e-commerce working for your business

The buying and selling of goods and services over the internet (commonly known as e-commerce) allows you to carry out business with your customers 24/7/365 without the barriers of time or distance.

Predictions for 2011 show a dramatic increase in the number of online purchases. The downturn in the economy has resulted in customers being more “bargain savvy” than ever before, spending time to research, compare and identify the best price possible. An increase in the number of mobile and tablet devices in use mean that access to the internet is simpler than ever pushing the number of online purchases to an all time high.

Business are seriously considering e-commerce as an inexpensive way of reaching new customers. Online trading reduces the direct cost of sale; there is less human interaction and reduced overheads when compared with traditional retail methods. The online buying process (and indeed the selling process) becomes streamlined, efficient and is less prone to errors. The whole experience is improved for the customer.

A complete e-commerce solution should present products and services to potential customers allowing them to browse, compare and query product details. The purchase process must be clear, concise and straightward, directing the buyer through the steps involved in completing their order. Returning customers should be recognised and the experience tailored to their needs. Customers should have the ability to track and query their orders, providing passive and active feedback through the entire process.

For the seller, the e-commerce solution should gather details of potential leads and qualified customers. The interaction between the customer and an e-commerce site provides valuable Business Intelligence. Knowing your customers behaviour will allow you to target additional, similar or extended products and services (cross-selling and up-selling) to meet their needs.

Choosing an e-commerce solution should involve analysis and research into your business requirements and the available solutions currently on the market. Turnkey e-commerce solutions  can provide a quick and effective means of setting up an online business. If a more customised solution is required there are a large number of commercial and freeware solutions available.  It is essential that the chosen solution meets your current business needs and allows expansion for the future. The chosen solution should integrate with your existing business process without introducing complication or overheads in your back office organisation.

Some additional factors to consider when choosing an e-commerce solution are:

Do you have an existing web site? Your e-commerce solution may need to integrate with an existing web site and complement the site with a seamless look and feel.  If your have no online presence, then a complete business site and e-commerce solution can get your business up and running quickly. Don’t forget the all important domain names and search engine registration.

Do you have an existing back-office system, stock control or customer relationship management system in your organisation? An e-commerce solution should integrate and extend your existing business processes. Indeed many solutions can cover the full enterprise requirements around marketing, sales and support services.

What payment methods do you support? Your chosen solution should support your chosen payment options, with extensibility to include future requirements.

Developing your business online can open up a whole new customer base without the large investment in a marketing or advertising campaign.  With your products and services available online, the internet channel can open up a whole range of possibilities in improving and extending your business.