October 15, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As you start to get involved in remote work, the idea of having your own online business will eventually come into play. Should you consider buying an online business or building one from the ground-up? Both of these can be rather lucrative if you know what you are doing. Buying an established business can pay off a lot more in the long run than starting one from scratch. If you are curious about why buying is better than building an online business, here are some tips and information for you to explore.
Buying vs. building
As we explore the overview of the online business landscape, we find people who are very good at buying online businesses and those who are very efficient at creating businesses. If you build online businesses, you might either be interested in selling it down the road or sticking with it for the long run until it turns around profit.
Having a lot of capital to invest in a business is the top reason why buying is better than building an online business. As stated by Greg Elfrink of Empire Flippers: “Buying a business doesn’t just let you skip the timeline, but it also lets you come into the game already having hard data on what is working and what isn’t.” If you want to go straight to making money, buying a business is the better way to go.
Many people make a living out of creating online businesses, getting it up to a certain level of income, and then selling them. These sorts of people usually have years of background experience with marketing and SEO. If you are new to online business, it would be difficult to match their usual timeframe for monetization.
Where to get started?
Getting started with buying an online business is pretty simple and straightforward. Thankfully, there are already many different platforms, marketplaces, and brokers that make it easier for you to shop around the different options that exist. Out of the many different places to start, here are some of the best options:
Tip 1: Pick a monetization type
When buying an online business, picking a niche of personal interest is usually the way to go, But sometimes it makes a lot more sense to start off with how the business is monetized. There are different skills required for just about every type of business. You need to match your experience with a business that will be the best fit. Ideally, you can align the monetization method and niche to create a perfect fit, but it’s not always easy.
Remember that you will need to work in your online business for a little while. For this reason, it can be helpful to pick a niche that is both profitable and practical for your knowledge and skillset. If you are new to the online business space, make sure to maintain an open mind, since the most boring niches are the least competitive and can often make the most money.
Tip 2: Check for consistent income
You must check for consistent and reliable sources of income before buying a business. “You might overestimate your own skills or underestimate what is required to really manage the business you’re buying,” Elfrink says. “This can lead to not only frustration but actually losing all that capital you’ve invested in the business, along with the actual business profit starting to decline.”
One of the most important aspects before buying any business is to dig diligently into the financial details of the business to make sure you have a full understanding of the profit and loss. Without this information, and proof that it is consistent income, you will be much more likely to buy a business that turns into a dud. Once you have the income, it is also normal to make an offer that is near 30x the monthly profit to acquire the business.
Related: How to Start a Business Online
Tip 3: Know the operating processes and level of traffic
Before you get into an online business, you should know exactly how you are going to run it. Speak with the owner directly about what they do each month to run the business. This way, you will know right away what you will be taking on.
At the same time, you should inquire about how much traffic the business receives, where it gets this traffic, how the business is marketed, and so on. This will help you know how to continue running the business when it becomes yours.
Patience will always be necessary
When we view the overview of the online business landscape, one of the reasons why buying is better than building an online business is because it could save you years of time and money.
However, please keep in mind that patience will be a virtue when you buy an online business. You may not immediately increase your income to the point you want or learn the ropes of the business quickly. Stick with it, be humble, and learn things every day, so that you can achieve the level of success that you want.
How Technology is Revolutionizing Beauty Ecommerce
Emerging technologies like augmented reality and artificial intelligence are keeping beauty in business.
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October 25, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The current crisis has changed consumer behavior and expectations immensely. Since the lockdown started, personal safety and hygiene have emerged as a top concern. Consumers are scared of visiting crowded marketplaces and in some instances, have postponed purchases. One area that has seen unprecedented growth across multiple facets is online sales. From grocery buying to banking, consumers are meeting most of their needs online.
To be a part of this movement, the beauty industry needs to innovate and offer an experience at par with what brick-and-mortar stores do. Major ecommerce beauty brands have leveraged artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to build assessment, comparison and testing tools to assist in finding beauty products online. We can learn from some of these case studies.
