Business Plan Assignment Sample 2: Ecommerce Company
MG800 – Strategic Management
E-commerce Business Plan
- Executive Summary
E-commerce continues growing and the amount that consumers spend through purchases on the internet have consistently increased during the last decade. Online retailers are experiencing increasing sales each year. Furthermore, the business model also has more returns, which can be attributed to lower operational costs and increased market exposure. Unlike the traditionally businesses that have some physical location, e-commerce stores can serve clients from wide geographical areas, which makes them have an added advantage (Wertz, 2020). Additionally, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, more consumers have shifted to online purchasing, which makes e-commerce an ideal business model currently.
The buyers of the company’s products will include consumers located across the United States and interested in wall décor items. The company will leverage online sales platforms such as Amazon, Walmart, and Wayfair to reach these target consumers. These e-commerce platforms are well established, and they have sufficient traffic for the company to target. Therefore, the buyers will make purchases through these platforms, and the company will make the deliveries when the customers place their orders on the platforms. Therefore, with the business model, the company will have access to a large consumer based, and it will use the systems of the e-commerce companies for transaction processing.
The business will be differentiating from the competitors in different ways, one of these being the provision of high-quality wall décor products. The company will be sourcing for unique and superior quality products, while at the same time ensuring that they are affordable to the different consumer classes. Additionally, the company will also differentiate itself by selling online and using high definition images, which will ensure that the buyers have a clear picture of the products that they intend to buy. Besides, the company will have a flexible return policy, which will ensure that the consumers have zero risk when the buy wall décor products from the business.
The company’s path to profitability will be through increased sales. As the sales volume increases, the profitability of the company will also increase. Furthermore, with increased sales, the business will get additional positive reviews on the platforms, which will in return lead to increased sales. Besides, the business will start being profitable after the first six months considering that it is not capital intensive. For instance, there will be no investments in production equipment. After the sixth month, the company will start making a profit of around 9% on each sale.
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2.1 Vision Statement
A world where each home and workplace will have elegantly designed walls and superior interior decoration
2.2 Mission Statement
To offer high quality interior design products and wall decoration products at highly discounted prices to make the everyday lives of our customers better.
2.3 Value Proposition Statement
Top quality wall décor and interior design products at unbeatable prices
2.4 Company Description
Marriot Interiors is a start-up company that specializes in interior design products, which include wall décor products, bathroom organizers, kitchen organizers, and magazine file holders, and wall shelves. The purpose of the business will be to provide the people seeking to have better designed homes with superior interior design products at affordable prices. Marriot Interiors will sell antique furniture products, home accessories, artwork, and decorator fabric to its customers through online channels, which will enable it to reach customers in diverse geographic areas, while at the same time leveraging the traffic from Amazon, Wayfair, and Walmart. Through these platforms, the company will provide its product catalog whereby the customers can choose the products that they want and check outline, while the company facilitates the delivery of the products. Customers will communicate with the company through these online platforms. Moreover, the business will start as home-based, but it will shift to an office once the sales volumes increases in the next three years. Therefore, during the proprietors will operate the business from a home office during its initial years of operation. At the same time, it will start as a partnership with the possibility of becoming a limited liability company in the next one year. Marriot Interiors differentiation strategy will include:
- A unique and superior customer experience by having professionally trained interior designer to guide the clients in selecting the products that will satisfy their interior design needs
- Providing a wide and at the same time unique product selection of accessories, antique furniture, wall décor products, and other interior design products so that our customers can have many products from which to choose.
- Offering personalized assistance to the customers, including assisting them in the selection of complementary products.
- Industry Analysis and Trends
Porter’s Five Forces analysis assists in the evaluation of an entity to understand the reasons that make it maintain different profitability levels compared to other firms. The model has five key components, which include competitive rivalry, buyer power, supplier power, the threat of substitution, and the threat of new entrants (Lewis, 2017). For the sector that Marriot Interiors, there is a considerable high competition, hence the need for the company to introduce measures such as aggressive pricing and high impact marketing. Furthermore, it is relatively easy for the buyers and suppliers to go elsewhere if they feel that Marriot Interiors does not give them the best deal, hence the need for implementing the proper measures to maintain them. Suppliers in the sector are powerful since they can drive the prices up, and the buyers are powerful since they can drive the prices down. Additionally, the threat of substitution is also relatively high since the customers can easily switch to substitute products or buy from other sellers selling similar products online. The threat of new entrants is low considering it is significantly difficult to enter in the market due to the requirements such as the need for specialized skills to understand aspects related to interior design products, and the high capital requirements.
