eCommerce..can your business afford to be left behind?
My business already has a website, why do I need eCommerce?
Typical business websites do not usually have the same features as that of eCommerce enabled “web shops”. In order to effectively distribute, market and sell goods or services online you will need certain features that will include a shopping cart, the ability to process credit cards securely, an online product catalogue, an automated inventory and stock control system, a database to process orders and generate invoices, bulk email facilities to keep customers informed of the status of their order, special offers and promotions, and capture, track and store data for statistical and reporting processes.
So what are the real benefits of eCommerce for my business?
Opening an eCommerce shop offers several benefits both to merchants selling their products and services and their customers. By far the main benefit for merchants is that it is faster, cheaper and much more cost effective to get an online shop up and running than a bricks-and-mortar based shop or warehouse where fixed overheads are much higher, particularly in the current climate where many businesses are looking at ways to reduce costs and streamline their sales channels.
For today’s consumer who is constantly battling with the clock to find the time, being able to order products online and having them delivered without the need to leave their home is a major selling point.
What are the main advantages of selling online?
Having a professional and effective Internet presence is extremely important if your business is currently selling online, or is planning to, and there are a wealth of advantages, including:
- Increased Sales
- An eCommerce store that is an extension of a physical shop or warehouse is not only a proven way (please refer to Case Study: Builders Equipment) to boost overall business sales and potentially increase company profits, but is also by far the cheapest way to sell. Companies who already do business from a physical location are typically unaware of how much more they could be making if only they were to expand into on-line market places. Trading on-line also opens up many opportunities for both new and established businesses.
- Reduced Costs
- On-line stores can operate with fewer employees including sales staff, customer service representatives, order fulfillment staff and others. In addition, eCommerce stores do not need a physical location in order to remain operational, which can reduce costs related to building leases, phone bills, utility costs and other costs associated with running a brick-and-mortar store front.
- The direct cost of sale for an order taken from a web site (i.e. on-line via eCommerce) is lower than traditional means (e.g. retail), as there is no human interaction during the on-line electronic purchase order process. In addition, electronic selling virtually eliminates processing errors, as well as being faster and more convenient for the consumers who know what they want.
- With ever changing variations in price and VAT rates it can become a very expensive task to keep reprinting brochures and price lists each time there is fluctuation in price or delivery rates. With an on-line catalogue, product prices and descriptions can be changed in a few seconds and with a few clicks of a mouse a bulk email campaign can inform customers of any changes.
- Expanded Geographical Reach
- An eCommerce business owner typically has no limits as to who and where their products may be sold. Some countries outside of the United Kingdom have additional regulations, licensing requirements or currency differences, etc., but generally you can sell to anyone, anywhere at anytime! Where physical shop fronts are limited to serving customers within their own city, town or country, on-line businesses are not, unless geographical limits are put in place as part of the sales strategy.
- Increased Visibility
- Consumers are increasingly searching for information on the internet prior to making a purchase. A professional and efficient on-line shop that provides detailed information about your products and services (including up to date contact information) will create a positive customer experience and enable consumers to make an informed decision in the comfort of their own home.
- Open for Business 24 x 7
- An eCommerce site gives you the ability to have unlimited store hours, giving your customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week access to shop and buy items from you. Some merchants choose to limit their hours to 5 days a week, but orders can still be made over the weekend and customers can still make contact 24/7 via email, phone or fax. In addition, the costs associated with having your store open 24/7 are much less than maintaining a physical storefront with customer service advisors with 24/7 operation capabilities.
- Increase Product or Brand Awareness
- Having an on-line business means that you can literally reach out to millions of consumers looking for what you sell from anywhere in the world. By tapping in to new markets and displaying your site prominently in front of them, you will be able to help increase your company’s brand name and also increase awareness about your product line. By providing consumers with 24/7 access to your on-line shop, you will help to create a “buzz” and those who haven’t heard of you will soon discover that you exist and help spread the word about you.
- Create New Business Relationships
- Expanding or opening an on-line shop can create a world of opportunity and helps to establish new relationships with potential customers, potential business associates and new product manufacturers. Customers who don’t know you exist will find out about you, product suppliers will request you add their items and other businesses will approach you about potential partnership opportunities. Many of these opportunities would not present themselves without an on-line presence in which you can be found.
- Establish Customer Loyalty
- An eCommerce shop front will help create an easier means for your customers to purchase the items you sell and offer a unique way to display and describe your products in an informative, visual and interactive way. The customers you have will become loyal shoppers each time they visit, making eCommerce great for improved customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. By offering your products for sale on-line, consumers will be able to shop directly from your catalogues more easily, get updates on new items or product discounts and can buy anytime they wish.
- Target Niche Markets
- Although your customer reach may expand beyond your local area, you may only wish to target smaller consumer markets and buyer niches for your products. An on-line shop gives the merchant much control over who they target and reach out to. This is typically done by placing keywords that those niche markets use on a regular basis when shopping for the items you offer.
- Ability to Generate Multiple Revenue Streams
- With an on-line store you can launch a series of on-line shops and many merchants have gone on to launch a chain of eCommerce stores in order to generate multiple streams of revenue. The potential is limitless!