Knowledge Base

Word of mouth has always been the most powerful form of marketing. It is human nature to trust the recommendation of a friend or family member over any other type of advertising: It’s honest, it’s personal, and it’s reliable. But what if you could get that same level of personal recommendation from a complete stranger? That’s the power of online customer reviews. In the article you’re about to read, we’ll discuss why online customer reviews are the ultimate salesperson for eCommerce businesses and how you can make the most of them. What Are Online Customer Reviews? At its simplest, a customer’s online review is a written testimonial about a product or service purchased and used by an actual customer. These reviews can be left on the website of the business in question, on a third-party review site, or even on social media platforms. There are two main types of online customer reviews that businesses should be aware of: 1. Ratings and Reviews These are the most common eCommerce product reviews, and they usually take the form of a star rating (from one to five stars, for example) along with a written comment. Customers will often be asked to rate their overall experience and specific aspects of the product or service they purchased. 2. Testimonials Testimonials are similar to ratings and reviews but tend to be more extensive. They also usually include the customer’s full name, location, and headshot. Many businesses will showcase testimonials prominently on their websites. We can also differentiate between private and public reviews. Private Reviews Clients review a product or service and share their reviews directly with the business through email, phone calls, or direct messages. Public Reviews Public reviews are those that anyone can see; they are left on a website or third-party review platform. Public reviews are more important for businesses because they are more likely to be seen by potential customers and impact their purchase decisions. How Customer Reviews Affect Businesses Both positive and negative reviews customers post online can have a major impact on your business. If you’re still wondering why online customer reviews are the ultimate salesperson for eCommerce, note that statistics show that 89% of B2B buyers search online for product or service reviews and photos before making a purchase decision. The impact of customer reviews is evident in both the short and long term.  In the short term, they can help (or hurt) your business by influencing the purchase decisions of potential customers looking actively for information about your products or services. In the long term, customer reviews can also help you improve your business by giving you insights into the areas where you need to make changes or improvements. Of course, the effect of online seller reviews is not always positive. Businesses have been known to crumble due to negative reviews, especially when such reviews go viral. This is why it’s so crucial for companies to manage their online reputation. What Can Positive Customer Reviews Do For Your Business? Positive and authentic customer reviews can have many benefits for your business. Here are just a few examples: 1. They Can Increase Sales and Conversions This is probably the most obvious benefit of positive customer reviews. If potential customers see that others have had a good experience with your product or service, they’re more likely to purchase it themselves. Higher conversion rates mean more sales and more revenue for your business. 2. They Can Help You Attract New Customers In addition to increasing sales and conversions, positive eCommerce reviews can also help you attract new customers. After all, potential customers are more likely to trust a business recommended by someone they know and trust. This powerful marketing tool is called “social proof.” With real customers’ words and sentiments about your product or service, your marketing campaigns will be more effective, and your advertising budget will go further. 3. They Can Improve Your Search Engine Ranking In recent years, Google has increasingly used customer reviews as a ranking factor in its search algorithms. Businesses with positive reviews of their online stores are more likely to appear higher up in search results, which can lead to even more sales and conversions. The SEO factor is becoming increasingly important for most top-rated e-commerce platforms. 4. They Can Build Trust and Credibility Positive online reviews can help build trust and credibility for your business. After all, if customers are willing to leave positive reviews, they must be pretty happy with your product or service.  This can encourage potential customers who are on the fence about your business to give you a try. Finally, potential customers are more likely to trust a business recommended by someone they know and trust. 5. They Can Improve Customer Retention Positive online business reviews can also help to improve customer retention. If customers are happy with your product or service, they’re more likely to stick around and continue doing business with you. This is especially important for businesses that rely on repeat customers or subscriptions. How To Get Authentic Positive Reviews - Our Tips There’s a common misconception that happy customers will automatically leave positive reviews and unhappy customers will bad-mouth your business to anyone who will listen. This is not always the case. In fact, getting positive customer reviews requires an active effort. You need to reach out to your customers and ask them for feedback. Luckily, there are a few ways you can do this and improve your online reviews section: 1. Send a Follow-Up Email After a customer has made a purchase, send them a follow-up email and ask them to leave a review of their experience. This is a great way to get honest feedback about your product or service. You can include a link to the comment box or a star-rating system in your email, attach a short survey, or even ask for video testimonials. 2. Use a Pop-Up or Sidebar Widget Another way to encourage customers to leave reviews is to use a pop-up or sidebar widget on your website. These widgets can be triggered after a customer has made a purchase or spent a certain amount of time on your site. This makes leaving a comment more convenient for customers, encouraging them to do so. 3. Get Social Media Reviews Online businesses’ reviews can be solicited via social media platforms. You can post about your product or service on your company’s social media page and ask customers to leave their thoughts in the comments. You can also run social media ads that link to review pages or use hashtags to encourage customers to post about their experiences. 4. Leverage User-Generated Content Another way to get positive customer reviews is to leverage user-generated content to resonate with your target audience. UGC is any content created by customers, such as product photos, videos, or reviews. Once you create your eCommerce website and add UGC, you can use it for your social media pages or marketing campaigns. 5. Incentivize Customers To Leave Reviews One of the best ways to get online reviews for your business is to offer an incentive. This could be a discount code, a free product, or entry into a contest. Customers are more likely to take the time to leave a review if they know they’ll get something in return. How To Deal with Bad Reviews No company is perfect, and even the best businesses will get the occasional negative review. The important thing is how you deal with those bad reviews. Companies need to consult online reviews daily and take the good with the bad. When you see a negative eCommerce review, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and remember that not every customer will be happy 100% of the time. Here are a few tips for dealing with negative reviews: Respond to All Reviews, Good and Bad It’s important to respond to all customer reviews, both positive and negative. This shows that you pay attention and care about your customers’ experience. A simple “Thank you” is usually sufficient for a positive review. For a negative review, you’ll want to take the time to address the customer’s concerns and offer a solution. Thank them for their feedback: This will show that you take shoppers and their reviews and concerns seriously. Apologize for the inconvenience: Even if it wasn’t your fault, an apology goes a long way. Offer a solution: Let the customer know what you’re going to do to fix the situation. Follow up: Make sure to follow up with the customer after you’ve implemented your solution. Don’t Take it Personally It's important to remember that negative reviews are not a reflection of you as a person. They’re simply feedback about your business. Try not to take it personally and stay focused on finding a solution. Use Negative Reviews as an Opportunity To Improve Your online store reviews, even negative ones, can be a great opportunity to improve your business. Use the feedback to identify areas where you can make changes. Maybe there’s a problem with your product, or your customer service could be better. Whatever the case may be, use negative reviews as an opportunity to make your business even better. Monitor Your Online Reputation Finally, it’s important to monitor your online reputation. This means regularly checking review sites, social media pages, and other online platforms for mentions of your business. If you see a negative review, reach out to the customer and try to resolve the issue. If you see a positive review, share it on your social media pages or website. Final Thoughts Even though it might be tempting to buy positive reviews, it’s not a good idea. Not only is it unethical, but it can also lead to long-term damage to your business. It’s much better to focus on earning positive reviews through excellent customer service and offering incentives. You can turn online customer reviews into a powerful marketing tool for attracting new customers. Just remember to be professional, respond to all reviews, and use negative reviews as a growth opportunity.

