3 Ecommerce Myths You Should Know Before Starting an Online Business

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneurs are their own.

I co-founded an e-commerce site for women-owned businesses in the spring of 2020. Like most people, I saw daily news stories about how the pandemic disproportionately affected women. Women were leaving or losing their jobs as schools and businesses closed and the world switched to online shopping. I knew I had to be proactive and there had to be a place for women to start, focus or grow their businesses through e-commerce.

  • “I can start my e-commerce business for $19.00 a month and start selling right away.”
  • “People will find my website and start buying my products as soon as it launches.”
  • “Starting your own e-commerce site will bring you immediate income.”

Like many others, I believed these quotes and started my business online. As I looked deeper and learned the reality of starting an online business, I felt I had to share what I learned. I want to save entrepreneurs who are focused on building and running their businesses from making costly mistakes. Claims of easy, cost-effective and immediate sales do not reflect reality. Starting and maintaining an e-commerce business is complex, expensive and time-consuming.

After nearly three years, here’s what I learned.

Myth #1: I can start my eCommerce business for $19.00 a month and start selling right away

Many e-commerce services make it simple and easy to set up and maintain your online store. Upfront fees for these services can be very low, ranging from $0 to $10 per month. But once you add web hosting, pay for your domain name, make sure your site (and your customer data) is secure, buy or upgrade your store theme, choose a payment gateway to process credit cards, and any optional extensions. to improve your site’s appearance and shoppability, then add extensions to improve discovery through search engine optimization (SEO), all for an average of $600 to $5,000 per year. And that doesn’t even include a penny of marketing.

Related: Thinking of starting an online business? 2023 is the right time to do it. Here’s why.

Myth #2: People will find my website and buy my products when I launch my online store

I hear this a lot from new entrepreneurs, and it makes a lot of sense. We are ALWAYS online and connected. There’s a constant stream of buying opportunities, so it seems like it’s just a matter of getting your products in front of people to buy. In e-commerce terms, this is “driving traffic” and driving traffic can be expensive, time-consuming and prohibitively expensive. But how else will customers find you?

If you have a large social media following, you can tell your community that you sell products and that they should check it out. But if you’re growing your social media presence alongside your business, you’ll probably need to buy ads on those social platforms to get found. This is expensive and time consuming and has no guaranteed results. I know of big name brands that spend tens of thousands of dollars per month to drive website traffic.

Breaking through the noise of internet advertising to drive customers to your site is probably the most difficult part of e-commerce. For small businesses, the cost of social media or other online advertising is prohibitive. Building a following takes time and money. Most entrepreneurs don’t have this time to spend while trying to produce the product or service at the heart of their business.

Related: 12 Great Tips From Ecommerce Experts

Myth #3: Launching your e-commerce website will bring you immediate income

If only it were so. It sounds pretty simple, but check out Myths 1 and 2. You are in business because you are passionate about the product or service you provide and you are good at it. Taking the focus away from your core business is risky, and learning to master e-commerce can be a steep learning curve. The time you spend learning SEO, placing search engine ads, creating digital marketing assets, and troubleshooting that miracle app you bought from an online store is time you’re not focusing on your core business.

Online is increasingly how consumers shop, and it’s crowded. Breaking through the noise online isn’t quick, easy, or cheap. Small businesses need to find community and resources to support your transition to e-commerce or online growth. There are several sales channels and marketplaces that can be a great starting place. You pay commissions on sales, membership and advertising fees and become part of a larger organization that offers an online structure, domain, security, payment gateway and marketing support and opportunities to promote or be exposed to a larger audience.

Related: 5 Things to Know Before Starting an Ecommerce Business

Each channel or market has nuances, and it’s critical that you look at all the details to make sure you’re getting the best match for your product, budget, time and brand. Driving customers to your product can be very costly in terms of time, money and margins. More on that.

The bottom line is, yes, technically, you can start a website that uses online tools for about $20.00 a month. But sell your products or services on your website, find customers outside of your immediate network, and grow your business. This requires an investment of study, time and money. As a business owner, it’s your job to do your research before deciding what, when, and how is the best channel to grow your brand online.

No one understands better than an entrepreneur that nothing in business is simple, cheap and “overnight”. Despite the hype, this can be doubly true for e-commerce. So again, do your homework, research and make sure your business is ready for the challenges of e-commerce.

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