1. Augmented reality is being used to visualize cosmetic products
With customers shying away from brick-and-mortar stores and shifting online, brands should move to virtual try-on tools to preserve the offline experience.
- L’Oréal product ModiFace allows consumers to have an AR-powered makeup try-on experience.
- Olay, a PnG brand, launched Skin Advisor in 2017. Based on deep learning, it recommends products analyzing the user’s skin via a photograph. Of the 6 million people who use this service, 94 percent report recommendations being appropriate.
- Maybelline’s “Virtual Try-On” tool allows you to apply and compare four makeup products simultaneously. It also shows a comparison of before and after look.
- Sephora’s Virtual Artist analyses your skin and facial features to recommend products to try on. By 2018, users had demoed more than 200 million shades using this feature.
- 88 percent of mid-sized companies are already using AR in some capacity (Deloitte)
- 66 percent of people claim to be interested in using AR for assistance when shopping (Google Consumer AR Survey)
- 60 percent of people would like the ability to be able to visualize how and where a product fits into their lives (Google Consumer AR Survey)
- Conversion rates increase by 90 percent for consumers engaging with AR compared to those who don’t (Retail Customer Experience)
2. Artificial intelligence is being used for product recommendations
Are you worried about the safety and effectiveness of a cosmetic product? Organizations are building AI-based product recommendation tools to resolve the pain point.
- Proven Skin Care – a tool based on the Skin Genome Database: This is a search engine used to find out information about beauty products. The database contains data points about the effectiveness of more than 20,238 skincare ingredients, characteristics of over 100,000 individual products, 8 million user testimonials and 4,000 scientific publications.
- EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database is an online tool to search for ingredients in beauty products. It lists hazard ratings for 70,000 products from 2,374 brands and information about 9,000 ingredients.
- Function of Beauty produces customized hair care products with ingredients recommended by machine learning algorithms. These custom shampoo/conditioner formulas are specific to customers’ hair types.
- Haut.AI is a SaaS tool that offers tools and APIs for it.
- Consumers are 40 percent more likely to view items that are recommended based on the information they’ve shared with the brand (MarketingDive)
- Forty-seven percent of consumers will go to Amazon if the brand they’re shopping with doesn’t provide relevant product suggestions (SmarterHQ)
- Global Organic Beauty Market to reach $54 billion by 2027 due to concerns about the safety of ingredients used (Statista)
Emerging technologies are expensive bets
Prima facie, technology such as a virtual trial tool based on AR might seem simple to implement. It would be best if you had 3D photography of your product catalog or data attributes that mimic the life-like application of the product. That is just the tip of the iceberg; the real complexity lies within doing so. You would end up with a set of disgruntled customers if the tool fails to depict real-life applications accurately.
This space is seeing breakthroughs within product development — moving from a showcase novelty to functionality that the majority of the customers use. What used to be limited to high-ticket items like real estate is being used to showcase regular products. It has certainly worked in favor of brands within the beauty industry, as L’Oréal reported an increase of 49 percent in product sales owing to their AR initiative.
A shift in the direction is how AdTech companies are using AR. Google has implemented it within search results while Facebook is working on AR advertising for both Facebook and Instagram. Immersive social commerce is the future wherein users interact with AR depictions of products and purchase it without leaving the social media platform. The capabilities have been demonstrated by the behemoths, but cost acts as the major limiting factor in the widespread adoption of these technologies within ecommerce.
Conservative News Sites Fuel Voter Fraud Misinformation
In the final stretch of the 2020 campaign, right-leaning news sites with millions of readers have published dozens of false or misleading headlines and articles that effectively back unsubstantiated claims by President Trump and his allies that mail-in ballots threaten the integrity of the election.
The Washington Examiner, Breitbart News, The Gateway Pundit and The Washington Times are among the sites that have posted articles with headlines giving weight to the conspiracy theory that voter fraud is rampant and could swing the election to the left, a theory that has been repeatedly debunked by data.