By Danica Djokic

The eCommerce landscape is constantly evolving. What was popular last year may not be so hot this year, and what’s trending now may be totally different a year from now. In the aftermath of the pandemic, we’re seeing even more changes in the way people shop online. To stay ahead of the curve and nail your strategy, you need to stay up to date with the latest eCommerce trends. We've put together a list of factors that will shape eCommerce in the next few years so that you can make the necessary changes to your online store and outdo the competition. B2C ECommerce Will Overtake B2B Traditional in-person shopping may never be the same again. The pandemic has pushed people to shop online out of necessity, and many have found that they actually prefer it. Convenience, safety, and a wider selection are all big selling points for eCommerce. It’s no wonder that 52% of people who switched to online shopping for groceries said they wouldn’t switch back. As a result, we expect to see a continued increase in online shopping even after the pandemic is over. This shift will have a big impact on the types of products that are being sold online. We can already see new trends in eCommerce - a move away from heavy, bulky items that are difficult to transport and an increase in sales of smaller items that can be easily shipped. This trend is likely to continue as people become more accustomed to shopping online for items that they would traditionally have bought in-store. Another big trend that we’re seeing is a shift from business-to-business eCommerce to business-to-consumer eCommerce. The rise of B2C over B2B is being driven by the fact that many small businesses have had to move their operations online in order to make it through the pandemic. Even traditional businesses that relied on in-person sales are now turning to eCommerce to reach their customers. Manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, and insurance are just some of the industries that are starting to sell directly to consumers online. This new approach and innovative trends in the eCommerce industry might bring some new challenges. However, the benefits are likely to outweigh the drawbacks in the long run. ECommerce Companies Lean More on Augmented Reality The rise of augmented reality has been a game changer in the eCommerce industry, especially in fashion and home furnishing. This technology is being used by some of the biggest names in retail, including IKEA, Dulux, Lego, Sephora, and Nike. AR allows shoppers to see how products would look in their homes before they buy them. This is particularly useful for items like furniture and home décor, where it can be difficult to visualize exactly how something would look in your home space. Following the new eCommerce trends, AR has recently been used to create virtual showrooms and allow customers to try on products before they buy them. This can benefit the clothing and makeup industries, where you need to see how something looks on you before you make a purchase. We expect to see even more retailers using AR in the next few years as the technology becomes more widespread and available to everyone. AI Will Further Personalize the Shopping Experience Artificial intelligence is already being used by many top-rated eCommerce platforms to personalize their customers’ shopping experiences. This is one of the latest eCommerce trends, and it helps businesses learn about customers’ individual preferences and use that information to recommend products based on a customer’s past purchases, browsing history, and search queries. This technology is also being used to create dynamic pricing models that automatically adjust prices based on demand, competitor prices, and other factors. AI can also be used to help businesses manage their inventory and fulfill orders more efficiently. In the future, AI is likely to become even more involved in the eCommerce experience. It will be used to provide customer support, process orders, and handle returns. We may even see robots being used to pick and pack orders in warehouses. The use of AI will enable eCommerce shoppers to have a more personalized and convenient experience. It will also allow businesses to save money on labor costs. Chatbots Will Become More Common Today, customers expect their online shopping experience to be streamlined, so when they encounter a bottleneck or poor customer service, it’s very easy for a potential customer to abandon their cart. This means that eCommerce businesses need to find ways to speed up their fulfillment process. One way to do this is by using chatbots to automate customer service tasks. A chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation. Ever since the first chatbot, ELIZA, was created in 1966, the service has been used to provide customer support, answer questions, and make recommendations. Many eCommerce businesses are already using chatbots, and we expect future trends in eCommerce to make them even more common.  For example, a chatbot can be used to answer common customer questions, provide order status updates, and take care of returns. This frees up customer service representatives to handle more complex issues.  In the future, we expect chatbots to become even more involved in the eCommerce experience. They will likely be used to handle a wider range of tasks, including processing orders and payments. As AI becomes more sophisticated, chatbots will become more realistic and able to hold natural conversations with customers more easily. Voice Search Will Become a Big Deal As voice-activated assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home become more common, we expect voice search to become more prominent in global eCommerce trends. Voice search allows for voice input, which is faster and often more convenient than typing. As statistics indicate, about 75% of US households will own at least one smart speaker by 2025, making voice search an important factor in eCommerce.  As the use of voice-activated assistants grows and as they become an integral part of eCommerce’s future, we expect businesses will optimize their eCommerce sites for voice search. This means using natural language instead of keywords, including long-tail keywords that are more likely to be spoken than typed, and making sure that product pages are listed when someone searches for relevant keywords. It will also become more critical for businesses to provide concise and accurate information on their product pages. This is because people are more likely to get frustrated with a voice-activated assistant if they have to keep asking for clarification on product descriptions. Conventional Payment Options Will Take a Back Seat As the world becomes more digital, we expect to see a shift from traditional payment methods to newer, more secure methods such as mobile payments and cryptocurrencies. Unlike recent B2B eCommerce trends, this one will have a more profound and lasting impact on the way businesses interact with customers.  With a variety of ways to pay for goods and services online, customers will have more choice and flexibility when it comes to how they make purchases. We expect mobile payments to become more popular as people become more comfortable using their smartphones to make transactions. Contactless payments have become common during the pandemic, and established players such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay are likely to benefit from this trend. Cryptocurrency is another payment method that is gaining popularity, particularly among younger generations. Bitcoin payments, one of the major new trends in eCommerce shopping, have been on the rise lately. As more people become aware of cryptocurrency and how to use it, eCommerce customers will have more options when it comes to how they make payments. Headless and API-Driven Commerce is Gaining Momentum Headless commerce is an architecture that decouples the back-end systems from the front-end. This allows businesses to build their eCommerce store using any programming language and framework they want. API-driven commerce is a similar concept, but it takes things one step further by allowing businesses to connect their eCommerce store to any third-party service using APIs, a type of software that allows two applications to communicate with each other. This eCommerce industry trend is gaining momentum because it gives businesses more flexibility and control over their stores. Companies can also get the advantage of the incorporated SEO, content marketing tools, and digital experience features. Finally, back-end developers and front-end developers can work independently of each other, which speeds up the development process. Product Videos Will Become More Popular As broadband speeds continue to increase and more people watch videos on their smartphones, customer engagement through product videos will continue to grow. Short video content is a great way to show off your products in a way that is more engaging than traditional product photos. They are also a great way to showcase how your products can be used in real-world scenarios directly from your eCommerce store. Unlike photos or descriptions, video content can quickly grab a viewer’s attention and give them an idea of what your product is all about. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need to start thinking about how you can use video content to showcase your products or services effectively. Conversion Strategies Will Focus on Building Trust In order to convert leads into customers, businesses need to focus on building trust. Multi-channel selling, Facebook advertising, and Instagram marketing are great ways to convert leads into customers, provided you focus on building trust with your target audience.  As recent online sales trends indicate, consumers are more and more skeptical of advertising and are looking for brands they can have confidence in. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as by displaying customer testimonials and reviews, social proof, and security seals. Another way to build trust is to offer a money-back guarantee or free shipping. This shows that you are confident in your product and that you are willing to stand behind it. Finally, focusing on transparency (e.g., disclosing your business practices, the manufacturing process, etc.) and building a strong social media presence can also help any business in the eCommerce industry build trust with potential customers. Big Data is a Game Changer Big data is a term used to describe the large volume of data that businesses now have access to. This data can come from a variety of sources, such as social media, website analytics, CRM systems, and more. Big data can be used to improve the customer experience in a number of ways, such as by personalizing the experience, identifying customer pain points, and improving customer service. We've all experienced seeing suggestions on shopping platforms or search engines, and most of us have found them to be pretty accurate. The more data a company has, the better it can cater to its customer's needs, and this will become increasingly important in future eCommerce trends. However, big data carries big challenges as customers are more and more concerned about data privacy. So, businesses need to make sure they are handling customer data responsibly and transparently if they want to keep using it to boost profits. Mobile Commerce Will Continue To Grow Mobile commerce is expected to continue growing in the coming years. According to statistics, mobile devices are used for over 40% of online transactions, their rising popularity indicates that this is one of the trends in online shopping that’s here to stay. Mobile commerce offers a number of advantages for businesses, such as increased reach, shorter buying cycles, and improved conversion rates. It also offers many advantages for customers, including the ability to shop anywhere at any time. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, it’s important to make sure your eCommerce platform is mobile-friendly. This means having a responsive design that looks good on all devices, as well as providing a smooth and easy-to-use mobile shopping experience. Omnichannel Selling Will Become the Norm Omnichannel selling is a term used to describe the practice of selling products through multiple channels, such as brick-and-mortar stores, online stores, mobile apps, and more. This eCommerce trend and approach allows businesses to reach more potential customers and provides a more seamless shopping experience. In the past, businesses have often treated each selling channel as a separate entity. However, this is changing as more and more businesses are adopting an omnichannel approach. This shift is driven by the increasing popularity of online shopping and the need for businesses to provide a more cohesive customer experience. As omnichannel selling becomes more common, it’s important for businesses to make sure they’re building eCommerce websites that can support it. This means having a platform that is integrated with all of your other selling channels and that provides a consistent experience for customers regardless of how they shop.  Environmental Sustainability Will Play a Big Role As we become more and more aware of the impact our consumption has on the environment, sustainability is becoming an important factor in purchasing decisions. Customers that follow new online shopping trends want to know if the products they’re buying have been ethically sourced and if the company they are buying from is taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint. In order to stay ahead of the competition, businesses need to make sure they’re considering environmental sustainability in all aspects of their operations. This includes everything from the sourcing of materials to the packaging and shipping of products. Customers are now more willing to pay extra for sustainable products, so there is a big opportunity for businesses that are able to meet this demand. How To Make the Best Use of ECommerce Trends ECommerce is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up. However, by staying informed and making sure your eCommerce platform is up to date, you can ensure that your business is able to stay ahead of the competition. To make the most of the latest eCommerce developments, consider the following: 1. Keep Up With the Latest Trends To stay on top of your game, you must be proactive and regularly seek out new information. There is a number of ways to do this, such as reading industry news, following relevant blogs and industry influencers, and attending eCommerce conferences. You can get to know what’s going on in the industry and find inspiration for your own business.  Read up on the research data and statistics that are available on eCommerce growth trends. This can help you understand the current landscape and make informed decisions about where to focus your efforts.  2. Take Advantage of Digital Tools There are a number of digital tools that can help you improve your eCommerce business. From marketing automation software to customer relationship management systems, there’s a variety of features that can make it easier to run your business and provide a better experience for your customers. Check the data and sales figures, and invest in analytical tools so you can understand where your customers are coming from and what they are looking for. 3. Learn From Your Competitors It’s important to keep an eye on your competitors to see what they are doing and how they are reacting to the latest eCommerce retail trends. You can learn a lot from observing their strategies and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Should they fail, you can learn from their mistakes. If they succeed, you can try to replicate their success. Final Words As the global eCommerce ecosystem continues to grow and evolve, it's important to stay on top of the latest trends. Instead of leaning on traditional shopping methods, more and more consumers are turning to the internet to purchase items. Mobile phones play a big role here, as they provide a convenient way to shop on the go. What's more, consumers are getting more comfortable with new technologies such as AI, AR, chatbots, and voice search. These eCommerce trends in technology are changing the way we interact with eCommerce platforms and retailers. With all that said, we're confident that you now have a solid understanding of the current eCommerce landscape. Just remember to keep your eyes peeled for new trends so you can stay ahead of the curve.

