In spite of the failure of many high-profile dot-com companies in the early 2000s, many online businesses have continued to survive and thrive. These “etailers” have adapted to the constantly changing technology, economic climate, business trends, and consumer demands, instead of concentrating on fast growth and offering the lowest prices.
Reports by research firm Jupiter Communications show that consumers are using Internet stores to do comparison shopping; a significant number of consumer research products online before buying them at traditional stores. Jupiter Communications predicts that the amount spent by consumers for online purchases and Web-influenced purchases at traditional stores will top $831 billion in 2005.
Because of the vastness of the Internet, the role of an Internet store manager or entrepreneur can vary as much as the numerous websites on the Internet. Expert opinion on what makes one website or one business more successful than another differs, too. E-commerce is a new and relatively unexplored field for entrepreneurs. But, because most entrepreneurs have innovative and creative natures, this uncertainty and uncharted territory is what they love.
Like traditional entrepreneurs, Internet entrepreneurs must have strong business skills. They come up with ideas for an Internet product or service, research the feasibility of selling this product or service, decide what they need to charge to make a profit, determine how to advertise their business, and even arrange for financing for their business if necessary. In addition, Internet entrepreneurs are typically computer savvy and may even create and maintain their own sites.
Some entrepreneurs may choose to market a service, such as website design, to target the business-to-business market. Other Internet entrepreneurs may decide to market a service, such as computer dating, to target the individual consumer market. Still others may develop a “virtual store” on the Internet and sell products that target businesses or individual consumers.
Internet stores vary in size, items for sale, and the range of products. Smaller Internet stores, for example, may market the work done by a single craftsperson or businessperson. Many large Internet stores focus on selling a specific product or line of products. As some of these stores have grown they have diversified their merchandise. Amazon.com is one such example. Originally a small, online bookstore, the company now sells music, videos, household items, and electronic products, in addition to books. Other Internet stores, such as those of Eddie Bauer and Sears, may be extensions of catalog or traditional brick-and-mortar stores. These large companies are generally so well established that they can employ Internet store managers to oversee the virtual store.
Many Internet businesses begin small, with one person working as the owner, manager, webmaster, marketing director, and accountant, among other positions. Those who want to start their own businesses on the Web must be very focused and self-motivated. Just like any other entrepreneur, they always need to keep an eye on the competition to see what products and services as well as prices and delivery times others offer. While Internet entrepreneurs do not need to be computer whizzes, they should enjoy learning about technology so that they can keep up with new developments that may help them with their businesses. Internet entrepreneurs must also be decision makers, and many are drawn to running their own businesses because of the control it offers.
The typical day of the Internet store manager or entrepreneur will depend greatly on the company he or she works for. Someone who works for a large company that also has a Web store, for example, may meet with company department heads to find out about upcoming sales or products that should be heavily advertised on the website. They may do research about the store use and report their findings to company managers. They may work on the site itself, updating it with new information.
The Internet entrepreneur also has varied responsibilities that depend on his or her business. No two projects and no two days are alike. An entrepreneur may spend one day working with a client to determine the client’s needs and the next day working on bookkeeping and advertising in addition to working on a project. Most entrepreneurs, however, enjoy this variety and flexibility.
While the Internet world is appealing to many, there are risks for those who start their own businesses. The Internet changes so rapidly that in five years it may be entirely different. Despite uncertainties, however, Web stores continue to open and the number of Internet store managers and entrepreneurs continues to grow.