The smallest ecommerce businesses are often family operations.
An entrepreneurial family member starts selling online. Before long a spouse is helping to manage the accounting and teen-aged children are processing orders. Sharing the work becomes an outgrowth of sharing a life under one roof and wanting to earn more financial freedom for everyone in the family.
Unfortunately, small family-owned ecommerce businesses frequently fail or earn very little money. Now an enterprising company, eCommerce Incubator, has proposed an interesting way to help so-called mom-and-pop online shops succeed.
eStore-Opoly is a board game designed to help introduce some of the basics of micro-scale ecommerce. The game becomes a forum for introducing ideas, setting expectations, and planning for ecommerce success, earning it four out of a possible five stars in this, “The PeC Review.”
“The PeC Review” is my weekly column created to introduce you to the products or services that I believe can help you grow your ecommerce business. I only review products that I would use in my own online stores, and, frankly, I don’t publish negative reviews. You only hear about the products I like.
The Game Format as a Learning Medium
Perhaps the thing I like most about eStore-Opoly is that it uses the game as a learning medium. The game board has both an outer track, if you will, and eight inner tracks. Each inner track is devoted to an area of “Specialized Knowledge,” including research (which is where every player starts), store building, conversion, customer service, SEO, marketing, outsourcing, and vendors.
While the game provides no depth of information in these specialized inner tracks, it skillfully introduces ecommerce concepts. Players learn, for example, that using link-exchange rings can cost you a “turn” or that starting an affiliate program can help your business. I found that family members wanted to discuss why having a one-page checkout improves cash flow, as the game suggests, or why the marketing track started with adding a blog. These questions gave the players a forum for discussing the strategies and tactics that would, ultimately, help to improve the way an ecommerce business operates.
Focus on Planning for Success
eStore-Opoly starts by having each player develop a “Freedom Formula.” The Freedom Formula is some combination of cash flow, happiness, and automation. The formula must total 100 points, but it could be 30 cash flow points, 40 happiness points, and 30 automation points or 100 cash flow points and nothing else. The idea is that each participate needs to decide what would make them happy and then plan their business accordingly. I also found it interesting that taking a balanced approach to your “Freedom Formula” seemed the strategy.
I confess that I am not in complete agreement with all of the ideas represented in the eStore-Opoly game. Specifically, there seemed to be a fair amount of emphasis on drop-shipping, of which I am not a big fan, but I did like that the game’s designers are ecommerce practitioners who both operate an online store and teach others. Audrey Kerwood and Ben Mack operate A2 Armory and Tapestry Standard.
Prototype-itis And Self-Promotion
I do want to point out that I played with a prototype version of the game, which will be officially released on February 10. My game board used oddly colored, Chinese turtles for playing pieces and had less-than-finished instructions. I also have to confess that the instructions seemed to be a promotional brochure for eCommerce Incubators, which is soon to launch a 12-week training course. This was a little off-putting.
In a letter that came with my prototype, the company promised that the final version would be more polished.
I like eStore-Opoly and I love the idea of using a game to teach smart business. The game is not my favorite board game, and I doubt I will be breaking it out when we have company over, but it was an enjoyable way to talk business with family members while spending some quality time together, and as I mentioned above it absolutely introduced important ecommerce concepts. And, I should point out, my six-year-old thought it was fun, and he especially liked the turtles.
If you operate a small, family business, consider getting a copy of eStore-Opoly. It will help you to think about your business in a new way.