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E-Commerce: An Introduction

More and more business owners are taking their business online and for good reason.  The successes of online businesses such as Amazon and iTunes have proven that the internet holds unlimited potential for profits. That is, if done correctly. Ecommerce is not a “Field of Dreams”, though. “If you build it they will come” is not always the case. Like any business, it requires hard work and a lot of patience.

You wouldn’t know it now, but Amazon.com started slow. In fact, founder Jeff Bezos expected it. Amazon’s initial plan was unusual in that Bezos himself expected a slow growth, that the market was there but that it needed time to get into the habit of online shopping, and so Amazon.com, which was founded in 1995, did not expect a profit until its 4th or 5th year. So, in 2001, while the dot-com bubble was bursting and many internet-based businesses were closing, Amazon.com turned its first profit.

ITunes is another example of an ecommerce gamble that paid off. The elements required for selling music via the Internet had been around for years – the right software and a PC with a CD burner connected to the Internet. What had been missing was a business model that consumers were willing to accept.  Apple not only developed a system where people could download and pay for music, but it also had to create a medium where that music could be stored – the iPod.

If you are only considering taking your business online now, then the timing is just right. During the early years of the Internet, a majority of online shoppers were young men with a high level of income and a university education.  This was understandable, because at that time, using the Internet was not yet part of daily life. But as early as 2001, the profile began changing. In the USA for example, women were 52.8% of the online population.

How to get started?  Quite simply, any site that enables its visitor to pay online is an E-Commerce site. You can use your current website, and have a web developer add features that facilitate online payment through Paypal or a similar service.

But you’ll also need to consider other matters, such as inventory management. You’ll need to have a system in place that ensures that when your website says that a certain product is in stock, it better be in stock. Also, when your website says that it will be delivered to their doorstep in three weeks, it should be there on time, as promised. Because your business is online, a great deal of your business is dependent on the trust that a consumer has in you.

Lastly, think out of the box. That starts with the product or service that you are selling. Learn from the success (and mistakes) of e-commerce companies that have come before you. They weren’t driven by the motivation to sell or make money. They were driven by the desire to innovate and that is what made them successful.

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