By Steve Strauss
Expanding your small business is a desirable undertaking for many, but I know a lot of people also worry that the costs for building out a new store, labor, inventory, and other overhead might make the risk almost not worth it. This is a fair concern; luckily, there is, in fact, an easier and less expensive way to expand.
What if I told you that there is a part of the economy that has shown double-digit growth every year for the past decade? And what if I further told you that this pace of growth shows no signs of diminishing? And what if I finally told you that this sector is far less expensive to get into than any traditional business? You would hopefully say, “Wow Steve, tell me more!”
There is such a sector, and it is called e-commerce. Consider these incredible stats RJMetrics:
- “Worldwide total retail will continue to grow between 5-6% through 2019
- Worldwide ecommerce will grow at a rate between 13-25%
- U.S. total retail will grow at a rate around 5.5%
- U.S. ecommerce will grow at a rate between 11-16.5%”
According to that same article, other advantages of e-commerce include: The ability to acquire new customers faster, higher average sales, more average monthly orders, more loyal customers, and overall more monthly revenue. Those are some compelling reasons to be into e-commerce in a big way. And let me add one final selling point: The cost of entry is pretty darned low.
If you are already on the e-commerce bandwagon, way to go. But if you are like most small business people and are not engaging in much e-commerce, you are missing out on a great opportunity to grow your business.
So, how do you do it, you ask? Here are three easy, basic steps:
1. Decide what you are going to sell.
If you already sell some products from your physical store, you are ahead of the game. (But remember, what sells in your store may not be as popular online. For the most part, the Internet is a culture of discounts; that is what people expect.) You will need to photograph all of your products so they can be displayed digitally online. You will also need to write up attention-grabbing headlines and product descriptions.
If you don’t have products to sell yet, you will need to find some. I had a pal once who was a great retailer. His secret applies here. He would always say:
“It’s all in the buying.”
Johnny knew that if he was able to buy product at the right price, selling it would be the easy part. Your job is the same. Find something people will want to buy online and then purchase it at the right wholesale price.
Another tip: If you don’t have any products to sell, search “drop shipping.” There are drop shipping wholesalers out there who will allow you to list their products on your site. They split the sale with you, and even ship the items for you using your name and brand.
Think about that for a moment – you can create an e-store and stock it without having to buy any inventory at all. Amazing.
2. Create an e-commerce site:
There are a lot of e-commerce hosting sites out there that offer online merchants everything needed to set up an e-store. The host will guide you through a point-and-click site creation process that allows you to get online and look big and professional. The site’s software will help you upload and display your products, prices, and descriptions using pre-made templates. It will also allow people to buy from you via a shopping cart and checkout system.
If you search for “e-commerce hosting” you will find many options. What you want is to find a trusted turn-key e-commerce web-hosting solution. Any good hosting provider should offer inventory control options, live customer support, security, and an easy to use dashboard.
3. Get a merchant solution:
You obviously need to be able to take online payments. You can use PayPal, take credit cards, or find some other online solution.
One easy way to start is simply to analyze some of the best online retailers – Amazon, Netflix, or what have you. See how they organize their e-store and products and copy the one you like best.
Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.