Thinking Like An Online Entrepreneur – E-Commerce Tips

So much has been written about entrepreneurial thinking that I won’t try to distil it here. However, there are certain behaviours I have noted about how some web owners approach the development and running of their e-commerce websites which deserve a little discussion.

Let me start with the most important, influencing factor to any web owner’s success: belief.

Belief

Starting your online entrepreneurial activity with the right mindset and beliefs is like winning the match before you’ve stepped out onto the court. It’s what separates the really successful businesses from the average ones.

Ask any sportsperson or sports psychologist and they’ll tell you that your beliefs profoundly affect your performance.

What we believe is possible in our online entrepreneurial life is the limiting factor in our success.

Let’s take an example. Lots of people wish they were millionaires, but of those who want to become millionaires, very few actually believe they will be millionaires. Those that do, however, stand a far greater chance of becoming what they believe. Why? Because at a conscious and subconscious level they are doing everything they can to pursue that one objective. Now I’m not suggesting that being a millionaire should be your life’s goal; I’m just using it as an example. The point is that your underlying beliefs in what you are capable of fundamentally affect the actions you take and the choices you make.

All this may seem more like some New Age incantation rather than hard-edged business-speak, but there is good reason I mention it. Owning and running an e-commerce website is not for the faint-hearted. It is complex and demanding and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Be prepared for long hours, headaches and hard work, but also be prepared for more customers, a growing bank account and a sense of achievement. Your belief that you are doing the right thing is what will see you through and keep you on course for success.

Owning an e-commerce website can be a wild ride but how you handle it is totally dictated by your mindset and your beliefs. For example, many e-commerce websites fail because their owners give up – they lose confidence, interest and commitment, especially in the early days of their website’s life. It’s easy to give up if you’re struggling or faced with outright failure. However, those who believe they will succeed don’t see failure as a setback but as a learning experience – they have the right mindset and they will do well because of it.

I’m telling you this because you know that success isn’t a set of purely mechanical step-by-step processes. (If it were, we’d all be millionaires.) Success comes from your mindset: what you believe you can achieve and the expectations you set yourself. This mindset is as important as knowing how to Search Engine optimize your e-commerce website or write compelling sales copy.

All About Online Shopping

Identification

The process of online shopping is really easy. It allows people to shop for products and services from the comfort of their own home with the help of a computer and internet connection. A person can visit an online retailer and purchase an item with their credit card. The products or services are then delivered to the address that was provided. With a growth of 33% in 2005, online shopping is continuing to gain popularity all over the world.

Benefits

There are a number of benefits attached to online shopping. The most important advantage is that of convenience. Customers can buy whatever they want during breaks at work or while they are at home without going into crowded malls. Online shopping allows people to shop at any time of the day. One can also book mark a page and come back when they think that the time is right without feeling rushed.

Warning

Always make sure that you are shopping on websites that are legit. You can do so by looking up their names in the Better Business Bureau database. Be careful of phishing. Make sure that the website is secure by ensuring that the address starts with ‘https’. Only give out information about your credit card once you are sure that it is secure. Try and use a credit card as opposed to a debit card or checking account as it is easier to have the theft stopped as compared to the other two alternatives.

Considerations

Don’t get carried away with the cheap rates that you are getting online, as they may pad up process in the shipping. So, be careful and ensure that you double check the shipping rates and compare them with postal rates from UPS, Unites States Postal Service or FedEx. Also, make sure that you do not over pay your shipping charges and look for other details like cancellations, return policy etc. Make sure that you have the contact information of the online retailer in case you have any questions or want to track your shipment.

Types

Today, you can buy absolutely anything online. People buy groceries, food products, medicines and even herbal remedies. The most popularly bought products online are books. According to an online article by Nielsen in January 2008, 41 % of internet users bought books online. Clothing, DVDs, electronics, games and tickets are a few other things that are popularly bought through the online medium.

Annual Multi Trip Travel Insurance Explained

An upshot of the escalation in the availability of discount flights and budget accommodation has been that more and more Australians are heading off overseas. Combine this with increasingly hectic schedules and you see more people taking a number of shorter breaks than one or two extended holidays. As a result, Australia's frequent travelers are discovering the remarkable value of annual multi trip travel insurance. If you're buying individual single trip travel insurance policies every time you go overseas you could be spending more than you need to on your travel insurance.

To ensure that you are choosing the most appropriate cover, think about the holidays, business trips and school trips you, your partner and your family are likely to take this year. If you're planning to travel overseas more than once, then buying an annual multi trip travel insurance policy could save you both valuable time and money compared to the inconvenience and expense of taking out several single trip travel insurance policies.

Annual multi trip travel insurance is a great way to guarantee that you are covered for all your trips, even those last minute breaks. An annual travel insurance policy will also give you peace of mind as you will not find yourself in the situation where you've forgotten to ensure that your travel insurance cover is in place. Once you have bought your policy, you can sit back and relax for the next 12 months knowing that both your leisure and business trips are suitably covered.

Here are a few things to look out for when buying annual multi trip cover:

¥ What is the maximum duration you can be insured for any one trip? Most policies have a maximum number of days for leisure travel and a maximum number of days for business leisure. If you are planning to be away for longer then you should look at buying a single trip travel insurance policy.

¥ Are you too old? Most policies have a maximum age.

¥ Is there a limit to the total number of trips through the year?

¥ Does it cover business travel?

¥ Does it allow your partner or children to travel on their own?

¥ Does it cover frequent flyer points?

¥ Does it cover trips within Australia?

