Extremely cursory. I stumbled at Shop Moderne by way of a friend’s FaceBook status. Maybe working for the “rich and powerful” lately in a new start-up has got me thinking about business, but my initial impression of Shop Moderne was “home business.” The site’s not ugly, but it doesn’t look professional either. Lack of models, use of low-res paparazzi style shots, no B&M alternative (I suspect), etc. etc. It pretty much looked like someone with an eye for fashion decided to start an e-commerce site.
And yet I had a feeling it was successful (as far as small businesses go), mainly because I feel like I’ve seen the site before (or something similar). That and my friend hawking the site on FB for some reason. So then I looked up the owner of the site through DNS tools, and voila, the address of a very nice, large home in Yorba Linda came up, occupied presumably by a woman (if you want your info public, hide it when you sign up for sites, or use an alt. address). It sounded like my hunch was correct.
Anyway, I guess the point of this post is to invoke some confidence in my peers who may be thinking about starting a e-tailer business, one of the easiest types to start it seems like. The hardest part seems to be securing suppliers. I wonder where she gets her stuff. But the website and cart, those are all easy to build these days. And she proves you don’t need a enterprise level site to pull it off. Order fulfillment from a warehouse can be contracted out, too.
Cursory cost rundown:
Design: Use Joomla or some other framework. Free, and fast to style. Probably as easy as configuring WordPress.
Cart: There are free plugin’s for joomla I think. CC processing can be done by Google or Paypal. Or the commonly used Authorize.net. Yahoo has a cart, too. Business minded coders could make their own pretty quickly.
Advertising: Google AdWords. This could get pricey, but you control your spending limits.
SEO: This has been made into some kind of voodoo art form. Find a guy, or try your hand. I’m not really sure what the “best practices” are these days, but I think the gist of it consists of fresh content, no duplicated content, keywords, and inbound links. I think hiding keywords in code gets you punished.
Warehouse: Your house to start off. That seems to be the most common until one can transition to a real warehouse.
Fulfillment: Yourself from your house. But there are lots of companies that specialize in fulfillment. Or you can have FedEx come by. From what I recall, FedEx is not unionized, UPS is, hence FedEx is cheaper, when dealing with negotiated rates. And then there’s USPS. Cheap, but the tracking blows.
DSLR (or whatever you got lying around): $500? So you can take your own photos of your products. Pretty sure that’s what this woman did. My old boss did that, too.
A white board and photo lights: No idea. $200?
Great products: That’s a tough one. Selling spoons will probably get you no where.
Suppliers: Better get your charisma on.
Those are the basics to start. The tech-minded person will probably have an advantage. If you’re not tech savvy, find someone who is. Things seem to get more complicated once you try to scale further. Order management software, product management software, accounting software, integration, reporting, personnel, blah blah blah.
Why haven’t I started a business? Because I suck. And I have nothing to sell. Well, I did find a supplier for digital photo frames, but I don’t really have faith in that market. Especially now.