Connective eCommerceA Low Risk, Easy Go-to-Market Strategy for eCommerce Startups?

March 8, 2023 | 10 min read

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A successful, attractive, entrepreneur who is starting their own online retail business or ecommerce store, colored red and teal, all other colors muted, wide angle

Connective eCommerce

In a Nutshell

Have you heard about “connective” eCommerce? It’s a new way to start your own successful online store with minimal upfront capital. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, it might be. In this post, we examine what connective eCommerce is, how it works, and why some are starting to find that it doesn’t really live up to the hype.

How Does Connective eCommerce Work? Is it the Safest & Easiest Way to Start an Online Business?

Over 50% of retail startups fail. It’s a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless.

The forecast is even more dire for online stores than for brick-and-mortar retailers. One report shows that 90% of all new eCommerce businesses fail within the first 120 days of launch.

Failure can have substantial financial fallout. Would-be entrepreneurs who signed long-term leases, hired employees, and purchased inventory are now faced with no way to pay the bills. Not to mention go-to-market costs like having a website built, advertising, and buying the initial inventory.

That may be changing, though. A fast-growing concept known as “connective eCommerce” offers a less risky way to get an online store up and operating. It’s a legitimate strategy, but as we’ll see, you can’t necessarily trust all of the hype.

What is Connective eCommerce?

Connective eCommerce

[noun]/kə • nek • tiv • ē • käm • ərs/

Connective eCommerce refers to a risk-reduction strategy for opening an online store without investing in web developers, advertising, or inventory.

Launching an online retail business was relatively simple a decade or two ago. There’s much more competition in the marketplace now, though. Competing at a high level is too cost-prohibitive for many newcomers, especially when the odds are high that the operation could go under within a matter of weeks.

Connective (or “connected”) eCommerce refers to a business model that allows newcomers to put up an online store without the need to handle many points typically considered necessary to do business. Merchants can go to market with no upfront investment in website development, inventory management, merchandise storage, shipping and fulfillment, or promotion. This removes many barriers to entry.

There are considerable risks (and costs) attached to opening a new store. There’s also a harsh learning curve; in traditional commerce, you either sink or swim. In contrast, relying on established practices, software systems, and templates seems to make a lot of sense.

How Does Connective eCommerce Work?

Different facets of this strategy have all been around for a while. It is effectively built on the dropshipping model, but expands on that concept.

With a connective eCommerce strategy, you create your own website using a templated eCommerce platform like Magento, Wix, or Weebly. This is done in place of investing in a traditional web developer. You then promote the business and acquire customers through free channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tiktok.

When a customer makes a purchase, you transfer the order to a supplier, who then ships the products directly to the customer. This part of the process works much in the same way as a conventional dropshipping business.

You could argue that connective eCommerce is not really a distinct strategy. Instead, it’s more of a paradigm regarding online sales, by which you’re aiming to keep your operation as lean as possible:

Traditional eCommerceConnective eCommerce
Invest in inventory and storage facilityNo inventory or storage needed
Hire developer to build your storeCreate a store using premade sales platform
Handle sales, as well as stocking & shippingHandle sales, but outsource fulfillment
Invest heavily in marketingPromote your site organically
Extensive startup costsMinimal startup costs
High risk of lossLow risk of loss

Is Connective eCommerce Too Good to Be True?

Connective eCommerce is not a scam. It’s a solid concept, and can open doors for those looking to launch a new business while having limited resources.

Is it everything it’s hyped up to be, though? Well, that depends.

Connective eCommerce is sometimes sold as a type of “get rich quick” scheme. Overly simplistic explanations tend to ignore the fact that any startup requires a lot of work and dedication. And, even with a streamlined, connective model, you will still need to invest some amount of capital. You can’t expect to just set up a site in ten minutes, make a few Instagram posts, and start seeing the cash roll in.

Collective eCommerce has a lot going for it. However, you’ll still be susceptible to fraud and chargebacks. Our experts can show you how to protect your business.REQUEST A DEMO

Explaining connective eCommerce is kind of like explaining how to write a book. You can explain to someone how to come up with a story, write it down, and find a publisher. Seems easy, but it hardly paints the full picture.

Some of the roadblocks you can run up against include:

  • Ongoing cost to use eCommerce platforms
  • Website templates may not be customizable enough to fit your needs
  • Ongoing profit margins will be lower
  • It’s up to you to find the right suppliers
  • Not every provider works in every vertical or region
  • Multiple suppliers may be needed, all with individual contracts
  • Extensive self-promotion is required

Connective eCommerce pitches also gloss over many of the other aspects of running an online store. Even with this paradigm, you may still be responsible for:

  • Pricing
  • Updating your site and keeping inventory current
  • Branding
  • Customer support
  • Creating policies and procedures
  • Handling returns and refunds
  • Insurance

The connective eCommerce model also doesn’t address potential problems like fraud management, or liability for chargebacks.

