You know you definitely want to be an entrepreneur. You’ve been dreaming about running your own business since you were a kid.
But you haven’t totally worked out the details of what it will look like. You have a lot of decisions to make—there are many different types of businesses out there.
A large and lucrative category you’ll definitely want to consider is eCommerce.
eCommerce is any buying and selling that happens online. Whether it’s of goods or services, to people or other businesses—if a transaction happens online, it counts as eCommerce.
It’s a broad category and one that’s been growing in popularity since the option of buying things online first became available. Just think about how many of the recent purchases you made happened on a website.
The future of eCommerce is bright and it gives both consumers and business owners plenty to like.
10 Benefits of eCommerce for Business Owners
There are a few key reasons new entrepreneurs may want to go with an online business when starting out.
1. eCommerce has lower upfront costs.
Traditionally, the biggest barrier to entry for new business owners has been the cost. Starting a new business requires an investment. And if you’ll be renting a storefront, stocking it, and hiring staff to be present every time it’s open, you’re looking at a big investment.
For many new business owners, it’s even possible to start an eCommerce business using your own savings. If your plans are a bit more ambitious, you may need to take out a small loan. But either way, the amount of risk you’re taking on is far less than with a brick-and-mortar business.
You’ll also likely want to hire an experienced professional to help with your branding, SEO (search engine optimization), and other online marketing tactics to help you get off the ground. And hiring the services of a lawyer and accountant will be important to make sure you’re covering all your bases when it comes to taxes and the law.
But even after you implement all those things, the amount you’ll spend comes out to far less than the cost of real estate and full-time staff.
2. You can run your business from home.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average worker in the United States spends over 26 minutes commuting to work—each way. That’s nearly a full hour each day.
Running your own business gives you freedom in a lot of ways. And for eCommerce businesses, one of the freedoms many entrepreneurs value most is the freedom from that daily commute.
When running an eCommerce business, you can do most of your work from the couch in your pajamas if you so choose. You can run your errands during off-hours, when everyone else is in the office. And you can fit household chores, childcare duties, hobbies, and exercise into your day when they make the most sense. You’re not beholden to someone else’s expectations of “office hours.”
And if you choose to extend the ability to work from home to any people you hire, they’ll enjoy the same benefits. And you’ll save money on the cost of office space as well.
3. Building an eCommerce website can be fast and easy.
Building a website used to involve either learning coding and web design yourself, or hiring someone that did. While many eCommerce businesses still choose to go this route—and hiring someone makes sense if what you want in a website is specific or complex—it’s no longer required.
With the advent of eCommerce website builders, anyone can learn how to start an online store, regardless of their level of skill.
eCommerce website builders provide pre-designed templates combined with intuitive features like drag-and-drop functionality that make building a website fast and easy. And as they’ve become more commonly available, the cost of investing in one is now affordable for even small businesses with limited budgets.
Build a site that will provide a positive online shopping experience for your customers. Make your site compelling and simple to use to attract new users to it.
4. There are a lot of types of eCommerce businesses.
The impact of eCommerce on retail has been significant. Today, it’s a huge category that covers various business types. Most things you can buy, you can now buy online. Anyone still figuring out what their eCommerce business will be has a lot of choice.
Some of the common options available are:
- Setting up a small business to sell your crafts or art online
- Selling services online, such as consulting, copywriting, and even telemedicine (if you’re a doctor—don’t try that one if you’re not)
- Sourcing products from manufacturing companies and selling them through your own website and/or online marketplaces
- Using dropshipping to sell products without the cost of work storage and fulfillment
- Building an infopreneur business that sells information products like courses and tutorials
- Developing an online product such as software or a mobile app to sell
Different types of eCommerce businesses will involve different types of work, skills, and investment to get started. Do your research to figure out which one makes the most sense for the knowledge, skills, and amount of initial investment you plan to put in.
5. You tap into a larger customer base.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, the customer base is limited to those in a particular geographic area.
eCommerce businesses can sell to customers anywhere you’re willing to ship. That immediately opens up more opportunities for finding customers in your target audience, and growing your customer base over time.
This is particularly a benefit for any eCommerce business selling a niche product. In the past, a person would have a harder time building a business around their quirky bookends or high-end pet food. Even though there were people that might want those products somewhere, finding those customers was a lot harder.
Now, if you build a good website that targets the terms those people are searching, they’ll find you.
6. You can hire employees from anywhere.
If you’re starting small, you may not need to hire anybody else right away. But if your business grows, you’ll want to bring on staff or hire consultants to help with tasks like marketing, fulfillment, customer service, and tech support. Good employees are a big part of running a growing business successfully.
