Shoppers in the US have, so far, spent $601.75 billion online in 2019. E-commerce retail sales have grown steadily in the last few years. And it’s looking like consumers aren’t abandoning their online shopping carts anytime soon, thanks to the spread of technology and the rapid rate of digitization for both customers and businesses.
New infrastructure and software make it easier than ever for people to connect to the internet. Meanwhile, smartphone technology and similar portable devices make sure that anyone can go online wherever. You could purchase a new dress, order a meal, and make hotel reservations from the comfort of your home or when you’re traveling.
And if you want to stay ahead of the competition, you need to digitize your business as soon as possible. Integrating e-commerce marketing strategies are no longer an option but a necessity.
But can your company handle the transition? And how do you begin the process of shifting to an e-commerce model?
Is Your Business Ready for E-Commerce?
You need to ascertain if your business is ready for such a transition before you begin integrating e-commerce into your commercial operation.
The following are a few questions you need to resolve before switching to an e-commerce model.
- Is your industry shifting to e-commerce quickly?
Businesses aren’t digitizing at the same rate. For example, sectors of industry that deal with information or communication technology will be at the forefront of going digital. Meanwhile, more labor-intensive areas, like construction and agriculture, may not be inclined to do so.
But why does it matter if your industry is shifting to e-commerce?
Just because your industry and your competitors aren’t adapting to technology yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. If your industry isn’t transitioning to e-commerce rapidly, getting a jump start on digital marketing will certainly give you an advantage when trying to claim "digital real estate" ahead of your competition. However, if you’re in an industry that’s heavily digitized and you haven’t made any transitions, your business is at a serious disadvantage and you need to rectify it immediately.
- What’s the demand for your product or services?
If you’re running a brick-and-mortar store, you need to gauge what sort of demand you need to meet. Are you having difficulties meeting your customers’ needs in your store? Are you the only provider of these goods and services in a certain area? Do they have to drive a long way just to get to your store?
When you answer “yes” to all these questions, it may be the right time to expand your business into the internet.
If you create a Shopify account, you can significantly reduce foot traffic to your store while still generating revenue.
If you’re unsure about how your customers would react, conduct a survey and consider the results before shifting to e-commerce.
- What would the cost of shifting to e-commerce be for your business?
You may be tempted to switch to an online business model if your company isn’t where you want it to be. However, there are considerable costs to transitioning to an e-commerce-centric model.
First, there’s the price of acquiring new hardware, such as computers and other digital devices. Then there’s the cost of acquiring services, like faster internet connection, delivery services, and even warehousing. If you’re unprepared to meet these costs, you could lose more resources than you save.
- How would transitioning to e-commerce affect your employees?
Your customers aren’t the only ones who will be affected by such a transition. Going digital could mean cutting down your employee roster. Reduced store traffic will allow you to run it with fewer personnel. Automated inventory checking and customer support programs, like chatbots, could also potentially replace more employees.
On the other hand, shifting to e-commerce could mean hiring new employees capable of handling the transition or adding new responsibilities. Are your employees ready to learn the skills involved in e-commerce? Can your organizational structure handle new additions to your employee roster?
You must determine how digitizing your business will impact employees because it will allow you to handle potential consequences.
- Is it the right time?
Launching an e-commerce store or even integrating it into your business is a time-consuming effort. Going digital isn’t a way for you to make quick money, but a long-term strategy designed to help your business survive. But you must ensure that it’s the right time for your business to make the transition.
If your business is on the ropes, you should determine if you can spare the time and resources to transition into e-commerce. If you can’t, focus on other methods of revitalizing your business. And figure out the appropriate time to begin shifting to e-commerce.
- Do you have the patience for it?
Like any other facet of business, successful e-commerce relies on careful preparation. You need to have the patience to wait for it to pay off. If you can’t afford the wait, either because you don’t have the patience or the resources to do so, look for other ways to bring in revenue to your business.
E-Commerce and Your Customers
Once you’ve determined that it’s appropriate for your business to go digital, it’s vital that you know what customers are looking for in an e-commerce site. This information is crucial when implementing your designs and refining your business model.
Here are the most important things users need and how you can fulfill them.
1) Users are looking for convenience
The primary reason people prefer e-commerce retail options to physical retail is convenience. As many as 97 percent of users online abandoned their purchases when it proved inconvenient. This could be because the online store doesn’t deliver directly to their preferred address. Or the purchasing process could be too confusing or complicated.
Another inconvenience that could dissuade buyers involved online payment, such as credit cards or similar digital methods.
When you begin planning for e-commerce, keep all processes streamlined and simple not just from an operational standpoint, but also for your customers.
- Make your site or page easy to navigate by avoiding cluttered designs or hard-to-read text.
- All of your processes should be as straightforward as possible or have step-by-step guides.
- Determine what features your customers want and give them that.
2) Users are looking for information
Because they can’t personally inspect products or services, e-commerce customers need a lot of information before making their purchases. What they look for will fall into two categories: product information and reviews.
Potential online buyers should have complete information on the goods they plan on purchasing. Aside from plenty of product photos, your site or listing should include all pertinent details, such as dimensions, specific features, and warnings that may accompany it.
Instead of personal recommendations, most online consumers turn to customer reviews instead. Approximately 82 percent of users consult online reviews before buying. A similar percentage share these reviews with people close to them, like their friends and families.
- Take multiple photos of products from different angles to give viewers as much perspective as possible.
- Information on products should be easy to read, preferably in drop-down boxes or similar format.
- Highlight any important information such as those regarding medical or safety concerns.
- Provide a comments section, so users can share their experiences.
- Create a page dedicated to frequently asked questions for easy reference.
- Share testimonials from previous customers to engage new ones.
3) Users are looking for security
Online transactions are susceptible to hackers and malware. Naturally, your potential customers want their personal information and financial data safe from theft. With all sorts of threats hanging around the internet, you need to ensure that your customers can rest assured that none of their sensitive data is in danger of being exposed.
You need trust and security that digital fraud protection provides to have a truly lucrative online business.
- Incorporate only secure payment options to your e-commerce site.
- Use multistage authentication programs to protect information.
- Consider non-standard methods of protecting your site, such as network segmentation and similar approaches.
4) Users are looking for support
Your customers aren’t always online to make purchases. Sometimes, they need assistance or information about your business or products. A reliable online support system helps your users find more information and gives them a convenient method of getting assistance. The beauty of digital support systems is that your customers can access them whenever they want, enabling you to answer their concerns any time of the day.
Support also includes ways for customers to communicate effectively with your business to convey concerns on return policies and similar rules.
- Engage an online chatbot to provide customers with ‘round-the-clock assistance.
- Offer membership discounts and similar rewards programs to encourage loyalty.
- Provide dedicated communications channels for customer assistance
- Respond to customer queries and comments in a timely fashion.
Shifting your business from physical operations to e-commerce is a complicated and delicate process. Before you undertake it, you must have all the information and facts available. That is the only way you can ensure that your business transition will be successful and will put your company on the path to success.