The Internet is certainly disrupting many industries, from travel to taxi services, software, services, consulting and more. Most businesses have found online competition and are trying to adapt, catch up, or change models to stay relevant to the next generation of digital natives. The good news is many Internet businesses can be launched at minimal cost from home on your personal computer. The model can be tested before you invest heavily and take large amounts of risk with your own (or someone else’s) money. Let’s take a look at a few online business ideas:
1. Start an eBay, Amazon, Rakuten, Taobao, or Lazada business.
You can set up a seller account on one of these marketplaces in minutes, and present your products for sale to their audiences. Marketplace websites take away the hassle of setting up your own site, as well as the considerable work and cost involved in driving large amounts of traffic through your virtual shop doors. You may wish to place your products on these sites in multiple markets and see where you get traction. This is the low cost and low risk way to start selling products online!
The downside? Cash flow can be tight, as you’ll often have to wait 10-15 days or more for the marketplace to release the revenue for each transaction to your account. If you’re selling across markets, you should bear in mind currency movements can work against you (lowering your margins) while you’re waiting to receive payment for your goods sold. And finally, marketplaces are notoriously price-competitive, meaning anyone can arrive and start selling (as you have), and undercut you on price. If you can’t source the product cheaper than your competitors, or present something unique, you may find yourself in a price war and a very commoditised space after a short period of time.
2. Use Shopify.
Over 100,000 websites are claimed to be hosted by Shopify, which is a Software as a Service (SaaS) ecommerce provider. Basically you can turn up, choose a selection of templates and functionality for your site, use your own domain name, and pay a monthly subscription fee for the convenience. No coding required, no technical ability necessary; Shopify gives you the ability to set up an online store with minimal effort at a low monthly cost.
The downside? You won’t be able to customise your site infinitely (though there are a large number of options for themes and layouts), and if you need your site to do something more technical, Shopify might reach its limits for you quickly.
3. Open-source Content Management Systems (CMS).
You might have heard of WordPress or Magento, which are two of the major players in the open-source CMS space. You could choose either of these two platforms, and with minimal fuss have a working stand-alone website within a matter of days. Open-source means anyone can code new plugins and features for these CMS, and thus your website can run straight “out-of-the-box” using provided templates, or be as customised as you like. This can be a fantastic middle ground between building something from scratch, and using a less-customisable ecommerce solution.
The downside? With flexibility comes choice, and if you choose to build a lot of custom stuff for your site you will need to hire a coder (or learn to code yourself). If the specific plugin that you want doesn’t exist, you may be able to farm this job out cheaply enough to a developer on a site like www.Freelancer.com or www.Upwork.com
Below are a few ideas of common Internet business models:
The Specific-Topic Blog.
Choose a specific topic and create great content (text/video/audio/images) that is valuable to your readers, and post this for free online. Once you have a following you can sell advertising space via Google AdSense (or others), and make money from affiliate sales to products that are helpful to your audience. Collect subscriber emails from day one to ensure you can keep in touch with your customers, and build this database for future use.
An Ecommerce Store.
Find or develop a product and a unique selling proposition, and display this product in your ecommerce store. Drive qualified traffic to your sales pages and take orders. Ship the product out to your customers, or have a dropship company do this for you, eliminating your need for logistics functions. You can use one (or all of) the above ecommerce platforms to test the market and check business viability before scaling up and investing large amounts of capital.
If you have a particular skill that doesn’t translate well online, you may still be able to use your website to generate new business. Build an attractive brochure site with strong copy and a call to action that ultimately results in that customer getting in contact with you. You can then follow up by phone or email and work digitally for them in exchange for an agreed rate per hour/job etc.