By Danica Djokic

As a business owner, you are likely responsible for overseeing all aspects of your company’s operations. This includes setting your own salary. This decision can be difficult to make, especially if you’re not sure what’s standard or how to determine what’s appropriate for your situation. In this article, we’ll discuss some factors you should consider when deciding how much to pay yourself as a small business owner. What To Consider When Setting Your Salary Setting your own salary can be daunting, especially if you’re a freelancer or small-business owner. After all, you need to make enough money to cover your expenses and earn a profit, but you don’t want to price yourself out of the market. So, what factors should you consider when paying yourself from your business? Business Structure One of the first things you should consider is your company’s business structure. Are you a sole proprietor? Do you have a business partner? Are you an S corp? Your company’s business structure will affect how much money you take home and how much in taxes you need to pay. For example, if you’re a sole proprietor, you’ll likely take home less money than if you’re running a corporation because you’ll be paying taxes on both your business income and personal income. On the other hand, if you’re running a corporation, you’ll only be taxed for your corporate income. This means that more of your business profits will stay within the company, which can be reinvested or distributed to shareholders. Business Expenses Another factor to consider when paying yourself as a small business owner is your business expenses. How much does it cost to run your small business? You should consider expenses like rent, utilities, payroll, and marketing. You’ll need to make enough money to cover these costs, plus your personal living expenses. One common mistake small business owners make is not accounting for all of their business-related expenses. Make sure you have a clear understanding of all the costs associated with running your business before you start setting your salary. Personal Living Expenses In addition to business-related expenses, you also need to account for your personal expenses, such as housing, food, transportation, and health care. Again, one common mistake people make is not accounting for all their personal expenses when calculating the business owner’s salary. Industry Standards Another factor to consider is industry standards. What do other businesses in your industry pay their employees? This will help you determine a reasonable salary for yourself as the business owner. Of course, you don’t want to undervalue your services.  Ultimately, setting your salary comes down to determining what you need to earn to cover your costs and make a profit and then finding the right balance between pricing yourself too high and too low. By taking the time to consider all the relevant factors, you can ensure that you set a fair and competitive price for your services. How to Calculate Your Owner’s Pay You should consider a few balance sheet items when calculating your salary as a small-business owner. These include your monthly net income, all business-related taxes and fees, and business expenses.  According to some small business revenue statistics, 86.3% of small business owners earn less than $100,000 a year. However, this does not mean you must stay within this bracket. Below are some steps you can take to get a clear picture of a small business owner’s salary and how to calculate it yourself. Calculate Your Monthly Net Income Your monthly net income is the total revenue your business brings in minus any taxes or fees. This number can fluctuate from month to month, so it’s important to take an average over a period of time to get an accurate number.  Next, you’ll need to subtract all business-related taxes and fees. This includes income taxes, self-employment tax, and any other business-related expenses. Once you have your monthly net income minus taxes and fees, you’ll be left with your profit.  Calculate Your Tax Savings The next step in calculating owner pay is determining your tax savings. This includes any deductions you can take for business expenses, home office expenses, and health insurance premiums. You can consult with a tax professional or use a tax calculator to get an accurate number. Once you have your tax savings figured out, you can add this amount to your monthly net income to get your total monthly compensation. Calculate Your Business Expenses The final thing you’ll need to consider when setting your salary is your business expenses, including office rent, utilities, supplies, and employee salaries. Once you know how much it costs to run your business each month, it will be easier to calculate how much to pay yourself as a small business owner. One mistake many small business owners make is not accounting for their salary when calculating their business expenses. This can lead to severe financial problems down the road, so be sure to include yourself in the equation. By following these steps, you should be able to come up with fair and reasonable compensation for yourself as a small business owner. Remember to avoid common mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to success.  Ways To Pay Yourself As a business owner, you have two options: Either pay yourself a salary or take distributions from your small business. Here are the pros and cons of an owner’s draw vs. a salary.  Paying Yourself a Regular Salary To pay yourself a regular wage, just like you would an employee, you’ll need to set up payroll for your business and withhold taxes from your paycheck. One advantage of this method is that it can help you separate your personal and business expenses and make it easier to track your business expenses come tax time. The downside of drawing a salary is that it’s subject to payroll taxes, which can eat into your earnings. Additionally, if you have a slow month or two, you may find yourself struggling to cover your personal expenses if you’re relying solely on your business income. An Owner’s Draw If you are self-employed and paying yourself a salary, an owner’s draw is another method you can use. This method is often used by small business owners with irregular or variable income. With an owner’s draw, you simply draw money out of your business bank account as needed to cover your personal expenses. One advantage of this method is that you don’t have to worry about payroll taxes. Additionally, it can give you more flexibility regarding how much money you take out of your business each month. However, one downside is that it can be challenging to track your small business expenses come tax time. So, which method is right for you? How to pay yourself as a sole proprietor? Ultimately, it depends on your circumstances and the needs of your business. If you have a stable and predictable income, having a regular salary may be the best option. However, if your income is variable or unpredictable, an owner’s draw may be a better option. Final Thoughts Paying yourself as a business owner can be a tricky task. And there’s no universal rule on how much business owners should pay themselves. However, by following some simple guidelines, you can ensure that you are fairly compensated for your work without putting your business finances at risk.  What’s most important is to find a method that works for you and your business. And, of course, to avoid any common pitfalls.

By Nikolina Cveticanin

We've all fantasized about becoming our own boss at one point or another. But for most of us, the idea of having our own business is just that—an idea. We don't act on it because we think we need too much money to get started. But how much money do you really need to start a business? The truth is, you don't need a ton of cash to start your own venture. In fact, many businesses can be created with very little up-front investment. Of course, the amount of money you'll need will depend on several factors, such as the type of company you want to start, the equipment and inventory you'll need, and whether you plan to rent or purchase an office or retail space. The Cost of Starting a Business The first step in starting any business is to calculate the initial costs. These can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars and are needed to get your business up and running. First off, this figure depends on your idea and geographical region. Since these are different for every aspiring business owner, nobody can tell you exactly how much money you need to start a business. Therefore, we’ll do the next best thing and tell you how to determine your start-up costs. To get an accurate estimate, you'll need to consider everything from the cost of office supplies to the price of any necessary licenses or permits. Once you have a good handle on the basics you’ll need to cover, you can begin looking for ways to finance them. Start-Up Costs for a Business According to the US Small Business Administration, the estimated starting cost can be divided into two main categories: pre-start expenses and asset expenditures. On top of these, you've got to be able to cover all the ongoing costs your business will incur before it’s capable of standing firmly on its own. There are one-time costs, ongoing costs, necessary costs, optional costs, fixed costs, and variable costs. Pre-Start Expenses are the one-time costs associated with getting your business off the ground, and they can range from legal fees to market research expenses. Asset Expenditures represent the cost of any physical assets you'll need for your business, such as office furniture or manufacturing equipment. Ongoing costs represent rent, utilities, and employee salaries, which you'll need to cover on a regular basis. Fixed costs, such as rent or business loan payments, stay the same each month. Variable costs, such as inventory or advertising expenses, can fluctuate monthly. Essential costs, such as licenses and permits, are absolutely unavoidable when running a legitimate business. Optional costs, such as consultants or workplace decorations, are not necessary but can be helpful. These are all types of expenses to consider when starting your business. You'll need to sit down, do meticulous research, and write an estimate of all the expenses and income you anticipate. To stay safe, plan for the worst-case scenario, but hope for the best. Common Start-Up Expenses Whether you are planning to start a bookkeeping business or a candle-making company, success doesn’t come cheap, especially in the beginning. Here is a list of outlays practically every venture needs to take care of: Business licenses and permits Office space or equipment rental Inventory cost Insurance Advertising and marketing Accounting and legal fees Employee salaries Utilities Website design and hosting fees Depending on your business, there may be other one-time or ongoing costs that you’ll need to consider. To get an accurate number, remember to factor in additional costs, such as inventory, shipping, marketing, and a fund for unforeseen expenses that may pop up along the way. Ways To Finance Your Business It’s encouraging to know that 58% of small firms began with less than $25,000 and one-third with less than $5,000. Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll know if you’re among them. Once you know how much capital you need to start a business, it’s time to figure out how to finance it. It's ideal if you can do it out of your own pocket, but that isn't always possible. Depending on your situation, you may need to consider creative funding methods to turn your idea into reality. Bootstrap: This means you’ll use personal savings to finance your company. This is a good option if you have a low-risk business that can be opened with little to no money. Crowdfunding: With crowdfunding, you’ll solicit small amounts of money from a large group of people. This is a suitable choice if you have a brilliant company concept but don't have the money to fund it. It used to be next to impossible to get funds in this manner, but today there are several excellent platforms devoted to crowdfunding that can help you quickly reach your objective. Small-business loan: A small-business loan from a bank or credit union is the traditional source of funding for startups. However, this avenue will only be available if you have good credit and need a significant amount of money to get started. Some banks give small-business loans to people with bad credit, but their interest rate is substantially higher. Friends and family: You may be able to cover business startup costs by asking your friends and family members to invest in your venture, either with interest or without. If you don't want to take out a loan and trust the people you're asking to support you, this is a fantastic choice. The final three options are more appropriate when your business is already up and running, but you’re struggling to keep up with the costs or are looking to expand the scope of your operations. Venture capitalists: If you have a high-growth business, you may be able to get funding from venture capitalists, who will finance your business with money pooled from third parties, such as investment companies or banks. If you need a lot of money and are ready to give up a portion of your company in exchange for cash, this is an excellent alternative. Angel Investors: Angel investors are wealthy individuals who invest in businesses in exchange for equity, but unlike venture capitalists, they are using their own funds. As you can see, angel investors and venture capitalists are similar, but not exactly the same. The amounts you can get from angel investors are often smaller than those from venture capitalists, too. Grants: You may be able to get funded by the government or other organizations. This is a good option if you have a low-income business or are working in a field that benefits the community. No matter how you finance your startup business, it’s wise to plan for the worst-case scenario. Once you've done your research and secured funding for your idea, you'll be all set to launch your new business... or are you? How Do You Know If You're Ready To Start a Business? The thought of being in complete control of our work lives—and incomes!—is incredibly appealing. Luckily, it's now more possible than ever to make that dream a reality. But before you quit your day job, here are four things to think about before becoming your own boss: 1. Are you prepared to work hard—really hard? Running your own business is not a 9-to-5 job. It's more like a 24/7 job. You'll have to put in extremely long hours to get your business off the ground, and even once it's established, you'll still need to work constantly to keep it afloat. So ask yourself—are you prepared to work hard? 2. Do you have what it takes to be a leader? As the boss, you'll be responsible for guiding and managing your team (if you have one). This means you'll need to have strong leadership skills. Are you up for that challenge? 3. Can you handle the stress? Running a company is stressful, and we're not just talking about procuring the money needed to start and operate a business. Things won’t always go as planned, and you'll have to constantly deal with challenges and setbacks. So ask yourself—can you handle the stress? 4. Are you prepared to take risks? Starting a business is a risk. There's no guarantee that you’ll be successful, no matter how well you plan or how talented you and your team may be. So ask yourself—are you prepared to take risks? If your answer to all of these questions is "yes," then you just might be ready to become your own boss. But remember, it's not a decision to be made lightly. Be sure to do your research and plan carefully before taking the plunge. Conclusion Once you’ve done your research, created a detailed business plan, and factored in additional costs that may pop up along the way, you should know how much money you need to start a business. Remember that this is just a general guide, and your specific situation may require more or less capital. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make your dreams a reality! Who knows, you could be the next big success story on the cover of Forbes.

By Julija A.

