If we step away from the doom and gloom around us at the moment and take a hard look at our economy, we can see that it is roughly the same right now as it was just before the credit crisis of 2008.
In real terms, this means that most companies have experienced a drop in their average turnover. There are many ways your company can make up this shortfall and the Internet, today more than ever, is the best vehicle to achieve this.
Equally, if you have been made redundant from your job or just want to escape the rat race, stop commuting long hours or spending most of your day with negative co-workers, an online business can give you the kind of freedom most people only ever dream of.
I believe that the Internet can give any serious entrepreneur out there a real cause for optimism. Here are a three compelling reasons why I think there’s never been a better time to start an online business.
#1: It’s Cheaper Than Ever To Set Up
Of course, it’s easier to start in a booming economy, but during tough economic times, many vendors and service providers are forced to slash their prices and offer more value in order to sustain their businesses and outdo their competitors. Equally, with less disposable income, customers become choosier and more price sensitive. This is good news for any established or budding entrepreneur.
It means that many of the resources you need to set up your online business such as a laptop, broadband connection and web hosting, are being offered at a discount, low-cost or even a free trial as vendors vie for your attention.
Today, you can pick up a decent notebook or laptop for $300-$500, broadband for $15-$25 a month and web hosting for $10 a month. This means that for around $500 you are set up and ready to go. But the chances are high that if you are reading this post, then you already have these items. This makes it virtually free to start an online business or at the very most around $100.
If you are open to learning new things, acquiring different skills and putting in the hours, then you can build a business in a relatively short space of time and generate an income. What’s more you can do it THIS year without leaving your day job. Despite what people tell you:
- You don’t need a fancy website
- You don’t need a complicated shopping cart
- You don’t need thousands of customers
- You don’t need a licence or a degree in IT
- You don’t need a wildly unique product
In fact, you don’t need to wait for the right time or for the stars to be in alignment. All you need is a strong enough DESIRE to build a business and to DECIDE that you want to do it.
#2: Online Marketing Is More Accessible Than Ever
In the old days, you needed to know about Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing as this was the main way to get traffic to your site. PPC is still widely used today and involves advertising on the Search Engine Results Pages or SERPs. Basically, a company bids to have their ads appear in these sponsored results, and each time a user clicks on the ad your company has to pay.
But over the years, PPC has become very competitive as short keywords become more expensive to bid for. It’s still a perfectly sound strategy for a niche business but can be an expensive way to start if you don’t know what you’re doing.
In the early days of the Internet, the primary goal of search engines was to help people find what they were looking for. Google came to dominate the industry because it had a better way of tracking and organizing search results than its competitors. Google’s complex algorithm measured which websites were “voting” for others by linking to them.
So if your site had lots of links from relevant sites, your Google rank climbed. Other factors such as putting keywords into headlines and titles also counted towards your online visibility but for a long time it was all about links.
But then a new kid on the block – social media – emerged and changed the way search engines organized their results. Fast forward a few short years and huge social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ with their millions of users are radically affecting how search engines measure relevancy.
Real-time results are being added to searches as Google, Bing and others start to take note of what users on social networks are sharing, retweeting, commenting on and liking. So each time your Twitter status is retweeted you get a backlink. In effect, social media has taken the act of “linking” to a new level.
This sea change presents an exciting opportunity for the online entrepreneur.
By creating and sharing high quality content across social networks, a new website can rank quickly and higher than ever before thanks to the sheer volume of traffic congregating on social media sites. Now you can find your audience (and they can find you!) far easier than in the past. And oh, did I mention that all these social networks are also free to join?
#3: Online Shopping Is Booming
Internet retail shows no signs of slowing down. According to a study by comScore, US shoppers spent more than $44 billion in the first quarter of 2012, almost equal pre-recession levels. What makes it all the more startling is the fact that this is the tenth consecutive quarter of positive year-on-year growth. So whilst overall economic recovery is painfully slow, e-retail appears to be taking off in the US, with a similar trend being reported in the UK.
As consumers and businesses become more and more comfortable with buying online, the range of products they’re prepared to purchase continues to broaden. Add to this the fact that mobile devices are becoming increasingly more sophisticated. For the first time customers can access their favorite websites on the go rather than waiting until they are at home or at the office sitting in front of a computer.
So it isn’t only about what you sell, but where you sell it. This transfer to purchasing online represents the biggest and most radical shift in consumer buying behaviour that we’ve ever seen. Don’t miss it. This is the road to freedom for the ordinary person as well as the established business.
Right now, savvy entrepreneurs are looking at ways to exploit the gaps that are appearing in such a rapidly expanding market. After all, if your customers are shopping online, shouldn’t you be there too?
What changes can you make to the way you do business? Have you recently shifted your venture online? What challenges and opportunities have you faced?