Should you have an existing business, you will know your market, and you will have to invest less to establish an online product store/showcase. It has been stressed that if you do not have this advantage that you do not first select a product that you like or are passionate about. As appealing as the idea may seem, you were advised that you shouldn’t do this. We will repeat this advice as it is critically important to success on the internet. You should first select a profitable marketplace and then find profitable products that sell in the selected niche or precision marketplaces. Finding products first may result in you trying to peddle your wares in a stagnant market.
Conducting market research can, at times, appear to be complex. It is critically important but mostly it is a laborious process of gathering, filtering and analysing data. Software tools, such as Market Samurai, are available to turn very labour intensive data analysis tasks into results based solutions in a couple of minutes. I believe that most work from home and small businesses will stick to the knitting and maintain a customer focus while outsourcing the research required. We discuss the need for balancing focus and work in Chapter 6 but for now recommend that you work through the methodology recommended to establish profitable market niches.
Knowing what is researched and how is important. Getting it done by others is discussed in Post 6. While outsourcing is an option, it is important that you understand the process for it offers exceedingly valuable insight to the market in which you are to trade.
7.2 Take your existing business online.
The advice that follows is equally as applicable to those with or without established businesses, as you will be entering a new online marketplace where different dynamics may apply. Your online and offline businesses are likely to share a common objective to make money; the routes to success, however, are different but, in many ways, they are the same. You have a head start, but you should still take the journey mapped out below.
Again, walk a shopping mall and window-shop to admire and filter what’s on offer all the way to the coffee shop. Take a corner table, take your iPad out of your bag and research the online sites of the stores in the rest of the world. Now go local and you will again find that all too often small local business has not taken the opportunity to level the playing field with big business in respect of showcasing the products that they sell. Many local businesses have websites but not online shops. This means that you can read about these local companies but not browse their product ranges. Window shopping is moving to the Internet where consumers browse for deals prior to target shopping listed needs.
Roughly stated, the consensus of available statistics at July 2015 is:
- Nigeria leads the way with the most number of online shoppers.
- 70% of SA internet users are shopping online and 62% of mobile shoppers compare prices on their phones before shopping.
Reflect upon the mall that you have just walked through. The reverse applies. You can window-shop products or step into a store and touch and feel your way around. The entire product range is showcased, and it is available for sale. What’s not immediately available in the mall shop is information about the owners and the other stories found on websites. The offline physical shops have a trading focus and not an “about us” focus. Why then do local businesses not have online e-commerce trading stores, product showcases or their auction sites?
The answer, I suspect, lies in the evolution of the migration to the Internet. Some local small businesses;
- Feel that websites without product showcases are all that is needed,
- Became disenchanted with the Internet as their sites ranked poorly on the major search engines,
- Lost interest and the content became outdated or perhaps,
- They thought that it would not be affordable to do what would be needed to get a high page rank on the search engine’s results pages.
- Again it is stressed that a product showcase is a first step to an online e-commerce trading store. It is the equivalent of window-shopping; you can see but not buy. Nearly all retailers hold seasonal sales where goods are sold off at a percentage discount, cost or cost plus price. Why not offer these same ranges for online auction before the in-store sale with a reserve price based on the sale price and then accept all bids above the sale price?
- As stated, taking an existing business online enables businesses to expand their reach, and it enables customers to research availability and deals online before a shopping trip with a “done and dusted” shopping list in hand of where to buy what.
- Many businesses that provide services can also expand their reach by going online. These businesses will often provide services based on hourly rates, but many of them can offer package deals in which they showcase past jobs as examples of their work. Others such as professional service providers can showcase their knowledge, qualifications and customer reviews.
Would you travel to the other side of the city to take your puppy to a Vet for an injection? What if you needed to replace a drain pipe and you found a highly recommended plumber in a nearby town who offered to do the job this afternoon. Would it worry you that he would have to travel 107 km to replace the drain pipe? Ask yourself a series of normal business questions and you will soon establish whether your business will benefit from expanding it’s reach by going online.
At the heart of making money online are your website and store. Given that you have an existing offline business now’s the time to take action and start the construction of a website and goods or services showcase/store.
In parallel with this you need to commence with: researching the marketplace, formalising ideas, exploring niche marketplaces and product opportunities within them, determining niche and product market sizes, the balance between demand and supply for product opportunities, etc. This should be the start of the journey for those that do not have an existing business.