You may already have an idea that will form the foundation onto which you will build your new E-commerce business. If not, you can still research the current market trends on the Internet and see which sectors are growing and which goods and/or services are selling. Electronic commerce is the fastest growing commercial space at the moment. If you can find even a niche for your online business, you will be able to set-up and operate a very lucrative business.
Researching a Business Idea
If you have an idea for your E-commerce business you must take the time to research the market your internet business will be selling to. You can then use this information to decide if your perceived market is actually in existence and if it is large enough to support your electronic commerce business. You can use a number of resources to complete your market research including:
The world’s search engines are your first port of call. Use detailed searches to look for any businesses that sell similar service or goods to the ones your E-commerce website will market. This will tell you not only how large the market is (that is how many other business trade in this sector), but you will also get a good idea of the price point for the goods or services you will sell via the Internet.
Marketing and government agencies publish thousands of pages of research every year on a plethora of sectors and topics. Many of these reports from commercial organisations can be very expensive, but they could give you an invaluable insight into the market you want to reach with your E-commerce site.
Local and National Libraries
Often forgotten, specialist libraries across the UK can offer you a fertile resource to carry out your research to identify a new business opportunity. Use the highly trained staff in these institutions as they can often save you hours of searching for the information you are looking for.
If you can’t locate any published research to support your idea for a new Internet business, you could commission a market research agency to complete the research for you. Look closely at the services they offer, and be very clear in the contract that you sign what costs are involved.
The main thing to watch out for is if they will only generate the raw data for you, but won’t analyse and interpret their results – preferring to hand this to another agency, which of course you will have to pay for. However, if your E-commerce idea has a technology component you may be able to get Government help researching your new product and electronic commerce business it will support. Contact BERR and your local Business Link for further information.
Protecting Your Business
When you have identified what you think could be a lucrative E-commerce idea, you must protect this idea from other businesses. This will also protect your online sales. You will need to discuss your electronic business idea with a wide-range of people and other enterprises. It’s a good idea to get these people and organisations to sign a non-disclosure agreement to stop them revealing any details about your proposed E-commerce business.
You should also protect any documentation relating to your E-commerce business with the copyright (©) icon and if your E-commerce business is built on an invention, you should patent this as soon as you can via the UK Intellectual Property Office’s website.
Import Your Business
One tried and tested way of identifying new goods to sell is to look at overseas markets. Many of the unique E-commerce business you see on the Internet today saw a product or service abroad and bought this to the UK. Look at directories that list goods for import and use the expertise of organisations like Business Link and UK Trade & Investment. They can help you identify opportunities.
E-commerce Business Checklist
Once you think you have identified a business opportunity that could lend itself to electronic commerce, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is any other business selling an identical or similar product online?
- Can the goods or service be easily sold via the Internet?
- Is the price you need to charge to make a profit competitive in the market?
- If your goods or services are unique, can you protect them with patents?
- As the Internet is global, can you sell your goods or services to overseas markets?
E-commerce seems like an easy business format to adopt, but the fact is you still need to apply age old business practices to your electronic business. The Internet may give you a fast way of reaching your customers, but you still need to think about delivery, returns, payment options, and costs just like any other business. Take your time to evaluate your idea for a new E-commerce business. This time will enable you to look closely at every aspect of your proposed Internet business before you commit substantial amounts of money to your new enterprise.