A PESTEL analysis assists companies in assessing the external factors that have the potential to affect its performance. In the analysis, there are five key components, which include political, economic, social, environmental, and legal factors (Start Business Journey, 2019). For Marriot Interiors, the economic component poses a significant threat since with a weakening economy; the consumers may not be able to afford the products that Marriot Interiors offers. On the contrary, with a growing economy, the clients may have the disposable incomes to afford the products that Marriot Interiors offers. The legal environment also poses some threats due to the likelihood of the introduction of new laws and regulations governing e-commerce, which can affect the operations in the entire industry. Social factors are also important to consider since they can significantly the tastes and the preferences of the consumers (Lewis, 2017). At the same time, the environmental factor also poses some risk considering the threat of consumers changing their buying habits due to environmental concerns. For instance, they may opt for products manufactured and sold locally to reduce their carbon footprint, particularly during the shipping of the products (Start Business Journey, 2019). Nonetheless, technology poses minimal threat since it will take a considerable amount of time before the development of technologies that can outdo the ones used by firms such as Amazon and Walmart in their e-commerce platforms.
Driving Forces of Industry
The driving forces analyses of the online interior decoration product retailers include the macro and the microenvironments. The macro environment components can exert pressure on the microenvironment components (Buyanova et al., 2020). For Marriot Interiors, the macro forces that drive the industry include the economic ones, environmental, resources, economic, demographic, work, and population ones. Similarly, the components of the microenvironment that Marriot Interiors should be weary of include the competitors, the customers, suppliers, existing competitors, and the potential for substitute products.
- Business Goals and Objectives
- To generate revenues in excess of $120,000 during year 1
- Develop pricing programs that with the assumption that 15% of the sales price will be profit
- Increase sales by 80% during year 2 and 60% in year 3
- The Competition
The market for interior design products using online platforms has become increasingly competitive. However, the Marriot Interiors will be properly positioned to address the threats that the increased market competition poses. Some of the main competitors in the industry include:
- Outlets offering products similar to the ones that Marriot Interiors will be selling through the various online platforms. For instance, Amazon has numerous merchants offering interior décor products.
- Bed, Bath, and Beyond, which significantly popular and sells a variety of interior décor products through its e-commerce store.
- Discount stores such as Target and Home Depot that have recently started offering affordable, yet high quality interior products
- Norwalk Furniture, which offers various interior design products through its outlets
- An increased number of e-commerce companies having their own e-commerce stores that specialize in selling interior décor products.
- Catalog competitors are also on the rise, as demonstrated by recent trends whereby established companies have increased their interest in selling home decorating products through their online platforms.
Therefore, competition in the segment is relatively high since there are many firms offering interior design products including home-based ones, storefronts that specialize in interior decorating products, certified designers who source for the products for their clients, and the availability of other cheaper interior design products (IDCO Studio, 2019). Furthermore, discounters pose a major threat to the success of Marriot Interiors. Currently, because of the declining economic conditions, a shift in channels of distribution has occurred, whereby consumers are favoring discounters due to the possibility offer frequent discounts with the objective of enticing the value-oriented consumers (Start Business Journey, 2019). As such, Marriot Interiors will develop a marketing plan that will enable it to counter the threat the discount stores pose.
- Marketing Plans and Strategies
The marketing Plan will assist in the creation of Marriot Interiors’s marketing mix. Additionally, the venture will focus on three unique value propositions:
- Provision of high-quality products
- An unmatched quality of service
- Proper packaging and timely delivery of products
The United States will be the primary geographic target market. The target demographic includes people aged 18 and 54 years, who are likely to be young students, young professionals, and older professionals. The psychographic target market includes homeowners and tenants who have busy schedules, and need a one stop shop, with a variety of interior décor products, where they can find the products that they are interested at affordable prices, quality customer service, and a timely delivery. The marketing mix will include the below items:
The product offerings will include a top extensively sourced, high quality home décor products, with the central focus being on wall décor products.