Many small business owners struggle to keep their business debts under control and their business on track. While a number of them have closed their businesses temporarily or permanently in the wake of the pandemic, filing for bankruptcy can help you keep your business running by providing some debt relief. Furthermore, business bankruptcy can help the business owner close up shop quickly if ceasing operations is imminent. However, not every bankruptcy for business owners is the same. So, read on to learn what small business bankruptcy options are available for sole proprietors, partnerships, and corporations and whether you should consult a bankruptcy attorney. When Should a Business File for Bankruptcy? If your company has been going through a rough patch, it’s advisable to scrutinize your balance sheet and assess the extent of your debt. After a prolonged period of consistently being unable to settle its debts and expenses, a business unavoidably reaches financial status that makes bankruptcy imminent. At that time, filing for bankruptcy helps you escape a potentially unsustainable state and protect your valuable property from being seized during the processes that accompany small business bankruptcies.  Types of Bankruptcies for Businesses Filing for bankruptcy under Chapters 7, 11, and 13 is available for sole proprietors, while partnerships and corporations can resort to Chapters 7 and 11. Chapter 7 is effectively a liquidation, Chapter 11 is about reorganization, while Chapter 13 is a wage earner’s plan that pertains to individuals or sole proprietorships which are the responsibility of one individual. Bankruptcy Options for Sole Proprietors Sole proprietors running small businesses have a few solutions when it comes to the bankruptcy process. In sole proprietorship bankruptcy, bankruptcy law regards the sole proprietor and their business as one and the same.  This also applies to married couples running the company together. In this case, personal and business assets are the subject of a business bankruptcy. The sole proprietor has the following solutions for filing bankruptcy. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for Small Business Owners Many business owners that file for business bankruptcy resort to Chapter 7 since it doesn't require them to give up on everything they have. In that regard, Chapter 7 discharges certain qualifying debts, both business and personal. Most small business owners can expect the process to end within four months after they file bankruptcy.  The bankruptcy process involves giving up a particular property that the trustee in charge of your case can sell and then use those funds to settle your debts toward creditors. There are exemptions in each state that allow you to keep specific business and personal assets, such as some equity in your home, car, furniture, and work tools. Consequently, you’ll be able to start afresh after you’ve regained your footing.  Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Downside You can bankrupt a small business with Chapter 7 and keep some necessities, but remember the following downsides of filing for bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filer could lose property that is part of their estate, including their business if it is a company with valuable assets and the trustee was able to find a willing buyer.  So, if you own an attractive ongoing operation you can't protect, being compelled to turn to Chapter 7 for personal bankruptcy might not be a good idea after all.  Furthermore, Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection exempts small amounts of business assets. Thus, you're likely to lose most of them when you file personal bankruptcy as a sole proprietor.  Filing Bankruptcy Under Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 Subchapter V Chapters 13 and 11 are small business bankruptcy options for a sole proprietorship if the business owner prefers to continue operations instead of liquidating the company. Chapter 13 (or Chapter 11 Subchapter V if the business debts exceed the Chapter 13 limit) allows you to keep your business running as long as your cash flow is adequate for all monthly payments.  In line with that, you can file for bankruptcy if your business is steady and if the bankruptcy court approves it. In turn, you'll get a repayment plan lasting between three and five years. You'll pay an assigned trustee who will transfer the funds to creditors during that time. Chapter 13 is also a small business bankruptcy option if you have to close the company and don't qualify for Chapter 7. In this case, small businesses have three to five years to pay off business debts, and peace of mind since creditors receive financing during that time.  Bankruptcy Options for Small Business Partnerships and Corps Due to the various disadvantages Chapter 7 involves, small business partnerships and corporations usually opt for Chapter 11. The partnership filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will likely lose investments, face lawsuits outside bankruptcy court, and ultimately collapse. However, filing for Chapter 7 might benefit corporations and partnerships in some cases, so let's review both types of business bankruptcies. Chapter 11 for Settling Business Debts While Chapter 13 is available only to sole proprietorships and individuals, the advantage of Chapter 11 is that it’s available to general or limited partnerships and limited liability companies.  A small business entity benefits from Chapter 11 in two ways. Specifically, it can continue operations while paying smaller amounts to creditors toward business debts, which are restructured along the way. Before the bankruptcy filing, though, the company should contact a law firm and have a business bankruptcy lawyer evaluate its prospects and whether Chapter 11 Subchapter V will be worthwhile. Chapter 7 Pros and Cons for Corporations and Partnerships Unlike Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which provides a mechanism for businesses to continue operating, Chapter 7 bankruptcy results in the company's shutdown. Furthermore, the appointed trustee sells the company assets and sends the proceeds to creditors. Advantages However, Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing may benefit a failing business if it has a substantial amount of property or a considerable number of creditors. Some related advantages are: The members don't have to sell the small business's assets themselves, leaving this delicate work to the trustees. This process is public, which can help prevent creditors from pursuing legal action against the company declaring bankruptcy if they assume that partners wish to keep funds instead of paying their outstanding debts. By avoiding fraud litigation and related lawsuits, partners prevent exposure to significant legal expenses. Disadvantages Although the trustee sells the property of the entity and distributes the proceeds to creditors, the small businesses still face some risks, including the following: Chapter 7 doesn't exempt the partners from paying their business bills, holding them personally liable for the costs incurred. The trustee selling company property may seek the partners' personal assets to repay the debt. When corporations file bankruptcy at the federal court, creditors can initiate alter ego litigation, which leads to the personal liability of each shareholder for the corporation's debt. Another potential drawback of bankruptcy for business owners is that a creditor can file complaints about inadequate handling of the small business's finances. That way, business debts can become personal debts. Limited Liability Company Bankruptcy Filing Filing for bankruptcy as an LLC results in a liquidation of the business's assets to pay off debts. In an LLC, the owners aren't personally responsible for company debts if they haven't guaranteed for them. Moreover, they can file personal bankruptcy to evade liability. A struggling LLC with a plan for moving forward can file for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This used to be an option for large corporations only, but the Small Business Reorganization Act made Chapter 11 bankruptcy for LLC a viable alternative. It’s a good idea to consult an attorney for more information. Bankruptcy Consultations With a Lawyer Bankruptcies can be complicated, so the best course would be to establish a relationship with an attorney early on. That way, you get good advice and protection of your interests from the outset. Plus, it’s often a requirement that a lawyer file the case. The business owner in bankruptcy typically receives the following services from their attorney: Situation analysis and an estimate if a bankruptcy is the right choice Bankruptcy process explanation Advice on which chapter is the best option Cost estimate and explication of the necessary steps for proceeding with the process. Final Thoughts In line with what we discussed in the article, Chapter 7 bankruptcy results in a company's shutdown, while Chapter 11 allows the company to reorganize and continue operating. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for businesses with a regular income and may allow you to keep your business open while repaying your debts. Even though these options seem pretty straightforward, they come with potential pitfalls. So, it would be best to consult an attorney to learn which bankruptcy for business debt settlement will work for your small business.

