How To Start an E-Commerce Business That Lets You Travel the World was written by Brian Renfrow and originally appeared on Savoteur. Brian Renfrow is a writer for CashBlog. He has more than 20 years of small business experience. He’s been involved in entrepreneurial roles for more than ten businesses since graduating from college with a degree in Economics. It has been republished with permission. Please note that contributing opinions are that of the author. They are not always in strict alignment with my own opinions. –Joe.
If you've ever heard of someone who runs a business that is flexible enough to permit them to travel the world, then you may have caught yourself drooling. The thought of traveling while generating income sounds downright divine to many people.
Certain types of e-commerce business models allow owners to do exactly that.
The essential characteristic of these business models is that you can run the entire operation remotely. That extends owners the flexibility needed to travel the world or work wherever they want.
This guide offers instructions on how to start an e-commerce business that provides that sort of flexibility
Types of E-Commerce Businesses Suited for Travel
You can run the entire operation remotely if you start an e-commerce business that uses drop-shipping for order fulfillment.
Drop-shipping is when you take in customer orders and have someone else fulfill the order.
In other words, you don't have to warehouse or manufacture anything if you run a drop-shipping e-commerce business. Whenever a customer orders an item from your website, you simply contact your supplier and have them ship the product directly to your customer.
That means you never even physically see or touch the products you ship. That's what makes it so ideal for accommodating travel. You can fill orders from a coffee shop in Italy or anywhere else in the world because you can do all your order fulfillment work remotely from a computer or phone.
How to Start an E-Commerce Business that Drop-Ships
A detailed guide at CashBlog goes over all the steps to start an online business. It highlights items that pertain specifically to the drop-shipping e-commerce business model since it can cater to lifestyles filled with traveling.
Figuring Out What To Sell
Whether for a drop-shipping e-commerce business or any other business, ensuring you love what you do is the biggest key to success.
If you decide to sell necklaces but don't care much for jewelry, that will be an uphill climb.
If, on the other hand, you are a huge baseball fan, then selling baseball-related products online might make sense. You love the topic, and because of that, you also have expertise in that area. These things will make a difference in the success of your business.
Beyond that, for a drop-shipping e-commerce business model, it's going to be critically important to have suppliers that exhibit these characteristics:
- They manufacture or warehouse products. Someone will need to store the physical product if you're selling products online. It won't be a good fit for this business model if you're considering selling an item online but can't find anyone who warehouses it or manufactures it.
- They drop-ship products. Just because they manufacture or warehouse the products doesn't mean they're willing to ship them directly to your customer. You have to check to make sure they are comfortable doing that. If they are, the supplier should not include an invoice in the box since the customer would see how much you paid for the item.
- They offer wholesale prices. If you find a warehouse that can drop-ship, but they are charging you retail prices, that will fail to work. You need to make a profit, or else there won't be any money to pay for that travel you have in mind. You need to be able to buy the products at a price that's lower than your sale price.
These days, many suppliers meet all three criteria since drop-shipping is a more common business function today. You could do a Google search for “wholesale warehouses” and add in the keyword for the item you're considering selling, and you may get some good leads that way.
Your supplier might end up being manufacturers themselves rather than distribution warehouses. Many manufacturers warehouse their products and can drop-ship. Some will manufacture the product after you order it and then ship it directly to your customer.
Figuring out the lay of the land with suppliers for your preferred industry is a big step in starting a drop-shipping e-commerce business. You can only fund your travel plans if you find profitable supplier relationships.
Choosing an E-Commerce Platform
Once you know which types of products you want to sell, then it's time to get down to the nuts and bolts of putting a website together.
The first step is choosing an e-commerce platform. It's the software you will use to manage your website and all the product listings. It helps you build an online store that will serve as your e-commerce website.
Since you'd be looking for drop-shipping functionalities, you'll want to find one with a full spectrum of features. In particular, using a platform with order management capabilities could be helpful.
For example, when an order comes in through your platform, you'll want the ability to send a purchase order to your supplier. That way, the entire order processing function is handled through the same platform as where you receive the order from the customer in the first place.
It would also be helpful to use an e-commerce platform that offers a merchant account. That's what you need in order to be able to accept credit card and Paypal payments and sell goods online.
The best e-commerce platforms include Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Magento. They offer a great set of tools for meeting your online business needs and include an array of customization features.
Nowadays, it's common for an e-commerce platform to offer a full set of business capabilities in addition to standard e-commerce capabilities. It makes for a seamless operational experience for business owners, which will be helpful if you want to manage your business while traveling the world.
Marketing Your E-Commerce Business
Once you've set up your website, it's time to start marketing so you can make money. You won't be able to pay for any trips if you aren't generating any income, and you won't generate revenue if no one knows your business exists. Marketing allows you to grow your business and build your online sales.
One effective way to market e-commerce businesses is using SEO, which stands for search engine optimization. It's the effort of getting your website to appear for Google searches.
If, for example, you are selling baseball bats in your e-commerce store, it would be ideal if your website showed up in the search results when someone did a Google search for “baseball bats.”
SEO requires much work up front and can take a long time to see results. But if you stick with it and are diligent, the results can be long-lasting and profitable. If you don't want to do the SEO work yourself, you could hire an SEO expert to help you.
With e-commerce, SEO success may be easier to achieve than with other online businesses.
For example, according to Ahrefs, a reputable SEO software company, “baseball bats” has almost five times as much search volume as “baseball stats.” Yet, it's twice as easy to rank for in Google based on the current competition.
That might be because there is less competition within the e-commerce niche than among all online businesses in general.
And this makes sense. If you want to rank well in Google for informational types of terms, then all you need is to publish the information and do SEO. But if you want to rank well for e-commerce types of terms, you have to add the extra steps of shipping the product and doing customer service.
Those extra steps mean more work, which raises the barriers to entry and discourages competition to some degree. That might make it easier, in general, to rank well for e-commerce search terms by doing SEO. There certainly are exceptions.
If you want to do more than just SEO, consider doing various forms of paid advertising. There are a vast array of options.
The key to paid online advertising is to ensure you can measure each ad campaign's profitability as precisely as possible. With today's technology, such as Google Analytics, it's possible to figure out exactly which sales came from any ad.
If you can't tell which paid ads are profitable and which aren't, then you're only delaying your ability to travel freely while running a business. The travel can only be paid for if you're sure you're running profitable ad campaigns.
One E-Commerce Business Owner Who Travels the World
Eric Ferguson is an example of an e-commerce business owner who has traveled many times while running his business.
Ferguson runs Andy's Auto Sport, an online business that sells performance car parts. It's a drop-ship business model, which means he can run the entire operation remotely. He and his staff never see the physical products that get shipped to customers.
His staff works in different parts of the world. Some are in California, and some are in India.
Ferguson says, “Nothing about the business in and of itself holds me back from traveling any time I want. When I go on a trip, I can dial back my work to spend more time exploring a new part of the world each day. Or I can do my normal tasks and enjoy doing them in a different environment.”
Ferguson, who lives near San Francisco in California, has run his business from places such as Canada, Boston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and New York. Each of these different locations was a travel destination he pursued for pleasure.
Are You Ready to Start an E-Commerce Business?
Running an e-commerce business can indeed go hand in hand with frequent travel. The key is to use a drop-ship business model.
As long as you can find a way to generate profit, starting an e-commerce business could potentially lead to all the travel your heart desires.