The products will be priced competitively to make them affordable to the target market. Besides, the prices of the products offered by the competing online retailers will be analyzed to arrive at a competitive pricing for the products that the company store will be selling.
The main outlets will be some of the leading e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, which are strategic to ensure that many consumers and interested buyers can make their purchases online, and have their products delivered to the addresses that they provide.
Multiple promotion methods will be employed. These will include offering large discounts for first time buyers, bundled products, and extensive online and digital marketing, including search and social media marketing.
- Target Market Profiles and Descriptions
The target consumers include customers who are aged between 18 and 54 years of age, have an average or above average income, and they have busy schedules, which implies that they prefer online shopping because of the convenience. Besides, they need to be technology savvy, thus not having issues when making their purchases online.
- Strategic Position and Risk Assessment
An increasing demand for home décor products, and a management and employees that have experience in the sector is one of the strengths of Marriot Interiors. Another strength is the composition of the management team, which is will be composed of highly qualified and talented individuals. Besides, the other strength is the availability of a strong network, through which Marriot Interiors will be able to source for high quality products.
Lack of experience in selling on e-commerce platforms and using digital marketing are some of the weaknesses. Besides, insufficient funding may also reduce the chances of the home décor store succeeding, since a considerable amount of capital is required to invest in stock, recruit skilled workers, and invest in marketing and promotional activities.
Differentiating the product offerings to make them unique relative to those of the competitors is one of the opportunities. Besides, the target market tends to be diverse enough. Another opportunity is pricing the products competitively to capture customers from some of the other online stores
The main threat is the high number of merchants selling online products, independently, or through platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Wayfair. Some have high quality products that are affordable and bundled with a high-quality service. These firms also have the resources required for aspects such marketing, which they are a major threat for startups in the market segment.
For the venture, some of the highest business risks include customer disputes, credit card fraud, warehousing, logistics, the return of goods, and warranty. Since Marriot Interiors will be leveraging on the already existing e-commerce platforms, aspects such as privacy issues online security, taxation, and system reliability are not a major concern (Sande, 2018). Therefore, the venture will establish measures to deal with the threats that can affect the company directly.
Plan for Reducing the Risks
To reduce the risks, one of the measures is to provide products that matches with the product images and descriptions to reduce product returns. Besides, it is imperative to ensure that the warehousing and logistic aspects of the business are in place and responsive to the changes in demand, which will ensure that customers get their purchases within the stipulated times (Sande, 2018). Additionally, it is imperative for the company to have an unmatched customer service. This will be instrumental in ensuring that customer disputes are resolved in an amicable way, which will reduce the possibility of negative reviews or feedback.
- Keys to Success
A strong brand name is essential for success in e-commerce businesses. The name of the store, its logo, and banners needs to be highly interactive and engaging. For instance, the store name should be easy for the customers to remember, while at the same time detailed to ensure that the customers know that they are buying from a company that specializes in the selling of home décor products. At the same time, it is also imperative to ensure that the brand is consistent (Cruz, 2020). Changing the name of the online store may affect the brand, hence the importance for it to have a unique and catchy name right from the start. The brand name will act as the identity of the store, and also the name should not change unless when it becomes very necessary. The same strategy also applies to the social media profiles that the company will use. It is imperative that they are unique and remain consistent to ensure that consumers can be able to identify the brand (Cruz, 2020). As an example, the logo and marketing messages need to be consistent across the different social media platforms. Therefore, branding is an essential determinant of the success of the venture.
For the venture to succeed, one of the essentials is using multichannel marketing to reach a wider consumer base. Globally, there are around 3.2 billion users of social media. As such, one can leverage on these platforms to reach a wider audience, not only in the United States, but also in other parts of the word. As such, the business will use social media marketing, including platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, which have the largest number of active followers. Besides, it will be imperative for the company to use content marketing, which involves the creation of content regarding the products that the venture offers. Such will include making YouTube videos to attract customers to the e-commerce store (Cruz, 2020). Besides, the use of email marketing will also be instrumental to ensure that the company is able to connect with its customers. It will include sending frequent emails to the targeted customers, and such emails to include the products that the company offers (Golternman, 2020). Therefore, to succeed in the online venture, it will be imperative to use the three marketing channels to reach the widest consumer base.