By Nikolina Cveticanin

You’ve come to this page because you want to learn how to start a laundromat business with no money. It won’t be easy, but we’ve got some pointers to help get you going. Starting a laundromat business can be a great way to earn a decent, steady income without having to make a huge initial investment. The growing demand for self-service laundry facilities allows laundromats to generate healthy profits, sometimes even outside standard working hours. To attract customers, laundromat owners may offer extras such as WiFi, TVs, and vending machines. Some even have coffee bars or gaming areas to keep customers entertained while they wait for their laundry. There's a lot to think about before you get to this stage, so continue reading to learn how you can open a laundromat business from scratch.   How Likely Are Laundromats To Generate High Profits? Laundromats can be very profitable, with some owners running successful businesses that generate up to $300,000 per year in cash flow according to the Coin Laundry Association. Of course, making that much is far from certain; the location of your business, the size of your laundromat, and the services you offer will all affect this. There are also several unavoidable business costs, such as utility bills and salaries for full- or part-time employees, although it’s worth noting that some laundromats are unstaffed.  So, let's see what you need to take into account and do before starting earning. Key Things To Consider Before Starting a Laundromat Business You must take into account quite a few things to build a laundromat startup that succeeds, since seven out of 10 startups don’t make it to their 10th birthday. Below are some of the most important factors. Location of Your Laundry Business The location of your laundromat is one of the most critical factors in determining your success. It’s best to look for a high-traffic area, preferably with a mix of residential and commercial businesses and perhaps near a major intersection. Before you start a laundromat business, consider the competition in the area. If there are already several laundromats around, you'll have difficulty making yours stand out from the crowd.  Another vital factor to consider is the demographics of the area. The median income and age group of residents can give you a good estimate of whether this is the right target market for your services.  As a general rule, you should aim for residential areas inhabited by young people living in rental properties as opposed to upscale neighborhoods. After all, lower-income people living in smaller apartments are less likely to have their own machines, and the closer you are to your target market, the better.  Laundromat Services Laundry washing and drying are the core of laundromat businesses. While most laundromats only offer these services, some may also provide laundry folding and ironing. Some also provide pick-up and delivery services for an additional fee to maximize their laundromat business profit. Such a strategy can be a great way to attract customers who are short on time and are willing to pay more for convenience.  Of course, to do this, you'd need to hire part-time or even full-time workers, whereas you might be able to run a standard laundromat without any day-to-day staff. If you’re considering this, perform a cost-benefit analysis to estimate whether the earning potential of this service is worthwhile. Marketing Strategy A marketing strategy that works is another essential step in owning a laundromat. You can use various channels to build awareness, including social media, billboards, or TV commercials. The most important part is to ensure that your marketing strategy is in line with the overall branding of your business so that potential customers can easily recognize and remember you. Of course, word of mouth will also play a significant role in promoting your laundromat. The best way to get people talking about your business is to provide a top-notch service, which we’re sure you’ll do anyway! Choose Channels for Advertising Purposes Carefully You'll need a steady income stream to pay off your loan and ensure overall profitability if you start or buy a laundromat with no money. That’s why it’s especially important to pay attention to the media channels your target audience uses.  For example, you'll likely find younger and middle-aged people on social media, while older people are more likely to get information from watching TV. Building a professional-looking website for your business can be a worthwhile investment; it makes you look more legitimate and may help you rank better on search engines. Cost Structure (Bills, Rental Space, and Employees’ Wages) To estimate an approximate cost to start a laundromat, you must consider various expenses. First of all, electricity and water bills will be among your most significant monthly expenses. You'll need to secure highly efficient, energy-saving washers and dryers to lower these. However, buying these machines requires a hefty initial investment, so it might be better to lease them. You must also factor in the costs of detergent, fabric softener, and other laundry essentials. The price of these can quickly add up, so it's essential to find a wholesale supplier who can give you a discount for buying in bulk. Of course, don't forget the costs of renting or purchasing a commercial space. Last but not least, you'll have to consider workers' salaries if you're planning to offer additional services like laundry folding or pick-up and delivery. If you start a coin laundry business, you’ll need to decide which extra services are worth it.   Competitors You should also research nearby competitors and learn what services they offer, how much they charge, and what marketing strategies they use. Understanding your competition helps you set your business apart and find the appropriate target market for your laundromat.  Of course, finding a location with few or no nearby competitors would be great, although that can be difficult in high-potential areas. Opening a Laundromat With No Money: Estimated Costs Various factors affect the cost of setting up a laundromat, including the location, required permits, and investments like sewerage connections.  Note that you can potentially save money if you buy an existing laundromat rather than starting from scratch. That way, you can spare up to $8,000 per sewer connection per washer and up to $300,000 for laundry equipment in total.  Of course, you might still want to know how to start a laundromat business with no money from scratch. If so, you should evaluate different loans offered by banks financing small businesses to find the one that best caters to your needs. Once you make a choice, you’ll have to open a business bank account. Refer to the following table for a quick breakdown of the relevant starting expenses: Expense type Estimated cost Sewer connection per washer $200–$8,000 Top-load washer $500–$700 Front-load washer $3,500–$20,000 Dryer $5,000–$6,000 Soap machine $500 and over Water-heating system $15,000–$40,000 Optional card system $40,000–$80,000 Laundry cart for clothes $50–$75 Cleaning supplies $750–$1,000 As you can see, there can be a lot of variability in the cost of opening a laundromat, so evaluate every option thoroughly before making a decision.  Rough estimates suggest that you'll need to spend between $200,000 and $500,000 to get your business up and running – and that’s just for the basics! You'll also need to factor in the cost of hiring some help to run or maintain the place, which will undoubtedly push the price up even higher. Still, as long as you're aware of all the potential expenses beforehand, you should be able to plan and budget effectively. Devising a Laundromat Business Plan As the owner of a laundromat, you’ll need a detailed action plan. By having a clear vision for your business and developing a roadmap to bring that vision to life, you’ll increase the chances of success for your startup. A good business plan is made up of many parts. We’ve explained the process below. Executive Summary An executive summary is a short, clear overview of the business plan. It should highlight the plan's key points in an easy-to-read manner and get investors and executives interested in your offer. Ideally, the executive summary should be no longer than two pages. Company Summary You specify the owner, your goals, and how you start the business here. A company summary presents your business to potential investors. It should contain: Missions and goals Products and services Facts that make your business stand out from competitors How should the company's presence will benefit the target market Budget If you’re comfortable that you know how to start a laundromat business with no money, it's time to start budgeting. This process should include researching the cost of buying or leasing equipment, licenses required, your commercial space, workers' salaries, and insurance. There’s much more to running a successful business than simply budgeting, but without a solid idea of your costs and expected profits, you won’t know where to start. To minimize risk and reduce your initial outlay, opening a laundromat franchise might be a better idea. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of franchises later on in the article, but for now, here’s what you’ll need if you want to go it alone. Marketing Plan A marketing plan will help you raise awareness about your laundromat and promote it to the target audience. The approach you should take depends on who your customers will be. For instance, if you're targeting young people, social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram can be helpful.  If you're unsure how to proceed with this, you might want to consult a marketing expert, although that could be expensive. Power Structure You only need to create a power structure to define the business’s hierarchy if you have employees working in your laundromat. Include job descriptions and specific tasks for every employee to avoid miscommunication and boost efficiency in the workplace.  If you work independently, skip this part of the business plan. Business Objective Before starting or buying a laundromat, you need to have a vision of where you want to take it. Do you want to build a laundromat empire, or are you happy with one location, at least at first? What services would you like to offer?  Once you answer these and other questions, explaining your business objectives over several paragraphs will be easier. Target Market Identification You can’t truly begin to prepare your business until you know who your market is. Owners need to analyze their services and predict how the market will respond once they open laundromats. You'll also need to set prices for your services once you’ve researched the market to avoid charging too much or too little. With this in mind, you can identify your target market demographic, including age, gender, career type, and location.  Competitor Analysis Analyzing your competition will help you differentiate your laundry business from others that are out there. You can proceed to this step once you’ve defined your target market. Financial Goals and Objectives Next, you need to decide on your short- and long-term plans. This will include any expansions you might want to make to the business.  To do this, you'll need to research the untapped population in your target market and decide what percentage of that you think you can reach. Note that you'll need some statistical knowledge or help from an expert to complete this.  Types of Services To estimate laundromat startup costs, you need to decide what services you'll offer. In this section, you should outline whether or not you’ll provide folding, delivery, entertainment, and other relevant services. Marketing Analysis Consider factors like market segments, target households, inbound visitors, and product pricing to develop a clear marketing strategy for customer satisfaction and increase your chances of success. Strategy You have to specify how you plan your business to succeed, especially if the competition is fierce. Outlining your strategies for breaking into the market, building your reputation, and maintaining a stable business for years to come is crucial. Financial Plan You should use this section to project your business’s gains and losses, monthly and annual earnings, and break-even margins. As you can imagine, crunching the numbers is one of the most important   Common Ways To Raise Funds for a Laundromat Business You came to this page wondering: "how much does it cost to buy a laundromat?" We hope that by this stage, we’ve given you a fairly comprehensive answer to that question. But knowing how much you need and actually getting that money are two very different propositions. In this section, we’ll give you some ideas for raising the funds you need. Attract Investors Reaching out to investors is one of the best ways to secure funds for your new laundromat business. But it’s not just about money; experienced investors can give you advice that could be critical to growing and maintaining a successful business. That's why you should do your homework and present a detailed business plan to convince the right people to invest in your startup. Of course, nothing in life comes for free; you’ll have to give up some percentage of your profits and/or control of your business to get investors on board. But if it helps you get started and avoids the risk that comes with taking out a business loan, then it might be worth it. Take Out a Loan If you prefer to start independently, there are several types of loans to open a laundromat. These include: Term loans, which come with fixed monthly payments and pre-defined terms.  Equipment loans, which are suitable for financing substantial equipment purchases, with the equipment you buy serving as collateral. SBA (Small Business Administration) loans; government-backed loans with low-interest rates and long terms. The downside is that approval for these loans usually takes months.  There’s always an element of risk to taking out a loan. Make sure you crunch the numbers beforehand, otherwise you might end up biting off more than you can chew.  Open a Franchise Laundromat Opening a franchise may be the best solution if you don’t know how to start a laundromat business with no money. That way, you get help, resources, equipment, and training. Moreover, the franchisor will provide you with a proven business model and help you open quickly. Before you join, however, you should reach out to several franchisors and compare their offers to ensure you're making the best choice. It’s also worth speaking to other franchisees to see if they’re happy with how the business is run. The main advantage of this option is that you'll get brand recognition and support from the franchisor. Also, many customers trust franchises more than independent businesses. The biggest downsides are that you’ll have to pay upfront royalties and fees, you’ll have to give a percentage of your revenue to the franchisor, and you’ll never have full control over the business. Final Tips To Open a Laundromat Once you get your laundry business going, you might do better overall and increase your revenue if you take the following steps: Start a loyalty program to retain customers. Offer free products, like detergents, with every wash. Sell detergents, fabric softeners, or other related products. Open a small cafe so customers can enjoy a coffee while they wait. Install TV screens and gaming consoles to make the wait more pleasant for customers. Offer extra services, such as laundry pick-up, delivery, dry cleaning, ironing, stain removal, and folding. Conclusion You have plenty of laundromat business ideas and you now know your options, so there’s never been a better time to start planning your business. Remember that a laundromat is a significant investment, so do your homework and develop a detailed business plan before taking the plunge. 

By Nikolina Cveticanin

Starting and running a business is a real juggling act. In the midst of all the chaos, the process of getting a business loan can seem daunting. You may not even know where to start, but that’s where a business loan broker can help.  Successful brokers can assist you in finding the right lender, getting the best interest rate and term, and submitting your application. But is the service worth the cost? And are there other options available to you? You should find this article helpful in finding answers to these questions. What Is a Business Loan Broker? Once you’re beyond the intricacies of how to become a business owner and are in a growth stage or are running a mature firm, you’re likely to find yourself in need of a business loan. This is where a business loan broker can help. Business loan brokers work with both banks and alternative lenders to find the best financing options for their clients. They also help with the application process and, in some cases, may be able to negotiate the terms on behalf of their clients. Types of Business Loan Brokers Brokers generally specialize in one market segment. Depending on your business size or the type of financing solutions you require, you can opt for one of the following: Startup loan brokers: You should go for this type of business loan broker if you are running a startup that’s finding it difficult to acquire a loan due to a short or no credit history. SBA loan brokers: These business loan brokers specialize in government-backed loans disbursed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Factoring brokers: They help companies boost their cash flow while waiting for their invoices to be paid by customers. These professionals assist their clients in obtaining invoice financing and factoring products, which involve selling invoices to a third party, or factor. Equipment financing brokers: These business loan brokers help companies finance the purchase of new equipment by offering them loans or leases. Merchant cash advance brokers: The job of these brokers is to ensure their clients get cash upfront in exchange for a percentage of their business’s future sales. When Do You Need a Business Loan Broker? When deciding whether to hire a loan broker, you should consider if that would be the most cost-effective course of action for your business.  For example, startups that have never applied for a loan before could benefit from hiring a professional with industry experience and connections, while businesses eligible for an SBA loan would do best to consult an SBA loan broker. Or, if you’re struggling to get approved for a loan from a bank or credit union, working with a broker could help you secure financing from an alternative lender. Brokers may also be able to help you get a better interest rate or other terms for your loan. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with the lending process and confident in your ability to secure financing, you may not need a broker. Just consider if working with a broker would end up costing you more in fees than what you would save on interest. How to Choose a Business Loan Broker Should you decide that hiring a small business loan broker would benefit you, there are a few things you should know before settling on one. First off, you should know where to look for brokers. A simple Google search is one way to find a business lending broker. Another is to go to specialized websites, including those of the American Association of Commercial Finance Brokers, Small Business Finance Association Broker Council, or the local secretary of state, which will list brokers licensed in your state. And if you’re not keen on finding a broker online, you can always visit the office of a local small business organization. When it comes to choosing a particular loan broker for your business, you should first look into how many and which lenders they collaborate with. This will give you an insight into the kind of offers they can get you. You should also inquire about the broker’s experience and success rate. This will help you gauge whether they’re likely to be able to get you the financing you need. It would be a good idea to check whether the business loan brokers you are vetting have a Better Business Bureau accreditation and rating. Finally, it’s important to find out about broker fees and how they’re paid. That way, you can compare the offers of different brokers and find the one that suits you based on the cost and the quality of service. Once you have a list of business lending brokers who might be a good fit, it's a good idea to look for customer reviews. The experiences of other people can tell you if a broker is worth working with. Business Loan Broker Fees Brokers typically charge a commission expressed as a percentage of the total loan amount. A majority of brokers charge between 1% and 6%, though some may ask for as much as 17%. Some brokers ask for the money upfront, while others take a percentage of the overall interest you end up paying, which, of course, translates into a higher interest rate. Alternatives to Hiring a Business Loan Broker If you decide that working with a small business lending broker isn’t for you, there are other options available. You can work directly with some of the best banks or credit unions, or use an online lending platform like Lendio to compare multiple loan offers at once. If you have a poor credit score, you may want to check out some loans for business owners with bad credit. No matter what route you choose, be sure to compare interest rates, fees, and terms before selecting a loan. And remember, always read the fine print. Bottom Line All in all, a business loan consultant can serve as a link with the right lender and get you the best possible terms on your loan. However, they typically charge a commission for their services, which can add to the cost of your loan. Therefore, you should do the math to find out whether hiring a broker would pay off before you make the final decision.

