A Brave New Economy: starting an online shop

Whether you’re passionate about making chocolate, creating handmade, personalised jewellery or can see a gap in the market for vegan soap – the internet is the place to start. Social media platforms have become hubbubs of growth for small businesses.

Bloomberg News journalist Sarah Frier, and author of the book No Filter: The Inside Story of How Instagram Transformed Business, Celebrity and Culture explained: “this is the way people are building the foundation of new businesses, this is where entrepreneurship is happening. If you are a baker, or you want to launch a make-up or a fashion line, or for any other small business, Instagram is where you really have to be. We tend to trivialise Instagram business as all about influencers and vapid, narcissistic content – and there is a lot of that- but even that is a huge business.”

Before social media, advertising agencies and expensive media campaigns were the main way to get information about your business out to your potential customers. Now, every person and company CAN BE their own media brand and reach out to their users or consumers directly, literally in direct conversation.

This has totally disrupted the traditional advertising model, and as a result, the social media and e-commerce platforms have become some of the world’s biggest companies by market capitalisation. Almost $0,70 of each marketing dollar spent on advertising will be spent online rather than offline.

Facebook, Amazon and Google, control almost 60% of all online media spending today. This has, despite an outcry about the monopoly these companies have, allowed many smaller brands to gain a foothold in the market much easier, quicker and cheaper than ever before. The loads and loads of these small, new, ‘cottage’ brands becoming popular via social media are disrupting the hegemony of bigger, established, brands by being more agile, more in direct contact with their consumers and by being more authentic.

For the entrepreneurs themselves:

To start out on a small budget today is absolutely possible, for example with the help of software offered by places like Shopify and or directly on sites like Pinterest or Etsy, making the costs that come with running a ‘shop’ online a lot less than having a physical store and reducing the timeline to launch substantially.

Shopify is a cloud-based shopping cart solution that allows businesses to set up an online store and sell their products online with ease. With no set-up fee and a monthly subscription of around £21, many companies worldwide, from startups to large companies such as Walmart, have benefitted from using Shopify’s e-commerce infrastructure. Shopify basically sets up your online shop for you; with the subscription, you gain access to an admin panel where you can add products, run marketing campaigns and process & fulfil orders. Simple.

Etsy is centred more around home-grown crafts – think handmade jewellery or customised greeting cards. Etsy operates by charging you a flat rate of around 14p per listing of a product (beneficial if you are selling more expensive items) and taxing you 5% of the total item costs (plus postage and packaging) in your listing currency. Elon Musk, late last year, sent the shares of Etsy flying when he tweeted ”I kinda love Etsy” after he bought a knitted hat for his dog(!) on the platform.

The economy has changed so much since the boom of online shopping started and the trend seems to only further accelerate. The costs of running a brick-and-mortar store with high, continuously rising rents plus staffing costs, means that it’s much more cost-effective to run your business from your laptop. And given the huge number of new subscribers to the platforms mentioned in this article over the last couple of years and the meteoric rise of their stock market valuations, it seems the world agrees.

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