Tag Archives: primer

E-Commerce – A Real Business

So. you want to run an e-commerce store eh? Well, if you do you should start thinking about the various parts of the business you will have and how you wish to handle them.  Specifically:

  • Web Development / IT
  • Hosting
  • Administration
  • Accounting & Bookeeping
  • Legal
  • Human Resources
  • Stock
  • Shipping
  • Customer Service & Sales
  • Marketing
  • Purchasing

We’ll talk about each of these factors one by one, but you’ll want to think about how you want to handle each of these areas if you have an e-commerce business.

Designing Advertising – A Primer

So, you’re a small business and are looking to create your first advertisement.  Perhaps you are doing it in-house, perhaps you are hiring someone.  Either way, you should know the basics – otherwise, how do you evaluate what is provided to you is good?

The Medium is the Message

You probably have heard this before, and it’s worth remembering.  How you reach an audience (the medium) will dictate not just the design of your advertisement but its focus.  A print advertisement does not always translate well to internet advertising; nor does a TV advertisement translate to radio.

Decide on the medium used, then work on the advertisement.

The Design

A visually dominated advertisement

When working on the advertisement, decide which will dominate:

  • the copy
  • the visual

You can create an advertisement that has one or the other that dominates, but if both the visual and the copy dominate the advertisement, you war with your own design and nothing sticks.

Oh, I know the Oglivy often has both the copy and visual the same size, but it’s worth noting how few of those advertisements you see these days.  They just aren’t as popular because they aren’t as effective anymore.

The Appeal

A copy driven advertisement

Great.  You have a good design concept – now what? Well, now you need to decide on the appeal.

What appeal you use is really dependent on your audience and your medium.   If you don’t understand your audience (and where in their buying cycle you are targeting in that audience); you won’t understand what appeal will work.  Getting the appeal right is important.

The Follow Up

Great.  You have a design and an appeal, what else do you need? Well, a way for your customer to get more information is generally a good idea (the follow up).  Whether it’s as simple as your logo (doable if you have a LOT of brand recognition like Nike) or more detailed website and telephone numbers, you have to make sure your customer knows who created the advertisement and how to get more information.

This is when you start thinking as well as follow-through on other advertisements – do you have a design that flows from banner to website to print advertisement? You should have something linking it all together so that a customer seeing each separately with no context can say ‘oh, that’s X company’.  It can be as subtle as a swoosh or as detailed as specific logo colours and placement, but it needs to be there.

Lastly, start working on metrics – how to track the results of your advertisement.  If you aren’t thinking about this – then how do you know if what you did worked?


E-Commerce Business: A Location Primer

E-commerce sales continue to grow at an outstanding rate.  In 2013 e-commerce grew by 13% in the US and is expected to continue to outpace growth in traditional retail.  However, running an e-commerce site successfully can be a difficult proposition.  Perhaps one of the first questions an entrepreneur needs to answer when starting e-commerce is how and where he will sell – his location in marketing parlance.  This primer attempts to answer that question.

There are basically 3 major ways to sell online:

1) Electronic Marketplaces

In electronic marketplaces, the entrepreneur lists his products on a 3rd party website.  Well known examples include eBay, etsy and the Amazon Marketplace.  Electronic Marketplaces generally generate revenue by charging stores a listing fee and/or a final sale fee.  Listings generally expire, forcing sellers to relist constantly.


  • Extremely fast to set-up
  • You can test the waters for many different types of products for very low cost
  • The larger marketplaces already have a customer-base, decreasing need to market to attract purchasers


  • Extremely difficult to build a brand
  • Customers are incentivized by the electronic markets to visit other sites
  • Often, price is the only method to compete on, forcing low margins
  • Entrepreneurs are at the mercy of changes to the Terms of Service of the markets

2) Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Shopping Carts

SaaS Carts are a middle-ground where sellers can get the full functionality of a hosted online store; but require much less in-house IT knowledge. Many of these carts provide drop and drag professionally designed themes, fully integrated payment gateways and slick marketing and cross-selling features.    Yahoo! Merchant  is probably the best example of this type of software.


  • Easy to brand website and business
  • Customer database is yours to analyse & market
  • Decent pricing, often starting as low as $15 a month


  • No control over hosting or gateway,  so service wide lockouts can affect your site
  • Regular monthly cost which can rise significantly as volume increases
  • Entrepreneur’s are ‘locked’ into the updates of the service chosen
  • No existing visitors like an e-marketplace, so customers must be developed internally

3) Hosted Shopping Carts

Hosted shopping carts run on the entrepreneurs own web server, and as such are completely owned and managed by the entrepreneur.  In such an environment, the entrepreneur manages the design and code issues directly.  For those who don’t have the background in IT, a good developer is invaluable.  A site like Fortress Geek is hosted on Magento, an open source hosted shopping cart.


  • Highest amount of flexibility for design and branding
  • The easiest to scale as the business grows
  • Can be the cheapest method at scale


  • Can be very expensive
  • Requires the entrepreneur to understand basic code and/or managing 3rd party developers
  • Bugs, security flaws and exploits all must be dealt with in-house
  • Costs can come in waves (developer fees) which can be harder to budget