By Julija A.

As a small business owner, you know that every penny counts. That’s why effective budgeting is essential to the success of your business. A well-crafted budget can help you control expenses, allocate resources effectively, and make informed financial decisions.  But what exactly is a spending plan? And how do you create a budget for your startup? Stay with us and learn the ropes of efficient budgeting for small business needs. What Is Budgeting? Budgeting is the process of planning and allocating resources to achieve financial objectives. In other words, it’s a road map for your business finances and a comprehensive process of creating a plan for how to spend your money. This includes setting financial goals, estimating expenses, and tracking actual spending.  A budget gives you a clear overview of your finances so you can make informed decisions about how to best use your resources. The Benefits of Budgeting for Small Business Operations Even though it doesn’t seem like something that would have an immediate impact, budgeting can be beneficial for your small business in several ways. It can help you control expenses and save money. When you know where every penny is going, it’s easier to find areas where you can cut back. This can free up resources to be used elsewhere, such as investing in company growth. With budget planning, you can improve your decision-making. A budget forces you to think carefully about every purchase and consider whether it’s really necessary. This can help you avoid impulsive decisions that might harm your business in the long run. Once you start budgeting for your small business startup, you can better allocate resources, save for a rainy day, or invest in emergency funds or retirement accounts. Avoiding debt and building up reserves can help you weather tough times and take advantage of opportunities when they arise. How To Make a Budget Plan Whether you use a top-notch app, a good old notebook, or sophisticated business budgeting software, the process of creating a budget for your small business is more or less the same. Here are the steps you need to take: 1. Know Your Numbers The first step in any budgeting process is to get an accurate picture of your current finances. Budgeting for starting a small business means knowing how much money you have coming in and going out each month. Look at your bank statements, invoices, and receipts to better understand your typical expenses. Then, list your sales records, inventory, and other sources of revenue to get an idea of your income. If you don’t have good records, you should start tracking your spending. Don’t forget to factor in fixed costs like rent and salaries and variable ones like materials and shipping. A good budget should include one-time expenses like equipment purchases or repairs and make room for unexpected costs that can pop up from time to time. With all the figures in place, you can tally up your total monthly income and expenses. This will give you a good starting point for planning and budgeting for your small business. 2. Project the Cash Flow Accurately Your budget needs to project your company’s cash flow for the coming months. This means estimating your income and expenses for each month and ensuring that your projected income is higher than your projected expenses. If not, you must find ways to increase revenue or reduce spending. Customer and vendor payments are often irregular, so you need to account for this when estimating your monthly cash flow. While on it, you can also think of a strategy to encourage customers to pay sooner rather than later.  You can do it by offering a discount for early payment or using simple tools for budgeting for a small business, such as reliable invoice financing software. The latter will not only help you get paid immediately but also help you track your expenses and manage customer information. 3. Consider Cost Cutting If your projected expenses are higher than your income, you need to find ways to reduce your spending. One way to do this is to consider cost-cutting methods. There are several ways you can save money without sacrificing quality or service: Negotiate with vendors: You may be able to get a better deal on supplies or services by negotiating with your vendors. This is especially true if you’re a loyal customer and have leverage due to the volume of business you do with them. Reduce inventory: Do you have too much inventory on hand? One of the best budgeting tips for small business owners is to reduce inventory levels and free up cash that can be used elsewhere in your business. Cut overhead costs: Take a close look at your overhead costs, such as rent, utilities, and insurance. Are there any areas where you can cut costs? Reduce staff costs: One of the biggest expenses for small businesses is employee salaries and benefits. If you’re facing a cash flow crunch, you may need to reduce staff costs by reducing working hours, salaries, or headcount. 4. Create Your Budget Now that you have all the figures you need, it’s time to pull them together and create your budget. Begin by making a list of all your income and expense items for the month on a simple spreadsheet or with the help of budgeting software for small business needs. Then, add up all your income and all your expenses. If your income is higher than your expenses, you’re in good shape. Otherwise, you’ll need to think about reducing costs and finding ways to increase your income. Now is the time to set your financial goals and see how your budget can help you achieve them. Do you want to save money for a down payment on real estate? Are you trying to pay off debt? Are you hoping to boost your profits? Once you have your goals in mind, you’ll start seeing the benefits of budgeting for your small business. Maybe you’ll realize that you need to rethink your investment strategy or make drastic cuts. Whatever changes you make, be sure to track your progress and fine-tune your budget as necessary to ensure you’re on track to achieve your goals. Final Words Budgeting is an integral part of running a small business. By keeping an eye on your cash flow, you can ensure that your business is on solid financial footing. Cost-cutting methods can help you free up cash that can be used to improve your business in other ways. And by setting goals and tracking your progress, you can ensure that you’re on track to reach your financial goals.

By Danica Djokic

In times of turmoil and economic crisis, it is more important than ever for businesses to have a clear idea of their finances and where their money is going. A well-thought-out budget can help a company stay afloat during tough times, while a poor budget can lead to financial ruin. Why is budgeting important, you may ask yourself, when businesses have other things to worry about? The answer is simple: it is very difficult to make informed decisions about where to allocate resources without having a clear idea about your budget. A budget allows businesses to track their spending, income, and profits over time to make adjustments as needed. Stay with us and learn more about the importance of budgeting for businesses, big and small. Budgeting for Beginners: Where to Start? If you're new to budget planning, you may need help getting started. It’s only fair to ask yourself:  “What does budgeting mean in the first place?” It is the process of creating a plan for managing your finances. We see it as a roadmap that tells you where your money is going and shows you how much money you have to work with each month. To create it, you need to start with a central place where you'll track and record your spending and lay out your expenses. It can be a simple spreadsheet,  an app on your phone, or even a notebook where you jot down your expenses each day.  There are plenty of affordable business budgeting software options available if you’d like to make the process even easier. Once you have a place to track your spending, begin by evaluating your monthly income and expenses: determine where your money is going and see if there are any areas where you can make cuts to save some money. Then, start with budget management: set some financial goals for the month or even a year in advance. These could be saving for a new piece of equipment, increasing your marketing budget, or paying down debt. Finally, create a plan for how you will meet your goals. This may involve setting a budget for each category of expenses, cutting back on non-essential spending, or finding ways to increase your income. Once you have a plan in place, stick to it as best you can. Review your budget regularly to ensure you're on track and fine-tune it as needed. The Importance of Budgeting Budgeting might not be the most glamorous task on your to-do list, but it's essential for any business owner who wants to stay afloat. Small business owners and big corporations use budgets as a way to keep up with their financial goals and save for a rainy day. Below, we've compiled a list of reasons for having a comprehensive budget plan – and sticking to it. 1. Budgeting Helps You Achieve Your Financial Goals With a clear budget in place, you can easily determine what your short- and long-term financial goals are. Are you planning on saving for new office equipment? Do you need a top-notch cash register? Increased marketing efforts? A rainy day fund? A focus on growing your business? Setting a budget will help you allocate the resources in a way that aligns with your goals. Once you've set those goals, you can have a better idea of what you need to save each month to reach them. This will help you stay disciplined and on track. You'll also manage your money more efficiently, knowing what you need to spend on and where you can make some concessions. 2. Budgeting Helps You Keep Track of Your Spending Do you know where your money goes each month? A budget will help you track your spending and see what you spend your hard-earned money on. This can help identify areas where you may be overspending, such as office supplies or entertainment. Why is budgeting important when starting out with limited resources, or even thinking of applying for a bad credit business loan? Tracking your spending is essential to ensure that you are making the most of your limited resources. Once you have a little more financial wiggle room, you can start allocating more money to areas that may have been neglected in the early days. 3. Budgeting Forces You To Be Realistic About Your Finances Yet another reason why budgeting is important is that it requires you to take a close look at your business's revenues and expenses. This can be eye-opening and may even require you to make tough decisions about where to cut back on spending or what changes need to be made to boost profits.   Most businesses that have been operating for a while tend to lull in their growth, and this is where budgeting can help you take a step back and analyze your how your business is doing. If it is not growing as quickly as you'd like, a budget can help you pinpoint areas where you may need to make drastic changes to reach your financial goals. 4. Planning a Budget Can Help You Avoid Debt By sticking to a budget, you can avoid overspending and racking up debt. This is especially important for small business owners who may be tempted to use business credit cards to finance their operations. If unaware of their expenses, they can easily find themselves in over their heads. With proper budget planning, you can avoid this trap. Knowing that 20% of small businesses fail within the first year, mainly due to poor financial management, it's more important than ever to be mindful of your spending habits and keep your business debt-free. 5. Budgeting Makes it Easier to Plan for Emergencies Among the reasons why budgeting is important, this one is often overlooked. No one knows when an emergency will hit, but having a budget can help you be prepared for whatever comes your way.  By setting aside money each month into a savings account, you can build up a cushion that can be used to cover unexpected expenses. This can help you avoid going into debt or being forced to make tough choices about where to cut back on spending. We recommend you have at least 3-6 months of living expenses saved up in case of an emergency. This may seem like a lot but remember: it's better to be safe than sorry. 6. Having a Budget Plan Holds You Accountable Accountability is a not-so-obvious advantage of budgeting. Namely, creating and planning your budget can help you be more accountable for your business's finances. By tracking your spending and setting limits, you can avoid making impulsive decisions with your money. This can help you feel more in control of your finances and better able to manage your resources. Staying on target with your budget can also help build trust with investors or lenders. 7. Budgeting Helps Decision Making Budgeting can help you make better decisions about your money. By taking the time to review your finances, you can identify areas where you may be able to cut back on spending or make more efficient use of your resources. This information can be invaluable in helping you make informed choices about the direction your business will go in the future. 8. Preparing a Budget Helps Build a Retirement Fund A budget can also help you plan for retirement. By setting aside money each month, you can ensure that you have enough saved to cover your retirement costs. If you set aside money each month, you can also take advantage of compounding interest and grow your retirement fund even faster. By contributing to your Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) or 401(k) account, you can also get tax breaks that can help you save even more money. 9. Budgeting Reduces Stress Finally, if you’re wondering why capital budgeting is important for living a stress-free life, it’s having a clear idea about the state of your finances can help you feel more in control of your money and better able to make informed decisions about your spending.  You get more organized, have more time to focus on the things you love, and can relax a little bit knowing that you have a plan. So take the time to create a budget that works for you, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with it. Final Words  Why is budgeting important if you’re a business owner? By taking the time to create and follow a budget, you can improve your chances of success and ensure that your business is on a solid financial footing.  Budgeting can help you track progress, avoid debt, and save for retirement. Without proper planning, it can be easy to overspend and put your business at risk. If you're unsure where to start, our guide on creating a budget can help you. Once you've created your budget, stick to it as closely as possible to improve your chances of success. And if you need help staying on track, consider working with a financial advisor who can help you make the most of your money.

