Starting a Business Online
Internet technologies have intervened in almost all spheres of human life in the last decades. We now use electronic systems not only to exchange information and to communicate with each other. Web has become indispensable during various business deals and financial transactions. Moreover, internet is widely used for such everyday needs as reservation, buying, and selling.
Nowadays more than two billion people actively use World Wide Web for various needs, and this number constantly grows each day. Internet connection has become possible not only with traditional computers, but with a number of other modern devices, such as netbooks, cell phones, tablets etc. Due to high popularity of internet among different age and social groups, more and more business projects are started in the web. One of the most widespread types of electronic business is named e-commerce.
Electronic marketing is usually realized with the help of online stores, where different goods and services can be bought. Traditionally, e-commerce is associated with buying some material products, most often high-tech devices and equipment. However, it is not limited to that. Very often electronic information, such as films, video games, audio recordings, and even texts are also sold online. What is more, consulting agencies can also use e-commerce technologies for selling their advices and other materials.
Electronic commerce seems to be very appealing to millions of people around the world. Nevertheless, such kind of business, as any other type of profitable activity, has its advantages and disadvantages. That is why a businessman needs to thoroughly examine all the peculiarities of e-marketing before starting his own project.
For example, if a businessman decides to establish an online clothing store, a number of organizational issues should be taken into consideration. First of all, an interactive website needs to be created. The interface of an electronic store is the first thing that is presented to a customer, so it should be bright, simple, and convenient. All the products should be observed and ordered without any difficulties even by inexperienced internet users. Secondly, a flexible system of payments and delivery should be organized. It is very important for clients to have the right of choice. In addition, an effective advertising campaign should be launched in order to attract maximum clients to the business.
Before dealing with routine organizational tasks, project efficiency should be objectively evaluated. The best way to assess all possible pluses and minuses of such a business is application of SWOT analysis. This method of strategic planning is widely used in marketing in order to evaluate four major aspects of a business, such as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. According to Carlson and Manktelow (2012), such analysis involves two positive and two negative factors, which makes it highly objective. What is more, two factors, such as strengths and weaknesses, are internal, and the other two are external. This allows to assess the situation from different perspectives.
First of all, positive aspects of online clothing store should be taken into account. One of the main strengths of such a business is a relative cheapness and simplicity of infrastructure. A business is not dependant on material factors, such as place. There is no need to buy or rent any accommodation. Consequently, such a store is free from paying bills for public utility services and cleaning. In addition, there are no shop-assistants, accountants, and guards who need salary. All the bookkeeping is done by sophisticated computer programs, which minimizes a risk of financial inaccuracy.
However, if electronic store is going to be just a supplement to a traditional clothing shop, there are still numerous advantages. Website is a rich source of information. All the items proposed by a store may be observed in detailed pictures or even videos, together with additional facts regarding price, size, color, materials used, and peculiarities of looking after certain types of clothes. What is more, a customer may find specific categories of clothes according to his or her needs. For example, if a client needs a red skirt, no other colors and types of clothing would be presented by a program. Such a possibility considerably saves time and efforts of buyers. In addition, an online store serves as an excellent advertisement, since a bigger amount of people will know about the business.
Speaking about the external opportunities, provided by involvement of an enterprise in e-commerce, a considerable expansion of a business should be named first. Since internet is not limited by any continental or national boundaries, any website is easily accessible in all corners of the world. Accordingly, an online clothing store will be visited by many customers from different countries. As a result, the sales volumes and income may be greatly increased. What is more, a store will gain a status of international business that is highly prestigious. An international clothing store receives numerous additional opportunities of collaboration with major trading organizations all over the world.
Nevertheless, organizing a business in the internet is often not easy. Such an organization usually has a number of weaknesses and is often exposed to various external threats. Before starting an online clothing store, its owner should thoroughly study the possible difficulties and obstacles in order to avoid or minimize the risks.
One of the most important weaknesses of such a business is a lack of trust to electronic marketing among different groups of people. The situation is complicated by the fact that a shop is new and not extensively advertised. What is more, the given clothing store is small. This provides grounds for doubts and mistrust for many customers. In order to improve the situation, the store owner should organize an effective advertising campaign and create a qualitative interactive and informative website.
Another problematic issue is the peculiarities of a clothing store. When buying any piece of clothes, a customer usually wants to try it on in order to be sure that size, color, and fashion fits. There is no such a possibility at an electronic store though. A client is not able to touch the thing or to see it from different sides. This may serve as a major negative factor. However, many people still buy clothes in such stores. In order to attract maximum customers, the owner should present the products in an attractive way. Material, coloring, pattern, and other small details should be shown in the pictures from a reasonable distance. What is more, it would be very helpful to shot small videos with different types of people wearing the clothes that are sold at the store. Undoubtedly, there are people of different height and figures among the internet users. There is more chance that a thing will be bought when a person will see a model with similar appearance wearing this thing.
Although detailed presentation of goods in photo and video formats can be rather effective for attracting the customers, one more difficulty arises. It was already mentioned that an online store does not need a number of employees who work at traditional shops. However, even more additional staff is needed in order to organize a profitable e-business. For diverse presentation of goods, a photograph and video operator is needed. What is more, a number of models will be also engaged.
Speaking about additional employees, some other peculiarities of e-commerce should be mentioned. In order to simply start a business, a website is needed. Consequently, a web-designer and a programmer must be hired. In addition, a site administrator will be needed for monitoring and operating the mechanism. One more group of employees is needed for making a business international. Customers often prefer to receive information in their own language, so a few translators will be needed. What is more, the store owner should collaborate with several financial and transporting organizations in different countries. The above mentioned elements of online business may cost considerable sums of money, so it would be very sensible to make a thorough financial analysis before starting such a business. Very often the initial expenses are reasonable and are covered by income in some time.
When a business is already started, some external threats may cause troubles. First of all, a new small business may face a strong competition at international market. There are already thousands of similar stores in the web, so the owner needs to provide something unique. However, if the store becomes very popular, it can also become problematic. A businessman must be ready to deal with huge number of orders, correspondence, and even complaints. What is more, there should be a sufficient amount of goods available at any time.
Secondly, e-commerce is a kind of business that is strongly dependant on several external factors, such as internet connection, financial companies, and delivery organizations. Too many things depend on partners, so a store owner must collaborate only with completely reliable organizations. In order to increase safety standards of a store, it would be sensible to have the business insured.
One more serious threat of e-commerce, according to Voigt (2009), is connected with online crime that has become very frequent lately. Any website may become a victim of hacker attack, especially if it is a commercial organization. It is hard to avoid such unpleasant occasions, but specific server adjustments and qualitative software may be helpful to minimize the risk.
Other popular e-commerce crimes, mentioned by Wahab (2004), are connected with non-delivery of goods by a seller or non-payment by a buyer. It is very important to avoid problems with transportation and to be very careful with the exact representation of a delivery in accordance with the order, as trust of the clients is vital. However, when customers appear to be dishonest, a businessman is exposed to financial losses.
Considering all the discussed peculiarities of starting a business online, it should be said that such a move has both advantages and disadvantages. In order to be successful, a businessman needs to be very careful with different details. However, e-commerce always involves risk, so good luck will definitely play an important role.
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