On Sept. 25, Gateway Pundit posted an article headlined “EXCLUSIVE: California Man Finds THOUSANDS of What Appear to be Unopened Ballots in Garbage Dumpster — Workers Quickly Try to Cover Them Up — We are Working to Verify.” The envelopes turned out to be empty and discarded legally in 2018. Gateway Pundit later updated the headline, but not before its original speculation had gone viral.
The Right Scoop published an article on Oct. 7 headlined “DESTROYED: Tons of Trump mail-in ballot applications SHREDDED in back of tractor-trailer headed for Pennsylvania.” The material was actually printing waste from a direct mail company. The publication later changed the headline to reflect that the claim had been debunked.
Another right-wing site, Daily Wire, posted a Sept. 24 article about ballots in Pennsylvania under the headline “FEDS: Military Ballots Discarded in ‘Troubling’ Discovery. All Opened Ballots were Cast for Trump.” Headlines on the same issue in The Washington Times were similar: “Feds investigating discarded mail-in ballots cast for Trump in Pennsylvania” and “FBI downplays election fraud as suspected ballot issues found in Pennsylvania, Texas.” A Washington Times opinion piece on the matter had the headline “Trump ballots in trash, oh my.”
Several days after the reports, neither Daily Wire nor The Washington Times appeared to follow up with articles on the announcement from Pennsylvania’s elections chief that the discarded ballots were a “bad error” by a seasonal contractor, not “intentional fraud.” Mr. Trump cited the discarded Pennsylvania ballots several times as an example of fraud, including in last month’s presidential debate.
Major polls have shown Mr. Trump lagging the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., in an election that will have significantly more people than usual voting by mail because of the coronavirus. False claims about mail-in voting have been a staple of the president’s campaign. At last month’s debate, he claimed without evidence, “This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen.”
In June, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter that “Mail-In Ballots will lead to a RIGGED ELECTION!” He linked to a Breitbart article that included a transcript of Attorney General William P. Barr’s telling the Fox News host Maria Bartiromo that voting by mail “absolutely opens the floodgates to fraud.”
In August, The New York Post published an article that relied on one anonymous source, identified as a Democratic operative, who claimed that he had engaged in voter fraud for decades. The Blaze, Breitbart, Daily Caller, FoxNews.com and The Washington Examiner posted their own versions of the article. It was also promoted by Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric, the Trump campaign’s communications team, the “Fox & Friends” television program and Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, according to a recent Harvard University study.
The Harvard researchers described a “propaganda feedback loop” in right-wing media. The authors of the study, published this month through the school’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, reported that popular news outlets, rather than social media platforms, were the main drivers of a disinformation campaign meant to sow doubts about the integrity of the election.
So far in October, Breitbart has published nearly 30 articles with the tag “voter fraud.” President Trump has posted links to several Breitbart articles on Twitter, including one in August in which a Republican-appointed poll challenger estimated that up to 20,000 absentee primary ballots had been improperly counted in Detroit, a city “known for voting heavily Democrat,” the article said. The Detroit News later reported that election officials in Michigan said the problems “weren’t examples of fraud and don’t call into question the integrity of the results.”
As the country faces a third wave of Covid-19 cases, tens of millions of Americans plan to mail their ballots, and more than 25 states have expanded access to universal mail voting. The voting system, stressed by greater demand, has struggled in places with ballots sent to incorrect addresses or improperly filled out. But intentional voter fraud is extremely uncommon and rarely organized, according to decades of research.
That’s true even though specific totals vary depending on the source. Among the billions of votes cast from 2000 to 2012, there were 491 cases of absentee-ballot fraud, according to an investigation conducted at Arizona State University’s journalism school. Election experts have calculated that, in a 20-year period, fraud involving mailed ballots has affected 0.00006 percent of individual votes, or one case per state every six or seven years.
In June, The Washington Post and the nonprofit Electronic Registration information Center analyzed data from three vote-by-mail states and found 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of dead people in 2016 and 2018, or 0.0025 percent of the 14.6 million mailed ballots.