By Julija A.

If you're considering starting your own web hosting business, congratulations! This is a great way to earn a living while doing something you're passionate about. As companies are in constant need of web hosting services, you can tap into this growing market by starting your own business.  So, if you're a beginner in this line of work, we'll provide a thorough guide on how to start a web hosting business, including everything from choosing a niche to setting up your website. Starting From Scratch: What Is Web Hosting? Web hosting is an online service that allows businesses and individuals to publish their websites by renting the necessary space and infrastructure. A good web hosting provider will offer everything you need to get your website up and running, including a domain name, email accounts, and secure server space. There are several types of web hosting, including shared, cloud, VPS, and dedicated hosting. Shared hosting is the most common and affordable type of web hosting. This means your website will be sharing a server with other websites. Even though shared hosting gives users less control over their website, it's a good option for those who are just starting out. With cloud hosting, your business’ website will be hosted on multiple servers. Owing to this, you’ll have more flexibility and scalability than with shared hosting. It's also more expensive and requires more technical expertise. VPS (virtual private server) hosting provides each user with a private server and more control over their website. Most of the top-rated VPS hosting companies offer higher speeds, IP addresses, an option of a managed account, and robust security measures. Dedicated hosting is the most expensive type of web hosting, but it's worth it as it’s also the most powerful. With a dedicated hosting provider, your website will be the only one on that server. This gives you complete control over your website and allows you to customize it so it fits your specific needs perfectly. Why Start a Web Hosting Business? There are many reasons you might want to start a web hosting company. Perhaps you're passionate about technology and helping others build their online presence. Or, you might be looking for a way to earn a steady income from home. Whatever your motives, this type of business can be a great way to achieve your goals. Here are a few benefits of starting your own web hosting company: It's a Lucrative Industry The web hosting industry is growing rapidly. In fact, it's expected to reach a whopping $267.10 billion by 2028. This provides an excellent opportunity for those who are looking to start their own business. It's a Reliable Business People will always need web hosting for their business operations, so tapping into this niche is a proven way to earn an income. As long as you provide quality service, you can be sure that your customers will stay with you for years. It Provides Additional Income Another benefit of starting a web hosting business is that you can generate multiple income streams. For example, you can sell web hosting, domains, and email services. You can also upsell by offering your customers additional services such as website design or SEO. It’s an Easy Job As most of the legwork can be performed by the web hosting provider, outsourcing the day-to-day tasks of running a successful web hosting business will give you more time to focus on marketing and growing your business. You can even find freelancers who can help you with everything from customer support to website maintenance.  How To Start Running a Web Hosting Company The growing internet hosting market offers new opportunities for entrepreneurs who are ready to commence their business. However, just like any other commercial venture, hosting requires meticulous preparation. We've compiled a list of six steps you can undertake to start hosting websites for clients:  1. Identify Your Niche With so many large hosts on the market, trying to stand out as an emerging web hosting business startup can be a challenge. A good way to carve out a place for your company is by identifying the niche you can cater to and becoming an expert in that area. It’s best to focus on a specific market segment and then provide the best possible service for that particular group of consumers. For example, you could focus on small businesses that are just starting out and need an affordable and user-friendly web hosting solution. Or, you could target eCommerce businesses that require a reliable and secure platform to host their online store. Another option is to specialize in hosting WordPress websites. When starting a web hosting company, keep in mind that increasing numbers of people are becoming aware of the importance of renewable energy. By hosting with green energy, you'll be able to show that you're a company that cares about the environment. Not to mention that turning to renewable energy sources for powering your servers is a great way to draw attention to your company. Yet another exciting niche might be the one that offers DDoS-protected servers. With the number of DDoS attacks on the rise, this is a service that more and more businesses will need. By providing this type of protection, you'll be able to attract customers who are looking for extra security for their website. 2. Research the Market Before you ask yourself: “How much money do I need to start a web hosting business?” conduct thorough market research and find out what the unmet needs of your potential customers are. This will help you determine what type of hosting services you should offer, how much to charge them, and how you can make your company stand out from the rest. Start by looking at your competition and analyzing their offers. What type of services do they provide? What are their price ranges? How can you make your company outperform theirs? Then, engage in a bit of customer satisfaction research by taking a look at what your potential customers are saying online. Are they happy with the services they're receiving from their current host? If not, what would they be looking for in a new host? By answering these questions, you'll be one step closer to figuring out how to start a web hosting business on your own. 3. Define Your Business Model The next step is to define your business model. There are several ways to do this, so it's important that you take the time to delineate your strategy. Before you venture into creating your own hosting company, pick a suitable name for your domain, think of pricing plans, and consider the design for your website. You can leave it to a selection of website builders, which will further reduce your initial costs.  Then, decide which type of hosting services you will offer. As we mentioned, you can go for a shared, cloud, VPS, or dedicated website hosting business model.  You can also try reseller hosting, where you'll be able to purchase hosting services from a larger company and then sell them to your own customers. If you opt for this approach, you won't need to invest anything in technology, which means that you can get started with modest capital.  Numerous reseller hosting programs are available, so it’s best to do your research and select the one that's just right for you.  Or, you could offer services of a web host manager, where you'll take care of all the technical aspects of running a website for your customers. This is yet another excellent option if you have the necessary skills and knowledge. 4. Get the Right Technology How to start a web hosting business at home? Well, if you want to offer high-quality hosting services, access to the right technology is indispensable. This includes both hardware and software. In terms of hardware, you'll need to invest in servers that are powerful enough to handle the load of your customers' websites. Remember that you'll have to factor in future growth when choosing your servers. You should also have a good backup solution in place in case of any technical problems. In terms of software, you'll need to install a web server such as Apache or Nginx, as well as a database server such as MySQL. Starting a web hosting company will also require you to choose a control panel for your server. The most popular options are cPanel / WHM and Plesk, but there are other options available as well. While cPanel’s WHM offers a built-in support desk to deal with customer inquiries, most hosts use external helpdesk software. Some popular choices are Zendesk or Kayako. Another vital component that most hosting companies have started offering as an add-on is the email server.  Finally, don’t forget to include a sophisticated security solution to protect your servers from malware, hackers, and increasing DDoS attacks. A firewall is a good option, but you should also consider investing in a robust anti-virus program. 5. Offer Reliable Customer Support Providing prompt and reliable customer support is essential when building your own web server. This means being available 24/7 to answer any questions that your customers may have. It also means being quick to resolve technical issues such as downtimes. Clients that run a business will rely on their hosting company to keep their website up and running smoothly. If you can provide this, you'll be sure to retain their business. There are many channels that you can use to offer customer support. Consider providing email, live chat, or even toll-free phone support. Keep in mind that customers who require website hosting for their business needs appreciate quick responses, so make sure that you're available as much as possible. 6. Spread the Word Once you have everything set up, it's time to start marketing your hosting company. There are several approaches, so you must find the one that works best for you. Creating a website is an effective ways to market your business. This will give you a platform to showcase your services and attract new customers. But simply knowing how to start a small web hosting business isn’t enough; to promote it, you should set up social media accounts and start posting regular updates. This is a great way to connect with potential customers and build a presence among them. Another effective marketing method is to create a blog and write articles about hosting-related topics. This is a great way to show your expertise and spread the word about your business along the way. You can also consider using an email marketing service provider that will allow you to send out regular newsletters to your subscribers and keep your services top of mind. Bottom Line All in all, once you decide to pursue the business model that best suits your needs, make sure to invest in the right technology so that you can provide high-quality services to your customers, and market your business effectively. Hopefully, our guide on how to start and run a web hosting business from home will help you make informed decisions. Hosting is a great way to make money online, and it can be a profitable business if you do it right. With so many emerging companies that are yet to establish an online presence, it’s a market segment replete with possibilities. With the right tools and technology, a prudent web hosting business plan, as well as a bit of marketing savvy, you can be well on your way to becoming a successful hosting provider.

