Start your own business plan »

E-commerce Start-up Business Plan


The company foresees three types of competition for the services we offer:

  1. Direct
  2. Internal
  3. Channel

These types of competitors are discussed in the following three sections.

7.1 Direct Competitors

Based on the current intelligence, there is no independent company out there specializing in a "returned merchandise" service to online consumers. No single company is known to be employing a concept of establishing a single point of presence on the Internet for consumers to claim returns. The current situation allows the new company to gain the first-mover advantage and build entry barriers for any possible new entrants.

7.2 Internal Competitors

The first competitors to the new service are the online retailers themselves. Since will need to strike partnerships and strategic agreements with retailers in order to offer its services, they are classified as internal competitors. Retailers may perceive that their internal return procedures are adequate and fully meet customer demands. However, the discussion under the Need Assessment section of this plan clearly indicated that there are significant drawbacks and shortcomings in the return process across the entire industry. Even companies like that touts a quick and easy return policy now sees its customers go to Barnes & Noble superstores to return books. Partnering with brick-and-mortar retailers may be seen as a solution by some e-tailers. However, from the consumer perspective, there still will not be a centralized location to return merchandise, no quick and easy return procedure, and no savings on shipping costs. Consumers may end up having to go from one physical retailer to another to return various items.

Online retailers may try to partner with carriers and service providers such as UPS, Mail Boxes Etc., or Rite Express. Reportedly, is working out an agreement with Mail Boxes Etc. to appoint them as a preferred/exclusive service for product returns. may receive rebates per shipment for directing its clients to Mail Boxes Etc., but consumers again will have little or no benefit. The standard shipping rates are applied, the choice of carriers is now limited, and online merchants are not informed about product returns ahead of time so that bad sales could be saved. With, at least one selling opportunity will be given to retailers while consumer is on the Web--something a partnership with a carrier cannot provide. Moreover, serving as a demand aggregator should be able to arrange necessary agreements and provide consumers with greatly reduced, or even free, shipping for all returned merchandise.

7.3 Channel Competitors

Thinking in reverse to the previous paragraph, service providers such as Mail Boxes Etc. and PostNet may try to forge strategic partnerships with numerous online retailers to simplify the return process. But as it was described, online retailers will be shortchanged in overall customer satisfaction, information exchange, total costs, and additional selling opportunities. Consumers, on the other hand, will lose out on the limited number of "exclusive" carriers for particular retailers, and uniform simplicity in the return process will not be achieved. Moreover, both Mail Boxes Etc. and PostNet combined do not have sufficient physical presence in the market.

Carriers such as UPS and FedEx may try to enter the arena. Those organizations have extensive networks of facilities, experience in shipping, and a track record of quality. The U.S. Postal Service has recently started a TV advertising campaign of a service for online merchants that allows consumers to print return labels online. This is a step towards addressing the shipping end of the return problem, but it falls short of saving bad sales and creating new selling opportunities for merchants. No single shipping company can fully provide the range of benefits the proposed company can. will be able to arrange strategic alliances with numerous carriers and even play one against the other in negotiating rate reductions and preferential service terms for both merchants and consumers. Being a smaller company with a focus on the e-commerce community, it will also have a greater degree of flexibility in adjusting to customer needs.