If you have an entrepreneurial itch, then doing something online is a great place to get started since there is the potential for fewer overhead expenses and more mobility and flexibility than a traditional “brick and mortar” operation. Once you decide that an online business is for you, then you may want to buy an ecommerce business that already exists rather than starting up a new business from scratch.
Because starting an online venture will require a significant amount of your time, energy, and money. You may need to develop and maintain a website, keep active social media accounts, create content, attract new customers, build email lists… and that is on top of producing great products or services that people want to buy.
On the other hand, you could invest your money into a turnkey operation- an established business that already comes with its products and customers, web presence and online reputation, as well as time tested marketing efforts. You may even inherit employees or established freelance working relationships.
There are also several online marketplaces (with or without a broker) that can help you in your search for an established business. For example:
- Exchange by Shopify
But the choice to buy an ecommerce business can be tricky. Where can you even buy a business online, and how can you spot a good opportunity? Plus, how do you know that the online business you want to buy is performing in the way the seller says it is?
If you want to buy an online business then you basically need to consider three things:
- Does it have a good, established reputation?
- Is it sustainable?
- Are their proven marketing strategies in place?
What to Look for When You Buy an eCommerce Business
Let’s take a look at each one of these factors in more detail…
Does it have a good, established reputation? In order to spot a good opportunity, you really need to put in the effort to research a potential buy before you go through with the purchase. This process starts by taking a close look at the business’ online presence. How clear, accurate, and professional is it? Is it being maintained? How are current and potential customers responding? Some things you should look at include:
- The business website- this includes keyword research, link profiles, and traffic estimations. You can get this information on sites like SEMRush.
- Social media accounts- Are these accounts active? Who is following them and how are these followers interacting with the content?
- Online reviews- This includes dedicated review sites and reviews on personal/private sites
Is it sustainable? The next area to consider is the business model. Does it have multiple streams of income and sources of traffic? (The current owner should give you viewing access to its online tools, such as its Google Analytics account so you can verify this information.) Is there a solid sales history with consistent revenues? What expenses does this business have? Are there suppliers and/or employees? Will they continue on once the business has been sold? Where is the market likely heading in the next three to five years?
As an important aside… you should find out why the owner wants to sell the business in the first place. If he or she can’t give you a good reason, or the given reason seems suspicious, then you need to go further in your due diligence.
Are their proven marketing strategies in place? Having a current marketing system that works is an extremely important aspect of the business, since marketing is often a big resource drain. But, there are a few things to look for over here:
- You should look for multiple marketing channels- not just one or two that rely on third party platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. It is well known that social media in particular will change the rules at whim. That Facebook campaign may be working well right now, but it may not be so effective in another month.
- Does the business show signs of trying and testing different methods?
- How much time and money is being spent on marketing versus the sales being generated?
In short, if you want to buy an ecommerce business that’s already in operation, then it can be a great opportunity as long as you put in the time and effort to find something that has real potential to deliver.
*** This post was brought to you by Shopify.com, ecommerce-platforms.com, and optimizesmart.com.