Lessons Learned From An E-Commerce Adventure

It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all; and even more important to learn from your mistakes.

That is what I keep telling myself after having invested the time and cash equivalent to a Harvard MBA in an e-commerce start-up that has stalled and is winding down. Not a happy prospect in light of all the media pre-occupation with e-commerce success stories and the young millionaires watching their IPOs rocket into cyberspace. But the headlines ignore the more frequent stories of new e-commerce businesses that do not hit the stock market jackpot. Many of them either settle into a low-key niche or exhaust their resources and fold.

This is the story of an Internet venture that did not make the headlines, but offers some useful insights for entrepreneurs evaluating their own initiatives. The lessons learned are applicable to your own new venture or to an investment in someone else’s.

In mid-1998 we launched a new company called nxtNet (www.nxtnet.com) with the slogan … “taking you to the next level on the Internet”.

My partner and I both had prior successful entrepreneurial experience in computer products and wanted to start a new venture together. We decided to develop a business that would catch the next wave of e-commerce services for mid-sized companies seeking to do business on the Internet. After long discussions, searches for a unique service offering, and many draft business plans, we developed a market strategy and then chose Intershop Communications as our software development platform. This product had the advantages of being suitable for single or multiple online storefronts, and offered a flexible, economic and comprehensive solution. We committed to the product, staffing, facilities and equipment to start training and development immediately. The two of us provided the time and cash required to get started.

By October 1998, we had an initial product with application as an online storefront for an associated computer business. At the same time, we realized that the application had wide appeal to other computer dealers and could be sold as a multi-user database service and e-commerce resource. We had developed a consolidated catalogue of 85,000 computer products from multiple distributor product databases that allowed rapid search and comparison for product information, pricing, and current sources. Users could access the catalogue from the Internet and find a product by manufacturer, category, and part number, key word or price range and immediately see the alternate sources and prices with links to more technical information, preferred dealer pricing and actual stock levels. Additional features allowed the catalogue to be customized so that any computer reseller could present the database as his own online storefront. This option offered all the search and product information features to his customers, but showed only retail pricing and enabled the online ordering process.

The product offering quickly received positive feedback and strong indications of support from all the participants – resellers, distributors, and manufacturers. It was a comprehensive, powerful, and effective tool for buying and selling at all levels within the Canadian computer distribution channel. Resellers recognized the value in an online resource to save time and effort. Distributors and manufacturers saw the opportunity to promote their products, and major publishers in the industry wanted to offer complementary online services to their subscribers and advertisers. How could we fail with all this enthusiasm and support?

While the potential for success clearly existed, everybody had the same questions and reservations – “Who is there now?” “How many are using it?” and “I don’t want to pay until it’s bigger”.

Reasonable objections we thought, so we added features and content for free. We promoted the product with free trials and low cost subscriptions for reseller access. Then we coaxed, persuaded, sold hard, and made deals. The “contra” became the standard for obtaining press coverage, free ads, mailing lists and promotion in exchange for free participation and future consideration. Activity on the Web site and catalogue grew to 3000 visitors per month with over 800 subscribers and the distributor list increased from three to twelve.

But revenue remained near zero as most reseller subscribers declined to pay for the service. Reasons were “it should be free – let the advertisers pay”, “I don’t use it enough”, “there are lower cost options”, or “we built our own solution”. The audience did not grow fast enough even after we offered it for free, to satisfy the advertisers and content providers. Without persistent and conspicuous sales and marketing efforts, all the participants quickly lost interest. Meanwhile the costs of database maintenance, ongoing development, site hosting, Internet access, sales, marketing, and administration were increasing.

Clearly the old entrepreneurial model of controlling costs and growing revenue was not going to apply. We had to realign our profile to show how zero revenue and high initial costs could still lead to significant investment returns like other well-known Internet ventures. So from early 1999 we started an aggressive search for financing, estimating our requirements at $500,000 to $1,500,000 over the next two years before achieving positive cash flow. More business plans, spreadsheets, and glossy presentations to demonstrate future valuations up to $20 million, even $40 million.

We knocked on many doors, from banks to government agencies, from angel investors to venture capital, from stock promoters to business consultants, and again received lots of encouragement, but no financing. So the founding partners were faced with a continuing cash drain, no relief in sight, and the limits of their own resources rapidly approaching. It was time to put the project on hold. Strategic partners or investors might still be developed to proceed with the project, but the ongoing expenditures were stopped in late 1999.

So what are the lessons learned? We already knew that nothing ventured, nothing gained. We now also knew that big successes in the new economy require big investments. Entrepreneurs may start small, but large investments will be required from new sources to achieve significant success. And no one will put significant money into a venture unless it is the only remaining requirement.

The concept, product, development, marketing and staffing all have to be in place before an investor will provide the final ingredient – his cash. Exceptions are likely only where the management team has already succeeded in the same arena, or the investor himself can deliver the missing elements, such as customers or management skills. No investor is going to take the chance that the entrepreneur with a good concept or product will also be able to deliver the required management and marketing skills to succeed, after he has the cash.

Next time we will know better. And there are side benefits from this expensive learning experience. I can now admit that with the knowledge gained through our association with Intershop Communications, I was confident enough to make an investment in their stock on the German Neue Markt at 65 Euros last year. It went over 400 Euros last month and is still rising with their rapid growth and the prospect of a NASDAQ listing this year. Almost enough to recover my investment in nxtNet.

So the most important lesson is that education in the new economy is essential, and not free, but it can lead to success outside the original plan. Learn, be aware, and be aggressively opportunistic.