Ecommerce and Online Business: Avoiding Overhead

E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the practice of buying and selling of products and services over the Internet. With the continuing widespread use of the Web, ecommerce promises to become as important as or even more important than traditional forms of commerce. Electronic transactions may be classified as business to business (B2B), or as business to customer (B2C). Ever since ecommerce gained wide public support, ubiquitous market items like the shopping cart have ceased to become physical objects; transactions and processes are now digital business applications and programs.

Scope of e-commerce: online trade of goods and services, website with e-commerce

Online business encompasses the following business transactions: Internet trade of goods and services (e.g. audio and video streaming, e-books, software); retail services, also known as e-tail (e.g. food ordering, banking, flower delivery, video rentals, travel booking, etc); marketplace services (such as auctions, online advertising, trade groups, price comparison); online procurement or e-procurement; and purchase-to-pay (P2P) processes.

Putting up your business online: hosting, e-commerce websites, business to business ecommerce

E-business is a fast growing industry, and along with it comes the need for businesses to get the right ecommerce hosting solution. Many brick-and-mortar businesses are now going to the Internet to start making profits, attracted by the considerably low overhead of online business and its accessibility to customers.

Hiring the right e-commerce hosting company may be a tough find because of the sheer number of firms offering this service. Many may even offer similar services, but not all of them offer the same quality of service. For example, if you get the wrong hosting company, your entire online business may be put to risk by unsecure servers. This poses a great risk to your company; your website could be prone to hacking and other malicious activities. Thus it would be a sound business plan to select the correct ecommerce hosting company when you are marketing your business online.

How to create an ecommerce website

If you are unsure of what things to look for, or if you would want to assess the dependability of a host, you could get expert opinion from Singapore ecommerce consultant firms. Generally, these ecommerce consultants will look for things such as performance, customer support, and price. A good assessment from the ecommerce consultant will look into things such as hosting security, server space, bandwidth space, and email and support services for your company.

Other ecommerce solutions that you may ask from your host are the ability for credit verification and payment through your Website, or an auto responder service which allows you to email customers automatically.

Ecommerce and Its Evolution Into Mobility

Ten years ago ecommerce was still a cool buzzword that everyone wanted to try, but at that early point it was largely limited to the Business-2-Business world. The use of personal computers, mobile phones and the internet was still experiencing its first period of growth, so the average person sitting in front of their behemoth CRT monitor hadn’t grasped the potential of the web quite yet.

It didn’t take long though. Soon companies selling anything from sock puppets to toothbrushes at unbelievably low prices were popping up all over the place. Beady eyed investors saw the potential in dot-coms: little overhead and massive profit. The credit industry chimed in with low interest rates and blanket application acceptances, knowing there was money to be made. Unfortunately and predictably, the house of cards fell. Dot-coms were collapsing by the dozens and investors saw billions of dollars seemingly evaporate into thin air within a very short period.

Since that dark period in the early history of ecommerce, there have been countless research studies conducted in an effort to answer the desperate whys and how’s being screamed from bankruptcy courts around the nation. By now we have all heard the answer explained in long winded speeches about boom and bust cycles etc. In the end the collapse of the bubble was the inevitable outcome of greed on a massive scale, more specifically, unchecked greed with few security protocols and no governing body.

The birth of the 1990’s brought a wider availability of personal computers and the internet, but the 21st century brought mobility to the internet. According to CTIA the Wireless Association, there were just over 109 million mobile phone users in the US in 2000, that’s 38% of the population. Of course at that point the smartphone was clunky and fairly unusable so few people owned one. Eight years later the number of mobile phone users more than doubled to 262 million, 85% of the population. Now the Neilson Company predicts by the end of 2011 at least 49% of Americans will have a smartphone and 51% will still be using their feature phone (out of the 96% of the population that uses a mobile device).

