As with any other website or system, when designing a B2B eCommerce system you have to keep the customer in mind. In the case of B2B eCommerce, the system that is being built is more of a business application than just a storefront. The users of a B2B eCommerce site are purchasing on behalf of their company or their customer. Their decision making process is less emotional and more practical. You must design and build a site to meet the business needs of your customer. These are things to keep in mind when designing and building your B2B eCommerce system.
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Now is the best time in history to start a web-based businesses. Whether you are interested in launching an eCommerce store, a SaaS application, a Podcast, a profit generating blog or you want to build a web-based service business, the best time to get started is right now.
Some would argue that the best time was 6 years ago, or 10 years ago. That argument has two flaws.
- The technology and the audience has never been more ready for your web-based business
- You don’t have the option to go back ten years. So get started!
Actually, there is good reason to believe that startup opportunities are diminishing and ten years ago was a better time. Venture Capital firms are tightening their budgets, their are major players dominating the web-based technology industry and frankly the majority of technology challenges now have solutions. Of course, not everything has a solution. Self-driving cars, Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, space exploration – each of these industries currently needs innovators, but many of the challenges related to the beginning of the technological revolution (file sharing, mobile data transfer, search, content management systems, online payments, etc) have been solved.
That’s not what I’m talking about in this article. I’m not telling you that now is the best time to start building self-driving cars. If you’re into that, go for it. But I’m not talking about building the next billion dollar business. I’m talking about building a web-based business that can help you make large sums of money so that you and your family can live the kind of lifestyle you want to live. There’s never been a better time in history to build a small web-based business that brings in enough money for you to live a great lifestyle. Millions of people are doing it already. Here are 5 reasons that support this argument.
Note: There are a lot of links included in the content. To make it easy I’ve re-listed all the links at the bottom of the article in a Resources section.
1. Technology for building a web-based business has never been easier
It’s never been easier to launch a website, build an eCommerce store, start a podcast or build any other type of web-based business. The tools and services are more easily accessible and cheaper than ever. I’m confident that a person with little to no skills in coding or building websites could, on their own, build a web property with web-based tutorials and services like Shopify or WordPress (on Pantheon or Bluehost) in a month or less. Personally, I’ve worked with many content management systems (CMS) and eCommerce platforms and I can’t believe how easy it is to get started. Now more than ever.
Want to build a website or a blog – use a service like Pantheon or Bluehost to quickly launch a WordPress site. Find a free theme that you like and fill in all the blanks. Even if you’ve never built a site these two hosting platforms have “click an easy button” installations for you to get started.
If you are building a bigger business look into the Rainmaker platform. This is a WordPress distribution that was built by Brian Clarke and his team at Rainmaker Digital and CopyBlogger. It’s made for bigger organizations that want to go live fast and easy.
If the Rainmaker Platform is too expensive for you, then go to Squarespace. Just remember, you don’t fully own your Squarespace property. If you decide to move on you can’t simply download your Squarespace site and launch it on your own server. (I’ve never personally used Squarespace but have heard good things).
My point is, you don’t have to be a developer to build a site. Just stop thinking about it and get started.
Want to build a web application – head over to UpWork and find a talented and well reviewed developer that can build apps using Ruby on Rails or Python or whatever your app may need. You can use tools like Google Docs to write up the projects requirements and you can pay the developer with services like PayPal or Square. Additional tip – Write thorough requirements for your project before you talk to a developer. (Don’t understand what I mean? Read this article.)
Want to start a podcast – Head over to EOFire.com and listen to everything John Lee Dumas has to say. He’s been helping people get podcasts started for years and he literally gives away the majority of his knowledge for free. Amazing!
There are many other resources as well, but EOFire.com is the best place to start.
The only thing holding you back are ideas. The technology is no longer a barrier. If you think it is, you either haven’t done the research or you’re making excuses.
2. Knowledge, tactics and solutions for growth are proven and shared
Millions of people are already building and managing web-based businesses. The path is cut. They’ve been doing it for more than a decade. Just walk down their path.
