By Jim O’Hara
With increasing competition from online stores and the opportunity to participate in the projected $1 trillion online ecommerce market, it is vital for owners of traditional brick-and-mortar stores to expand their digital reach. Small businesses that ignore this trend will quickly lose market share to bigger competitors. Conventional consumer shopping behavior is changing— consumers want the ability to buy anything, anywhere, at any time, and from any device. Small business owners have an increasingly larger opportunity to sell to a global audience through their company website, specialty blog, Facebook profile and/or any other web presence. The good news is that it never has been easier for small businesses to setup an online store, or more cost-effective, to reach prospective customers.
By choosing the right ecommerce solution, retailers can maximize their digital footprint and capitalize on developing productive customer relationships not just locally, but globally. As a business owner, it is important to evaluate ecommerce solutions and consider the following carefully:
How quickly can I get started selling online?
You can be transacting within a couple of hours, tops. Look for a solution that is easy to setup, affordable, can be added to your existing web presence and blend in seamlessly.
Where can I sell online?
You can sell anywhere your customers shop online—your website, blog, and/or social media, for example. Further, your ecommerce tool should synchronize your entire inventory; catalog and sales order information instantly with your point-of-sale (POS) system. Facebook is a great example of untapped opportunity. Ecwid merchants with Facebook stores have generated nearly 10 percent of overall sales there, with an average purchase of $167.
Is your store mobile-friendly?
According to a 2014 eMarketer report, sales via mobile smartphones and tablets are projected to be 19 percent of a $57 billion online retail market by the end of 2014. Make sure your ecommerce solution is mobile-optimized and provides a high-quality experience on mobile devices to easily convert visitors into buyers.
How else can I expand my customer reach?
As a small business owner, another great way to grow your consumer base and increase sales is by expanding your global presence. In an increasingly global market, online shoppers can purchase from anywhere, and your ecommerce platform is the best way to capitalize on this opportunity. The right solution will support multiple languages and currencies, as well as preferred local shipping and payment options.
What else should I be thinking about?
Consider where else you might sell in-person, such as a trade show, a farmer’s market, or an event. Having a mobile POS capability enables you to sell on-the-go and reach customers anywhere in-person. Now imagine the ability to sync your mobile POS transactions simultaneously with all of your sales distribution points in real-time. All of these exciting innovations now are easily within reach for any small business retailer.
As always, consumer-buying behavior dictates how small businesses must evolve to stay competitive, and ecommerce has become a vital component for the continued growth on any small business. When selecting an e-commerce solution, small businesses must consider the criteria addressed above in order to capitalize on a $1 trillion online commerce market opportunity.