Lessons Learned From An E-Commerce Adventure

It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all; and even more important to learn from your mistakes.

That is what I keep telling myself after having invested the time and cash equivalent to a Harvard MBA in an e-commerce start-up that has stalled and is winding down. Not a happy prospect in light of all the media pre-occupation with e-commerce success stories and the young millionaires watching their IPOs rocket into cyberspace. But the headlines ignore the more frequent stories of new e-commerce businesses that do not hit the stock market jackpot. Many of them either settle into a low-key niche or exhaust their resources and fold.

This is the story of an Internet venture that did not make the headlines, but offers some useful insights for entrepreneurs evaluating their own initiatives. The lessons learned are applicable to your own new venture or to an investment in someone else’s.

In mid-1998 we launched a new company called nxtNet (www.nxtnet.com) with the slogan … “taking you to the next level on the Internet”.

My partner and I both had prior successful entrepreneurial experience in computer products and wanted to start a new venture together. We decided to develop a business that would catch the next wave of e-commerce services for mid-sized companies seeking to do business on the Internet. After long discussions, searches for a unique service offering, and many draft business plans, we developed a market strategy and then chose Intershop Communications as our software development platform. This product had the advantages of being suitable for single or multiple online storefronts, and offered a flexible, economic and comprehensive solution. We committed to the product, staffing, facilities and equipment to start training and development immediately. The two of us provided the time and cash required to get started.

By October 1998, we had an initial product with application as an online storefront for an associated computer business. At the same time, we realized that the application had wide appeal to other computer dealers and could be sold as a multi-user database service and e-commerce resource. We had developed a consolidated catalogue of 85,000 computer products from multiple distributor product databases that allowed rapid search and comparison for product information, pricing, and current sources. Users could access the catalogue from the Internet and find a product by manufacturer, category, and part number, key word or price range and immediately see the alternate sources and prices with links to more technical information, preferred dealer pricing and actual stock levels. Additional features allowed the catalogue to be customized so that any computer reseller could present the database as his own online storefront. This option offered all the search and product information features to his customers, but showed only retail pricing and enabled the online ordering process.

The product offering quickly received positive feedback and strong indications of support from all the participants – resellers, distributors, and manufacturers. It was a comprehensive, powerful, and effective tool for buying and selling at all levels within the Canadian computer distribution channel. Resellers recognized the value in an online resource to save time and effort. Distributors and manufacturers saw the opportunity to promote their products, and major publishers in the industry wanted to offer complementary online services to their subscribers and advertisers. How could we fail with all this enthusiasm and support?

While the potential for success clearly existed, everybody had the same questions and reservations – “Who is there now?” “How many are using it?” and “I don’t want to pay until it’s bigger”.

Reasonable objections we thought, so we added features and content for free. We promoted the product with free trials and low cost subscriptions for reseller access. Then we coaxed, persuaded, sold hard, and made deals. The “contra” became the standard for obtaining press coverage, free ads, mailing lists and promotion in exchange for free participation and future consideration. Activity on the Web site and catalogue grew to 3000 visitors per month with over 800 subscribers and the distributor list increased from three to twelve.

But revenue remained near zero as most reseller subscribers declined to pay for the service. Reasons were “it should be free – let the advertisers pay”, “I don’t use it enough”, “there are lower cost options”, or “we built our own solution”. The audience did not grow fast enough even after we offered it for free, to satisfy the advertisers and content providers. Without persistent and conspicuous sales and marketing efforts, all the participants quickly lost interest. Meanwhile the costs of database maintenance, ongoing development, site hosting, Internet access, sales, marketing, and administration were increasing.

Clearly the old entrepreneurial model of controlling costs and growing revenue was not going to apply. We had to realign our profile to show how zero revenue and high initial costs could still lead to significant investment returns like other well-known Internet ventures. So from early 1999 we started an aggressive search for financing, estimating our requirements at $500,000 to $1,500,000 over the next two years before achieving positive cash flow. More business plans, spreadsheets, and glossy presentations to demonstrate future valuations up to $20 million, even $40 million.