There is an interesting trait that many of these people have….they love sharing everything they know. It’s counterintuitive of everything you learn about competing businesses. The people that are making the most out of their web-based business are literally writing instructions on how others can succeed as well. Some even share their monthly financial reports with the world to prove what they are saying is true. (John does this at EOFire.com)
There are a ton of resources, podcasts and books about the topic. These leaders discuss what works, what doesn’t and how to make a web-based business successful. So many people have walked this path before you, there is no reason for you to learn things the hard way. Of course you want to be innovative and have an edge, but you don’t have to worry about falling on your face. Just find a leader and follow them. Here are my favorite resources for inspiration.
- Read everything Joe Pulizzi’s written. Content Inc and Epic Content are my favorites. Also, checkout the Content Marketing Institute
- Rainmaker.FM network – a network of invaluable podcasts. (Click on Shows in the main menu). Unemployable and The New Rainmaker are my favorites. I suggest starting at episode one and going through everything. The first three or four episodes of The New Rainmaker opened my eyes to the new world of web marketing!
- Read all of Seth Godin’s books. His guidance is amazing. The Purple Cow and Permission Marketing are great places to start.
- Also, checkout the “Marketing Book Podcast“. Every week Douglas Burdett interviews the author of an important marketing book.
- Not familiar with the term “Growth Hacking”? Google it.
- Create an account at GrowthHackers.com and consume as much as you can.
- Read the book “Growth Hacking“
Starting a Podcast
- Like I said before – checkout EOFire.com. Best place to start. John has a 20 episode podcast series on getting started. He also has a paid community where you can speed up the process and build a network. I’m not a part of that community but I’ve heard great things.
3. The Technology Adoption Lifecycle is now in the late majority stage
This, I believe, is the most important point. I haven’t read this anywhere… this is my own opinion. I’ve been seeing signs of this for months now.
If you know anything about the technology adoption lifecycle (I wrote another article on this topic if you need a primer. This idea came from the book Crossing the Chasm) there are several stages that new technology goes through when being introduced to the masses. The idea is that technology, over time, is adopted into society be different types of people in different segments. At first, the early adopters are eager to try new things. Then the early majority adopt technology once it’s proven. Later, the late majority begin to use the technology when it becomes the norm and lastly the laggards finally begin using the technology because it’s their only option.
Think back to when you first heard about hand-held devices and smart phones. Think far back to the Palm Pilot days in 2000 or 2001. When this technology first came out it was new and exciting and somewhat mysterious. Today, if you are still using a flip phone you’re amongst the laggards. The technology has gone through stages from “This is new and neat” to “This is so common that everyone uses it”.
The internet as a communication, marketing and business tool is now in the late majority stage. People have been buying products online, researching products, finding vendors or listening to podcasts for long enough that it’s now the norm. The masses are accustomed to doing business online. It seems that in 2014 or 2015 we finally crossed from the Early Majority segment into the Late Majority segment. Buyers are simply more acquainted with using the internet to buy products and services. Eventually doing business online will be so normal that anything else is abnormal.
Also, if you think I’m nuts and you believe we’ve been in the Late Majority stage for nearly a decade, stop and think about 2 things. Think about the use of the internet on a global scale and think about a farming family in the plains of Kansas. If you’ve ever done business in mid-America, I’m guessing you’ll know what I mean.
4. It’s cheaper than it’s ever been
I touched on this before, but the fact is it’s cheaper than every to launch a web-based business. Want to start a podcast? You need about $500 and a good idea. Want to launch a website? That’ll run you about $10-25 a month (starting). Want to run an eCommerce shop? That could cost you from $25 – $75 a month (plus inventory) but you can buy all your merchandise for next to nothing on Alibaba.com.
Honestly, if you have a few grand in the bank you can be up and running easily in no time. Just solidify your concept and get started!
5. The internet is about to go through another phase of growth
Okay, this is another argument that I’ve been pondering for the last few months. I believe that we are about to see another major spike in internet growth. I think that a few things are going to happen.
I think podcasting is going to blow up into something bigger than anyone could have imagined. Especially when a technology company figures out how to make it easier for people to “tune in” to podcasts in their car (there’s your big business idea). Also, a tech company needs to improve the experience of finding and subscribing to podcasts (sure…have another one!).
I think small web-based businesses (service based and product based eCommerce shops) are about to explode which could start to bring big box brands to their knees. I think that more and more people are going to turn down traditional jobs and start their own consultancy or freelance business (currently more than 38% of millennials are working as freelancers).
