An online business is a popular option with the statistics to prove it: it’s estimated that 18% of all UK consumer purchases are now completed online.
An online business is a popular option with the statistics to prove it: it’s estimated that 18% of all UK consumer purchases are now completed online, a figure set to rise to an incredible 95%
by the time we reach 2040. Furthermore, projections suggest small retailers will soon see their mobile conversion rates increase by 30% compared to those of larger retailers.
So does that make almost any internet franchise opportunity more desirable than a bricks-and-mortar option? A lot depends on which sector you choose and what you hope to achieve in business terms. So let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons to consider:
What kind of internet business?
Almost any business needs some kind of online facility, but the degree to which an internet presence is at the very heart of the enterprise will depend to some extent on the sector. If your chosen franchise involves selling software, app development or other digital products, then it’s clear you will almost certainly need a strong online facility to operate the business.
But if you’re selling physical products or providing traditional services to customers, then the amount and nature of your online commitment may depend on your own preference and the working methods your franchisor expects you to employ.
Internet franchise models
Whatever technical systems and business strategies various internet franchises demand, what they all have in common is that, as the business owner, you will work primarily online. That means, for example, that you may often be able to work from home, and in many instances you won’t have to buy stock and/or provide extensive storage facilities.
One thing the above information implies is that an internet franchise may often be a low-investment option, and having to find only a small amount of start-up capital will certainly appeal to many would-be entrepreneurs.
Any franchisee will need to fully commit to running a business, which includes tasks such as motivating and managing a workforce. But in a physical work environment you will have the presence and support of your staff team alongside regular contact with customers and suppliers.
However, with an internet franchise you will be regularly spending long hours working alone in a ‘virtual’ business environment. Your communication with other people may thus be solely via e-mail or social media, perhaps with the occasional Skype meeting thrown in.
In each of these scenarios you would, of course, receive business advice and support from your franchisor’s team. But building an internet franchise will demand lots of self discipline when it comes to getting jobs done without anyone else at your side to give you encouragement, share the load, and offer constructive feedback.
Another danger of working as a solo operator of an internet franchise is that regular working routines may be harder to establish and maintain. One day you may finish early, the next you may be working until late at night to meet a deadline. That can lead to a feeling you’re always ‘on duty’ and forever checking e-mails via your smartphone to see what orders are coming in.
The only solution is to regulate your work wherever possible, get used to taking breaks and eating regular meals, and recognise that no one can perform efficiently if they are ‘on duty’ 24/7.
Sadly, it’s often a business owner’s family and friends who are among the first to pay a heavy price when an entrepreneur just can’t switch off.
So would you be suitable?
One advantage of an internet franchise is that, even though you will have to follow your franchisor’s system and methods, you will still get to work with a great deal of autonomy. You can usually choose when to work, and when you have a day off; you’ll be able to work from home (dressed as you like), or even decide to work while you travel to remote or exotic locations (provided, of course, you can still access a robust broadband connection).
Nevertheless, your franchisor will want evidence that you are a determined self-starter who can deliver projects on time. And even though there may well be little need for formal qualifications, you will certainly have to demonstrate a familiarity with computing devices plus internet and other communication technologies.
And in addition, you may find that a sales-based business qualification will often help to persuade a franchisor that you have the generic skills needed to grow a business and an ability to engage with essential detail without losing sight of the bigger picture.
Internet franchise – a developing world
With the web set to become the dominant retail forum of the future, there are no shortage of internet franchise options. Depending on your expertise, you might consider a travel website, property investment, recruitment, business consultancy or similar self-employment choices.
Some franchise offers may involve an element of technical experience, and thus will provide appropriate initial training, but every online franchise will demand the confidence and ability to sell in a digital environment to a growing audience of 21st-century consumers.