E-Commerce: Do You Have What It Takes?
May 31, 2012 Leave a comment
You may have come across this infographic depicting the new generation of tech millionaires under the age of 30 and wondered if it was time that you got yourself involved with an online venture yourself. Won’t that be great? Being your own boss, calling all the shots, go golfing whenever you feel like it, and charge all your trips and meals to the company’s account. That’s the life! But hold your horses, cowboy. It’s not as easy as it looks. Before you get yourself tangled in e-commerce, here are a few things you should know first.
It Takes More than Just an Idea
It seems so easy to get into an online business nowadays. You can just take a successful and working business concept, tweak them a little, add an extra feature or two, then market the business out as your own. There are people who do that because… why mess with something that works, right? But don’t think that you can piggyback on the pioneer’s success if you are going down this road.
A lot happens behind the scenes. You can’t see the inner workings of the organization, the amount of time and effort devoted behind marketing, and finding and retaining good staff; the dedication it takes to provide customer satisfaction and handle difficult requests; etc. What I’m trying to say here is don’t think that just because you know the idea works, you can leave every other aspect of the business unattended, because that is pretty much one of the main reasons a business will go bust.
Money isn’t easier to make online
Well, to be fair, it isn’t easy to make money. Period. Before your business can hit the skies, you have to first spend quite a sum to get it down the runway and take off first. We’re not talking about a freelance business where all you need is a platform to market your expertise (a blog, a self-made website or a social media network), a portfolio to showcase your talents and strong networking ties. We’re talking about the cost, time and effort it takes to get a team together to work the areas that make the cogwheels in your business run – things like the setting up of a content management system, and payment solutions that will give your customers the confidence to do business with you. Having round-the-clock technical support will also be beneficial to the business since there is no closing time on the Web. Also equally important are the branding exercises in social media networks. All of this will take up your time; if you don’t have the time, you still need to pay someone else to do it for you.
There’s a lot of commitment involved
As I’m sure you would have realized by now, there is a lot of commitment involved if you want your own e-commerce business. As with any other life-changing event in your life, having your own online business will also affect your current lifestyle. All that talk about being your own boss means you can get on and off work as you please, right? It doesn’t work like that. You may be your own boss, but you answer to customer demand. For starters, you can throw your weekend plans, shopping trips and movie nights out the window because you’re not going to find enough time to eat a proper meal. Anytime you aren’t manning your counter, you may be losing out on a deal to a rival.
Getting someone else to watch the counter for you will cost you, but you really don’t want to burn out before the business takes off, and it will take a while before it starts to simmer. But what really sucks about being the man (or woman) on top is that you don’t get to call in sick to get away from all the madness no more. Have a busy period? Deal with it. Got a tough customer who just won’t let you get your way? Suck it up and deal with it. A client or supplier reneged on something promised to you? You guessed it. You want to be the head honcho, you deal with it.
The Stress of Decision-making
After the first hurdle, you may have made a name for yourself and with things going so well, you may be thinking of expanding the business. Here is when your analytical skills and decision-making skills may help you make or break the business. As your business starts to build up, you may consider investing in new technologies or hiring new, or more, people to help you watch over things. However, if you expand too quickly, you may find your liabilities locking up your cash flow, and over time, it may drag the business down like an overzealous anchor. Expand too slowly and you may find your staff (or even yourself) overworked, customers running off to a more efficient rival and no one happy. It’s a precarious spot to find yourself in, this balancing act between low-threshold stability and potential high income risk, but it’s a stage you want to look forward to because it means that your business is doing well. The stakes are higher on the Web because users don’t respond to changes lightly. But that is a risk online entrepreneurs may have to face to take the business higher.
The purpose of this article is not to deter you from engaging your own e-commerce experience. However, we do want you to know what you are getting yourself into. Starting your own business is not something you can turn on and off like a light switch. And it’s not like school, where if you study hard you are likely to get a good grade. At times, if you spend too much time trying to perfect your craft, your online business may lose out on new upcoming trends and be left stuck in the mud. Nonetheless, if at the end of the day you find that e-commerce is not your cup of tea, you can always choose to sell the business to cut your losses. But that’s another article for another day.