By Danica Djokic

Today, eCommerce is revolutionizing the way we shop. No longer do we have to trek to the mall or stand in line at the store. We can simply sit at our computers or use our smartphones to purchase whatever we want with just a few clicks. The ease and convenience of online shopping have made it one of the most popular shopping methods, and businesses have taken notice. The top eCommerce companies are now worth billions of dollars, and they’re only getting bigger. To save you the trouble of scouring the internet for the best online shopping venues, we’ve compiled a list of the top six. 1. Amazon - The King of Market Dominance Market cap: $1.168 trillion Revenue: $469.8 billion Monthly visits: 2.4 billion No list of eCommerce retailers would be complete without Amazon. This online store is the undisputed king of eCommerce, with a staggering market cap of $1.168 trillion, a dominance of the market with 44% of all eCommerce sales, and over 12 million products on its shelves. What started as a small online book store in Jeff Bezos’ garage has now grown into a multi-billion-dollar empire that sells everything from books and electronics to clothing and groceries. Amazon operates in 20 countries across five continents and is one of the largest eCommerce companies in the US and the rest of the world. The retailer’s total monthly visits in the US reached a whopping 2.4 billion in May 2022, making Amazon one of the most visited sites in the country. Part of Amazon’s success can be attributed to its retail-oriented services, such as Fulfillment by Amazon and Amazon Web Services. The former lets businesses store and ship their products through Amazon, while the latter provides businesses with cloud computing services. Another game-changer in the competitive landscape of eCommerce is Amazon Prime. For an annual fee of $139 or a $14.99 monthly subscription, members get free shipping, access to Prime Video and Prime Music streaming services, extra discounts, and coupons, thus generating additional revenue for the company. Speaking of which, the company reported $469.8 billion in revenue in 2021. Despite being one of the top eCommerce companies in the world, Amazon didn’t make it through the COVID-19 pandemic unscathed. Even though the outbreak led to a surge in online shopping as people avoided going to physical stores, the retailer had to deal with a significant strain on its resources, leading to delays in shipping times and limited stock. 2. eBay - The Pioneer of Online Shopping Market cap: $25.56 billion Revenue: $10.42 billion Monthly visits: 753.5 million eBay is one of the oldest and best-rated eCommerce platforms. The online marketplace was founded back in 1995 and was one of the first to capitalize on the power of the internet for the purposes of shopping. Today, eBay is a behemoth with a market cap of more than $25 billion as of July 2022, becoming one of the largest eCommerce brands with over 159 million active users and availability in over 180 countries. The site accumulated 753.5 million worldwide monthly visits in April 2022, thus becoming one of the most visited websites globally. The company operates as a marketplace, allowing individuals and businesses to sell almost anything, from cars and clothing to antiques and art. What sets eBay apart from other eCommerce companies is its auction system. This lets sellers set a starting price for their product and allows potential buyers to bid on it, with the product ultimately going to the highest bidder.  However, the company has been pushed to adapt in recent years, as Amazon and other top eCommerce companies have gained ground. To stay competitive, eBay has introduced features such as “Buy It Now,” which lets buyers purchase items immediately at a set price, as well as “Best Offer,” which allows consumers to negotiate with sellers. Yet another benefit eBay users can count on is its “Best Price Guarantee.” If shoppers find a product they purchased on eBay for a lower price at another online retailer within 48 hours, eBay will offer a coupon worth 110 percent difference in price. Along with the guaranteed delivery scheme, which guarantees a refund if delivery takes more than three days, these initiatives make for a very customer-centric approach. 3. Alibaba - The Chinese eCommerce Dragon Market cap: $278 billion Revenue: $129.44 billion Monthly visits: 138.4 million The next entry on our handpicked list of eCommerce companies is a Chinese brand that has taken the world by storm - Alibaba. It was founded in 1999 as a business-to-business portal meant to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers.  Starting as a rags-to-riches story, the company has since transformed into a massive eCommerce empire with a market cap of over $278 billion. Currently, Alibaba is the largest eCommerce company in China and the world’s third-largest Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider by revenue.  The company operates a range of websites, including Taobao, DingTalk, AliExpress, and Tmall, which have a combined active user base of 1.31 billion, including 305 million overseas consumers. It operates in over 190 countries, offering online shopping, cloud services, logistics networks, digital media, entertainment, and more. Alibaba is one of the eCommerce retail companies that has been incredibly successful in China thanks to its focus on the country’s vast and growing middle class. The company has also been very innovative, introducing features such as Tmall, which provides a platform for businesses to sell to consumers, and AliExpress, which lets small businesses sell to buyers outside of China. In recent years, Alibaba has been expanding aggressively outside of China. The company has made a number of high-profile acquisitions, such as the purchase of the South China Morning Post in 2015. Alibaba has also invested heavily in overseas eCommerce companies, such as Lazada in Southeast Asia, further cementing itself as one of the top 5 eCommerce companies worldwide. In 2021, the company reported $129.44 billion in revenue, representing a considerable increase compared to the previous year’s $94.46 billion. We expect the upward trend to continue as Alibaba continues to capitalize on the growing global middle class and new international ventures. 4. Rakuten - The Amazon of Japan Market cap: $7.36 billion Revenue: $15 billion Monthly visits: 542.7 million Founded in 1997, Rakuten is a Japanese eCommerce company that is often referred to as the “Amazon of Japan.” The firm operates over 70 services, including an online marketplace, Japan’s largest online bank, the Viber messaging app, an e-book store, and Rakuten Mobile, a mobile carrier.  Today, Rakuten is the largest eCommerce company in Japan and one of the top 10 eCommerce companies in the world, with a market cap of $7.36 billion. The company’s website got a total of 542.7 million visits in April 2022, many of which were searching for Rakuten Travel services, which is Japan's largest online hotel reservation website. The ground-breaking acquisition of Viber in 2014 for $900 million was a strong statement of Rakuten’s ambitions to become a global player in the tech industry. The messaging app has since been integrated into Rakuten’s ecosystem and is used by over one billion people worldwide. Rakuten’s online marketplace is the company’s largest business and accounts for the lion’s share of its revenue. Being one of the best eCommerce brands, it sells everything from books and clothes to electronics and furniture. Rakuten is also known for its cashback program, which gives shoppers a percentage of their purchase back in the form of Rakuten Points. In 2021, Rakuten’s annual revenue amounted to $15 billion, having increased over the previous decade. With that in mind, and given that the name “Rakuten” means “optimism” in Japanese, we expect this upward trend to continue. 5. Walmart - The eCommerce Pioneer Market cap: $361.80 billion Revenue: $571.96 billion Monthly visits: 407.8 million Walmart is an American multinational retail corporation that operates a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores. Headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, the company was founded in 1962 and currently has around 10,500 locations in 24 countries. Being one of the top eCommerce companies in the USA, the total number of visits to its website was 407.8 million, according to the May 2022 data. Walmart’s online sales in the US amounted to around 47.8 billion dollars, which is an increase of about 11% compared to the previous year’s figures. Moreover, the company has a market cap of $361.80 billion and has been ranked 1st on the Fortune 500 list for 10 consecutive years.  The continued, steady growth encouraged the company to invest in its eCommerce resources by focusing on expanding and improving its delivery services and grocery pickup. This, combined with Walmart’s wide range of available products and its competitive prices, makes it one of the dominant entries on the eCommerce companies list.  Overall, Walmart offers a great customer experience, provides convenient delivery options, and has an impressive supply chain of 210 distribution centers and a fleet of almost 90,000 vehicles that deliver products to stores and customers. 6. The Home Depot - Everyone’s Favorite Home Improvement Store Market cap: $306.45 billion Revenue: $147.69 billion Monthly visits: 203.6 million Founded in 1978, The Home Depot is the world’s largest home improvement retailer, with more than 2,000 stores in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The company offers a wide range of products, including tools, building materials, furniture, lawn and garden products, and appliances. When it comes to eCommerce services, Home Depot is currently one of the top eCommerce furniture companies, along with IKEA, with a website that received around 203.6 million visits in June 2022. In recent years, Home Depot has put a lot of focus on its eCommerce business, investing in initiatives such as same-day delivery and in-store pick-up. One of the newest additions to its online services, the “Rent Online, Pick-up In Store” feature, has become quite popular among customers.  ROPIS allows customers to reserve items online and then pick them up at their nearest store. This service is highly convenient for customers who don’t have time to wait for delivery or wait in queues, as well as those who live in rural areas. Combined with its mixed cart selling scheme, whereby customers can purchase both physical and digital items in one transaction, Home Depot’s online presence among other top eCommerce retailers is becoming quite strong. Final Thoughts Many factors have been contributing to the growing popularity of eCommerce in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has played a significant role in this, as people started turning to online shopping out of necessity. In addition, the availability and popularity of contactless payment options, such as Apple Pay and Amazon Pay, have made it easier and more convenient for people to shop online. In times of drastic changes in the business world, it is hard to imagine the eCommerce industry without the six online sales companies we listed above, as they have all played a significant role in shaping the eCommerce landscape as we know it today.

By Danica Djokic

In business, there are always risks that something could go wrong. A natural disaster could strike, a key employee could leave, or your computer system could crash - any of these things could cause severe disruption to your company. That’s why it’s important to have a business continuity plan in place. Not only will it give you peace of mind knowing that your company can make it through difficult times, but it can also be useful for keeping things on track during a high-risk period. But what is a business continuity plan? And how do you create one? We’ll discuss all this,  as well as the benefits of having a continuity plan in place. Definition of a Business Continuity Plan A business continuity plan is a document that outlines how a business will continue to operate during and after an unexpected event. The goal of a continuity plan is to keep the company running, even if some aspects of the business are disrupted. Continuity plans are important because they help businesses avoid or minimize downtime and financial losses. They also help to protect employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Business Continuity Plans - Now and Then It all started in the 1970s when businesses started to become more reliant on computer systems. At the time, there was a lot of uncertainty about how these systems would work and whether or not they would be reliable. As a result, companies began to develop contingency plans in cases of computer system failure. These early continuity plans were mostly focused on technology, but over time, they have evolved to encompass all aspects of the business. Nowadays, business continuity planning, by definition, takes into account things like natural disasters, power outages, pandemics, or cyberattacks. For example, according to the IDC research survey conducted in 2014, an infrastructure failure can cost USD $100,000 per hour. Since then, technology has developed exponentially, and the costs may be even higher now. The risk of cyberattacks has also increased significantly over the years. Companies are now hiring business continuity teams and automating recovery processes using different software solutions that can help companies assess risks, process relevant data, as well as recover and protect critical business functions. Why Your Business Needs a BCP There are two main benefits to having this type of plan in place.  The most important benefit is the fact that it can help keep your business running during and after an unexpected event. By minimizing downtime and financial losses that may burden your operating budget, you can protect your employees, customers, and stakeholders. Unexpected events can range from minor setbacks to disasters that could cost you your business altogether. Either way, having a business continuity management plan will allow you to focus on running your business more efficiently. Besides, although having to define a business continuity plan can be tedious, it will help you comply with regulations. In some industries, having a business continuity plan is required by law.  Typically, businesses that operate in health care, financial, and government sectors are legally required to have a continuity plan in place. Otherwise, they face severe penalties from federal, state, or local governments. What Does a Business Continuity Plan Typically Include? There are four key components to a successful business continuity plan:  Risk assessment: Identifying and assessing the risks that could potentially disrupt your business. Business impact analysis: Determining how a business disruption would impact operations. Sometimes, the disruption could be a minor one, e.g., having to hire a new person for a role. At other times, the disruption could be large enough to force you into bankruptcy. Recovery plan: This document should always be within the scope of a business continuity plan. It outlines the steps that need to be taken to recover from an interruption. Testing and maintenance: This is the process of testing the continuity plan to ensure that it’s effective and up-to-date. Tips for Maintaining Business Continuity To maintain business continuity, it’s essential to: Review the plan regularly: Just like when writing a business plan, you should review your continuity plan at least once per year. This will help to ensure that it’s up-to-date and effective. Test the plan regularly: This will help to identify any weaknesses or gaps in your continuity business plan. Train employees: Your employees should be familiar with the continuity plan for your business. This will help ensure that they know what to do in the event of an interruption. By following these tips, you can ensure that your continuity plan is effective and up-to-date. All in All Creating a business continuity plan for your company is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure the future success of your organization. By having a clear plan in place, you will be able to minimize the impact of any potential disruptions and keep your business running smoothly.

By Vladana Donevski