3.578 Trillion Dollars.
What incomprehensibly large number are we throwing out there today? It’s Global Internet Sales in Dollars by the year 2019 (eMarketer).
The number itself doesn’t make much sense for small business owners to worry about. Here’s the number from eMarketer to be very concerned with: Canada is seeing 13-17% growth in e-commerce sales year-over-year.
Canadian SMB’s must take advantage of this fact. Businesses that use e-commerce can capture sales from that growth. Those who don’t are missing out. That’s as simple as we can put it.
Not sure if your business is ready to build an online store? Check the signs …
1. Friends and family have stuff stored in your warehouse/shop/work space
Translation: you’ve got physical room to grow your customer base. As Entrepreneur contributor Ronald L. Bond says, “using the Internet for selling means you must essentially go into the mail-order business.” If you want to open up shop to a global audience, it’s important to be prepared to ship and deliver on a higher scale. Are you ready to take on monitoring shipments, stocking more inventory, managing sales, handling customer service and all the other responsibilities that along with expanding a business online?
2. Sometimes, customers ask if you have an online store. Sometimes, they demand it
If you want to stay competitive in our ever-evolving consumer landscape, you better keep pace with what your customers want. These days, it’s all about mobility. Tablets and smart phones provide users with shopping convenience anywhere at any time, breeding such practices as “show-rooming”, wherein consumers visit stores to check out products, and then use smart phone applications to find lower prices online.
3. You’ve prepared a budget for expanding your web presence
Building an online store is going to cost you something. Loads of affordable e-commerce solutions available, from shopping carts to product catalogue widgets make it possible to set up shop on a shoestring, but you’re still going to need that string.
Be mindful of how your online store will represent your business as a “storefront” on the web. An effective, professional online store includes:
- Rich, concise product descriptions.
- High-quality product images.
- Convenient payment options (merchant accounts for credit card companies and/ or PayPal).
- A user-friendly shopping cart system.
- Customer service assistance via telephone, email, social media, and/or on-page messaging.
- Options for mobile viewing (original site and responsive design/ mobile website/ mobile application).
Consider how you plan to promote the store’s launch and bring traffic to the site. Are you prepared to take the time to attract new customers?
4. You know what CRM stands for
That’s Customer Relationship Management, right? CRM involves using technology to document and structure the many ways businesses interact with customers, by streamlining everything to one central platform (including contact information, recent purchases, complaints).
If you are familiar with CRM tools because you already use one or more to organize customer interactions, then you’re that much more prepared to take on hoards of new data from customers online.
Because that data, from customer queries to purchase histories, billing preferences and social media presence, is darn near essential to the success of your online store.
Customer data can be used to improve marketing strategies, target specific audiences, and streamline processes such as return shipments and warranty issues.
5. The products you sell can be replicated at high volume…
…And if not, you have a plan for how you’ll handle higher demand when the time comes.
Everyone from artisanal cheese makers to toy manufacturers can reap online sales, so long as they have a strategy for how to get their products into the hands of consumers all over the world. Whether you want to sell a limited number of handcrafted items per year, or sell in high volume, your choices should have a direct influence on how you promote your shop online.
Tell us what you think about offering an online shop. Is it right for every business? Give us your insights below!
Feature Image: Flikr CC: Daniel Foster