We knocked on many doors, from banks to government agencies, from angel investors to venture capital, from stock promoters to business consultants, and again received lots of encouragement, but no financing. So the founding partners were faced with a continuing cash drain, no relief in sight, and the limits of their own resources rapidly approaching. It was time to put the project on hold. Strategic partners or investors might still be developed to proceed with the project, but the ongoing expenditures were stopped in late 1999.

So what are the lessons learned? We already knew that nothing ventured, nothing gained. We now also knew that big successes in the new economy require big investments. Entrepreneurs may start small, but large investments will be required from new sources to achieve significant success. And no one will put significant money into a venture unless it is the only remaining requirement.

The concept, product, development, marketing and staffing all have to be in place before an investor will provide the final ingredient – his cash. Exceptions are likely only where the management team has already succeeded in the same arena, or the investor himself can deliver the missing elements, such as customers or management skills. No investor is going to take the chance that the entrepreneur with a good concept or product will also be able to deliver the required management and marketing skills to succeed, after he has the cash.

Next time we will know better. And there are side benefits from this expensive learning experience. I can now admit that with the knowledge gained through our association with Intershop Communications, I was confident enough to make an investment in their stock on the German Neue Markt at 65 Euros last year. It went over 400 Euros last month and is still rising with their rapid growth and the prospect of a NASDAQ listing this year. Almost enough to recover my investment in nxtNet.

So the most important lesson is that education in the new economy is essential, and not free, but it can lead to success outside the original plan. Learn, be aware, and be aggressively opportunistic.

Facebook Advertising Best Practices

The popularity of Facebook, with it's almost half a billion active users, and the time that its individual users spend on this site (estimated to be almost an hour), has made Facebook marketing the next big thing in online advertising. You can expand your customer base and probably even have an opportunity to reach out to others which are new to your niche.

Facebook fan pages are effective vehicles to have your message throughout to lots of viewers and increase your web presence. You can even create a separate Facebook account for your business, separate from your personal account and have a separate fan page for this account.

A good practice in advertising on Facebook is to identify what your goal is with this ad campaign. If you aim to get highly targeted traffic to your site you can have the pay per click as an option, but if you want to promote more of your brand, then it would be better for paying per impression because it can display a well created and Interesting image ad.

A good practice also, is to keep your content pages fresh and regularly updated frequently so that viewers will be interested and be motivated to come back on a regular basis. Adding and sharing content can give extra mileage for your Facebook page.

Facebook fans new or old should be encouraged to participate in your fan page. By keeping your page regularly updated, you can encourage them to interact and share information since this can give them opportunities to get information that they have not encountered before and even share it to other people.

By keeping your visitors involved all the way when they are in your page can be good for your Facebook marketing efforts. Sending your visitors to your interesting landing pages can make them more familiar with your products as well as being acquainted with your pages.

For the ads that you placed in Facebook also, you have to make these clear with concise and direct texts that will be understood to your targeted clients. You have to make sure that your products will stand out when placed side by side with competition by highlighting unique features that can clearly benefit customers.

Making ads on Facebook that have strong and unique call-to-action phrases can make your ads different from all the others. These strong and compelling words can make them go to your landing page by making a click on your ads.

An attractive and interesting image ad that is relevant and appropriate for your products or services is also a good advertising practice in Facebook. Remember that your ad is specifically aimed at getting the viewers attention and these people may not be interested in your product in the first place, so you have to make ads that can really attract customers' attention.

How E-Commerce Can Increase You Revenue

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) 10 years back found it hard & highly costing to work Globally. But nowadays Internet has made things much easier, from Small shops to large enterprises are now doing online business internationally and available 24/7 for anyone in the world.

E-commerce Websites are cost effective and its staff reducing, Where online strategies that can deliver much greater returns on a limited budget with affordable and efficient website solutions.

