Alternative Investments

An Average investor would think about shares and funds when it comes to the word “investing” but Investing has lot of other options as well. According to research, it shows that lot of people world wide, now think about alternative investment methods. Trend started with the booming of these other options of investment and the falling prizes of shares.

Thinking about other investment options with low risk margins, Real estate, exporting, Work from home, Freelancing, Social networking sites and many other alternative options come into mind. You have to think of investing your money in an industry that has the lowest risk margin.
 

Real Estate 

Real estate sector is booming all around the world, especially in Europe and Australia. Recent researches done in Australia shows that, people prefer to invest in real estate more than they do in the mining sector, which is unpredictable. Land prices have started increasing at a rate never recorded in history before. There is a risk margin again, because you have to think relatively with the average income of the majority. There is a point, that an average person will not be able to afford even a small apartment or unit. First, second and may be the third owner might make a profit by selling a house or land. You have to research the prizes of apartments and houses before you buy. The latest researches show those people, who invested in real estate sector targeting a short term profit, have the difficulty in selling their investment property. Prizes will go up eventually, but there is a threshold. Average person, usually the first home buyers will be unable to afford a home of their own. Investors should consult a financial advisor or think about the time frame they are planning to get a return from their investment.

Exporting 

Exporting opportunities have increased with the decreasing Dollar value. Manufacturing businesses are rare to profit from exporting, because still China is the largest supplier. Most manufacturers are outsourcing to China because of the low labour costs. Primary industries keep on thriving in the export market. I am not going to talk about exporting very much. Let’s see what other opportunities of alternative investing we have.

Work from home

Many people tend to start their own work from home businesses. Many women today, are work from home moms. Work from home is becoming popular rapidly. Many men also tend to work from home due to increasing pressure in their workplaces. We find lot of couples working from home these days. Government assistance to work from home businesses has increased recently. Small Business Corporation offers seminars on tendering and other business issues with advisers ever ready to give assistance. Lot of big businesses has started outsourcing work to these home businesses because they will have less problems in employing people, and also they can get the work for a cheaper prize. These home based businesses work as independent contractors. They are the starting point of outsourcing.
 

Outsourcing
 
Outsourcing to Freelancers has become very popular with the work from home moms. Now it has expanded overseas.  India has become the major freelancing market place with its highly English literate people. Many Indian IT companies are freelancers. It is very hard to beat the competitive prizes of the Indian freelancing market place. Many businesses tend to outsource to India. Many American companies have invested in the Indian freelancing market. With the sprouting network places and increased communication methods, you can do the whole accounting function of a business from overseas.
 

Social Networking places
 
Social networking places have become very popular with the increasing freelance workforce. We see that many small Social networking sites mature in to mass communication and meeting places of business people all round the globe and then sold to other companies for millions of Dollars.  

With all these businesses sprouting up over the Internet, alternative investment methods have become the most popular market place of the world. In future, AIM will be the most popular around the globe.

 

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Proper timing on eBay maximizes your bids

Proper timing of a listing is very important to profit from your e-bay bidding.

 

Why?

 

Sellers spend lot of time preparing their listings with correct key words and proper descriptions. Most of them do not understand that they need to consider about timing and traffic flow. EBay traffic is not continues as expected. It differs from time to time, day by day and also by season to season. If you list your items for auction, and if the auction closes before a peak visitor time, you are not going to profit as you expected.

 

Understand when to list.

 

Items listed for seven days on a Friday, will close on next Friday closing time. Your items listed on Monday for three days, will close on Thursday.

 

List your Auction to end during a peak time or in a more constructive time. You are likely to get more visitors if your listing time is lengthier. Most eBay visitors search several times a weak. They do not buy at one go, instead they bid at the last moment of the auction ending time. Most bids are placed during the last thirty minutes. Your listing will also appear under “closing soon” section so you are likely to get more bids.

 

Peak time daily, is between 8.00PM and 10.00PM.  Speaking of peak visitor time weakly is during Saturday and Sunday. Most buyers by during Sundays between the times mentioned above.

 

Listing your item on Saturday to end on Sunday between 8.00PM and 10.00PM will reduce your long listing fee.

