keenness as you will not want to omit anything your customers would need. Again the type of stock will determine the kind of customers that get attracted to the store. This is the backbone factor for any such business. Here is how to do it.

There is what you call essentials that are the necessary grocery every home must stock up on so these will sell pretty fast. They consist of toiletries, soaps, and other cheap clothing.

It would be a big decision but you will have to add to the list of essentials by stocking some of the not very necessary but easy on the eye goods which when the customers see they find it difficult to resist.

The best thing is to go out and check what other shops around have. Another way is to do a small market research or survey by way of fliers to know what exactly they need.

With your list ready, the next move would be to go to the suppliers whom you have selected very carefully indeed as this is where another problem may lay. Get the ones with easy trade terms and affordable stuff. In a one dollar store, it is quite important to get the right prices and choice of goods.