With virtual communication tools like Slack and Zoom available, much of the work of eCommerce can be done remotely. That means you’re not limited to hiring people that live in your community. You can find the best person for the job, no matter where they live.
7. You can sell 24/7, without having to be on full time.
Most brick-and-mortar stores have set hours. During the time they’re closed, if someone wants to buy a product, the customer’s out of luck and the store loses a sale.
eCommerce websites, however, are accessible at any time of day. If your customer realizes they need something you sell at midnight on a Monday, they can still place that order. You can make sales any time of day, any day of the week, without having to be available yourself or pay staff to be there.
With chatbots, you can even provide your shoppers with 24/7 customer service, regardless of whether your staff is online or not.
8. You can start small and scale up.
An eCommerce business can potentially start with one person and a website. That’s what makes it such an accessible choice for new entrepreneurs. But if you’re thinking a one-person business doesn’t sound like it allows a lot of room for profits, you don’t have to stop there.
By starting small, a new eCommerce business owner can reduce risk in the early days and increase how quickly you start making a profit, and what those profit margins look like. Once enough money is coming in to expand, you can start to expand to new products or hiring other staff with the money you’ve already made, so it’s less risky.
Websites are easier to scale up with a growing business than physical locations. You don’t have to try and buy out the store next door to expand or open a whole new location, you can just upgrade your web hosting to handle more traffic.
That makes eCommerce a good strategic choice for an entrepreneur with little startup capital, even if you have big ideas and ambitions.
9. Online marketing can be affordable.
Coming up with a business idea, creating a plan, and building a website are all big, important steps in getting an eCommerce business up and running. But people aren’t likely to find your website on their own on day one. That requires marketing.
The good news is that online marketing tends to cost a lot less than more traditional forms of marketing like print ads, billboards, and TV spots. Inbound marketing tactics like SEO and content marketing take more time than money, unless you decide to hire an expert to handle them (which is often worth it).
Online advertising options like search and social ads let you control your budget, so you’re only spending what you’re comfortable with. And most online ad platforms have a PPC (pay-per-click) model that means you only pay for actual visitors, not ad exposure. As a result, they usually offer a pretty impressive return on investment, especially for those promoting a new website.
While online marketing can be affordable, it’s important to be realistic. If the industry or product you’ve chosen is competitive, you’ll have a harder time making headway unless you spend more upfront on marketing and advertising. PPC rates vary based on how competitive terms are, so the budget you’ll need is higher if a lot of other eCommerce brands are bidding on the same terms. And SEO and content marketing are often slow to show results, especially if you’re in a crowded space.
Marketing is likely to be one of your biggest expenses in the early days of your business, but it’s one you should treat as a priority. Get help marketing your eCommerce site with the PPC and SEO experts from HostGator.
10. Online marketing is targeted and measurable.
When working on your business plan, an important step is understanding and clarifying who your target audience is. That matters because knowing who you’re selling to enables you to find the messaging that will resonate with them specifically. But it also pays off in online marketing, where most tactics and channels allow targeting.
With SEO and content marketing, you can focus on keywords and topics that you know your specific audience cares about. On online advertising platforms, you can choose who will see your ads based on factors like keywords, demographic data, geographic location, and even interests and hobbies.
You won’t be paying to reach everyone—which is expensive. Your budget will be focused on reaching the specific people who are likely to care about what you’re selling and buy your products.
And you’ll also have access to online marketing tools that produce analytics. You can track how well your website is performing, who’s visiting it, how they found you, and what they do once they land on your website—all for free with Google Analytics.
And every online advertising platform will include tools for measurement as well. You can understand the user experience and see how often people click on your ads, with the data broken down by different campaigns, audience categories, and keywords. And you can see what you’re spending on each click, to figure out if some keywords are worth more than others to you.
All of this adds up to being able to get more for what you spend, and improve your results over time as you learn. Using these tools and looking at your results will provide insight into how eCommerce has transformed marketing.
Realize the Benefits of eCommerce
Every would-be entrepreneur will need to figure out what business idea and strategy to pursue based on a number of factors. For a good number, some type of eCommerce business will make the most sense. It’s easier to get started, less risky, and broad enough to provide a wide array of paths forward.
Running an eCommerce business will still require work, planning, and a learning curve—those are all parts of running any type of business. But if you approach it thoughtfully, do your research, and put in the work, it can be rewarding.
Once you’ve got your product idea and business plan in place, HostGator can help you with the website creation part. We not only sell web hosting services, but also have an intuitive website builder that includes eCommerce templates and features. And to make things easier on your starting budget, the website builder comes free with our web hosting plans.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.