Some conservative publications have nodded at the scarcity. In an Oct. 1 article about Facebook’s bans of ads that promote a narrative of widespread voter fraud, The Blaze noted “isolated reports of voter fraud in America in recent months.” A Fox News article on the same day pointed out a “false claim” by Mr. Trump that a mail worker in West Virginia had sold ballots. The Fox News article quoted a state official who said the incident had never happened.
Mr. Trump’s effort to discredit mail-in voting follows decades of disinformation about voter impersonation, voting by noncitizens and double voting, often promoted by Republican leaders.
Voting by mail under normal circumstances does not appear to give either major party an advantage, according to a study this spring by Stanford University’s Institute for Economic Policy Research. But many conservative outlets have promoted the idea that fraud involving mailed ballots could tip the scales in favor of Democrats.
Stephen J. Stedman, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford, said he thought “about disinformation in this country as almost an information ecology — it’s not an organic thing from the bottom up.”
Last month, sites including The Gateway Pundit, The Washington Examiner and Breitbart followed a report from a Fox affiliate in Wisconsin about mail that had been found in a ditch and reportedly included absentee ballots. The story was promoted by the Trump adviser Jason Miller; the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany; the Fox News host Tucker Carlson; and the president himself.
After the outcry, all but unnoticed, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the batch of mail hadn’t included absentee ballots from Wisconsin and that it was unclear if there had been ballots from other states. The liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America traced several other examples.
In a similar cycle, the Fox News host Sean Hannity and conservative publications magnified the reach of a deceptive video released last month by Project Veritas, a group run by the conservative activist James O’Keefe. The video claimed without named sources or verifiable evidence that the campaign for Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, was collecting ballots illegally.
Mr. Stedman said right-leaning outlets sometimes conflated fraud with the statistically insignificant administrative mishaps that occur in every American election.
“The pandemic is making this a true administrative nightmare, where administrators who have never done this on this scale have just a few months to do it, and they now also have the Trump administration trying to take advantage of every single mistake to say, ‘See, that’s fraud,’” Mr. Stedman said. “It can’t end well.”
With Vacation Rentals Empty, European Cities See a Chance to Reclaim Housing
LISBON — Long before the coronavirus swept across Europe this spring, many cities had been complaining that a proliferation of short-term apartment rentals aimed at tourists through platforms like Airbnb was driving up housing costs for locals and destroying the character of historic districts.
Now that the pandemic has all but cut off the steady flow of visitors, many European cities are seizing an opportunity to push short-term rentals back onto the long-term housing market.
In Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, the city government is becoming a landlord itself by renting empty apartments and subletting them as subsidized housing. In Barcelona, Spain, the housing department is threatening to take possession of empty properties and do the same.
Other city governments are enacting or planning new laws to curb the explosive growth of rentals aimed largely at tourists. Amsterdam has banned vacation rentals in the heart of the old city; a Berlin official warned of a crackdown on short-term leasing platforms “trying to evade regulation and the enforcement of law”; and Paris is planning a referendum on Airbnb-type listings.
For years, properties rented out for short-term stays have put pressure on the housing markets in several European cities. Lisbon has more than 22,000 Airbnb listings, according to Inside Airbnb, which tracks listings in cities around the globe. Barcelona has 18,000, and Paris — one of the platform’s largest markets — has nearly 60,000.
When tourists are plentiful, renting a property on a short-term basis can be more lucrative for owners than a long-term tenant, something that city governments say has distorted housing markets in cities where supply is already tight. They also accuse online platforms of circumventing laws put in place to protect local markets.
“We cannot tolerate that accommodations that could be rented to Parisians are now rented all year to tourists,” the deputy mayor of Paris, Ian Brossat, said in a phone interview. Mr. Brossat also said he was hoping to cut the number of days per year that a property can be rented through platforms like Airbnb — currently 120. He accused the company of breaching even that rule.
“Airbnb pretends to respect the law, but it’s not the case,” said Mr. Brossat, who has written a book critical of Airbnb and its impact on cities.
