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What makes a successful e-commerce business?

As modern technology continues to evolve at a seemingly ever-increasing rate, the UK's business landscape is adapting to reflect that change of pace.

A recent report revealed that 51% of consumers said they preferred to shop online rather than on the high street, while it is estimated that e-commerce sales in the UK were valued at £688 billion in 2018– a mammoth rise of more than £100bn from the previous 12 months.

It is undeniable, then, that e-commerce is big business and a greater number of enterprises are beginning to set up as online-only vendors. But what are the advantages of this approach? To which industries does it lend itself to more readily? And what are some examples of e-commerce companies making it big and taking the industry by storm?

What makes online-only an attractive prospect?

One of the major benefits of setting up an online-only organisation rather than one with a high-street presence is the reduced overheads owners have to contend with. Without the need for a physical outlet to sell your goods or services, you can save significant outlays on renting a property and paying all the fees that come with it, such as insurance and utility bills.

Subsequently, those savings can be re-invested back into the company and put towards growth and development, perhaps in the form of extra stock or a revamped marketing strategy. Additionally, the ability to be able to run your organisation from almost any location with an internet connection affords you a great deal of freedom and flexibility, which can have a positive impact on productivity.

Which industries do e-commerce enterprises work for?

Technological advances mean going online-only is now a realistic possibility for enterprises across a wider range of markets. For example, online personal training is becoming increasingly popular for those who are looking to lose weight, tone up, get stronger or eat healthier but may not have access to or the time for regularface-to-face sessions.

Social media influencers build their profiles almost entirely online and their business opportunities arise largely from sponsorship and promotion opportunities as brands look to tap into the influencer's following and capitalise on a potential new market. A lot of fashion retailers also operate as e-commerce enterprises, as do those who offer IT or web design services, which can be run from a home office or another type of remote location.

What are some examples of successful online businesses?

One of the great success stories which may act as an inspiration to aspiring e-commerce owners is that of ASOS, a fashion and beauty retailer founded in the UK around the turn of the century. Now worth approximately £4.6bn, ASOS sells hundreds of brands as well as its own to a target audience of young adults in their 20s.

Away from fashion, e-commerce businesses are also thriving within the interiors industry, with the likes of Swift Direct Blinds offering an entirely online service that includes offering its customers the opportunity to order ready-made blinds by providing step-by-step advice on how to take the measurements yourself.

And Ocado have proven that even supermarket chains don't require a physical presence to become a success, delivering food all over the country to thousands of customers. Ocado sells both its own branded produce and that of Waitrose, although that partnership is set to come to an end in September 2020 with Waitrose being replaced by Marks and Spencer, who have paid £750m for a 50% share of Ocado's booming e-commerce business.

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