In 1994, legend has it, a young man wrote the business plan for an online book store while his wife drove on a journey from New York to Seattle, USA. Today, that man is worth billion of dollars and the company he founded is called Amazon. I am not about to promise you that starting an online store will make you a zillionaire. But if you have the entrepreneurial itch and the determination to succeed, you too can start an institution that will endure. Especially in Nigeria where we have the buying population and ecommerce is still at its infancy, there is a world of opportunity waiting to be tapped.
Starting an ecommerce store requires having an online presence with a website that has a product catalogue, a shopping cart facility, a database for collecting and maintaining customer information as well as access to payment gateways. A typical ecommerce application is made up of millions of lines of programming code. Luckily for us now (unlike in 1994 when Steve Jobs started), there are applications that can be customised to meet the specific needs of your store. There are also multiple options of payment gateways to choose from in Nigeria, from the expensive (Interswitch, MasterCard or Visa) to the affordable (Virtual Terminal Network). With regards to the technical skills required to manage a ecommerce website, I assure that if you can surf the web and navigate to this blog with a mouse, that will do. Most modern ecommerce setups are user friendly, made for the business man that is not necessarily a geek.
The key success factor however is what you do before and after you get you ecommerce website. One word captures that activity: marketing. It will help a lot if the product or service you are offering online is targeted at a customer focused need, that adds convenience to your value proposition and still maintain a cost advantage. In simple English, you must sell better products at a cheaper price because there is no option for bargaining online, unlike what you would have in the local market. And you should also target a niche that has less competition to have the first mover advantage.
After you website is on and running, you need a low cost effective strategy that will enable you grow your clientele while operating within the rules of online marketing. Selling online gives thinking outside the box a whole new meaning. If you don’t have a bottomless war chest of cash to throw at the wind, you need to have the knowhow to develop strategies that will win customers one person at a time. Some of you were born with it; the rest of us have to learn.