It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 global pandemic changed how we, as humans, go about our daily lives. Once typical routines like driving to work and shopping have been greatly affected by restrictions on where we can go as well as supply chain shortages.
One shift for the better has been an increased acceptance of purchasing goods online. While e-commerce is far from a new concept, those shoppers sitting on the sidelines—those who kept their online purchases to a minimum and preferred brick and mortar buys—have been forced to place themselves outside of their comfort zone and, thus, discovered online shopping is quite pleasant and secure.
With this new shift and increased participation in online shopping comes new opportunities.
If your company isn’t conducting business online, it’s time to reconsider.
Going Where the Customers Are
As mentioned above, e-commerce is on the rise. It’s not a fad nor is it exclusive to a select few. While it’s been the new normal for quite some time, it’s now a new[er] normal, if you will, and it has created certain expectations among your customers.
Today’s consumers expect to browse and purchase your products at a time that suits their schedule, not your store hours, they’re looking for detailed and useful product information, and a hassle-free checkout process. If you’re not providing these services to your customers, they’re finding them elsewhere. Your competition.
If your customers are online placing orders, your store needs to be there as well.
An Inexhaustible Sales Team
With time being a finite resource, business owners need to maximize each hour of the day. While one could argue that extending your hours of business or, perhaps, operating 24-hours a day could yield more sales, it’s not feasible with your existing workforce. Simply put, no one would be able to work the entire day, non-stop.
With an e-commerce presence, the website itself becomes your additional sales team. It’s out in the world selling for you around the clock and never gets tired. There’s no overtime to pay, sick or vacation days to worry about, and it’s never grumpy. What’s more, as your sales ramp up and concurrent shopper counts increase, your virtual sales force simply scales up to handle the load. No need to hire additional bodies, no need to temp-hire for the holidays.
Given the costs associated with expanding your employee base, it’s easy to see the bang-for-buck value proposition behind launching a transactional website.
National (and International) Reach
While it’s important to build your brand awareness locally or, at least, within a reasonable vicinity of your store, you can’t deny the growth potential an e-commerce website can provide, giving you exposure across the country—and the world. Even if you prefer to keep your sales domestic, it’s likely your local business could service customers far away if given the opportunity.
As this has been a perk of e-commerce for a long time, our pandemic-altered world has grown to appreciate purchasing even from local businesses with the convenience of their computers and mobile phones. Aside from all the value derived through long-distance exposure, nowadays, the benefits are less about distance and more about convenience. A loyal customer who lives just down the road may likely buy from you online as they exercise social distancing and quarantine.
If your business is not ready to accept their online order, they will find a company that is.
Be An Easy Referral
One of the most effective marketing efforts is word of mouth. When a happy evangelist of yours shares their experience with friends and family, there is a good chance that you will gain a new customer. The endorsement of a trusted acquaintance goes a long way.
If you conduct business exclusively through your physical storefront, you can only take advantage of this opportunity if the referred takes the time to come down to the store. Whereas, with an e-commerce website, this referral can come by way of a clickable link, providing instant access, and allowing you to pitch your wares while the referral is top of mind and fresh. Conducting business online removes delays and other roadblocks between you and your next sale.
Automating Your E-Commerce Business
Of course, we are shining a light on all that is positive when it comes to starting an online store or adding it to your existing business. And, while this isn’t necessarily negative, integrating a new line of business such as this does require additional logistic considerations.
The good news is much of the heavy lifting can be handled by technology-driven automation.
For example, post-checkout notifications can be triggered to get the picking and packing teams started, custom shipping labels can be printed, and tracking numbers can be sent to the customer as well as added to their record in your CRM.
Simultaneously, updates to your inventory and parts sums can be launched within your ERP system, replenishment purchase orders can be automatically sent to the specific manufacturers, and billing is updated for those in accounts payable.
Your marketing team can preload email templates to request product reviews, recommend additional accessories or services, and deploy promo newsletters weeks after a shipment was received by your customer. All automatically.
Expanding to Additional Channels
In the spirit of going where your customers are, it’s important to acknowledge the strength of selling omnichannel.
With social media, for example, extending your online storefront to your Facebook page, giving quick and easy access to your product catalog, and the ability to complete a purchase means you’re ready to collect payment the moment your customer opens their wallet. If there’s an impulse buy to make, be the one with the cash register.
Amazon, Rakuten, and many other mass merchants offer marketplace retail opportunities to sell through their website. While you can set up product listings through such platforms without a website of your own, it’s much easier and time-efficient to simply sync your e-commerce store catalog with theirs. Doing so can allow you to centralize your inventory counts, images database, product descriptions, and the like.
There are countless reasons why adding e-commerce to your business model makes sense, especially in today’s world. We touched upon a few important points but, as with everything in business, it’s imperative that you consider what it could mean for your specific company. To better understand the benefits and pitfalls, Contact Us today—we’re here to help!