ECommerce: Is it right for your small business?
What is eCommerce?
ECommerce is electronic commerce, or online shopping for the layperson. There are different of types of eCommerce merchant capabilities whether you're selling downloadable content, tangible objects, gift cards or memberships. There are also helpful plugins and carts you can use to setup your online store and billing.
How can it benefit your business?
ECommerce websites can greatly improve your sales. Let's face it, people are lazy. They'd rather not drive out to your store to browse your store. Most people sit around in front of their television at the end of the day and play on their iPad or laptop. If you can make buying from their couch a possibility, you can capture this elusive potential customer with your ease of purchase. You're eCommerce may even surpass your foot-traffic.
Remember back in the early days of eBay when all those info-mercials would tout how easy making money from home with eBay was? Same concept, only you have your entire brand and storefront behind you, driving sales, local customers and potentially breaching the international market. Even if you're store only exists online, thousands of people make a living off of their online stores alone.
Questions you should ask yourself, to decide if eCommerce is right for your business.
(These questions are for small local businesses and do not relate to international scope businesses, such as manufacturers or re-sellers.)
1. How are my sales?
ECommerce will not be the saving grace of your business, and a well built eCommerce site is a substantial investment. Do not put all your eggs in the eCommerce basket. If your local business is suffering, worldwide business will not be promising either. Fix your brand and business before moving to online sales. If you've hit a plateau in your local market and show constant growth, great!
2. How is my web traffic and SEO?
As you know, here at 360 we can't stress SEO and websites enough. So how is yours doing? Search for a strong keyword of your business locally, (we would search "Web Design Wichita KS" in Google). Check your search ranking. If you site is lost in local search you may need to have a professional help you with SEO. If your search results are fantastic? Awesome! Now check your Google Analytics. How many visitors are hitting your site? If you have no traffic you're best to put money into paid advertising and Adwords and drive people to your website. You can't sell things on your site if no one ever visits it!
*Note: SEO and Adwords can be ran simultaneously with the launch of an eCommerce site. However, it is still good to know your online influence so you can budget for these things.
3. Where are my price points?
The internet shopper is a savvy one. Google and Amazon will display the cheapest prices available over the entire web. If you're a retailer, for a company such as a make-up or clothing company, you will probably not be the cheapest on the web. You may win some local foot-traffic customers that don't want to pay shipping, but eBay and Amazon find the clearance and sale prices world-wide and will give you heavy competition. Make sure your prices aren't hurting your sales.
Now, that may not matter if your product is unique.
4. Is my product unique. Does it fill a hole in the market?
If you make an original product your price point may not matter, since you won't have any competition for the exact item. This is where you brand reputation will begin to drive your sales. You will still have competition from other brands who make the same kind of product, but price is less of a concern if your product is higher quality. Researching competitors is a must, you need to know who and what your competition is. You need to find your products niche and fill the hole in the market.
5. What does my inventory look like?
If you inventory is always changing and you only have a few of each product, online sales is not for you. Feel free to abuse eBay all you like, but eCommerce sites need constant maintenance and an ever-changing inventory will just lead to headache. If your products are constant, or only change seasonally, eCommerce is a much better fit. You'll need a deeper reservoir of products in order to appease online customers. Nothing makes an online customer more frustrated the seeing a 'Sold-Out' on a product they want, and having to back-order it. They'll bounce to another site and buy it for a dollar more just to save time waiting.
6. How much will upkeep cost me?
Be thinking, 'Will I have to hire another employee to run the site'. You'll need images of products, several in fact. Does your manufacturer supply those? Will you have to take them yourself? Will poor photography hurt your brand image? Be thinking about extra costs that go into running an eCommerce site before you commit to potential financial suicide. If you don't profit from an eCommerce site, don't pay for one.
Only you can to decide to take your business to the next level. If you need help deciding, it's best to consult with a firm and get their opinion. After all, they deal with these questions every day and know what a successful eCommerce business can be. Always remember, this is about a solid Return On Investment. The casual shopper is not going to be driving to your store, they will be at home browsing the internet, it's best to make buying your products as easy for them as possible.