Participation in online shopping is huge and increasing fast. Businesses are moving to meet this demand at differing speeds with small to medium bricks and mortar businesses becoming e-tailers out of necessity to combat their online-only competitors.

The barriers to entry are now much lower in terms of access to technology and costs of development. You can sign up to Shopify, or Big Commerce or others and build your own store in a matter of hours. Paypal has made payment gateways available at low cost and few technological requirements.

I have recently developed a number of eCommerce sites with differing business and revenue models that have given me a bit of an insight into the challenge facing small business in our region. In particular is the challenge of a bricks and mortar business to compete with offshore online competitors, and increasingly, local online competitors.

The decision to move should be easy, you either compete or you lose.

I have formed a number of observations in regard to the process in implementing this decision, as it should be a decision that every retailer in every town should be making now.

  1. Do it. People are moving to online shopping more and more but this does not mean they no longer want to shop with you, however if you are not there they can’t.
  2. Look at your business and revenue model, how can it shift to an ebusiness model, what are the implications or opportunities along your value chain, what supply chain improvements can be made, are there affiliate, advertising, or subscription models that you can pursue.
  3. Look at your value proposition, what are you offering your customers shopping online, can there be cost savings, new product lines, or bundling opportunities?
  4. What are your competitors doing? What competitive advantage could be taken. Conduct an analysis of your online competitors looking at factors such as customer service, customer engagement and communication, use of content technologies.
  5. Study logistics options, fright and delivery, this is a great chance to test the efficiency and cost effectiveness of your existing supply chain and distribution channels.
  6. Investigation technological options, do you go with a hosted solution with the ongoing costs, or have a dedicated system developed at a one-off cost.
  7. Investigate payment gateways, talk to your bank and be aware of all costs, and put them in the mix with delivery as cost of sales.
  8. Work out your margin, people no longer expect products online to be hugely cheaper, the convenience is key, however you need to make a margin. Delivery and cost of transaction need to be factored in while not pricing your product out of the market.
  9. Don’t rush it, get your inventory sorted and ready in terms of content and stock that you want to offer in the first stage.
  10. Market the heck out of it. Are you doing something that is news worthy, at least among your business associations. Social media and content marketing is key, keep you brand top of mind and associated with the fact that your customers and potential customers can buy online and receive a benefit from doing so.
  11. Provide support on the website, you need an effective mechanism for receiving questions, from the consumer or alternatives to purchase such as quote requests forms.
  12. Commit. A new website, or new ebusiness model can take time to establish, you are not likely to receive a heap of orders in the first week, but I can assure you they will come.

I hope there is something in this that helps any business who is considering moving into eCommerce, preparation is very important particularly when developing online channel for their bricks and mortar shop front.

Here are some recent eCommerce websites we have developed. Give us a call on 0414 362 557 or email [email protected] if you want to discuss your online goals.

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