Excellent Customer Service for 5-Star Feedback
Furthermore, when one is operating an e-commerce venture, it is imperative to ensure that the customer service is outstanding, which includes selling high quality products. The customers have the option of leaving reviews, either on the selling platforms, or on websites that aggregate the customer reviews (Golternman, 2020)1. Therefore, right from the start, it is instrumental to ensure that customers are fully satisfied with the products and the customer service to ensure that they provide positive feedback and reviews across all platforms, which will be instrumental for the success of Marriot Interiors.
High quality products
Providing high quality products is the most important success factors. In the various platforms where Marriot Interiors will be selling its products, the customers have an option to leave feedback regarding the quality of the product that they purchase. Other consumers are highly likely to check such feedback before making a purchase decision. Therefore, it is instrumental to ensure that consumers get high quality products that match their expectations based on the product images and descriptions provided on the various selling platforms. Besides, if the products are inferior, there may be high product return rates, which can adversely affect the profitability and performance of the venture.
- Operations Plan
The first step in the operations of Marriot Interiors is its registration in accordance with the applicable laws. The second step will involve sourcing for the products and ensuring that Marriot Interiors has the relevant product images and descriptions. The third step will include sourcing for funding to ensure the venture has resources for marketing and to fulfill customer orders. It is also imperative to establish a logistics network during the phase. The final step will involve registering with the various e-commerce platforms, designing the stores, and commencing with the marketing campaigns to drive customers to the store.
- Technology Plan
Having technology plan will be instrumental for the long-term success of Marriot Interiors. To start with, the company will not make any major investments in technology. This is because it will be relying on Amazon’s technology. However, there will still be a need for technologies. These will include customer relations management software, inventory management software, and analytics software. These technologies will be instrumental in the in the operations of the company, despite its reliance on the Amazon platform. At the same time, it is imperative to note that the venture will rely on social media marketing heavily to drive sales to the store. As such, it will be instrumental to acquire advanced social media marketing software to assist in the management and execution of social media marketing campaigns. The ones that Marriot Interiors will use include Content Cal and Loomly, which are relatively inexpensive and are subscription based (Influencer Marketing Hub, 2018).
Another important component of the technology plan the use of a tailored ecommerce platform if the sales expand significantly. Such will require investments in ecommerce platforms such as Shoppify, or independent ones, and they will be instrumental for the continued growth of the venture. The importance of having an independent platform is that Marriot Interiors will be able to market its services through channels such as print and broadcast media, which are relatively difficult to use when one is selling on Amazon.
- Management and Organization
An effective organizational structure is essential for the venture to succeed. It defines the manner that business activities, which include coordination, marketing, supervision, and task allocation are directed with the aim of achieving organizational objectives. In addition, having an organizational structure is instrumental since it affects organizational actions, thus providing a foundation for the formation of standard operating procedures and routines (Dhillon & Ghupta, 2015). With a clear organizational structure, the roles of each organizational member, whether staff or management, are clarified, and the reporting structures defined, which enhances the working relationships among the organizational members.
For the ecommerce venture, a balanced matrix structure would be ideal. This type of organizational structure uses function-based groups, business type divisions, and geographic divisions in the distribution of authority and responsibilities in an organization. As such, organizations use divisions such as research and development, finance, sales and marketing (Jonathan, 2018). Moreover, it may also involve the formation of multiple units depending on product types. For instance, for the ecommerce venture, the product based divisions will include wall décor, roof decoration, and lighting. With the expansion of the business, it will be integral to add more divisions to accommodate the increasing number of products that Marriot Interiors will be selling.
Geographic divisions will also be instrumental in the success of the corporation, and will include dividing operations depending on the different locations where most of the customers will be from. (Jonathan, 2018) To start with, the divisions will include the west, the south, the Midwest, and the northeast. Warehouses will be located in these locations to ensure that the consumers get their merchandize within the shortest times possible. Furthermore, with expansion into other countries, Marriot Interiors may further expand the operating divisions to be country or region based. Therefore, with this type of structure, it will be possible to manage the organization effectively.
Based on the structure, the divisional heads will be reporting to the president of Marriot Interiors. In addition, the regional managers will be reporting to the divisional heads. At the same time, authority will also be flowing top down, meaning that it will be flowing from the president and the other senior managers to the regional managers, and eventually supervisors and employees. Having such a structure is essential since there will be clear guidelines regarding aspects such as duties and responsibilities in the various levels.
