Is Your Offline Business Ready to Go Online?
Online-shopping is the easiest and the quickest way of buying consumer goods and services. These days, you can buy almost everything on websites, starting with foodstuffs and ending with various services. 96% of Americans shopped online in 2017, while 29% of small businesses didn’t have a website. The question is why this 29% still isn’t there, on the open space of the Internet? Maybe they aren’t ready or don’t need to go online yet?
Perhaps even now you are pondering over whether to enhance your business’s online presence or not. In this article, you will find the answers that will help you plan further business steps.
To be online or not to be online?
The modern world requires you to register Google My Business Account to mark your company on a map, specify working hours, and post information. Social networks presence wouldn't go amiss allowing you to timely inform subscribers about news, discounts, etc. It's much less annoying than commercial e-mails. Going online is a current world tendency. Consumers have already got used to finding information via their smartphones instead of browsing through yellow pages.
Will your website be a competitive advantage?
With 15 years of experience in IT consulting, we have seen many cases when successful offline businesses were unable to compete with companies having a strong online presence. Before making a decision you should carefully study your potential network competitors. It may turn out that competitors from the same business domain as yours don’t have any online presence. In this situation, it would be wise to seize your competitive advantage and carve a niche. Say you realize that you will encounter a robust, decent competitor. In this case, you should thoroughly plan your marketing strategy. Direct competition with the giants of online trade is extremely expensive. If you assume intense competition, you should consider integrating your website with such giants as Amazon, eBay or Alibaba. A bunch of integration tools will allow you to be in the leading position of online trade.
New sales or offline to online transition?
Planning the shift to e-commerce, think about whether this change will result in your business expansion. Note that your customers may not be happy with changes. Make a research to find out if your target audience is ready for virtual store instead of sales outlets.
Online market entry will also require a budget for the new websites advertising and promotion. Make sure that you can bare additional expenses. Going online will reduce the cost of sales outlets managing. But at the same time, you may have to close some of your offline shops, because they become not any more profitable. This situation can affect your company's market value. New ways of selling require extra efforts for omnichannel commerce control. You will need efficient tools to manage sales channels and inventory, monitoring marketing budgets, calculating ROI, etc.
Does your business have a solid background for switching to e-commerce?
Launching an e-commerce portal, you give a signal to competitors that you are ready for a new round of competition. You should, therefore, obtain professional e-commerce tools and make sure that your business meets some requirements for switching to e-commerce:
- CRM and ERP systems usage
- Efficient return of the goods
- A coordinated delivery service, your own or an outsourced one
- Customer support service
All the criteria met, your business has a good reason to go online. Otherwise, you won't be able to successfully deploy a full-fledged e-commerce activity. In the end, you will get semi e-commerce when you will have to perform some operations manually. This situation will impede your business workflow and lead to extra costs.
Do you have sufficient budget for the transition?
Putting your business on e-commerce track won't cost as much as creating a commercial website. E-commerce is about business processes but not buying and selling tools. That is why it would be wise to start by applying for e-commerce consulting services and work out a perfect business strategy. You may try to capitalize on standard proven solutions, e.g., retail software, but you will end up realizing that a proven solution also requires customization to fit some specific business needs. Contact specialists that will study your case and provide you with guidelines on how to optimize budget and succeed with your e-store.
Who will support your e-commerce solution?
There is a range of sought-after platforms - Magento, Shopify, Sitecore, etc. - providing all the necessary tools for e-commerce. Even though you've decided to deal with these online-shopping juggernauts, ask yourself, “Who will support and maintain a would-be e-commerce solution?”
- You can hire a technical specialist. In this case, it would be better to turn to commercial solutions with sufficient amount of tools, the large number of functional modules and professional customer support.
- You can turn to a software development company for creating a custom e-commerce solution. Rely on professional consultants to take care of maintaining and supporting the e-commerce system. Business analysts will help you pick the appropriate platform for the development. Magento, for instance, is a flexible and reliable toolkit with enough functionalities and capabilities for in-depth customization.
- In case you are planning the complete digital transformation of your business, you should consider professional e-commerce solutions. Sitecore products can be a technological platform in this case. Discuss the platform choice with business consultants.
A return wave
Believe it or not, but huge online businesses tend to go offline these days. Amazon has already opened Bookstore and Amazon Go. In 2016 Google started its first retail store. Sephora went offline in 2017. These facts tell us that online market's capacity is limited. One should not ignore the e-commerce industry potential obviously, but we also have to take the unbiased look at business risks in the global Internet commerce market.
E-commerce provides businesses with the opportunity to easily reach out for their clients and increase the number of sales. But if you are new to online trade don’t dip into the pool too soon. It’s not a good idea to create your e-shop with a weak background. Study first your competitors’ positions and clients’ preferences. After that, consider what corresponds to your budget as far as shifting business online can be quite expensive. Thus, you will be able to take an informed decision avoiding lots of mistakes that can cast a shadow on your e-commerce experience.
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