There’s little doubt for businesses about the value of being online. Figures show that in 2017, 77% of adults made purchases online – that’s up 53% in 9 years – it’s not enough to only have a website displaying your products and services. To increase sales you also need to give potential customers the opportunity to buy online.
What is e-commerce?
E-commerce (‘electronic commerce’) is simply transacting business over the internet – buying and selling online. In 2015, e-commerce sales by businesses with 10 or more employees in the UK non-financial sector were £533 billion, representing 19.0% of business turnover (ONS). The wholesale and manufacturing sectors reported the highest values of e-commerce sales in 2015 at £189 billion and £155 billion respectively – that’s 35.5% and 29.1% of total e-commerce sales respectively.
The likes of Amazon, eBay and grocery retailers have long taken advantage of the power of e-commerce. Now online shopping is firmly one of the conveniences of modern life. But it’s not just for the big boys and girls – micro-enterprises’ (businesses with less than 10 employees) e-commerce sales were £21.2 billion in 2015. This represented 4.6% of business turnover of micro-enterprises. There’s obviously room for smaller firms to get in on more of the online action.
Benefits of offering e-commerce
The business benefits of e-commerce include:
- Saves you time and money – if you include e-commerce on your website, it’s easier for customers and staff time is saved by not having to deal with orders and payments. You can create offers, manage orders, and receive payments – all in one place.
- Increases staff productivity – more staff time can be spent on your business products and services rather than administering and processing sales.
- Reaches more customers – you’re not restricted to those who come into your shop or telephone, the world is your potential oyster. E-commerce offers an easy and hassle-free shopping experience where products and services can be delivered to the door.
- Increases customer engagement – you can choose to include the capability for customers to leave purchase reviews and ratings – not only is this feedback useful to you, it is useful to other customers and is a form of free endorsement (it can also help your Search Engine ranking).
- Increases internet traffic – you can use your other digital marketing channels to drive more traffic to your e-store e.g. use social media to link to offers and promotions.
- Promotion to past buyers – many e-commerce software packages enable companies to communicate with past buyers. This gives you the chance to email them with offers, promotions and generally reminding customers that you’re still there. It shows how e-commerce can be part of your digital marketing strategy.
Tips on adopting e-commerce
Going down the e-commerce route may seem daunting but once you’re convinced of the benefits it’s a matter of tackling how best to achieve it. Explore adding the e-commerce function to your website with your IT and marketing staff or advisers. For example in WordPress you can use the free Woocommerce plugin. Or you could consider using existing e-commerce platforms such as eBay to test the waters.
You’ll need to decide on payment options – Paypal is popular with customers but will take a % of each sale. You can offer the products or services you’re already selling and also offer some online only, making them more appealing.
Above all, keep it simple for the customer.
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