- Community Involvement and Social Responsibility
As a socially responsible company, the venture will be involved in CSR in various ways. In the contemporary business environment, corporate social responsibility has become increasingly important to appeal to the consumers and to create brand awareness (Bhardwaj et al., 2018). One of the ways through which the company will practice CSR is by having a zero waste and recycling policy. The policy will ensure that the company causes the least damage to the environment through its activities. Furthermore, the company will encourage its suppliers to recycle and reuse for increased business with Marriot Interiors, which will act as an incentive to them. In addition, Marriot Interiors will also seek to support communities by buying directly from community members who create interior décor items. This ways, the venture will be able to support more families.
Besides, Marriot Interiors will also offer scholarships to the members of the communities where it sources the products from. These will primarily focus on courses related to interior and wall décor, and will assist the members in creating better products, thus enhancing their incomes. Marriot Interiors also believes in fair trade trading with all its suppliers. Moreover, the venture will take the initiative to ensure that its suppliers manufacture their products ethically. While some companies may perceive CSR as nuisance and only comply with the laws, for the ecommerce venture, CSR will a priority (Wang & Sarkis, 2017). The managers at the various levels will act as the ambassadors of Marriot Interiors in CSR, and each employee will also act as a representative of the company’s culture at their respective levels.
The company will employ a proactive CSR strategy. With such a strategy, companies are involved in activities and initiatives that they adopt voluntarily. These strategies and practices go beyond the regulatory requirements for the organizations to manage their CSR. Therefore, these businesses broadly and make a positive contribution to the communities within which they operate. For instance, the firm will go beyond the average in providing scholarships to students in the poor communities from which it sources their products.
Moreover, green practices will be a priority for the company. In the contemporary business world, organizations are giving green practices much attention due to the tremendous social and mainstream pressure that may arise from CSR related issues (Bhardwaj et al., 2018). Hence, Marriot Interiors will view green practices favorably for sustainable growth. With a pro-active strategy, the organization will go over and beyond the regulatory requirements. This, in turn, will build Marriot Interiors’s reputation and make it favorable among the consumers. Therefore, Marriot Interiors will go beyond the legal requirements in terms of green practices.
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- Development, Milestones and Contingency/Exit Plan
The success of the organization will be determined by the achievement of various milestones. One of the critical milestones will be the achievement of sales in excess of $120,000 during the first year of operation. It will be a major determinant of whether Marriot Interiors will succeed and on course towards becoming profitable. Another major milestone will be the achievement of more than 15% of sales as profit through continuous improvements in cost saving and reduction of operating expenses. Furthermore, by the second year of operation, the milestone will be the achievement of an increase in sales by 80%, and by 60% during the third year. Achieving these milestones would imply that the business is profitable, or on the course towards being profitable since it will be possible to recover costs, while at the same time making a profit.
However, it is also integral to have an exit strategy. It gives the owners of a business a chance to liquidate or reduce their stake in a business if it becomes successful, thus allowing him or her to profit. At the same time, if the business does not succeed, an exit strategy allows an investor to reduce his or her losses. Hence, for the ecommerce venture, the exit strategy will consist of three possible approaches. One of these is through mergers and acquisitions. This will involve acquisition or merger with another businesses (Corporate Finance Institute, 2017). The strategy will be applied if the business does not make enough sustainable revenues, or when there is a need for more investments into the business. With a merger or acquisition, it will be possible for Marriot Interiors to continue growing with minimal risks to the investors.
Another possible approach is through an IPO, particularly if the business becomes successful and considers shifting to advanced technologies, such as using its own ecommerce website. With this approach, it will be possible to sell a large part of the business, while still participating in its future growth. Through the approach, it will be possible to trade some equity for cash. Moreover, the other potential method for exiting the marketing is through a private sale, particularly if the venture turns out to be successful, but not profitable. The private sale can be made to another individual or company. Besides, it can include selling the business to the competitors. The approach is ideal for cashing out when the business can achieve more growth in the hands of people who are more knowledgeable in the management of such businesses, or have the resources to investment further (Corporate Finance Institute, 2017). Additionally, in the worst case scenario, the exit strategy will involve selling the stock to competitors, both online and offline.
- The Financials
The company’s financial objectives include reaching the break-even point by the third year. It also include covering operating expenses by the second year of operation.
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