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Can others share there experience on how they got started with ecommerce?
How much initial investment went into purchasing product stock (if you had stock?)?
How long did it take to get things rolling, is this something that took time and trust in the industry?
Common frustruations? (e.g. credit card fraud, returns etc)
My initial investment in stock was $35. I had a selection of five different widgets, and my website had three pages on it. Now I have over 400.
The first two years I had to keep my day job, as they say, although I was self-employed then too. Everything that came in through the ebiz I reinvested into the ebiz, and I worked extra on the day job to get money from that to invest in the ebiz too. The third year I was able to cut back on the day job substantially. The fourth year I was able to quit it. I never borrowed any money.
My biggest frustrations are keeping track of inventory and doing taxes.
The most difficult part was to find the right industry and to convince suppliers to work with us. It is becoming easier since the Internet is becoming more commonplace and we have built our brand.
I hate doing shipping and managing employees and taxes! Other than that, it's great.
After almost 4 years of essentially working two full-time jobs, I was able to quit my day job to work full-time at ecommerce. Get rich quick...yeah right. :)
At first thought it would be a luaghable fad so didnt pay it much until around 1998.
Opened my first ecom store in 2000.
I find it really annoying that people think you require no skill or knowledge of teh subject but can still be a success.
get rich quick it aint.
I was amazed at the power of "global commerce". Sending out 5 padded envelopes a day to people all over the country (and world) while in 9th grade felt GREAT.
I wanted to get rid of eBay and paypal fees. And I didn't like dealing with the bombardment of emails from uneducated ebayers who were probably never going to reply or purchase.
So I set up a very simple cart (agora) tied to paypal payments and it worked for a while. I added a few more products that I would buy wholesale.
Then I switched to oscommerce and hacked it up to meet my needs.
Now I am building my own system: accounting, inventory, product, and store/cart
I've never had a paycheck, so e-commerce is all I know.
With my "first" product, probably about $50. It was a box of 100 clear overhead projector transparencies. I bought some PDA screen protectors on eBay for my PDA. I realized how simple they were, and that I could make them for pennies. I took the 100 screen protectors to Kinkos (now the fedex store) and stood there for an hour cutting them to size for PDAs. And I made a few thousand dollars with that for a year.
Next few products initial inventory was pretty small too... just a few hundred dollars. Couple years later, I was debating whether I should buy $5000 worth of a product. I finally did it and it turned out to work well.
I can now figure out whether it is worth the risk of buying a certain quantity for a certain price. I have a sense of how much I can sell, and what would happen if I couldn't sell it.
Now I buy $30,000 without worrying, since I know I can sell it.
Things will not start "rolling" over night. It will take time. Started out with less than an order per day, and now it is almost 9 average.
Things will get rolling if people can find your site, and you sell a good range of products that are easy to navigate, get info about, etc. And if your site is simple to use and professional. Word of mouth will be great, but it takes time. You can spend money on advertising, but make sure the site is ready.
The industry is quite easy to enter into. Trust mostly comes from the design/layout/professionalism of your site. Do you have an 800 number? Are you easy to get a hold of? Are your images good? What about the product descriptions? People will tell their friends, and people will talk about sites on forums, so if you've been around for a long time, this trust will certainly be greater than if you just started. The trust can be build fairly quickly.
Credit card fraud has not be a huge deal for me. Try to setup policies and checks. If an order looks suspicious but you feel greedy and think it will work fine, dont ship it! Call the customer. If the number you call is disconnected, cancel the order. I can figure out pretty well just by looking at the contents of an order whether it is fraud. I know what an abnormal order looks like. And if it is like that, I will investigate further.
Returns haven't been a big deal. Try to sell good quality products.
We soon found out chosen area was a hard sell, and it was only when we expanded to related areas that sales really started. It may seem obvious, but we soon learnt that more products = more sales.
The biggest frustration I have found is suppliers who are stuck in the past and won't supply us as we are online only (one supplier even blamed the internet for destroying communities).
By far the most difficult thing was organising the shipping - it's just really expensive. The other thing was accepting payments. We have a physical pdq machine, we switched to an epdq system that didn't work for which we were hideously overcharged and now we are back with the old pdq system. Banks and payment providers are struggling, in my opinion, to get something which is secure but usable. At the moment they are siding with secure but I don't think that will last for ever.
The most annoying thing is customer's focus on security. I think that internet security is hugely overblown, but perhaps thats because I'm in a low risk area. People seem to think that all merchants are cooks - as if it wasn't hard enough work to earn an honest days wage, let alone trying to rip you off.
Give it at least two years, everything is seasonal.
"Real" business people kept telling us that websites were just a waste of time and money. I distinctly recall one business owner who was adamant about "that email address thing" on our business cards being a waste of space which would just confuse people - this despite our explaining that many of our customers were college students. We certainly don't hear things like that anymore, and a good 95% of our sales are directly from the internet now. :-)
Reading this thread has certanly impressed me and had inspired to open up Online Store now!
The only big bar I can see is the country I live in - India. I wonder what percentage of IT friendly people would be buying online. But I'm very sure that very soon I'll also try out selling online.
Wish Good Luck to all the Online Merchants....
it sounds like its a struggle for many initially (like most things in life), but it does pay off in the end.
unlike affiliate marketing, there is usually more physical work involved to making a buck (shipping, returns, 1-800) etc.