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Introduction to Internet Businesses (eCommerce)
August 23, 2022
Person using phone and laptop to purchase items

A successful Internet business is NOT easy to start. The problem is intense competition and getting people to find your website. A beautiful website is like having a great retail store in the middle of the Amazon jungle. No one knows you're there and even if they do, they don't know how to find you.

The key is picking products or services which can be found via search engines using the most common word descriptions—words that people would normally use without a second's thought. If they have a lot of choices of words for the same thing, then they will likely have trouble finding you.

The second most important factor is just having your site come up high in the search engine list. This can get expensive—or you have to be so unique as to have little competition. One might think that something like “antique chess sets” would have little competition. In fact, a Google search reveals about 3,500 sites which is actually relatively small. But if you are not listed in the top 20-40 maximum, then you are unlikely to be found. There are other means of “getting found” but they are usually expensive and too complex for this introduction.

Selling on the Internet is not what it seems from the outside. It is not really all that different than if you wanted to open a real storefront. In fact, the cost of time and effort for attracting potential customers (i.e. viewers) can be many times more costly than if you opened a real store.

Understand that the number of individual businesses making a profit on Business to Consumers e-commerce is so small it can't be calculated due to the above costs and that the statistics state that 75% of all shopping carts are not completed.

However, there are successful small Internet businesses that stay under the radar so it is hard to keep track of them.

Those interested in starting an Internet business, should ask themselves questions like:

  • "What do you want to sell that isn't widely available elsewhere?"
  • "Why would they buy from you rather than the others?"
  • How do you plan to “bring” people to your "business"?".

Once you start thinking about these questions, most people decide the Internet is not the "easy" business they first thought.

But a few do have something original to sell — craftspeople, artists, a few with innovative products or services — even a few re-sellers targeting very narrow niche markets (like parts for renovating British MG cars). And it’s almost a full time job just to keep up with the possibilities and eCommerce technology and options.

Regardless, the question of how to “bring” people to the website remains the crucial question.

  • Why would prospect even pick your site to visit when they have so many other choices?
  • How can you compete with existing, well-entrenched “stores” perceived to be similar to yours?
  • Do you have deep enough pockets to compete with much larger competitors who are spending big bucks to drive prospects to their sites?
  • Can your website best serve as a “catalog” to which you bring people via conventional, low cost marketing tools?
  • Is what you are offering commonly described by the word(s)/phrases that most people would us in trying to find you?

Summarizing a complex issue, the best thing you can do is to decide what you want to sell, to whom you want to sell it, at what price and then do a short, simple business plan. Doing a business plan will tell you if this is the best way to invest your time and money.

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