By Don Amato
Regardless of your long-term business plan, starting out as an e-commerce model can help you test and learn business ideas and strategies, while minimizing the risks of a brick-and-mortar environment. Here are just a few of the advantages of having an e-commerce startup:
Learn the cadence of your business before you invest. Investing in a brick-and-mortar business often involves significant risk based on little more than an educated guess. Not only does a physical business require that you invest in the necessary infrastructure, including staff, software, facilities and inventory, your location is “fixed”— even if you later find that your customers aren’t where you’d planned.
Though an e-commerce business requires a few basic investments like website design and functionality, logo and brand assets, domain name, inventory, and fulfillment tools — you can greatly manage how much risk you bear. By starting an e-commerce model, you’re able to replicate an incubator-style “test and learn” environment that is essentially consequence free, and easily adapted based on findings.
As you monitor demand and trends, and learn the overall cadence of the business, including peak sales periods, the delivery schedules of various shippers, the product quality and reliability of vendors, and the required hours of customer service operations based on customer response patterns, you can strategically determine what is required to expand into other channels.
Customers needn’t know your actual size. Unlike a brick-and-mortar business environment, customers have no way to gauge how established your e-commerce facility is. Provided you give them the quality service level massive e-commerce retailers provide — they likely won’t care if you’re a large business, or running operations from your basement.
In a recent Accenture study on omni-channel consumer behavior, 71 percent of shoppers surveyed said they expect to view a store’s inventory on hand, in real time. An e-commerce startup gives you the flexibility to adopt cost-efficient processes that deliver such demands, despite potentially limited resources. For example, color-coded labels can visually designate inventory levels for core products, while integrated forms and labels can be customized with preprinted information, including logos and return information to ensure a professional presentation.
Apps and mobile devices have lowered the barrier to entry. Crisp and accurate product images help sell your e-commerce products, and reduce the chances that the customer will return items due to a discrepancy between their expectation and product reality. Unfortunately, professional photography sessions can be expensive, and vendors may not have stock product images appropriate or effective in communicating important product features. As an e-commerce startup, you have the freedom to experiment with various ways of showing products, with little risk.
Dedicate a small space to attach a clean white backdrop, and invest in basic small-business tools like tripod devices and smartphone camera apps that optimize mobile device image quality. With this basic set up, you can snap web-ready images that can easily be cropped and uploaded to your site. With your in-house “studio,” you can sell products on your site as soon as inventory is received, experiment with different ways to present products that aren’t selling, and shoot new images for products that generate a high volume of customer questions or returns.
About the author:
Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. Online retailers use the company’s products, including integrated forms and labels, tags and packing slips to streamline day-to-day processes and work more efficiently.