 

Why 8.00PM and 10.00PM?

 

According to research, most visitors from Eastern Time frame, brows auction sites during 8.00PM and if considering Pacific Time, it will be during 10.00PM. So if you list geographically, this will help you to decide the ending of your auction time.

 

 

                                  

Catalogue interoperability

This post relates to my previous post about “why you should have a catalogue”. 

 

Supplier Hubs is a supplier managed hosted catalogue interoperability service. They aggregate mass data from supplier catalogues, clean and decode those data into standard of other catalogues. After decoding, resellers can access supplier catalogues in a standard format.

 

Some resellers have complicated procurement systems that can access supplier data. Catalogue item master file will be automatically picked up and data will be arranged according to the reseller’s system instantly.

 

As a supplier, you can host your own catalogue and let your buyers access it online. This can also be automated.

 

 

 

 

Why should you have a catalogue?

A supplier’s catalogue is the central location for numerous other business activities inside an establishment. If you are a business selling computer accessories, without a catalogue it will be impossible to operate. Data of all the accessories and stocks you have is in the catalogue. You also need a catalogue to access the list of suppliers and their prices.

 

The problem of catalogues

If your business is a small supplier, creating and selling a specific variety of products in which you have specialised and take pride of, and you have two main customers who buy from you in bulk. They are your biggest customers. Your business relies on their buying your products.

 

Your biggest customer decides to put into practice, an electronic trading system. They send a letter to all of their suppliers, telling that, within a given time frame, all of their suppliers must be system compatible with their new proven practise. That means, you must provide your catalogue data in accordance with the customers given format.

 

You are now afraid of loosing your largest customer; and you invest several thousands of your capital designing an e-catalogue that complies with the customer. You still communicate with the other customer via fax and phone.

 

Meanwhile the second customer decides to create a new e-buying plan and you will be informed that they too will be requiring you to create your e-catalogue compatible to their system. Their system is different and cannot comply with the system you have with the first one. Now you are shattered and will have to make a very difficult choice. 

   

If you say no, you will loose an important percentage of your sales. You are not able to say ‘yes’ either. Now you will have to invest a significant portion of your capital to make a catalogue matching to the second buyer.

 

Sometimes they will again require you to keep an additional list of your product records on their own systems through a hosted solution. This is not possible, with you constantly updating and re – keying your product details. It will be a nightmare and lot of errors are bound to happen.

 

So for this, comes a solution. ‘Catalogues must be able to interoperate’.

 

 

 

 

Join the E-marketplace

Small businesses that plan to sell their products or services online, must consider a range of issues before they start their E-commerce plan.

Some businesses according to their requirements minimize their involvement by joining the e-market place, where another business will purchase their products and sell it for them.  That means, if you have services or products to offer, another business will purchase them from you and sell it for you.

You do not have to worry about your marketing campaign. More buyers you connect to, more business you make. What you have to do is, send your product to the buyer’s destination or provide your service according to the buyer’s requirements.

There are many e-market places having various business strategies. They might act as arbitrators. E-marketplaces offer services such as business directory listings and Electronic catalogues.

Top market places to join are those that tender low cost financial accounting systems and connect with other market places.

 

Happy blogging.

 

Independent e-marketplace

Buyer-oriented e-marketplace

Supplier-oriented e-marketplace

 

 

 

 

 

Things to consider before e-tailing

E-commerce transactions mainly involve the use of credit cards, smart cards and other methods such as digital cash or coupons.

If you are selling low value items in large quantities online, it is better to use one of the large commercial gateways such as provided by the big banks to minimise your risk and maximise your security.

If you are selling high volume items, think twice before you start doing online transactions. Online presence and online transactions are not the same. Use your website to show the customers what you have to offer, and use it to get more customers and business contacts.

Many people waste their money trying to sell goods and services online simply because they have not done their preliminary preparation and research well enough.

Before planning to sell online, as I have stated in many articles just answer these questions and you will then see whether it is worth selling online.

