The Basics on Becoming an Online Merchant
Online selling is on the rise because of the changing shopping habits of today's consumers, those under 30 years old who were either entering into their teens or have just graduated from college when the Internet bloomed in the mid-90's.
This is the generation who spend most of their time reading and sending Twitpics, shout-outs, reposts or jejespeak on their FB, Flickr, tumblr, and Blogspot pages, in their desire to be visible and look cool on the Internet (now broadband and a powerful tool for business) that has become collaboration-friendly, thanks to Web 2.0 technologies.
Fast forward to a cool question. Do you want to join the world of Internet retailing as a pure player to earn extra income out of the Net Geners whose disposable income will remain 'awesome' at least until 2020. Do I hear a resounding 'yes' out there? That means you're getting into a winning ambit.
Online retailing poses the biggest opportunity for all Internet users to earn from the web. After all, you spend more than 4 hours before your computer screens doing any or all of these: researching, working, playing games, online chatting or instant messaging, Skyping.
Caveat: you will not immediately strike gold from your Internet selling but, initially it will give you an extra income and one that will grow in due course.
Consider this data from the March 2010 ITIF (Information Technology & Innovation Foundation) report.
For the last 10 years, among the world's top 10 Internet firms are those that have been successfully selling products and services like Amazon, eBay, Expedia, TD Ameritrade (into trading services), and of course Yahoo, Google and AOL, which collectively earned $ 58-B in 2006. Countries leading in e-commerce are UK, US, Sweden and Denmark.
E-commerce is growing in Asia too, where total B2C sales in Japan, China, Korea and India are expected to reach $ 115-B this year. At 52% (in Asia), Japan has the highest percentage of online buyers, followed by Korea at 45%. China, the world's second largest Internet population with its 210 million Internet users, is expected to see large growth in its online retail sales – $ 18 billion in 2010.
In other parts of Asia like the Philippines, about 90 percent of the 28-M Filipinos with access to the Internet visit social networking sites to chat, play games and promote business and civic events. Social media has become a ubiquitous tool in any business marketing campaign.
To cut your mark in online retailing:
number 1 – you must have products or services to sell
number 2 – study the basics like on-time deliveries and packaging (you do not want the merchandise getting squashed or broken)
number 3 – you must know how to use new media.
It is wise to focus first on a small range of products and know where to source reliable suppliers. Your products or services must be sellable like mobile phones, gadgets, fashion and accessories, souvenirs, homeware, health and wellness, appliances, travel reservation, insurance.
You can earn from your hobbies and interests like bead stringing, cross-stitching, photography, handicrafts, gardening, carpentry, used or antique items.
The Internet gives you the global marketplace, hence there will be customers in Trinidad, Los Angeles, Glasgow, Shanghai, Puchong, Cebu who will like to have those items on your web store.
Here are basic tips on becoming a trusted online retailer in the net world.
Build your website. If you can not , ask friends and kinfolk who can. It's an integral part of running an online business. Or you can buy an e-commerce software that has a complete e-trading platform that integrates payment gateways and logistics system for local and international deliveries. This way, you do not have to worry about setting up payment and distribution intermediary services on your own. It's never too late to have your own website up and running and be one of the over 80 million dotcoms in the world. Going by their sheer numbers, you're in great company.
Get yourself discovered through social sites. Your FB friends and Twitter followers will be excellent starting points for engaging with consumers. You can advertise on popular social sites or you can create a Facebook fan page or a Multiply product page. Be innovative in your spiels (but do not overdo it) about the benefits of your products so that consumers can connect emotionally to them, notwithstanding your commercial agenda.
Attend trainings. Learning additional skills on creating compelling customer content, photo editing, viral videos, SEO, etc. will boost your confidence as a netpreneur and if you cleverly apply them, you're on your way to building a good customer base.
It's usually in the first year when it's all about deciding what to sell, where to source your products, and generating awareness for your online store. You need to keep intact your enthusiasm for your business and your customers so that in the succeeding years, you can get ahead and stay ahead.
Now this is looking beyond 2020, Net Geners and their progeny – because of their online behavior – put premium on time and convenience which online retailing meets 100% spot-on.