Using Ecommerce To Gain a Competitive AdvantageWith the 2012 Sensis Business Index report showing that 95% of SME’s now have a computer and 92% have internet access, why wouldn’t your business be selling online?
Well, the 2012 Sensis Business Index report also revealed that only 53% of SME’s are taking orders online – the survey did not measure how many SME’s had an ecommerce shopping cart presence – what a pity. Can we suggest that the other 47% are that profitable they think they don’t need to bother or are these businesses that ‘behind’ that they have not realised the tectonic shift towards online is well and truly here?
Ecommerce is integrating itself into every aspect of our business and personal lives. Consumer behaviours are changing and SME’s need to realise this. Every business in Australia, regardless of whether your business sells products or services, should be looking to incorporate an ecommerce shopping cart into their website within the next 12 months.
It is generally accepted that there is still a majority of consumers over 35 years of age who are browsing online and purchasing in store but those under 35 are browsing and buying online at increasing rates. The question for most businesses is ‘where is your sales going to come from in the next 5 to 10 years? And are you geared up for the changing market place?’. The reality is that being successful in online ecommerce is not as simple as implementing a shopping cart website and hoping for the best. Consumers are becoming very savvy and making money online involves understanding the technology and the changing consumer behaviour. There are not really any University or TAFE courses currently teaching students in great depth because the rules of ecommerce are being written every day. Our experience at Neto is that the most successful online retailers are those that have been operating in the space for a few years. It takes time to build up your learning’s in the online space, so avoid it at your peril!
If you intend to be in business beyond the next 5 years, do yourself a favour and venture into the online world of ecommerce and implement a shopping cart into your online presence. The experience from Neto’s most successful online retailers is that a multi-channel online presence is best. This involves selling through:
- your own web store and mobile store
- eBay and other marketplaces
- and comparison shopping engines
Being online offers huge advantages over your competitors who are not online. Neto is starting to set up shopping cart websites for small businesses in regional Australia. This online presence is allowing these businesses to sell their products or services nationally, something that was virtually impossible previously and certainly not cost effective previously for a small regional business to market itself nationally or globally. The exciting thing for these businesses is that their online sales are growing month on month and they are achieving much better profit margins because the costs of selling online are relatively lower than that of traditional retail.
If you are a traditional business operating with owned or leased premises it is unlikely you will be able to move fully into online for a number of reasons. However, by starting to create your online shopping cart, facebook shop and ebay store manager you are increasing your online presence and your understanding of this space. Depending upon your industry and business model, your goal should be to gradually increase the level of sales each year through your online channel. Many of our Neto clients are selling in excess of $20,000 each week through their online shopping cart websites with no staff or no physical premises. The whole online space is filled with specialist providers from 3rd party logistics, freight companies, search engine optimisation companies and other providers so online ecommerce is extremely scalable and a number of our Neto clients are starting to run multiple online businesses.
So how do you get online:
- Do your research – look at what your competitors are doing and those in other industries – www.google.com
- Download e-commerce white papers
- Sign up for Neto’s free trial and give it a go!
- Sign up for some online ecommerce publications such as www.powerretail.com.au or www.insideretailing.com.au
Get involved in online discussions such as the eBay disucssion board: www.community.ebay.com.au/
Getting online is much cheaper than most businesses think and it is opening a whole new world of opportunity for attracting customers to your business. There are some common pitfalls to look out for:
- Where will your shopping cart website be hosted – Australia or Overseas? Hosting overseas is often cheaper but you need to be sure about the back up and security procedures of your host as well as any search engine optimisation implications involved with having a local site hosted offshore.
- If you sign up for a transaction fee based model can you change this model if your transaction level changes? And if so are there any additional costs?
- Does the shopping cart software provider you are going to sign up with really understand the Australian ecommerce space. Fright, logistics, accounting and taxation are all different to overseas countries.
- Does the shopping cart software provider you are looking at actually ‘integrate’ with freight companies, your accounting system and your marketing applications? Many say they do but the level of integration is often not sufficient to efficiently run your business, so make sure you investigate this area extensively.
- Who is there to help you through the process? Some ecommerce shopping cart providers can sell you a cheap solution but when you need help can you talk to a real person, do they offer training workshops, do they offer a 24/7 support service?