  • Do you sell a product or service that people will want to buy online?
  • What is the benefit to your customer by purchasing that item or service online?
  • Who are most likely to buy your products and where are thy located?
  • How are you going to pack and ship the items?
  • What will be your return policy?
  • Can you manage refunds?
  • Is your product a common one that is available always on retail stores?
  • If so why do you think your customer will want to buy them online?
  • How are you going to minimise errors happening. E.g.: a customer orders a blue one and you dispatch a pink one?
  • What are the costs likely to occur for all above and are you able to price the item covering all the above costs and still make it cheaper than the same item in the brick and mortar store? (especially if you are selling a common item like clothing)
  • If you have a shop, there might be customers who come to your shop in search of one item and get interested in other items that are in the store and this might bring you a big profit. Are you likely to get this type of sales online?
  • If you supply your products to retail stores run by other companies, what percentage of your products get sold simply because they were in this main stores?

After finding answers to these questions you will be able to decide doing sales online is for you or not. You should still not back away. Your online presence is very likely to promote your business or brand and generate lot more sales offline.

Storefront services

Storefront services provide you with a number of services including software to build an online store instantly in your browser using onscreen instructions, Website building software, e-mail, transaction processing and Web hosting. Some of these services are so simple that you do not need special technical knowledge. Storefront services provide you with online tools such as selecting a suitable template for your website and also you can enter information about your products and services and select the products you want to sell. You can select payment and shipping options as well. These services may charge you with a set up fee and a monthly fee for hosting your storefront. Notice the storefront services provided by smallbusiness.miva.com. and merchandizer.com

To host and create a store using a storefront hosting service, you will have to complete a series of forms. You can create a serviceable online store in few hours if you have products to sell and can supply all the information about your company that the storefront service requires.

Once you have set up the store, you can do website maintenance such as editing and adding new content and pictures to your store using your browser. Your activities may depend on the plan you purchase. You can select plans which will suite you the most.

As payment options, you might not need to obtain a merchant account depending on the service you select. Some services provide you payment options as well as their services. These storefront services are ideal for small business people. You do not have to be a computer geek to perform changes in your store front.

The main disadvantage of using some storefront hosting services is the lack of design flexibility. In addition, not all services can be easily customized to meet the specific needs of every business.

MIVA Merchant, with Store Morph Technology™, provides you with Powerful Store Design Tools, Catalogue Management, Inventory Tracking and Product Merchandising, Order Processing and Customer Management, Shipping Calculation and Payment Processing, Data Access and Storage, Affiliate Programs and Marketing Services, Easy-to-Use Administration Tools, Modular Architecture and also Documentation and Support. This again depends on the plan you purchase.

Merchandizer.com also provides you with rang of services for a monthly fee that varies on the plan you select. They provide you with Setup Features, Customer Support Functionality, Store Room & Inventory Controls, Store Interface Features, Promotions, Order Management, Customer Management and Product Management. They provide you with different shopping cart solutions, and their Digital goods support enables merchants to sell non-physical items such as software, documents, graphics, or any product or service that does not require shipping.

These are two services I have noticed as good service providers. But you can select the service provider according to your requirements.

Are you going to open the store and wait for the customer to walk in?

Taking a business online does not guarantee success more than opening a store and waiting for your customers to walk right through the door. You must identify your customers. There should be a marketing effort. You have to determine customer needs and then develop methods of producing appropriate services and products.

Ask these questions and find answers to them first.
Who are my possible customers?
What do my customers need?
Where are my customers located?
What motivates my customers to buy?
When do my customers buy?

You need to identify marketing trends. You have to change with the changing environment and be prepared to change accordingly.

Branding your product or service is very important. People trust branded product or service than a product or service without proper branding.

Improve your customer awareness of your business by the appearance of your website and its association with desirable traits such as great prices and neat content.

Offer free stuff like e-books, software and offer something free if the customer purchases an item for a certain value. You can also offer gift certificates, prizes and free samples. For items like software, free trial versions will be very effective. But keep in mind that software must not effect other applications in the customer’s computer. Your customer will not return to you if that happens.

Provide how to information, and easy to use help

Ask customer feedback and suggestions about how to improve your service.

Create products designed to customer specification.

Offer an e-newsletter.

Provide each customer with an individual shopping experience.

Maintain a good and friendly relationship with your customers.

Customers will start to walk in through your door if you make the right effort. I wish you the best with your website.