Between 2000 and 2011 there has been an about-face on the part of ecommerce. Security platforms have become more stable and widely used so trust has now been built. User interfaces evolved into dynamic places where visitors felt both stimulated to buy, yet secure in handing over credit information. Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley has amalgamated data from Japan that shows online commerce and paid services accounted for a whopping 32% of mobile revenue in 2008. We all know technology progresses faster than the Roadrunner, and we are equally aware that Japan and China are usually the first to set trends in technology. That begs the question, has the west fully realized the potential of ecommerce yet? Or are we still remembering the chaos of the 90’s?

The same report by Mary Meeker, dubbed the Queen of the Internet by Baron’s magazine in 1998, shows North American and European nations use of ecommerce on a mobile platform accounts for less than 14% of mobile revenue (2008). Are we still scared? No, we are being gouged. North Americans have some of the highest mobile phone bills in the world. Canada in particular generates an average of $55 revenue per user per month; the US isn’t much better sitting at $48. India is the most fortunate; making the phone companies about $5 per user per month.

Mobile ecommerce is the future; there is no doubt about it. For the average North American the ability to buy almost anything with a smartphone is far too convenient to give up simply because our data plan sucks. We may not spend as much as the Japanese, but we sure know the value of ecommerce. Then again, as humans we are cursed with the innate habit of reacting to the here and now. The bill is out of sight, and therefore out of mind. We are also experts at rationalization. The value of using an internet fax service to send a document to a client via your smartphone far outweighs the value of physically delivering it. The flexibility and potential of the smartphone and ecommerce has placed a much higher value on time. What we choose to do with that time saved is the subject of a whole other article.

Internet Marketing Companies VS Retail Stores – Ecommerce and Internet Marketing Success

So you have decided that after yet another slow month, sitting inside your brick and mortar kingdom, you just cannot keep working for your landlord, and need to start a real business that does not keep you sitting inside a retail shop. You need a business that has an eventual promise of financial freedom; one that entails minimal overhead and maximum return on your investment; one that attracts investors and uses the latest technology.

The advantages that online marketing companies, and online businesses have as opposed to retail businesses are as follows.

No Overhead
Drop-shipping has allowed ecommerce website owners to sell products without having to store them. What does drop-shipping entail? Well, put it this way. While a retail store has the constant overhead of rent, and requires ample space to showcase products, online web stores simply have the distributor or manufacturer ship it directly, simply sending over an order sheet. Wow, so you are telling me we do not need that much startup capital to start an ecommerce website or online business? – Yes that is right. However, you will still require a significant marketing budget, just like any online store. Another advantage of drop-shipping is that you can maintain lower prices than retail stores, thanks to the savings on rent, and/or increase your profit margin! So, if you are using an open-source (free) ecommerce platform, such as Magento Montreal or equivalent, your overhead will be limited to an annual domain name registration fee of approximately $10, and perhaps a monthly hosting fee, although, there are many free-hosting options for smaller (lighter) websites.

Unlimited Flexibility
The internet is a fun place to be because things always change. This means, more options are increasingly available. For instance, the introduction of social media into the picture, web 2.0 properties, or Google’s new caffeine, which takes into account the amount of frequent content updates on people’s websites. But, what this really translates to from a small business owner’s perspective is, options. Now, in addition, you can run an online company from pretty much anywhere in the world. In fact, for the past 2 months, I have been in Panama, Las Angeles, and Las Vegas. And… I have still be writing these articles, corresponding with my business partners, web designers, and clients – running a profitable business. Sound good? It is good! Especially when here in Montreal, temperatures can go to -40 degrees! Montreal web design work has never been better!

Limited Liability
Retail means contact… with people. As terrible as it is to say, sometimes, this contact can be very unpleasant. People can be extremely unpleasant. However, online marketing companies or other internet companies, have the luxury of responding to emails and phone calls when convenient, which allows owners to spend less time with difficult clients. Furthermore, it is far less likely and far more difficult for online customers to avail themselves of support, should the ecommerce or online company choose remain difficult to reach. There is a certain level of privacy, and confidentiality that comes with the internet, with the web, despite the numerous reports of privacy invasions.

That said, service industries, online or offline, both have more contact with people – customers.
So keep that in mind when developing your business model!