Pros and cons of starting an online business

To help you decide if your start-up should go the way of an online business - as opposed to a bricks-and-mortar store - here are five pros and cons of an e-business.

Pros

It's inexpensive to set up - All you need to pay for is an Internet connection, domain name, web hosting and website design.

It's quick to get your business off the ground - The advances in digital technology mean that you can set up your e-commerce store in as little as one day from anywhere, with an Internet connection.

It's easier to get web traffic than foot traffic - With some basic SEO and directory listings, you'll start seeing clicks. Unlike a physical store, you don't have to wait for customers to fall into your lap - you can proactively go out there and get them.

You're always open - Unlike a physical store, an e-commerce offering is open 24/7, which means you can get sales at any time of the day.

Worldwide presence - According to not-for-profit How to Start a Business, being online means you can service customers and collaborate with business partners all over the world, as well as sell your products to a vast range of people from all over the globe.

Cons

It's easy to get distracted - if you're working from home, it's all too easy to get distracted by household chores, Internet browsing unrelated to your business or general procrastination.

It's a competitive market - Every man and their dog seem to be "going online" these days, so it's important to identify a niche where your business stands out or risk getting inundated with competition.

You may run into technical problems - If your website crashes as a result of too many sales or a virus, your business is essentially un-operational, unlike a physical business where you can still process invoices on paper.

High SEO costs - While it's easier to attract customers online, the cost of SEO  may be more than you budgeted for and can rise up to tens of thousands of dollars, particularly if you want your listing to appear on Page 1 of Google's search engine results.

Reduced customer contact - Some customers still like to touch/feel and try on purchases in person, fearing that online buys won't fit or are unreturnable. Furthermore, you can't engage customers in a face-to-face conversation that may otherwise enable you to upsell to them or strengthen brand loyalty.

While going online is a great option for a startup with little capital and can present a range of opportunities, it requires just as much work as an offline business. It's important to have a business plan so that your tools and strategies are suited to your particular business and your customer's needs.

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