Small businesses have had an important decision to make over the past decade. In the words of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To add an e-commerce channel to your business model, or not to add one, that is the question.” Okay, Hamlet didn’t actually say that, but you get the picture.
As a small business owner, it’s very important to consider the value of taking your business online in a 21st century economy that loves the convenience of online shopping.
Tips to Successfully Add an E-Commerce Channel
The benefits of adding an e-commerce channel to your existing business are numerous. For starters, you’ll increase your availability to 24/7/365. Whereas your brick-and-mortar stores likely closes at a certain hour, your e-commerce website stays open.
Furthermore, with very few barriers to entry, there are very few reasons to not go online. “Starting out online means very low startup costs,” online business expert Brian Haines notes. “You have no buildings to construct, no vehicles to buy, and few (if any) staff to hire. Simply build your site and start selling.”
Haines is obviously simplifying things a bit, but he’s right on the money. In just a few days, you can have an e-commerce site up and running. Here are a few things to think about:
1. Understand the costs. The first thing to think about is cost. Building an e-commerce site is going to require an upfront investment, and it’s best that you estimate this dollar amount as accurately as possible before getting started.
For what it’s worth, most e-commerce sites cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to develop, design, and launch. But you certainly don’t have to spend that much. Thanks to site builders like Shopify, you can get started for free and realistically develop a basic site for less than $1,000. However, if you plan on really investing in e-commerce, expect to spend $5,000 or more in the long haul.
2. Launch a site. Actually taking action and launching a site is the hardest part. But once you get started, you’ll realize that it’s fairly easy—especially if you use a site-building platform.
During this phase, focus less on the aesthetics of your site and more on the user experience. You can always come back later and change things like color schemes, images, and graphics, but it’s much harder to make adjustments to things like navigation.
If you’re unsure of what you’re doing–even with a site builder—it’s best to pay for a professional developer. This is not the place to cut corners or save money.
3. Make mobile a priority. When moving online, your goal shouldn’t be to follow the status quo. In order to make your presence known, you need to do things differently. One key area where you can stand out is with mobile. Roughly 30 percent of all mobile shopping is now done on smartphones and tablets, yet few sites are properly optimized.
“Steps can still be taken to enhance the mobile shopping experience, and help give consumers the extra push to complete their purchase before losing interest,” supply chain expert Paul Trujillo points out. “The impulse buy is a major source of revenue for many companies, and it’s important to capitalize on that urge when you have the customer’s attention.”
4. Figure out inventory logistics. When an online channel is added to your business model, you obviously have to make changes to your supply chain and inventory practices. Specifically, you’ll need to answer questions like these:
- Where will inventory be stored?
- How will orders be processed?
- Who will pick and ship orders?
- What will online demand for specific products look like?
There’s a lot to think about and you want to make sure you aren’t assuming anything. If you aren’t careful, you could overwhelm your supply chain, and ultimately compromise both channels of your business.
5. Don’t forget about brick-and-mortar. When adding an e-commerce channel, it’s easy to forget about your existing brick-and-mortar channel. Be aware of this and make a point of not compromising your current business model. The goal is not to cannibalize your existing sales, but to instead increase sales via another channel. If you have the resources, consider hiring someone to head up your e-commerce division, so that you can focus on the core business.
What Will You Do?
There may be certain businesses that have little to gain from moving online, but the majority of brick-and-mortar small businesses can increase sales and grow revenue by venturing online.
As you can see, it’s not as difficult as you may have previously thought.