3 Ecommerce Myths You Should Know Before Starting an Online Business
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I co-founded an e-commerce website for women-owned businesses in Spring 2020. Like most people, I saw daily news about how women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Women left or lost their jobs as schools and businesses closed and the world turned to online shopping. I knew I had to be proactive, and there had to be a place for women to start, pivot, or grow their businesses through e-commerce.
- “I can start my e-commerce business for only $19.00 per month and start selling right away.”
- “People will find my website and start buying my products as soon as it launches.”
- “Starting your e-commerce site will bring you instant income!”
Like many others, I believed these quotes and started my business online. As I took a closer look and learned the reality of starting an online business, I felt I needed to share what I had learned. I want to save entrepreneurs focused on building and running their businesses from costly mistakes. The claims of easy, inexpensive and immediate sale do not correspond to reality. Starting and maintaining an e-commerce business is complex, expensive and time-consuming.
Almost three years later I have learned the following:
Myth #1: I can launch my ecommerce business for as little as $19.00 per month and start selling right away
Many ecommerce services simplify and streamline the process of creating and maintaining your online store. The initial fees for these services can be very low, ranging from $0 to $10 per month. But once you’ve added website hosting, pay for your domain name, make sure your website (and your customer data) is secure, buy or update the design for your store, choose a payment gateway to process credit cards, and Choosing any number of optional extensions to improve the look and feel of your website and then adding extensions to improve discoverability through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) all adds up to an average of $600 to $5,000 per year. And that doesn’t even include a penny of marketing.
Related: Thinking about starting an online business? 2023 is the right time for this. Here’s why.
Myth #2: People will find my website and buy my products once I launch my online store
I hear that a lot from new entrepreneurs, and it sounds very reasonable. We are ALWAYS online and connected. There’s a constant stream of shopping, so it seems like it’s all about getting your products out there for people to buy. In e-commerce terms, this is “driving the traffic,” and directing traffic can be expensive, time-consuming, and prohibitively expensive. But how else are customers supposed to find you?
If you have a large following on social media, you can let your community know that you sell product and that they should check it out. But if you’re growing your social media presence along with your business, chances are you’ll need to buy advertising on those social platforms to get found. This is expensive and time consuming and has no guaranteed results. I know established brands that spend tens of thousands of dollars monthly increase website traffic.
Breaking through the noise of internet advertising to drive customers to your website is probably the hardest part of e-commerce. For small businesses, the cost of social media or other online advertising is prohibitive; Building a fan base takes time and money. Most entrepreneurs don’t have that time to simultaneously try to produce the product or service at the heart of their business.
Also see: 12 great tips from ecommerce experts
Myth #3: Launching your ecommerce website will bring you instant income
If only that were so. It sounds simple enough, but look at myths 1 and 2. You are in business because you are passionate about and good at the product or service you offer. Taking focus away from your core business is risky, and learning to master ecommerce can be a steep learning curve. The time you spend learning SEO, setting up search engine ads, creating digital marketing assets, and fixing that wonder app you bought online store is time you are not focusing on your core business .
Consumers are increasingly shopping online, and it’s crowded. Breaking through the noise online isn’t quick, easy, or cheap. Finding a community and resources to support your transition to e-commerce or online growth is a necessity for small businesses. There are several distribution channels and marketplaces that can be a good place to start. You pay commissions on sales, membership, and advertising fees, and become part of a larger organization that provides an online structure, domain, security, payment gateway, and marketing support, as well as opportunities to advertise or be featured to a larger audience.
Related: 5 Things You Should Know Before Starting an Ecommerce Business
Every channel or marketplace has nuances, and it’s important to look at all the details to ensure you’re finding the best match for your products, budget, time, and brand. Driving customer traffic to your products can be very costly in terms of time, money, and margin. There is more to it than that.
Bottom line, yes, technically you can start a website using online tools for about $20.00 per month. But selling your products or services on your website, getting found by customers outside of your immediate network, and growing your business? This requires an investment of learning, time and money. Your job as a business owner is to do your research before deciding what, when, and how is the best channel for growing your brand online.
Nobody understands better than an entrepreneur that nothing in business is easy, cheap and “overnight”. Despite the hype, this can be doubly true for e-commerce. So, once again, do your homework, do your research, and make sure your business is ready for the challenges of ecommerce.