Many online sellers start their businesses from a position of necessity. They need a steady income, but they lack start-up funds, and have little-to-no retail experience or technical expertise. However, according to Shawna Fennell, president of 1Choice4YourStore.com, those things aren't mandatory for an Internet entrepreneur to succeed. Tells Fennell, "When I started my first E-Biz, I was a newly-single mom. I had nothing but my babies and the clothes we left the house with. Several years later, I've got seven or eight very profitable retail sites, and an E-Biz consulting practice. If I can do it, anybody can do it."
If you're considering coming online, but know nothing about eCommerce and can't afford to lose any money, Fennell shares several tips to help alleviate the stress in your transition into online sales:
• Consider starting out with a storefront on a reputable selling venue, such as Yahoo! or eBay. They're easy to set up, even without a proficiency in coding. You can easily get started selling without hiring a web designer, programmer, or SEO consultant – much more easily than with an independent web site.
• Drop shipping is an ideal product sourcing model when you begin retailing online. Whenever your customers place their orders with you, you turn around and place those orders with your drop ship supplier. Your supplier then sends those products from their warehouse directly to your customers' homes. You only pay your drop shipper when your customers pay you, so you don't have to invest money you don't have into inventory that might not sell.
• You may not have a great deal of money to spend on search engine optimization, but you can still do well in the natural rankings if you concentrate on giving the search engines what they really want: original, quality content. New E-Biz owners often make the mistake of posting the template product descriptions their suppliers provide. But if a hundred sellers use the same product description, the search engines will see a hundred identical listings and only bring back one of those stores in the results. That's why each of your products needs its own unique copy. Even if you have hundreds of products, you can work on a set number a day until you've written a fresh, unique description for every item.
• While you wait for your SEO efforts to pay off, you may have to invest in some Pay Per Click ads to bring customers into your store. Fennell recommends advertising on a shopping search engine, rather than a traditional search engine. Typically, the cost is lower, and the conversion is higher. Your Google ad may bring in ten times more clicks per day than your ad on a shopping search engine, but you're going to see about the same number of sales resulting from those clicks. And with the shopping engine, you're only paying for one-tenth of the clicks.Walking the Walk
Opening an E-Biz isn't a magic bullet, or a quick fix for all your financial woes, but it is a low-risk, low-investment opportunity for anyone willing to do the work. The key is to set realistic goals and take practical steps to make them happen. As Fennell points out, "It takes consistency and it takes time, but it can be done. If someone is prepared to study, to apply the things they learn, and – most of all – to stick to it, they can build an online business and be very successful with it."