While it is impossible to know how many people actually see print advertising, online advertisers can track precisely how many see each and every ad and how many website visits it generates, enabling businesses to attract the highest

volume of targeted traffic, at the lowest possible cost. Whatever the visitor action – making a purchase, signing

up for a newsletter, downloading a report, conversions are the key to measuring Return On Investment.

With e-commerce you will get the opportunity to build your All-Time-Open-Shop and offer all services & products online which can be purchased with a click of a mouse.

Professional web site design is critical for success in the modern Internet Business World. Offering an attractive, intuitive interface with a logical and easy to use navigation layout will make the difference between a happy visitor (and potential client) and a frustrated web surfer at your website.

Your website is an integral part of your image, identification and communication strategy. Successful web communication comes from grabbing your visitors’ attention and providing a website that is comfortable to use. your web site should do both-innovative design captures the eye and is followed by a familiar and easy to navigate path.

A well-designed website is a mission-critical investment in

o enhancing brand image

o building consumer confidence

o increasing willingness to buy

From overall Website design and architecture, the simple things like clear contact information and telephone numbers, testimonials and case studies. Customers want to find what they’re looking for.

Setting up all requirements to accept payments online and automating all the processes, its all depends on reliable Web Development & Web Hosting solutions to ensure the best performance of your e-business.

Your E-commerce business can have its own online customer service solutions to meet your customers satisfaction like:

o Complaints Management System

o Live Chat Support System

o Trouble ticket System

o Online Billing System

Law Of Attraction, Quantum Consciousness – Direction To Your True Potential

See how easy it is to forgive? This ego-based interaction inside us will always be a part of us to deal with, for as long as we are here on Earth occupying a body. This is okay too, as long as you know which aspect of you is really in charge of your true potential.

I did not realize my true potential at the time, but later would discover that quantum consciousness and the law of attraction are interconnected like we are. The deeper I would dive into accepting everyday miracles in my life, a part of me had long ago already decided to begin unlocking my true potential in union with the quantum consciousness of non-judgment.

I mean that our true potential is the part in all of us that knows what we want, instead of wishful thinking, and also that is true and real aspect in us – the law of attraction, that completes our real vision.

Bringing out your best

It is also the part of you that knows you've not been truly honest with yourself, instead of only believing so. This is okay, because our attitudes are ego-based and are conflicting. If you can overlook this by looking beyond this ego interference, you have then forgiven yourself and are free to unleash your true potential.

By cooperating without my ego-based mind in particular efforts, I was seeing myself as both harmless and helpful to the world, which are attributes of the law of attraction that must work together and sensing true potential. The effort was actually effortless.

Forgiving Grace

The mission of quantum consciousness, which is one – as in "whole" universal intellect, involves the law of attraction, understanding how like contracts like because we are whole, and recognizing automatically when the ego tries to enact its antics for separation.

Miracles show us to the extent which you value suspect, to that amount you will perceive a world in which attack is justified.

This can be achieved by being patient, and knowing that the ego is only trying to prove that it has a reality. Be kind and do not attack yourself by telling yourself that you know better. This knowledge in you is what is called Forgiving Grace.

Reaching true potential

As your consciousness becomes aware of itself and your true potential it will realize this abundance, which you know to be the truth in every aspect of who you are. By refusing to know yourself, panic sets in as you frantically seek for a substitute.

You can only be truly charitable if you have a never-ending and real sense of abundance. You are full and abundant and whole, because you have a willingness to look beyond beliefs.

The ego in us can not understand what being whole means and certainly has a difficult time with the law of attraction, and is why the ego never has a true potential. When it attempts corruption, you can learn very simply to put the illusions of the ego in its place with your real self.

When we know there's a better way

This would be the ego; And terror pursues you when you realize you can never replace the eternal, and fear seizes you when you experience the guilt for trying to replace what is forever your true colors.

This is a nothing idea. The falsities you live by stem from this one unreal thought.

It is a false idea that makes more unreal thoughts. Surely an illusion is the thought that your true potential relies on your body.

You will know there's a better way when you realize it's the light in you that shines regardless of any ego-based cloud cover. True potential is in Oneness, not separation.

To reaching your true potential