Founder of FinancialWellnessMD, BioWise Capital, and Smart Block Capital.
As a result of the coronavirus and more people staying at home, the reality is that the vast majority of businesses now must now be able to operate online. While this might be painful for those who have long delayed this essential transition, I believe embracing e-commerce has the potential to lead them into their best years yet.
The New Economy
We are in a new era of work, business, daily life and investing. Stores around the world had to close their doors — and some are even re-closing those doors after reopening temporarily. Meanwhile, Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos is predicted to become a trillionaire by 2026. Videoconferencing software Zoom, which has also been a major beneficiary of this new era, saw its revenues grow 169% in just the first three months of 2020.
This shows me that the future of business — ranging from retail to medicine to real estate to food — is online. Even the few who retain some local presence I believe could see much of their income coming from the internet.
So, how can business owners not only adapt but also succeed in e-commerce? This is actually something I’ve personally been navigating since I was in medical school. Before becoming an anesthesiologist, author, biotech investor and Dallas-area real estate developer, I used Amazon to fund my college tuition. Back then, few of today’s tools existed, and online shopping wasn’t nearly as popular. Yet, as I shared at a recent virtual conference for physicians, I was still earning an extra $2,000 to $5,000 per month from my offerings on site.
These were insights I took with me when building my other businesses and as demand for my financial consulting grew among medical professionals and other business owners. Even prior to 2016, I was working with remote teams.
These experiences helped me learn a few strategies for moving your business online successfully. You can always consult with an expert or hire outside help to do the work for you, but if you’re looking to build an e-commerce presence for your company on your own, I have a few tips:
1. Adopt proven tools with broad integrations.
Trying to implement new technology can be confusing; there are many choices of software to consider, whether you’re building a new website or looking to improve virtual communication with your team. But I’ve found that sometimes, newer tools may still have undiscovered security flaws, or they just don’t work well with other tools you’ll be using.
This is why I recommend choosing proven tools with integrations that will help streamline your business. For example, your website should seamlessly integrate with your email software, customer relationship management system and phone solution.
2. Keep it simple.
Starting to sell online can get complicated fast if you are not careful. You’ll be pitched many complex ideas for marketing and building a store. Keep it simple. Get the basics of what you need for functionality, and scale as it brings in new income. Consider using a cloud-based team collaboration and project management tool to keep on top of everything that is happening. Wrike, Google Drive and Trello are all options that work.
3. Consider liquidating unnecessary physical assets.
From my perspective, physical assets could start to devalue quickly if demand for them drops. This could cover commercial real estate space, printers, computer hardware and more. Consider unloading it and using the cash to fund your move online.
4. Leverage existing platforms.
It can be tempting to try to reinvent the wheel. That is the longer, harder and more expensive path. To build an audience, brand and demand online from scratch takes time and money — often to the extent that it is a luxury many business owners don’t have if they need to reignite revenue quickly. I believe a solution for this is to use existing platforms that have already invested significant funding into building the infrastructure and customer base. Walmart.com and Amazon are two obvious examples of this.
Other Ways To Benefit From The New Digital World Of Commerce
For many professionals, leveraging the huge growth and “new normal” of e-commerce doesn’t have to be about either choosing their main brick-and-mortar business or going online. The two can work together. Perhaps you can simply leverage e-commerce as an additional income stream. Or, perhaps you’ll use it as a new form of investment that benefits from this surge in online shopping and can drive in cash flow and attractive returns to offset weakness elsewhere in your personal investment portfolio.