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Starting an eCommerce Business vs. Starting a Rental Business

Author: Nathan Crossley December 14, 2023 · 3 Min read
Starting an eCommerce Business vs. Starting a Rental Business

Embarking on the entrepreneurial journey is exciting, but choosing a suitable business model is crucial for success. In the digital age, two popular options are eCommerce and rental businesses. Both come with unique challenges and opportunities and understanding the key differences can help aspiring entrepreneurs make informed decisions.

Three pillars define the difference between eCommerce and rental businesses: start-up costs, marketing, and customer interaction. You should use these to help inform your decision and determine which one is most suitable for you to take on, given your budget, resources, and how you want to interact with your new customers.

eCommerce vs rentals in statistics

The global eCommerce market is on a trajectory to reach a staggering $7.4 trillion by 2025, as projected by Statista. Simultaneously, the rental market, a cornerstone of various economies, boasts an estimated annual value of $57.5 billion in the United States alone, according to Statista.

But how does this lucrative landscape translate for aspiring business owners? Well, about 51.6% of small businesses find their roots in home-based ventures, a trend that seamlessly aligns with local rental enterprises, as highlighted by BusinessDIT.

It’s also important to confront the reality that establishing a new business is no small feat. The US Chamber of Commerce reports an average 3-year survival rate of around 50% for both online and offline businesses, underscoring the challenges and uncertainties entrepreneurs encounter in the initial stages.

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The cost of starting a new business

There is a striking difference between starting costs for eCommerce and rental businesses. eCommerce businesses require ongoing investments into inventory, which always involves capital upfront and on hand. However, once purchased, rental business inventory can generate rental income for years while the same initial stock gets rented repeatedly.

Some of the biggest challenges for eCommerce businesses are staying updated with market trends, constantly replenishing stock, and managing storage space. Rental companies still need to manage storage space, and there’s cost to maintaining inventory, they don’t need to continually replenish stock while earning a steady income stream.

To be successful in eCommerce, you need a keen understanding of online platforms and digital marketing to drive sales. In contrast, rental businesses thrive on efficient inventory management and logistics. You should consider which appeals to you and what skills you can apply to your new business venture.

Find your audience and marketing

The eCommerce landscape is certainly crowded, especially with the rise of social media stores and easy storefront tools. Standing out takes significant marketing, great branding, excellent customer experience, and often narrowing into niche products. If you go too broad, it’s almost impossible to differentiate.

However, local rental markets have much more fragmentation with fewer big brands. Opportunities exist by renting out products not well covered in your particular geography and cornering that local market. Launching a new exciting rental offering with minimal competition can fare quite well.

Social media platforms like TikTok offer opportunities for eCommerce marketing, but finding and connecting with the right audience demands strategic efforts. Meanwhile, identifying industries or services with limited rental support in your region presents opportunities for innovation and market capture.

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Interacting with customers

eCommerce companies usually have less direct contact with their customers, and interaction is transactional, mainly through a website. However, brands heavily invest in content, email marketing, and community engagement to foster loyal followings. This can be very time consuming and requires a considerable budget to get right.

Rental companies rely on strong local customer relationships as they interact in person each rental period. Business is highly relationship-based, with word-of-mouth and repeat business playing a significant role. Providing customer service breeds loyal clientele and helps build your business’s reputation.

While customer feedback is crucial, the communication channels for eCommerce are often indirect through reviews and online interactions. Due to their nature, rentals involve more direct interaction with customers, fostering relationships, and building trust. Starting a rental business on the side is often more feasible, requiring less continuous attention than managing a growing eCommerce enterprise.

eCommerce vs rentals, which suits you best?

Ultimately, the choice between starting an eCommerce or rental business depends on various factors, including personal preferences, market conditions, and the entrepreneur’s long-term goals. While eCommerce offers a global reach and vast potential, a rental business can provide a more localized, customer-centric experience.

Both business models have relatively low barriers to starting on the side before transitioning into full-time entrepreneurs. Aspiring entrepreneurs should carefully evaluate startup costs and strengths to determine if an online store or local rental better matches their skills, interests, and available capital.

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