One of the key benefits of the internet is the liberation it brings us.
Not just the liberation it offers the Egyptian souk owner to gain real-time news free from state propaganda, but also the liberation it presents to the clothes shop owner or the confectioner to sell their goods internationally to a larger audience.
Online retailing is big business attracting serious investment from small and large retailers who have realised that pinning hopes on the ‘bricks and mortar’ retailing model misses the bigger picture.
It’s worth considering the sheer extent in the growth of online retailing. According to Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) 30% of European consumers expect to increase their online spending in 2011. And according to figures released last week, shoppers in the UK spent over £5 billion online in January 2011, a year-on-year increase of 21%.
As consumers become more comfortable with buying online they are starting to spend more. Recent research by CRR/Kellcoo revealed that the average annual spend online has increased to £1,240 in the UK with an increase in consumers using the internet to research online.
So why what is the best practice advice for small businesses seeking to prosper in the competitive world of online retailing?
Businesses shine or slump for a wide variety of reasons, and it’s no different online. Just like on the high street, businesses that are unrealistic or sloppy about marketing or sales can really feel the pressure on their market share and turnover. There is certainly a pattern to how small businesses and retailers new to ecommerce succeed online.
Perhaps the main advice for online retailing is to invest in a website that is fit for purpose
Perhaps the main advice for online retailing is to invest in a website that is fit for purpose. Poorly designed and amateurish sites that compare unfavourably to competitors are at a real disadvantage. Trust and reputation are both hugely important factors online and internet shoppers really do make first impressions about a site very quickly.
If you are a small business and want to invest more in ecommerce then you have a few options. There are plenty of good quality websites templates services, such as Moonfruit that offer modern designs with ecommerce functionality at a very reasonable price – so if you are micro businesses you certainly don’t need to pay big sums of money to a web designer to sell online.
Having said that, if you do want to outsource your ecommerce site design and build to a web designer then do make sure you choose a designer who has plenty of experience in ecommerce and preferably in your relevant sector.
One of the most common mistakes that novice ecommerce businesses make if the desire to only sell through their own website. There is usually a large degree of false logic and a belief in the ‘build it and they will come’ school of thought. Major ecommerce portals such as Amazon and eBay attract a huge amount of customer sales so you should aim to sell your goods through these sites it if makes commercial sense to do so. In short, try to sell where people are buying.
Marketing is a critical factor for ecommerce websites. Not only will you have to drive quality web traffic to your site, you also have to remarket effectively to your current customers. SEO plays a critical part in attracting traffic so you have to invest in this element especially.
Ecommerce retailers also need to think carefully about their payment systems and automation (delivery). Good customer care and delivery times are critical for your reputation, especially as you want to resell more and more to the customers you’ve attracted.
The last tip is to be realistic. David and Goliath is such iconic storyline in folklore and is often repeated in Hollywood movies, but it rarely happens outside the cinema.
The big guy usually has big advantages. There are many success stories of small retailers who have prospered online, however they grew their businesses by planning their operations, testing and improving their sites, marketing and excellent customer service – not by trying to become the next Amazon.