Internet Store Managers and Entrepreneurs
Exploring this Job
There are numerous ways in which you can explore your interest in the computer and business worlds. Increase your computer skills and find out how much this technology interests you by joining a computer users group or club at your high school or your community. Access the Internet on your own to observe different Web site designs and find out what is being sold and marketed electronically. What sites do you think are best at promoting products and why? Think about things from a customer's point of view. How easy are the sites to access and use? How are the products displayed and accessed? How competitive are the prices for goods or services?
Make it a goal to come up with your own ideas for a product or service to market on the Web, then do some research. How difficult would it be to deliver the product? What type of financing would be involved? Are there other sites already providing this product or service? How could you make your business unique?
Talk to professionals in your community about their work. Set up information interviews with local business owners to find out what is involved in starting and running a traditional business. Your local chamber of commerce or the Small Business Administration (https://www.sba.gov) may have classes or publications that would help you learn about starting a business. In addition, set up information interviews with computer consultants, Web site designers, or Internet store managers or owners. How did they get started? What advice do they have? Is there anything they wish they had done differently? Where do they see the future of e-commerce going?
If your school has a future business owners' club, join this group to meet others with similar interests. Joining Junior Achievement (https://www.juniorachievement.org) is another excellent way to get involved with local businesses and learn about how they work. Middle- and high-school students who are interested in business can join Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (http://fbla-pbl.org).
For hands-on business experience, get a part-time or summer job at any type of store in your area. This work will give you the opportunity to deal with customers (who can sometimes be hard to please), work with handling money, and observe how the store promotes its products and services.
Since the end of the first decade of the 21st century, there has been a continuing trend toward online shopping, with growing numbers of shoppers choosing to purchase products via the Internet. Some use the Internet to purchase hard-to-find products, while others find it convenient for everyday purchases such as groceries.
Online retail stores must keep up with constantly changing technology, the economic climate, business trends, and consumer demands, instead of concentrating on fast growth and offering the lowest prices. Consumers frequently use Internet stores to do comparison shopping, and a significant number of consumers research products online before buying them at traditional stores. These businesses must also pay extra attention to protecting their customers' sensitive personal information including their credit card information, so that people continue to feel comfortable purchasing products on Web sites.
Because of the vastness of the Internet, the role of an Internet store manager or entrepreneur can vary as much as the numerous Web sites on the Internet. Expert opinion on what makes one Web site or one business more successful than another differs, too.
Like traditional entrepreneurs, Internet entrepreneurs must have strong business skills. They come up with ideas for an Internet product or service, research the feasibility of selling this product or service, decide what they need to charge to make a profit, determine how to advertise their business, and even arrange for financing for their business if necessary. In addition, Internet entrepreneurs typically have computer savvy and may create and maintain their own sites.
Some entrepreneurs may choose to market a service, such as Web site design, to target the business-to-business market. Other Internet entrepreneurs may decide to market a service, such as online dating, to target the individual consumer market. Still others may develop a "virtual store" on the Internet and sell products that target businesses or individual consumers.
Internet stores vary in size, items for sale, and the range of products. Smaller Internet stores, for example, may market the work done by a single craftsperson or businessperson. Many large Internet stores focus on selling a specific product or line of products. As some of these stores have grown they have diversified their merchandise. Amazon.com is one such example. Originally a small, online bookstore, the company now sells everything from music downloads, movies, and games, to clothing, shoes, jewelry, toys and housewares, along with books and more. Other Internet stores, such as those of Eddie Bauer and Sears, may be extensions of catalog or traditional brick-and-mortar stores. These large companies are generally so well established that they can employ Internet store managers to oversee the virtual store.
The typical day of the Internet store manager or entrepreneur will depend greatly on the company he or she works for. Someone who works for a large company that also has a Web site store, for example, may meet with company department heads to find out about upcoming sales or products that should be heavily advertised on the Web site. They may do research about the store use and report their findings to company managers. They may work on the site itself, updating it with new information. They may be responsible for creating marketing plans (including the use of social media), creating budgets, and leading teams of sales reps or marketing personnel in executing the plans. They also track online traffic, visit-to-purchase conversion statistics, and other metrics to ensure the site is achieving its goals.
The Internet entrepreneur also has varied responsibilities that depend on his or her business. An entrepreneur may spend one day working with a client to determine the client's needs and the next day working on bookkeeping and advertising in addition to working on a project. Most entrepreneurs, however, enjoy this variety and flexibility.
While creating an Internet-based business is appealing to many, there are risks for those who start their own businesses. Despite uncertainties, however, Web stores continue to open and the number of Internet store managers and entrepreneurs continues to grow.