Commerce has been fully embraced by the Internet, with online stores slowly phasing out many brick-and-mortar establishments. While you may not be in too much danger, depending on what you offer, you may also have the opportunity to leverage this trend in your favor. Below, we’ve outlined a few factors to help you decide if e-commerce is the right fit for you.
Can My Product/Service Be Sold Online?
Let’s face it - if what you have to offer isn’t something that someone would be likely to purchase online, you may have to get a little bit creative. After all, it makes sense to purchase goods online, but a service can sometimes seem a little out-of-place on an order form. However, if approached with the right mindset, a service-based business can easily offer things online while simultaneously benefitting their marketing efforts.
Instead of selling your services themselves, you can sell the kinds of things that support and encourage confidence in your services. Maybe you sell training sessions to help teach your clientele how to better use their solutions, or you offer premium content on your website for a nominal fee, like whitepapers and other useful materials. If you plan to follow this route, you need to make sure that your premium content adds additional value as compared to what the rest of your website’s content offers.
Of course, you could include an order form for your services on your website… but if your services are priced based on scale, this could easily complicate things. In such cases, it is probably a better call to skip the order form and replace it with a call-to-action that recommends your inquisitive visitor to reach out directly and discuss their needs.
Would It Make More Sense to Leverage an Established Marketplace?
You may have also considered turning to a marketplace that already exists, like eBay or Amazon, to offer your products and services. This may make more sense for a business new to e-commerce to try, rather than adding a storefront to their website. While there is a fee associated with selling through one of these outlets, they have some significant advantages that may be worth it to you.
Naturally, these established marketplaces will have considerable credit built up where search engine optimization is concerned, as well as some serious audience recognition to present trustworthiness. Additionally, platforms like eBay or Amazon will not require any real maintenance from you, while a marketplace on your own website will need some tuning up every now and again.
What Would It Cost?
Like we said, there will be fees involved with using a well-known marketplace, but that doesn’t mean you’d necessarily be off the hook if you handled it yourself. On top of the cost of maintaining a website, you may have to pay a few additional fees as well. Some municipalities will charge businesses registration and licensing fees to operate an online store, and you’ll want to drive traffic to the store with some marketing efforts, as well.
Furthermore, what will shipping your products cost, and how will potential returns influence that? “Free shipping” is growing to be an expected benefit to shopping online, which means that the shipping costs are on your shoulders. Whether you try to absorb these costs, or account for them as you price your products will be up to you. On top of all this, you also have to consider if the products you are shipping will need any particular care to keep them safe, which translates into higher shipping costs. Returns are just as challenging, as their costs can greatly stunt profit margins, and customers will pay attention to whether or not you charge for returns.
Does Your POS System Help?
Many modern point-of-sale systems have some sort of online storefront management included. If yours doesn’t, you may want to consider upgrading to one that does. Either way, you’ll want to make sure that you keep it updated with security patches and other defenses to keep it protected, just as you should with any device on your network.
Computerware can help you modernize your POS system, or any of your business technology, to help bring your business a better chance of success! Reach out to us at (703) 821-8200 to discuss what we can do to help.