FranchiseSales.com: What guidance can be offered to franchisees looking for a proven, successful business model in the online area?
Adam Bannister: You can do some simple due diligence very quickly on an internet franchise without even leaving your home. Surprisingly enough, I’m talking about going online to check how the brand performs on key Google searches.
So if it’s an online retailer selling cookware, to take a random example, then you might type ‘buy cookware’ or ‘cutlery for sale’ too ascertain its ranking for the most frequently searched terms in that sector. Remember, few people get beyond the first page of search results so a lofty position is vital.
For an online business, everything’s old within three months so you really need to look for a company which is always innovating and at the forefront of what they’re doing
Neil Walller, co-founder of MyDestinationInfo
Test the website. Is it easy to navigate, visually appealing and intuitive to use? Does the website exhibit all the qualities of a the latest generation of websites? Test its mobile version as well as the desktop incarnation.
Web technology evolves at a dizzying rate and websites whose development remains static for long quickly become dated.
Neil Waller of online travel franchise MyDestination Info: You need to look for a franchise that is always innovating and developing. So many businesses develop a product which worked three years ago and just franchise it like mad to try to make as much money as possible, but they never develop their product.
I’d say those are the businesses that are risky to get involved with because times change. For an online business, everything’s old within three months so you really need to look for a company which is always innovating and at the forefront of what they’re doing.
You want to look at how recently they were franchising. If it’s a business which did loads of franchising three years ago, then last year franchised, in comparison, 10%, there’s obviously something wrong there.
FS: What about assessing the training and support?
AB: Developing Neil’s theme, it’s worth asking the franchisor if they have an in-house web development team, about its size, composition and expertise.
Most online franchises demand few technical skills from franchisees, who often instead take on a sales- and client-management orientated role. When you’re quizzing existing franchisees, you should ask them about their experience of technical support and how often the site is updated or improved.
FS: How do you choose an internet franchise to suit your skills and attributes?
AB: While an internet franchise obviously delivers a service via the internet, how much of your own time is spent on a computer really varies from franchise to franchise.
Many want you to concentrate on selling your product to customers, which means a lot of time spent on the phone or out and about meeting potential and existing clients.
Internet marketing is a common subsector, so marketers, aspiring and experienced alike, will find plenty of opportunities in the online sphere.
FS: Does it cost much to buy a franchise in this sector?
NW: With an online business you’ve got no big capital costs. It’s different from a restaurant franchise, where you pay a franchise fee and then £100,000 for the building. With an online business the costs are much lower.
AB: Every single internet franchise featured on FranchiseSales.com at the time of writing requires a personal investment of less than £20,000, with seven costing £5,000 or less – that’s roughly the price of a luxury family holiday.
Free of the burdens of premises and – most of the time – staff or stock, online franchises are comfortably the most cost-effective of franchise sectors.