Have you heard stories about entrepreneurs that have built an online business that actually draws customers in and sells genuine products and services on its own? I am referring to websites that actually work as both lead generation tools and transaction facilities at the same time – i.e. they sell for your business just like a sales person. This isn’t just the domain of startups – plenty of legitimate businesses successfully implement and run this model. Having said this, successful online businesses are much more rare than you think.
How does this work, exactly?
Websites that independently function to sell should not be classified as mere “websites”. They are purpose-built and well engineered business projects that generate new customers by capturing existing demand in the market place. They are well refined, sometimes to an extremely high degree in order to maximise customer experience.
These “websites” usually run a sophisticated custom-built platform that is designed from the ground up to take advantage of all the facilities the world wide web can currently offer. These facilities may be, for example, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) opportunities – except in these cases, it dives a quite a bit deeper than adding a blog or injecting some keywords. The SEO for these highly complicated online ventures consists of a non-stop fight to outrank competitors, thus increasing the chance of a customer visiting and making a purchase.
Remember, websites that sell always work off existing demand in the market place. They do not generate new demand the way a sales person can – they can only work with that is on the market at the very moment. This makes competition fierce, as customers in some market spaces may be scarce.
What these websites also can do, is to serve as a facility for repeat business. Do you have 10 accounts registered on your website that purchase from you on regular basis? 100? Or, is it now 1000? This is where things get interesting and profitable.
Why are they so rare?
The biggest hurdle to developing an online monster that does your bidding is cost. In reality, these projects can attract astronomical costs – and quite often out of reach of small businesses. You are not just building a website, you are building a profit-making facility. That will be very expensive.
The first issue that needs to be addressed is that the kind of websites I am referring to, can not be developed by regular web designers that focus on building typical $300-$3000 business websites put together from templates. These only go as far as provide your business with a good presentation. Good to have on your business card. Useful for your customers for credibility and research purposes. That’s about it.
How much would it cost to build a complex project? It’s impossible to tell without doing a requirements analysis and formulating some sort of a plan and development strategy. It would be the same deal in other firms.
The second issue is to do with maintenance. These kinds of projects are install-and-forget kind of deals. They require consistent work in terms of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), various repairs and adjustments. They require constant improvements to maintain a competitive advantage – the online space is quite fierce, with a lot of competitors employing dirty tactics to keep at the top. A lot of things can also go wrong with complex systems. They require resources to keep them going.
If I want something like this, how do I go about it?
If you are interested in “dominating the digital space”, as some say, be prepared to invest a lot of time up front in planning your online business model. You will need to have a very clear idea of what you need to achieve (e.g. 10 sales a day of my product X) to consider the project a success. You will need to do some study on your market space, and see where your competitors stand. If you are in a very saturated field with a lot of established online competitors with monster websites that have thousands of pages, do not fret – it just means there is money in the field and there is potential difficulty breaking through. If you don’t see much competition online in respect to what you are planning to do, you either have found a goldmine, or more likely, there is a fatal flaw with your idea that hasn’t come to fruition yet.
Some of the bigger online projects have to be run in the same fashion as the way startups operate. A big monetary investment will need to be made to get the project running, and a big user base may have to be acquired before there is any talk on profit. This generally does not apply to situations where you want to dominate a particular online space in regards to retail and tangible goods, but it can be very much true if you are selling services online or have any type of unique offerings not yet present in the marketplace. Selling services, subscriptions or anything intangible online is a very difficult gig that requires extensive planning and due diligence.
So, you think you came up with an idea that can potentially bring you mega riches? Get in touch with us and we can discuss. We’re even happy to sign an NDA if you want to take an extra step to protect your interests.
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