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.

How To Save Money With Shopping Bots, Assistants, Add-Ons

Do you frequently shop online? If yes, you might be aware about how overwhelming it can be to select your favourite product at the lowest price. Most of the times it is almost impossible to keep up through diverse online deals, coupons, and promotions available all over the Web. What adds up to the difficulty is the price comparison among the numerous online retailers out there! Well, in today’s busy schedule doing this hectic research is truly time-consuming. So, how about purchasing products in a smart and an intelligent way?

Shopping tools like the shopping bots, the online associate or Add-ons do all of the work for you.

India’s online trading market, according to rough estimates, is 60-70 million strong, and is expected to go up to 100 million in the next few years. Around 10 million people use price comparison websites each year because they’re quick, convenient and save us a lot of time buying products around.

What Are Actually These Bots & Add-Ons?

Shopping bots, short for “shopping robots,” is an online price comparison software tool that searches for relevant goods from a variety of stores online. It automatically locates the most affordable rates for customers. Generally, these add-ons rank items by price. They let buyers link directly to the website of an online merchant site to actually buy the product.

They also help to find the most excellent online deals for a product, including films, household items, smartphones, books, video games, etc. Using shopping bots, a purchaser can instantly get quotes from multiple retailers for the same merchandise without spending hours on particular shopping site. You may simply call these add-ons as your “online shopping assistants”.

Benefits of Online Assistants and Shopping Bots!

The popularity of price comparison websites/ shopping bots/add-ons isn’t just a trend. It’s now fast becoming a way of life for people to shop. Comparison websites helps the buyers to procure huge benefits whenever they make purchases online. They aid in viewing the latest prices offered by various e-retailers along with discounts or money-saving deals. In addition to price comparison, customers can easily access online coupons, discounts across all the e-retailers that offer the product they wish to buy.

In a nut shell, price comparison add-ons are just like pieces of good fortune for shopaholics. These add-ons works like an online shopping assistant by offering hassle free shopping. They simply fetching all the discounts and offers from top e-commerce sites under a single page! Users can evaluate prices online & get the modest price on the go right from the comfort of their browser. So, isn’t that easy. You save money and time without any annoyance!

Conclusion

Whether you’re using Amazon, eBay, Flipkart or any other site – shopping bots make sure you never spend more than you have to. These add-ons will help you shop smarter and help to purchase products when they are at their absolute lowest prices. So, why not take assistance from these bots or install your favourite add-on & Shop like Never Before!!

Article Marketing

In the present time, people are doing business with the use of internet. Perhaps, you are one of the many people who are interested in jumping in that bandwagon. Nowadays, competition among businesses has grown bigger; That's why a business owner like you should search for and try some exceptional yet cost effective internet marketing strategies. These marketing strategies can enhance and develop your business identity over the World Wide Web.

There are plenty of marketing strategies that you can use. The opportunities are endless, but you have to pick one that best compliments your business. One marketing strategy that has proven to be cost effective and highly efficient is article marketing. What is more, you can make it more special by adding in search engine optimization.

Search engine optimization is such a unique tool, and one that can be a competitive web marketing strategy. It mainly focuses on getting your website a higher search engine ranking. It does this by funneling traffic to your site by making it show up quickly when a person does an internet search for your niche.

When it comes to a global perspective, search engine optimization can be a benefit to you. What you have to do is to select keywords or key phrases to target potential clients. The search engine optimization will guarantee that your company will be found. Search engine optimization can help reach your potential clients from anywhere in the world.

Another benefit of an article marketing with SEO campaign is that it can increase the number of visitors to your website with the help of the targeted keywords or phrases. The people who visit your website can turn into potential clients; This is what SEO does. This is the only web marketing campaign that can drive traffic to your website. As more people visit your website, the chances of you getting some sales increases. SEO can increase your website's visibility in search engines.

Article marketing with the use of SEO is one amazing marketing strategy. You can get a high return on investment and you can increase the volume of sales and profit. This is one marketing strategy that you should look forward to doing, because it is very cost effective. You do not have to invest large sums of money. You can just bring in a minimum amount of investment, and you get to have a maximum exposure in return.

Your company can succeed in the web economy with the help of search engine optimization. Just remember that you need to come up with articles that people would enjoy reading. You can entice potential clients with the use of your articles. Make sure that you have an article with excellent content. An article marketing strategy is one great tool that will not go away and will be used for a long period of time. It is one effective way of informing your potential clients about your products or services.

How E-Commerce Can Increase You Revenue

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) 10 years back found it hard & highly costing to work Globally. But nowadays Internet has made things much easier, from Small shops to large enterprises are now doing online business internationally and available 24/7 for anyone in the world.

E-commerce Websites are cost effective and its staff reducing, Where online strategies that can deliver much greater returns on a limited budget with affordable and efficient website solutions.

While it is impossible to know how many people actually see print advertising, online advertisers can track precisely how many see each and every ad and how many website visits it generates, enabling businesses to attract the highest

volume of targeted traffic, at the lowest possible cost. Whatever the visitor action – making a purchase, signing

up for a newsletter, downloading a report, conversions are the key to measuring Return On Investment.

With e-commerce you will get the opportunity to build your All-Time-Open-Shop and offer all services & products online which can be purchased with a click of a mouse.

Professional web site design is critical for success in the modern Internet Business World. Offering an attractive, intuitive interface with a logical and easy to use navigation layout will make the difference between a happy visitor (and potential client) and a frustrated web surfer at your website.

Your website is an integral part of your image, identification and communication strategy. Successful web communication comes from grabbing your visitors’ attention and providing a website that is comfortable to use. your web site should do both-innovative design captures the eye and is followed by a familiar and easy to navigate path.

A well-designed website is a mission-critical investment in

o enhancing brand image

o building consumer confidence

o increasing willingness to buy

From overall Website design and architecture, the simple things like clear contact information and telephone numbers, testimonials and case studies. Customers want to find what they’re looking for.

Setting up all requirements to accept payments online and automating all the processes, its all depends on reliable Web Development & Web Hosting solutions to ensure the best performance of your e-business.

Your E-commerce business can have its own online customer service solutions to meet your customers satisfaction like:

o Complaints Management System

o Live Chat Support System

o Trouble ticket System

o Online Billing System