I think globally the internet usage is going to increase as internet speeds increase and countries like China lighten up on internet usage laws.
Plus, as mobile connections get faster and cellular plans get cheaper we are going to see even more mobile based media consumption. People will more easily access and consume media through the internet on their tablets and cell phones at locations outside of their homes. Yes… more than they already do. Honestly, I could imagine a future where families don’t sit and watch TV together. Instead they sit and watch their own devices together. This time spent surfing will include product searching, shopping and a lot of education online.
Now, if you are reading this and you’re still not convinced, I don’t think I can help you. Perhaps you’re just not seeing what I’m seeing. But I’m confident that over the next 5 to 10 years we are going to see the United States economy go through a major transition where there are less full time workers and more freelance consultants. People will be leading “rich” lifestyles and finally enjoying the freedoms that we deserve. I believe we are going to see large corporations slowly shrinking in size and replacing them will be small boutique style businesses. Privately owned companies will grow against the big box competition.
If this sounds attractive to you, now is the time to get in on the action. You can either get on the train or you can stand on the sidelines and watch the action happen. It’s up to you. The only thing holding you back is finding your “great idea.”
Resources and Links
Here is a list of all the resources and links I’ve included in this article.
Want to build a web application – find a developer and/or designer at UpWork
Learn to write thorough requirements for your project – Read this article
Want to start a podcast – Head over to EOFire.com
Web Marketing Resources
Growth Hacking Book
Starting a Podcast
Technology Adoption Lifecycle
Another article about this topic
Book about this topic (great business book) – Crossing the Chasm
Want to hear more?
Want more advice about how to launch your web based business? Want to see more resources? Easy. Sign up to my newsletter below and I’ll send you everything.
The technology adoption lifecycle is an key concept to understand when building and marketing your web-based products or services. This is the cycle in which your market will begin using your new technology. Whether you are building an eCommerce store, a web application, a communication portal for your customers, or some other grand vision, you have to remember that building the product is only a fraction of the battle. The other fraction is getting people to use the product.
In this article I discuss the different stages of technology adoption. Understanding the stage in which your product currently resides is incredibly important for making marketing and communication decisions.
This concept is not one that I developed. I first read about the technology adoption lifecycle in Crossing the Chasm – a great book about growing technology businesses. In the book, Geoffrey Moore explains that the adoption cycle is a bell curve depicting the growth of adoption in your market. It shows the increase of usage, the stages of progressive acceptance amongst the market, and also the point at which the product becomes a widely adopted staple in the markets culture.
For the purpose of this article, let’s consider the technology adoption stages of smart phones. Think back to 2000 and 2001 when the first Palm Pilot hit the market. Remember the folks that were using those devices? Now, consider where we are in the smart phone adoption cycle now. Today seeing someone use a flip phone is a rarity. This is because we’ve spent the last 16 years progressing through the stages of smart phone adoption.
The group of users that adopted the very first handheld devices (Palm Pilots) were the innovators. These folks are usually technology enthusiasts that become excited about new technology and are willing to find ways to fit the technology into their live’s immediately. Usually these people are involved in the industry where technology surfaces fastest. The people that are working in high tech environments are usually the ones that are exposed to new technology first. Through their own research and discovery they find and begin experimenting with the new technology. The innovators are consumers, but their exposure puts them at the frontline of technology advancement. They want to test out any new “gadget” and see how it fits in their life immediately. These people are also the ones that are willing to overlook bugs and even offer guidance and advice to the producer to help them grow the product into a better offering.
Next is the early adopters. These are the consumers that quickly adopt new technology faster than the majority of other consumers but they may not be on the front lines of innovation. These consumers are the people that wait in line at 6am in front of the Apple store so they can be the first to get a new version of the iPhone. They are much like the innovators, but their exposure to the new technology comes through their own research and dedication to technology. They may only learn of the new technology once it’s fully available to the masses. They may or may not work in the technology industry so they have to learn about these new things on their own. When they hear about a new gadget they are willing to buy it and test it out as soon as possible. Like the innovators they are willing to overlook a few bugs and issues in exchange for having something new and exciting.
