Gearing Your Business For eCommerce



An increasing number of companies are turning to e-commerce as an extra source of revenue. Many have made a phenomenal success at it. More and more people have access to the internet everyday. e-commerce sales this year are up 30% on last year (forbes.com). The simple fact of the matter is that e-commerce is not going to go away.

If an e-commerce website appears to be the right way forward for your business, you will need to address the following issues.

Customers:
Where do you find them, how do you attract them to your product, how do you tempt them to buy and how do you keep them coming back? 

Online Competitors:
How do you recognise your new competitors, how will you outmanoeuvre them and  how will you move into their market?

Target audience:
How will you identify your target audience, Is there even a market for your product, could you create one if there wasn't?

Transactions:  
How will you handle internet based money transfers, credit cards, product orders, contracts and shipping etc.

marketing:
What strategies will you adopt, what model are your competitors using? There are some amazing yet poorly used marketing strategies that are covered in the chapter, "Strategic marketing".

Associated costs:
Can your business afford the initial outlay, what costs are involved on a monthly or yearly basis, are you going to take an active role in the development of the site or call in a professional to handle everything?

It is important to work out a budget for the venture and work within this budget. Most reputable web developers will be able to provide you with an estimate for the work involved. A website can cost anything from $100 to $40,000. The logical approach is to make a list of the things you need your website to achieve and then request quotes from your selected developers. We have provided a checklist for you to fill in print off here; checklist.

Business effects:
There will be the necessity to handle new sorts of sales leads. The mere fact that someone has clicked on your pages and emailed a request for information is called an "emotional commitment" to your products. You will need to be able to turn these leads into sales. 

"A major stumbling block for many bricks and mortar companies turning to the internet is that of customer perception."

It is of paramount importance that the online part of any business is perceived at least as professional as the offline part. If existing customers see a poorly designed or outdated website or have emails go unanswered for days on end, it is very likely they will reconsider their personal view of the company as a whole. Where once they believed your business strove to maintain a high level of quality, they may now think they were wrong. see the chapter "building your site" for a checklist of web designers pitfalls. 

Keep an eye on your competitors. whether you decide to go online or not, they may be about to. If they are streamlining their business, it is obviously possible this will be reflected in the pricing structure of their products. Another aspect of this is a new business collaboration. There are many companies that will unload some of your costs for a slice of your cake. These frequently take the form of web-rings, banner adverts, link exchanges, product reviews and so on. This is studied in greater detail in the "website content" chapter. Of course, if you are the owner of the major online store front, it is possible your competitors will give up the race and abandon their online presence. This frequently has the effect of their existing customers thinking they have ceased trading. 

  

Next, becoming the major player: e-commerce success

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