Small Business Dimensions
E-commerce: The new "E" in success
From 2016 to 2020, e-commerce is expected to grow by 12%. By 2020, it will likely represent around 39% of retail sales gained through promotional offers, and 78% of all sales after sales numbers are adjusted for seasonal variations and holiday influences. Non-store companies, like Amazon, continue to gain share – estimated at 58% of total e-commerce in 2016.
The main driver of this growth continues to be mobile commerce. In the United States, it increased 47% in 2016, representing 16% of e-commerce sales. In fact, 82% of smartphone users use their phones when making purchase decisions inside a store. With useful camera features - like searching by photo and product scanning – and better integration of payment and shipping, mobile shopping is expected to rise.
Responding to mobile
In a 2017 report, ComScore showed mobile gobbled up a greater share of internet minutes compared to desktop - 71% in the United States, greater than 60% in Canada and the UK, with a high of 91% in Indonesia. Consumers browse on smartphones - and tablets - during coffee breaks, at home and while traveling, which means the mobile experience must be equal in quality to that of a desktop. A responsive site adapts to fit the screen of a user’s device so a website’s copy, images and ordering functions don’t get cut off and are easy to view on a mobile device. If a site does not respond, a visitor is likely to leave rather than spend time struggling to use a site not optimized for mobile interaction.
A seemingly Amazonian challenge
With Amazon driving 50% of incremental e-commerce sales in the U.S., the biggest concern for many is the ability to compete against the large players. Amazon's price and selection, as well as order innovation like using Alexa or Echo, contribute to the use of Prime in more than 50% of U.S. households. However, companies can compete by going deeper and providing richer shopping experiences in specific categories. In home goods, Wayfair’s strong brand and curated content provide an arguably better shopping experience than Amazon’s. By dominating a smaller niche market, companies like Fanatics, with its focus on sports apparel and fan gear, can carve out a niche as the leader. Other areas that can set smaller companies apart include building a strong direct-to-consumer brand, leveraging private label goods, providing better customer service/access to experts and leveraging omni-channel capabilities to provide a seamless experience for your customers.
A social connection
According to a study, social networks guide e-commerce purchases for 74% of consumers, and 60% of retailers who used social commerce reported new customers from different social networks. Social commerce provides ultimate convenience by enabling customers to purchase directly from their preferred social media channels rather than having to exit to a separate shopping cart. Shopify is one such company that helps companies implement social commerce and mobile shopping strategies. It hosts over 325,000 active online shops with a platform that continues to evolve to meet the growing requirements of online stores. It also has a built-in payment system. Other easy-to-setup-and-use services - i.e., no technical experience required - include BigCommerce, Magneto, YoKart and Big Cartel. Advertising shifts to mobile and social
Advertising shifts to mobile and social
Though traditional TV advertising still works, Google, Facebook and Amazon are the biggest beneficiaries of mobile and social advertising, with potential for emerging companies like Pinterest and Snapchat to be used in a company’s advertising mix. To drive the highest brand awareness, companies should focus on a multi-channel strategy.
Fundamentals still drive business
Whether shoppers walk into a storefront or buy online, when companies put the customer first they create loyalty - increasing the lifetime value of the customer. The customer experience always is, and always will be, at the heart of any company’s success. By integrating practices that respond to how consumers want to shop, e-commerce companies will continue to shape the shopping landscape.
Rooms to grow
Showrooming and webrooming are two words you'll see as you explore e-commerce. Showrooming is a visit to a store to experience a product before buying online at a lower price. On the other hand, webrooming is when shoppers research products online before going to a store for a final evaluation and purchase.
A U.S. Harris poll showed 69% of people webroom versus 46% who showroom. To keep this balance, offline retailers must implement an omni-channel selling strategy that focuses on an e-commerce storefront, employing a knowledgeable sales staff, in-store pick-ups of online orders, in-store Wi-Fi, and smartphone discounts to encourage shoppers to buy in-store.
- Consider how your business can benefit from the increasing use - and number - of e-commerce solutions
- Carefully review the many e-commerce platforms that are available to find one that’s right for your business
- Discuss with your advisor how adding an e-commerce channel will affect your overall business plan
Ways to fund a business venture
Startup financing turns entrepreneurial ideas into real business
From an innovative business idea to supporting a child's entrepreneurial spirit, startup financing is necessary to turn dreams into realities. Traditional banks may consider starting a business too risky, and there’s a lot of competition for venture capital. So you may need to rely on alternative funding.
There are several alternatives to consider. These include a margin* loan or a securities based line of credit (SBLC)*, both of which are collateralized by securities in your brokerage accounts. More important, these borrowing solutions allow your financial plan to keep working as you and your advisor intended. Here’s a look at some options.
Benefits: No setup fees; won’t disrupt your portfolio
Considerations: May not be suitable for all; requires a minimum withdrawal amount
Family and friends
Document your agreement and note perks or equity your investors are entitled to.
