With the way the world has been moving, especially in recent months, the move from traditional ‘brick and mortar’ businesses to an online presence cannot be ignored. More and more startups and existing business owners are either augmenting their presence with an online one, or are altogether abandoning the ties and costs of a physical location and taking their trade straight to the internet. Many people will think that the online market is therefore saturated, but the fact of the matter is that they could not be more wrong. As the online marketplace industry grows, so does the customer base, and exponentially in fact. Furthermore, online businesses come with so many advantages that heading online to establish a shop or showcase your crafts, even if just to test the water, is a no-brainer.
It’s cheaper…a lot cheaper!
Firstly, there are far less costs associated with an online business. No shop premises, no warehouse if you don’t want one (in fact, many startups simply use spare rooms and sheds for storage of their wares if they are selling physical goods!) and no business rates or uniform costs. To the general public hitting the ‘buy’ button, it does not matter where or who the goods come from as long as it’s in their hands and as expected.
Online stores are way more flexible…
There is also way more flexibility with an online store. Fixed hours become a thing of the past, both for yourself and anyone else helping you in your venture. The days of working ‘nine to five’ is a moot concept, as you suddenly find yourself adapting to the workload each day. No more waiting for the couriers to collect parcels at the end of the day; drop off points for most major delivery companies now mean startups and businesses don’t even have to book in and wait for a pickup slot. They can simply head to the nearest point and get the drop done at a time that suits. Family emergency? No problem there either. As long as orders are fulfilled and out the door in a suitable time frame, there’s no reason why you can’t take the day off if needed. If you’re going away for the weekend, a laptop, or even just a smartphone, allow you to take your business with you in a ‘satellite’ capacity and provide seamless service.
This is also another point worth considering for online businesses. Eschewing the traditional trappings of a physical store doesn’t mean you have to forego the prestige that comes with it. In fact, it’s perfectly possible to have a prestigious business address in more than one location or country, along with local or even free phone numbers for customers and clients to call. For a small price, one person working from their house can have phone numbers and real street addresses that scan and read their mail in London, Dubai and Los Angeles, for only a fraction of the price of a physical office in a backwater town. For not much more money, many companies offering these services will also offer a receptionist service and even a PA! So whilst you’re headed out to lunch with the family, someone else is taking your calls for you. Ever have that in your old job?
Finding what works
Setting up an online store also allows ‘would be’ sellers of goods and services to switch around and change to different things depending on what sells well and what doesn’t. It should come as no surprise that most online stores are on about their third or fourth business model. Instead of investing money into branding, storefront signage, training and the like, it’s much easier, quicker and cheaper to test the water and buy and sell goods, seeing what works, and adapting the model until you find the perfect fit. This is something physical businesses do not have the luxuries of time and money to achieve.
But why 2020? Why is this year, when we are in the middle of many crises, the best time to go online?
Online businesses are busier than ever…
The main reason is that the coronavirus crisis has highlighted how heavily we rely on online businesses, and also, if run correctly, how profitable they can be. With fewer customers wanting to head out and risk illness or worse, online sales have generated billions in additional revenue. Now is, quite simply, the best time to capitalise on the move towards online buying and immerse yourself in a fast moving, lucrative market. This also works both ways too. This is safer for sellers as well; transactions are conducted without any face to face contact, meaning everyone gets what they need, risk free.
Less money means less costs
There is also the consideration that most people actually have less money right now than they did in previous years, and certainly less than they did at the beginning of 2020. Both buyers and sellers are adapting and finding ways to make their money go further; this involves scrapping traditional business premises, not taking on so many staff, switching to smaller or home based storage options and using price comparison sites when making purchases. With a small investment in some storefront software and some search engine optimisation packages, your goods or services are going to be instantly visible, not only to the long term internet mainstays, but also to the millions of people who are now heading online to get whatever they previously bought in person.
But it’s not just the immediate ‘buyer/seller relationship’ perks that can be found in 2020. Right now, many banks, building societies, credit unions and peer to peer lending platforms are now offering cheaper, more attractive loans in an attempt to stimulate the economy. Where, previously, loans were reserved for businesses with more rigid planning and a proven track record of financial success (which is ridiculous…if you’re in this boat, why would you need a loan?!) there are now less stringent terms on many financial products, as financial institutions around the world are hell bent on getting the economy moving again and seeing any returns at all instead of the current financial drought.
So, to wrap it all up…
In summary, yes, 2020 is a tumultuous time for anyone starting a business. Nobody know which way the economy is moving, how long things are going to continue for, and for how long the aftershocks will be felt. But at the same time, the relatively flattened playing field is a fertile environment for anyone wanting to forge an online presence, but with much less cash available to help them see their dream become a reality. And if you can weather the current storm and come out the other side, the customer base you build up during current circumstances will serve until well after this uncertainty is over. So be one of the people that thrive in a crisis. Put together your plans, use what is essentially a buyer’s market when it comes to obtaining credit (both in terms of capital and when ordering stock) and make use of the fact people are hanging around online in a 24/7 market. 2020 will be your banner year.