Startup Advice for the Online Retailer

No matter what the industry, the startup business manager has a long list of issues, task, and goals (both short and long-term) to keep in mind. It can make for a daunting job. With a small budget and likely with no sales teams, legal consuls, or contract management systems at his disposal, the manager must work to hire talent, raise capital, and turn an idea into a product or service.

This is no less true in the world of online retail. Recently, I spoke with a colleague who is starting an online sports apparel business. His business plans to manufacture clothing items and then sell them through retail outlets and online. During our conversation, he spoke about some of the issues specific to online retail that he has experienced in the early going. I asked him, based on those issues, to provide a few pieces of advice for online retailers out there. Here’s what he said:

Incentivize Manufacturers

When trying to find a manufacturer for his product my colleague found that there are numerous factories looking for business but only a few capable of producing a high-quality product according to specifications. This number only decreased further when the factory was told that the startup was primarily focused on online retail. As a small company with no physical presence, my colleague’s business had little leverage when dealing with unmotivated factories. His solution? Pay for the prototype and communicate in person, if possible. Promise business if very certain specifications are met.

Geography Matters

An online retailer has the ability to easily sell products across the country and around the world. But this is not to say that geographic considerations are unimportant during the startup phase. Rather, while it does not matter your location from a consumer standpoint, you are best suited to base your operations in a place where shipping is easier and less costly, and where relevant industries or sources of financing are nearby. My colleague decided to establish his business in an East Coast city but soon afterwards decided that a Midwestern location would have been more ideal.

Get Your Site Up

Even if you haven’t yet launched a product and are still negotiating with manufacturers or with supplies, it is essential to have a website up and running in the early going. You’re an online retailer, after all, and even if there’s no product there should still be a site available for anyone who is interested. My colleague noted that he received much greater interest from investors once his business’ website was running and fully functional. Getting your website up quickly can also make it easier to jump-start SEO practices and online marketing campaigns.

Hopefully these tips can help any startups out there navigate the tricky early stages of business. While starting a new business can always make for a stressful period of time, the opportunity also offers countless possibilities for creating and spurring future growth. If handled correctly, the stumbling blocks of today may translate into the rewards of the future.

Comment on “Startup Advice for the Online Retailer”

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