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Developing new ways to do business online

Most of your customers will probably use the internet in some form to either research buying decisions or make a purchase. It’s also likely there is at least one competitor who is offering a new way of buying or trading which customers prefer.

As a new business if you’re considering shifting more of your business online to diversify revenue or to adjust to the way customers want to buy, we have a number of business online trends for you to consider.

The growth of online marketplaces

An online marketplace is where a third party sets up the trading platform, so a business no longer needs its own exclusive channel to market or find customers. Good examples are Amazon and or specialist sites like Artfinder (selling art).

These marketplaces do usually take a fee on transactions, but the benefits include low set up costs, easy product listings, access to their customers and payment procedures set up for you. Listing inside these marketplaces can also give you access to a whole new range of customers, while assessing demand and feedback of your new business.

Investigate any relevant marketplaces to decide if it’s worth trying this as another channel to complement your existing selling tactics.

New ways of selling

It wasn’t very long ago when the only way of buying something involved you meeting or talking to someone. The internet and online banking changed the playing field with online buying and selling, but there are even newer ways of selling such as:

  • Drop shipping; selling the product while another business holds the inventory and ships
  • Crowdsourcing; asking for donations from the public
  • Affiliates; receiving commission by recommending other products
  • Brokerage; connecting buyers and sellers (like real estate agents)
  • Renting short-term; paying for a scooter for 10 minutes
  • On-demand; delivering only when ordered such as printing and books
  • Resource sharing (Uber, Airbnb); using the public to rent direct to end users.

This list isn’t exhaustive and new ideas will come along all the time. Is there a new way of selling or distributing that you could adopt?

The use of subscription models

Paying a monthly fee in exchange for continually updated products or services is relatively new, but has spread to include a huge range of services. Netflix, Neon, Disney, Apple are good media examples. Almost every mobile app you can imagine uses the same model of accepting recurring monthly revenue, in exchange for the full use of the product from day one.

You don’t however need to be a tech company to have customers pay a monthly fee. Some businesses have customers paying a monthly retainer (accounting businesses are starting to do this), while others provide monthly delivery for a regular payment.

What can you sell or provide where customers pay you monthly? If you can find a way to set this up, it’s a perfect way to generate on-going revenue.

The power of freemium

Platform models like social media (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, SnapChat) and search engines (Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go) offer their business for users at no cost, who then post, blog, discuss and participate. The traffic generated is monetized, usually from online advertising.

Online media and gaming sites use this same model to provide a certain amount of gaming or information for free, with upgrade options to purchase inside the product.

You too may be able to deliver parts of your business for free while creating alternate revenue streams, though your ‘giveaway’ doesn’t need to be product. It could be valuable content, information or services as a lead generating opportunity.

How do you choose?

One of the problematic issues of the online world is keeping on top of all the changes. Even well-known tech entrepreneurs get surprised by new developments. To help find out what’s happening:

  • Stay informed on new business apps relevant to your industry
  • Adopt new software and channels as early as you can
  • Use social media to uncover trends
  • Look at competitors or similar businesses overseas to spot new ideas
  • Network with your peers across different sectors
  • Keep close to your customers and how they buy.

As you start your business journey, continually review how your customers seek information, buy, trade or engage with the industry. It’s possible that how you deliver online will become as important a competitive advantage as what you actually do.