Preparing to go online

Always we talk about marketing and planning sticky websites. But before you set up an online store of any kind, you need to access internet and obtain a web host. If you are doing serious business you cannot depend on public computers. You have to have your own computer system. There are Internet Service Providers, (ISP) to connect your computer via a cable or telephone line to Internet. Secondly, you need to find a web hosting provider to store the pages of your website for users to access. Your website services depend on the web hosting provider you select. It is very important to do primary research before you choose one.

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) connects your computer to the Internet. ISP provides you with an e-mail address and limited or full features of the Internet depending on the plan you purchase. Some plans are for limited downloads and limited services. Other plans include unlimited access. If you are doing serious business, unlimited access is the best plan you should choose.

Web hosting company that hosts a web site is a ‘web hosting provider’. You can select your ISP to host your website or select a different company to be your web host. Most Internet Service Providers give you limited amount of storage for your files that make up a website. But they do not provide you with necessary e-commerce facilities. You can set up a free website with a free web hosting service such as Free Server. But again you will not be allowed to conduct business on these free websites. They are limited in space and you might be allowed to have only two pages. It is advisable to select a web host carefully. It may depend upon what you really want to do with your website and the facilities your web host allows you according to their different plans. For example, Network Solutions describes the different plans that are available with them. You can select the plan according to your need.

Using web hosting services, you can create you web pages and upload them to your website using your computer. Your website is stored on the server, (web hosts computer) and connected to the internet. FTP is the commonly used protocol for exchanging files over internet. There must be two computers involved, your server (Web host), and your computer (Client). Once connected, you can do a number of operations such as uploading files to the server and downloading from the server including renaming and deleting files using your secure code. A full web hosting service will allow you to use CGI scripts. CGI script is a custom written common gateway Interface used in connection with other computers such as ordering information. Many web hosting services also provide multiple e-mail accounts, Shopping carts and a secure server to handle credit card processing. They also provide you with web page templates so that you can quickly create your own site. Other advantage of having a web hosting service is that you can have access to technical support when you need it.

Some companies with technical and financial resources, host their own website because they need high volume transactions. They also have sufficient staff to maintain their entire system.

E-Commerce Challenges

Although most companies are anxious to develop an e-commerce strategy, they also have to be informed about possible pitfalls. There are both advantages and disadvantages in e-commerce.

Challenges faced by most web developers are creating a website that would keep the customers on the site until they make a purchase. If the Website is difficult to navigate, products are not described well, and Forms are not easy to fill out. Links are broken, pictures take too long to load or have disappeared; harder it would be to keep the customer. A website that keeps the potential customer entertained is called a sticky website.

Although starting involves some expenses, a brick and mortar store will benefit from a user friendly website and the website will gain recognition to the business not only locally, but round the world. It will be open 24 hours a day and every day. Online presence is an advantage for any business to be recognised.

Traditionally many businesses operate as middle men between a business and the consumer. Agents, brokers, and sales representatives are all examples of middlemen. Authority of these middlemen are fast being made obsolete because consumers can go directly to a company’s web site and purchase products and services without help from an agent or other intermediary (disintermediation).

Intermediation is not going to finish yet. While traditional intermediaries are made obsolete, a new kind of cyber intermediaries that could not have existed before the internet has immerged. Cyber intermediaries include auction sites, payment – processing sites, and web site store front services.

When a website displays a Buy it! Button and a customer clicks on the button, credit card information is processed by an online processor company and the vendor pays the processing company a transaction fee. This is a Cyber intermediary


For E-Commerce, There is no world wide standard established yet. From a vendor’s point of view, a website is an advantage to advertise worldwide. A website can reach narrow market segments regardless of location. E-transactions can reduce costs related to processing orders. Internet presence can streamline business operations by incorporating business to business transactions and form virtual communities.

High start up cost is a disadvantage. Difficulty of keeping data current and upgraded can be another disadvantage; this becomes more when there are few available trained employees. E-Commerce transactions are sometimes difficult to combine with current systems. Language barriers might cause difficulty in doing transactions. Government tax regulations are different from country to country, and it always is confusing. Identifying a world wide standard is the main solution to these problems.