Benefits: Convenient and available quickly; simplified contract
Considerations: Potential conflict if business fails and money lost; added pressure; funds may be limited
Affluent people who provide capital in exchange for equity
Benefits: Substantial funding may be available; access to business coaching and insight
Considerations: May be hard to find depending on your specific business interest; managing divergent interests for the business may be challenging; more contractual strings
Some business grants are available through state and local programs, nonprofit organizations and other groups. Such grants may require you to match funds or combine the grant with other forms of financing, such as a loan.
Benefits: Access to capital at low cost
Considerations: Use of funds strictly defined and limited to certain kinds of business ventures
- Put down on paper your ideas for a new business and begin work on your business plan
- Discuss with your advisor how best to finance your business idea and how a business will impact your financial plan
- Consult with your lawyer and tax professional and keep them apprised of your intentions and progress
A Margin account or Securities Based Line of Credit (SBLC) may not be suitable for all clients and investors. The proceeds from an SBLC cannot be used to purchase or carry margin securities. Raymond James Bank does not accept RJF stock as pledged securities towards an SBLC. Borrowing on an SBLC or Margin account using securities as collateral may involve a high degree of risk including unintended tax consequences and the possible need to sell your holdings, which may lead to a significant impact on long-term investment goals. An investor can lose more funds than he or she deposited in the account. Market conditions can magnify any potential for loss. If the market turns against the client, he or she may be required to quickly deposit additional securities and/or cash in the account(s) or pay down the loan to avoid liquidation. The securities in the Pledged Account(s) may be sold to meet the Collateral or Margin Calls (Calls) and the firm can sell the client’s securities without contacting them. Clients and investors are not entitled to choose which securities or other assets in his or her account are liquidated or sold to meet a Call.
The firm can increase its maintenance requirements at any time and is not required to provide advance written notice. Clients and investors are not entitled to an extension of time on Calls. Increased interest rates could also affect LIBOR rates that apply to your SBLC or Margin account causing the cost of the credit line to increase significantly. The interest rates charged for an SBLC are determined by the market value of pledged assets and the net value of the client’s Capital Access account. The interest rates charged on Margin loans are determined by the amount borrowed. Please visit sec.gov/investor/pubs/margin.htm for additional information. Securities Based Line of Credit provided by Raymond James Bank, N.A., Raymond James & Associates, Inc. and Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. are affiliated with Raymond James Bank, N.A., a federally chartered national bank. Products, terms, and conditions subject to change. Subject to standard credit criteria.
A healthy choice
Health plans are the top benefit choice among employees
Gross domestic product at 2% to 3%, check.Unemployment around 4%, check.
Little inflation or deflation, check.
And now that the economy is humming along at a statistically healthy rate, businesses are looking to attract and keep the best employees to help them make the most of it. But at the same time, as recession pay freezes begin to thaw, employees can see data which show that a job change can lead to a significant raise in salary – more than one could expect from a current employer. Not to worry, however: A recent Glassdoor Employment Confidence Survey showed 79% of employees would prefer new or additional benefits to a pay increase. Add to that, 57% said benefits and perks were among top considerations for accepting a job.
Health benefits at top of the benefit list
Of the myriad benefits a company can offer – from retirement plans to commuter compensation – healthcare remains the top pick at 40%. A close second is paid time off at 37%, followed by a performance bonus at 35%.
Though law requires each individual to have health insurance (the newly enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doesn’t reduce the individual insurance mandate penalty for going uncovered to zero until 2019, consult your tax professional), it is also good to have in case of illness or accident. Offering affordable healthcare benefits provides a way for everyone – including your business – to remain compliant with necessary coverage. Healthy workers are also more productive workers, and when employees have health insurance in place, they worry less about healthcare access for themselves and their families and are able to focus more on business.
Explore the possibilities
Other affordable health insurance options include the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace (if you have fewer than 50 employees), individual health insurance, or a private health exchange.
While these are viable alternatives to traditional company-sponsored group health insurance, the most affordable is usually individual health insurance that can cost 20% to 60% less than group health insurance. And this is where an opportunity may exist – through a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), the employer* can set aside equal amounts of money for each employee that can be used tax free to pay health insurance premiums or other medical expenses. This strategy helps keep more money in the pockets of workers and in the business.
There are many health insurance providers and agents who can help tailor a solution for your business based on number of employees. And certainly, your advisor is also a good resource for advice and professional referrals since other clients are most likely in your situation, too.
- Talk to your insurance provider or go online to learn more about your options
- Discuss reimbursing your employees for individual health insurance plan costs with your tax professional
- Talk to your advisor to learn how other clients may be managing their business insurance and benefits needs
*The employer must have fewer than 50 employees, the same terms must be offered to all eligible employees, the employer must put the same amount away for each employee, the amount set aside per employee cannot exceed $4,950 for a single employee, $10,000 for a family plan.
Material created by Raymond James for use by its advisors. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James is not affiliated with any other entity listed herein. © 2018 Raymond James & Associates, Inc., member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC. © 2018 Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment products are: Not deposits, not FDIC/NCUA insured, not insured by any government agency, not bank guaranteed, subject to risk and may lose value. 17-BDMKT-2756 BS 1/18
Material prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors. Raymond James is not affiliated with any companies mentioned in this material.
There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss.