Full-time workers setting up online retail stores: research

Increasing numbers of full-time workers are exploring their own online retail start-ups, according to new research by online sales platform Bigcommerce.

 

Analysis of 1,800 stores on the software platform has found almost half of retail work by owners takes place outside of standard business hours.

 

Bigcommerce says it found 48% of the retailers surveyed worked from 5pm to midnight. Almost 19% of the retailers surveyed were working at 3am.

 

Eddie Machaalani, Bigcommerce co-founder, told StartupSmart the findings suggest full-time workers are increasingly launching start-up stores. Machaalani estimates about half of those who are running an online store while working full time plan to turn their part-time activities into a full time business.

 

“Online stores are a much more affordable way to check to see if there is demand for your product, and then you can slowly grow,” Machaalani says.

 

“In the ‘90s, we used to say the big Australian dream was to own your own home. Today, the new Australian dream is to own your own business.”

 

The increased affordability of selling online has also caused a “reverse retailing trend”, with people testing the retail waters by starting an online store first, before establishing a bricks and mortar store, Machaalani says.

 

“As a merchant, if you want to open up a business and a physical premise, you can try it (online) for much less. You can learn about the business, see what the competition is like, and start to buy more from suppliers to get better prices,” he says.

 

Machaalani describes the most successful entrepreneurs using the Bigcommerce system as continuous learners who are also investing in marketing and customer service.

 

Around 40% of the Australian retailers using the service are selling internationally, which may explain the 19% working at 3am.

 

Lana Hopkins is one of those business owners up at 3am and fielding international enquiries.

 

After spotting a gap in the market for an Australian business selling high-quality phone and tablet covers, her partner James launched iCoverLover in 2010. Hopkins came on board in 2012.

 

Hopkins quit her full-time job as a business manager in a media company in September 2012, to focus on the business. Her husband James still works full time as a sales manager for a media company.

 

“It was just getting too busy. We were working evenings, weekends, all holidays,” Hopkins told StartupSmart.

 

“We were spending our weekends running email marketing campaigns and packing up the products to mail. We realised how much bigger our store could be if we really dedicated time to it.”

 

Stepping into running the business full-time has given Hopkins the time to manage a branding overhaul that has led to a 300% increase in click-through rate.

 

“We launched a really intensive and aggressive SEO and SEM campaign, and did a website redesign, created new content, made the site more interactive and tightened our market focus. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that if I hadn’t left my full-time job,” says Hopkins.

 

“Many are selling to international markets, and this means sometimes you need to work with customers in their own time for customer service and email marketing,” says Machaalani.

 

Bigcommerce users pay $30 to $200 a month to use the service.

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