Tuesday 18 December 2012

Taking Your Business Online

With the retail sector struggling, and intense competition from overseas online stores, more and more Australian businesses are moving online. But the online business world is full of landmines and potholes one must avoid, and for every success story there are most definitely stories of failure. We’re here to help you decide whether a move online could be beneficial, and to get a better grasp on the do’s and don’ts of eCommerce.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a bricks and mortar store who would never consider going online, or an online store who would never consider leaving the virtual business market, the same business principles apply.

  • Fundamentals; you NEED to deliver quality customer value and service. The business landscape is changing with the increasing prominence of eCommerce and the constant technological advances, and with that, customer perceptions of value and service are changing.
  • Understand what your customer wants and how they behave. This is where you can get a huge competitive advantage. This is understanding how, when and if your customers interact with technology. The idea is to make your brand as accessible and engaging as possible in order to generate more revenue.
  • Understand your customer’s purchasing motivations. The major purchasing decision motivators are service, convenience, customisation and price. Determine which of these influence your customers the most, and how you can cater towards this.

Why are so many businesses going online these days?
The reasons are quite simple really:

It opens up your potential target market, in most cases it allows businesses to sell to a more global market due to increased accessibility.

It can lower overhead costs due to a decrease in rental costs and storeman salaries which can ultimately result in a higher profit margins.

Some brands are going online basically because they have no need for physical stores – book stores are a perfect example as most customers have no need to touch/feel the product before purchasing.

But perhaps the main reason why small businesses are either moving online or created as online business’, is really, the lower start-up costs in comparison to bricks and mortar stores.

If you do decide to jump on the bandwagon and ditch the bricks and mortar stores; there are 3 main principles you should follow when designing your online business.

  1. Accessibility.
    Make sure your online store is easily available to your target market. Remember a major selling point for customer’s to go online is convenience; so exploit this perception like you would a buffet.
  2. Simplicity.
    If customers go to a store and struggle to find where things are, or actually purchasing the product is complex and frustrating, they’ll leave. Thousands of research papers have told us this for years, and the same principles apply to the online space. If customers struggle to navigate the page, find the site to be cluttered or are getting frustrated with the layout, they won’t bother. Plain and simple. Remember, modern customers have more buying power than ever before.
  3. Informative.
    One major reason why some customers are hesitant to go online is they’re worried that the product will not be what they imagined it to be. To combat this, give detailed specifications on physical products with extensive information. Make it feel like the product is actually in their hands, and they’ll be eating out of the palms of yours.

  1. Don’t forget, even when you’re completely online, you may still need warehouse/office space. This may be for stock, customer service lines, sales people etc. Just because your customers only purchase/view stock online, doesn’t mean you should forget about any physical office locations. Amazon.com, one of the most successful eCommerce businesses made this mistake early on. They never anticipated the need to rent a warehouse for their stock, and it almost ruined the business in its early years. So in many cases, keeping a portion of their physical locations will be necessary.
  2. Don’t forget the importance of customer service. Yes, it will be on a completely different platform to traditional retail, but it is still essential. This includes being very timely with customer questions and feedback, and having a contact number should be considered. Customers still like to interact with real people whilst shopping, so try and give them the best of both worlds.
  3. Don’t just assume that because you are online that your costs will halve, and your revenue will exponentially grow. You still have to market your brand, deliver quality products/services and continually innovate your brand and products in order to compete effectively.