While launching an online business requires an initial investment to set up a store, execute marketing strategies, and manage inventory, it can be more cost-effective than opening a brick-and-mortar shop.
As the ecommerce industry grows, business owners have found ways to decrease upfront costs while positioning their online businesses for long-term success. One such strategy is collective ecommerce. This framework can help you reduce time-to-market, risk, and startup costs. Here’s how collective ecommerce works.
What is connective ecommerce?
Connective ecommerce is an online selling strategy that reduces risk to an entrepreneur by minimizing their upfront financial investment. Cortney Fletcher, entrepreneur and founder of the online ecommerce course provider eCom Babes, coined the term. Fletcher’s framework can help you reduce costs across three main business operations.
- Advertising: Instead of spending money on paid advertising, connective ecommerce encourages entrepreneurs to generate organic traffic through social media marketing, search engine optimization, and affiliate marketing partnerships, which are all strategies you can execute without high upfront costs.
- Selling: Fletcher suggests entrepreneurs use ready-made ecommerce templates to build attractive, low-cost online stores instead of hiring web developers to build stores from scratch.
- Order fulfillment: Connective ecommerce business owners use dropshipping, an ecommerce model that involves selling products without holding inventory. Dropshipping eliminates the need for inventory storage and shipping infrastructure. When a dropshipping business makes a sale, it pays a portion of the proceeds to a third-party supplier who holds inventory and handles ecommerce order fulfillment.
Connective ecommerce vs. dropshipping
Think of dropshipping as one part of connective ecommerce: Dropshipping allows you to start an online business without first developing inventory management infrastructure or investing in shipping systems. Connective ecommerce expands on this model to further reduce the upfront costs of selling online.
Is connective ecommerce legitimate?
Connective ecommerce is a legitimate online business strategy and is not all that different from other ecommerce business strategies. Many business owners use free tools and organic marketing opportunities to reduce overhead, particularly during the startup phase.
Benefits of connective ecommerce
Connective ecommerce can help new business owners increase sales revenue without exposing themselves to significant financial risk. Here are a few benefits:
Limited hiring needs
The connective ecommerce method emphasizes low-labor, low-investment solutions, which can eliminate the need to hire staff. For example, instead of contracting a web developer, you can purchase a pre-built online store template and design your own online store.
Reduced startup costs
Connective ecommerce business models can significantly reduce financial investments in inventory and product promotion, allowing you to start selling products online without raising capital or with a minimal investment of personal funds.
Freedom to experiment
Minimizing startup costs also allows you to experiment with different brands and product niches to see what works. If you can reduce startup costs, you could even launch two or three brands to maximize your chances of success.
Reduced time to market
Ready-made solutions and vendor partners can decrease the amount of time you spend in pre-launch. Under the traditional method, a business owner takes several steps—investing in website development, acquiring and storing inventory, and launching a paid ad campaign—before seeing if their chosen business model and strategies pay off.
Connective ecommerce, on the other hand, allows you to develop a brand concept, build your own website, push an online store live, and start earning money in a shorter time frame.
How to use a connective ecommerce strategy
- Identify your niche
- Find suppliers
- Choose an ecommerce platform
- Build your online store
- Market your business
1. Identify your niche
First, conduct market research and select a niche, prioritizing product types that are in demand with your target market. To evaluate product popularity, consult Amazon bestseller lists, use Google’s Keyword Planner to review search volumes, or look at the number of online retail businesses for a particular product type on online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.
2. Find suppliers
After you identify your niche, find dropshipping suppliers. Consult online lists of the best suppliers and browse their products related to your niche.
3. Choose an ecommerce platform
Next, choose an ecommerce platform. Keep these factors in mind:
- Cost: The goal of connective ecommerce is to minimize startup costs, so consider the monthly price of the ecommerce platform. Look for a free or low-cost plan.
- Ease of set-up: A templated platform can allow you to quickly set up and launch an ecommerce storefront without web development experience. Look for a provider that offers free templates and themes.
- Dropshipping integrations: Some ecommerce platforms offer ready-made dropshipping integrations. Select a platform that integrates with your supplier to automate the dropshipping process.
- Sales channel integrations: Connective ecommerce emphasizes marketing on free channels, like social media platforms. Select an ecommerce platform that integrates with key sales and marketing channels to boost sales and reduce labor.
- Features: Look for a platform that provides multiple payment gateway integrations, security features, quality customer service, mobile-responsive display, and integrated hosting.
4. Build your online store
To build your online store, select a theme, design your homepage, and integrate your payment gateway. If you choose a platform with dropshipping integrations, connect your dropshipping suppliers, select what products you’d like to sell, and set your prices. Your storefront will automatically populate product listings.
5. Market your business
Once your online store is live, start marketing your business. The connective ecommerce approach emphasizes non-paid traffic techniques like organic social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and direct outreach.
Although connective ecommerce discourages running ads in a business’s early stages, the framework recommends using affiliate marketing, a model in which you pay an influencer a commission for driving traffic or sales to your website through their marketing efforts. Since you only pay affiliates after a sale or a specific amount of traffic, this form of paid traffic generation doesn’t increase your upfront costs.
Connective ecommerce FAQ
Is connective ecommerce the same as dropshipping?
No. Dropshipping is one tactic within the larger connective ecommerce strategy. Dropshipping minimizes upfront costs associated with the supply chain, while connective ecommerce also minimizes costs related to advertising and setting up an online store.
Is connective ecommerce a scam?
No. Connective ecommerce works to minimize a business’s startup costs, allowing entrepreneurs to start an internet business quickly.
Can you use the Shopify platform for connective ecommerce?
Yes. Shopify’s small business plans include a drag-and-drop store builder, hundreds of free ecommerce templates, mobile-responsive themes, over 100 payment integrations, free hosting, and unlimited product listings.