The early majority represents a segment that is a bit more practical. They’re excited about new technology and they are genuinely interested in trying new things but they take longer before getting involved. Usually they are waiting until the technology has proven itself before they dive in. They want other people to help the technology “clear out the bugs” and they want to be sure they aren’t wasting money on things that prove to be useless. Typically the Early Majority views all new technology as a fad or trend until it proves itself. They recognize that not everything will stick. They don’t want to waste their money if they don’t have too. These are the folks that waited till the iPhone was at version 3 or 4 before they bought one. This group represents the largest segment of the audience, and when a technology has reached this stage of the lifecycle it’s a sign that the technology will likely become an important technology in the future.
The Late Majority users are folks that take on technology only when they must. By the time they begin using the technology it’s so ingrained into our culture that living without the technology would seem unrealistic or unlikely. This group adopts the technology because it’s the new norm. Using our smart phone example, these are the adopters that want to get a new cell phone but find that only smart phones are available or they feel pressure from others (family members or business colleagues) to begin using smart phones for day-to-day communication. The size of this segment is comparable to the Early Majority or slightly smaller. Once a technology has moved from the Early Majority into the Late Majority stage it’s now a concrete piece of our culture and is on it’s way to becoming a standard.
The Laggards are the final group of technology adopters. These are people that never purposefully adopt new technology. Using our example, Laggards only adopt smart phones because that’s all that is available to them. I don’t think the smart phone cycle has reached this stage yet. I have seen people still using flip phones and possibly not even owning a cell phone at all (yikes!). Generally, when a technology has reached this stage it completely dominates the market. It’s the only option. A good example is cable television. You can no longer receive TV signals through an antenna, instead you must have cable in order to watch TV. Another example is VHS tapes. Going to a store to rent or buy VHS tapes is no longer an option. You either must get DVDs or use on-demand services. In this case, the Laggards are forced to upgrade to at least a DVD player or a service like Netflix because that’s the only way they can watch new movies at home. These folks make up a small percentage of consumers and are typically recognized as the older generation. Once a technology has reached this stage, it has completed the cycle and is the new “normal”. Any other option is either outdated and has been replaced or it’s brand new in comparison.
By understanding these stages of the technology adoption lifecycle you’ll better understand your audience and the segment in which that audience currently exists. Of course this can be applied to technology like smart phones or electric cars, but the general principles can even become part of your web project or web-based business. If you are building a new eCommerce site you should consider how your audience will respond to buying your particular products online and how easily they’ll adapt. For instance, selling food products online is still a new and upcoming technological and cultural shift. I’d say we are still in the Early Adopter stage of that new adoption lifecycle.
I hope you found this useful, and as an exercise I’d suggest pondering this anytime you are confronted with a new technology. Think about the stage is which the consumer is in and how the marketing teams representing the technology are communicating to that audience. Also, it’s important to understand which segment you typically fall into. This will better help you understand how you relate to your audience and market. For instance, if you are typically a Early Adopter you may find that it’s easy to transition into a new technology. If that is the case, it may be hard for you to understand the Late Majority segment. By understanding your own perspective you can better prepare how to relate to your market and communicate to them.
The world of marketing has changed. Especially in the b2b marketing industry. Successful marketing used to be a toolset of tactics that usually revolved around advertising and utilizing space. It was the act of getting your name “out there” so people would learn about you and your services. Then buy from you. The past b2b marketing industry used devices such as publication advertisements, press releases, trade shows, billboards, tv ads, radio ads and many other “spaces” for telling the customer about your organization, product or service. From talking to many advertising and marketing gurus with several decades of experience, they explain that it was that easy. Run an ad in a publication and watch the sales grow. Dump money into a TV ad and watch the customers come running. It doesn’t work like that any longer. That’s not enough. There is a new b2b marketing industry. And it’s time for everyone to adjust.
Today the new b2b marketing industry includes terms like Growth Hacking and Content Marketing. The role and responsibilities of the marketer is less about tactics and more about Product Market Fit, content creation, managing editorial calendars and building relationships with customers. What I’ve observed is a lot of traditional marketers are uncomfortable in this new territory. The rug has been pulled out from under their feet and they are left learning to do their job all over again.
Truly, it’s not that complicated. It all comes down to one thing. Relationships.