Airbnb denies any wrongdoing, in Paris or elsewhere. “They’ve set the rules, and we’re following the rules,” said Patrick Robinson, Airbnb’s director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “Where there is a vigorous discussion about the right regulations, we’re part of that conversation, and ultimately that’s for local politicians to decide.”
He said that Airbnb provided registration details and other data to the authorities in major tourism hubs like Lisbon, Paris and Barcelona to help city officials enforce their rules. “We actually think that better access to data is the solution here.” In September, the company introduced City Portal, which it says will allow governments access to data that can help identify listings that do not comply with local regulations, such as unregistered listings.
The most ambitious initiative is arguably the one in Lisbon, which has started signing five-year leases for empty short-term rental apartments. These properties are then sublet at lower prices to people eligible for subsidized housing. The city government has set aside 4 million euros, or about $4.7 million, for the first year of subsidies.
“We entered the pandemic with a huge pressure on our housing market, and we cannot afford to exit the pandemic with the same set of problems,” said the city’s mayor, Fernando Medina. “This program is not a magic wand, but it can be part of the solution in terms of raising the supply of affordable housing.”
The program is aiming to attract 1,000 apartment owners this year, and has drawn 200 so far. Mr. Medina said he was confident that the plan would meets its goal, since a rebound in tourism anytime soon seems increasingly unlikely as the pandemic drags on.
The plan has been welcomed by some neighborhood associations that had criticized local politicians for allowing the city to become a playground for tourists and wealthy investors, many of them drawn to Portugal by residency permits and tax breaks offered to foreigners after the 2007-8 financial crisis.
“The coronavirus has helped expose the negative aspects of Portugal’s recovery from the financial crisis, which was driven by real estate and tourism rather than a focus on the basic needs of local people,” said Luís Mendes, an urban geographer who is a member of a citizens’ platform called Living in Lisbon.
Above all, Mr. Mendes said, the lockdown restrictions used to contain the coronavirus put the spotlight on the housing imbalances in Lisbon. “How can you quarantine if you don’t have a decent house?” he said. “We now have a city hall that has put forward an interesting scheme and is at least aware that having a roof is a fundamental human right.”
However, some homeowners do not consider the city government a reliable tenant. Portugal, they say, has a history of legal uncertainty and sudden rule changes whenever a new administration takes office.
“If you look at the track record of the politicians in Lisbon, it’s an absolutely hopeless one, of incompetence and often corruption,” said Rita Alves Machado, who owns three empty short-term apartments around Lisbon. “The city owes money all over the place, and I just don’t believe they will pay on time or stick to their own rules.”
The regulation of short-term rentals has been a drawnout affair in Europe.
In September, the Court of Justice of the European Union backed cities attempting to crack down on short-term rentals, after supporting a French court ruling against two property owners illegally renting out second homes on Airbnb. The court had issued a ruling in Airbnb’s favor last year, saying that it was an online platform rather than a real estate company, which would have required it to comply with housing laws. The European Commission is taking further steps to regulate the platform and others through a new Digital Services Act, which aims to modernize the legal framework for such services across the European Union.
The longer the pandemic hinders travel, the more likely initiatives like Lisbon’s are to gain traction, city officials and local property experts say. In the meantime, Airbnb has found itself on shifting ground.
In Lisbon, occupancy rates for Airbnb and Vrbo, a short-rental booking site that was once known as HomeAway, dropped 50 percent in May from a year earlier, according to AirDNA, which collects vacation rental data.
Miguel Tilli, the co-founder of HomeLovers, a Portuguese real estate agency, said he had been listing as many as 60 new properties a month in Lisbon — almost all of which had previously been rented through Airbnb but were now open to long-term tenants.
Rental prices in the city have dropped 10 percent since the start of the pandemic, but landlords who had previously let properties through Airbnb were still resistant to reducing rents.
“Many landlords are acting as if Covid is somebody’s else problem,” Mr. Tilli said. “That cannot last forever.”
Raphael Minder reported from Lisbon, and Geneva Abdul from Paris.
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