A long, long time ago, in a period far, far away…..
In fact, long before the explosion of the Internet, social media, and digital technology in the consciousness of the consuming public. Managing work tasks and responsibilities were much different.
When I started using the Internet in the new millennium, it was still in its development stages. Most of the offices still had to avail of pre-paid cards to connect. Fax machines and landline long distance calls were the effective avenues for international communication.
The e-mail was gaining popularity; I remember a few friends bragging they had set up their Yahoo address!
I had relatives who entered the retail business because they had families who worked abroad, mostly in the United States and the Middle East. Every few months, they would send packages or “balikbayan” boxes to their families which contained clothes purchased from outlet stores.
In the United States, quality control measures are very high such that if one item from a production batch were defective, the entire line would not be sold in their retail stores. Instead, they would be sent to outlet stores were buyers can avail of the merchandise at massive discounts.
These retailers which such iconic brands as Banana Republic, Timberland, L.L. Bean, Nike and The GAP have outlet stores in places like Barstow, Nevada.
Filipinos love to make the drive to Las Vegas not just to gamble, watch live performances or bowl but to also buy discounted branded wear at these outlet stores.
The ingenious Filipinos would not wear most of the clothes sent to them. Instead, he would sell them at retail stores or night markets otherwise known as “tiangges.”
If stocks were insufficient, the retailer could buy from wholesalers from China. He would go to China, make an arrangement with a wholesaler then have them shipped over to the Philippines. Even with taxes and shipping charges, profit would be good because the items were cheap.
Of course, you get what you pay for. Most of these items were not good quality. In fact, a few years ago news media reported some of the toys that were manufactured in China contained toxic paint.
Eventually, some of my friends and relatives opened physical establishments to house these imported goods. They had to formalize their enterprise and go through the incorporation process.
Those who chose to be “Sole Proprietors” went to the Department of Trade and Industry or DTI to be registered. Those who opted to become a “Corporation” registered their business with the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC.
Once registered, they now had to secure business permits from the municipality they were going to engage in. At the same time, construction was going on for their physical location. Not only would their store design need approval but the city government would do routine inspections during the process of construction to make sure the proprietor followed guidelines.
Heck, it was a lot of work to set up a physical business!
It was not until one month before store opening that the proprietor would initiate marketing and promotional activities. These were purely traditional marketing methods such as the distribution of flyers, setting up streamers, posters and banners within the designated areas of the location.
Sometime in 2006, I noticed a gradual shift in business.
Facebook was acknowledged as the dominant social media community, and Apple was making a lot of noise with its venture into smartphone technology. Consumers started to move away from the designs popularized by Nokia.
When Apple introduced its first smartphone in 2007, the iPhone, consumers were immediately taken with its sleek design, touch screen features and ease of Internet navigation. Since then, the standard to which all smartphones were compared to was the iPhone.
Fast-forward to 2014 and mobile technology has emerged as the primary source of online traffic. The significance of the Internet had been magnified ten-fold with events which transformed the global business environment forever. The world had become more unpredictable, uncertain and chaotic. Businesses shifted from strategy design to strategy implementation. Structures became less rigid and more flexible.
Entrepreneurs entered the world of commerce not through the traditional brick and mortar route but the virtual avenue.
E-commerce businesses such as Amazon.com, Zappos and Alibaba are just a few of the billion dollar enterprises that do business using digital platforms. Their respective entrepreneurs; Jeff Bezos, Tony Hsieh, and Jack Ma were elevated to a visionary status much like Steve Jobs before them.
By 2014, there were close to a billion websites on the Internet providing products, services and information to the three billion users of the Internet every day.
With today’s advances in digital technology, the expanse of the Internet and the proliferation of social media networks, entrepreneurs no longer need physical locations to house products. Everything has been bridged and connected by technology. From your home office in Manila, you can connect to a wholesaler in Los Angeles, California, USA.
The facsimile machine is about to follow the typewriter into technology extinction. Transmission of required documentation can be received in real time through e-mail more clearly, in color and free of charge.
You can initiate negotiations without the necessity of making expensive long distance phone calls by using freeware such as Skype, Google Hang Out or Viber.
While traditional marketing still maintains value in some industries, digital marketing has come to the forefront of business development and promotional activities. Of the thousands of flyers that a real estate agent distributes, how many do you think to generate leads? And of these leads, how many are converted into sales? Traditional marketing is an expensive and inefficient way to promote your business nowadays compared to digital marketing.
With digital marketing, your reach is not limited by a 5-kilometer radius or by the rules of the commercial center. You have a global audience at your fingertips. Capital investments are not required, and everything can be conceptualized and produced online. Distribution can be laser-targeted, under your control and best of all, results can be measured.
As you prepare for your journey as a digital entrepreneur, keep in mind that while technology has made business more flexible, markets more accessible and connections realizable, one thing has not changed.
You still need to be dedicated, committed and disciplined to turn your online business into a success. This book will guide through the process of starting, creating, marketing, and growing a successful online business venture.