For someone wanting to test an online business quickly, connective eCommerce can be a very cost-effective way to go to market. Iit will probably not be enough if you hope to actually scale the business and grow, though.

How to Get Started with Connective eCommerce

So, you’ve weighed the positives and negatives, and decided you’d like to give the connective eCommerce model a try? Here are some of the steps you’ll need to take before you start:

Do the Research

This might seem obvious. If you’re wanting to open a store, you probably already have an idea of what you want to sell, right? More important than what you want to sell, though, is what do your customers want to buy?

There are countless online sellers out there. How can you distinguish yourself? What can you offer that no one else does?

Another consideration when using connective eCommerce is what products you can actually get. A great product line is meaningless if you can’t find a dropshipper who can fulfill orders.

Line Up Your Suppliers

Before you start selling, you need to have your vendors in place. Some manufacturers will dropship directly from the factory, but you may find it’s easier to work through a third-party service provider.

With either option, this is another area where research is critical. Read reviews, check policies, and be sure you understand both fees and terms. Once you find a provider you want to work with, make sure you have solid contracts in place.

Create Your Online Store

The next step is setting up an online store. You could hire an outside firm to build one, but if you’re trying to save money, web developers can be pricey.

The connective eCommerce way is to build your own store using a website builder like Shopify or Squarespace. Most require minimal design experience; simply choose a custom template and edit it to fit your needs. It may not be exactly what you envisioned, but it will look professional and functional. You can always upgrade your site at a later date.

Get the Word Out

Can you imagine a brand new store opening in a busy metropolitan area without any fanfare? You can’t just set up shop and expect customers to start pouring in. Somehow, you’ve to let people know you’re there.

Paid advertising would do the job, and at some point, you may need to employ that. Starting out, however, you’ll be better off trying to drive organic traffic using methods that do not require any significant financial investment. For instance:

  • Social media self-promotion
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Soliciting reviews (Yelp, Google, etc.)
  • Testimonials from satisfied customers
  • Daily or weekly blog posts
  • Building an email list

This type of promotion probably won’t lead to overwhelming business overnight. However, it can start the flow of customers. If everything else is on target, your customer base should grow, and once you’ve established that your store could succeed, you can use paid advertising to keep the ball rolling.

Moving Beyond Connective eCommerce

Connective eCommerce is a legitimate business model for online retailers. It’s especially beneficial for beginners.

There are complete programs that walk would-be merchants through setting up an online store, arranging inventory and fulfillment, and promoting the business. Ironically, these programs require an upfront investment, though.

If you’re uncomfortable with starting on your own, package providers can give the support you need. However, the steps are straight-forward enough that buying a package may be unnecessary.

Regardless of the approach you take, you need to keep one thing at the forefront of your mind: connective eCommerce isn’t self-fulfilling.

There will still be a lot of work for you, including marketing, price monitoring, and customer service. There will also be cases of fraud and chargebacks that plague online retailers. In some scenarios, fraud management could almost be a full-time job in itself.

If you’d like to try the world of online selling without making a huge monetary investment, connective eCommerce may be the way to go. To take your business to the next level, however, you'll almost certainly need to adopt more conventional eCommerce practices and strategies at some point down the road.


Is connective eCommerce a scam?

Not at all. Connective eCommerce is a legitimate approach to eCommerce. That said, it’s often sold as an easy, “foolproof” way of starting a successful online business with no investment. That’s not really the case; the financial costs may be lower, and there is much less of a barrier to entry. Even with connective eCommerce, though, an online retail store will still require a lot of work.

Can I really start an online store with no money?

We’ll say “very little” money, instead of “no” money. It would be close to impossible to open an online retail operation with no financial investment whatsoever. The connective eCommerce model, however, allows you to offload many of the most expensive (and riskiest) aspects of the go-to-market process.

Can I manage connective eCommerce on my own?

Theoretically, yes. However, it really depends on your experience, background, business savvy, and willingness to learn.

What if I need help with connective eCommerce?

There are complete programs that coach would-be merchants through the process, but they require an upfront investment. It will still probably be less than the cost of a traditional start-up, but connective eCommerce is generally straightforward enough that buying a package may be unnecessary.

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