Internet has opened a new era of business opportunities. Each day, thousands of
new consumers are joining the Internet. More and more companies are adopting Internet
as their primary sales and distribution channel. According to Forrester Research
-The survey of 130 U.S. companies indicates consumers spent $76 billion shopping
on-line in 2002. This represents a 48 percent increase over 2001, and projections
for 2003 come close to $100 billion, representing 4.5 percent of total retail
sales. As a business you probably understand that in order to stay competitive
you must integrate ecommerce to your present business strategy. A little research
will show you that there is an extensive array of technology and solutions for
enterprise and web store building available in the market. You also perceive that
ecommerce sites can cost you from a mere couple of hundred bucks to hundreds of
thousand of dollars. How to choose something from so many options that will exactly
fit your present need?
Although, this might look like a daunting task, a little preparation will definitely
help you taking the right decision in your quest for an appropriate ecommerce
solution. To understand your requirement better and create a proper ecommerce
strategy, you have to ask yourself a number of questions. Below I jotted down
some of the questions that, hopefully, will spur your imagination.
- What should be the look of my web store?
- Do I need a database for my product catalog?
- How should the purchase order generate on my web store?
- Do I need to handle different pricing system for dealers, wholesalers and end
- How do I bill my customers?
- How easy can I make my web store to navigate?
- How many search options should we have?
- Can I show my customers a product comparison table?
- What should be my merchant account gateway system?
- Finally, how much should I invest to build my web store?
If building an ecommerce site from scratch feels too overwhelming to you and
you are a small business, my suggestion is - to build a web store with one of
the providers similar to Yahoo, Bigstep, Rusbiz etc. The web stores that you
can build directly on the Internet have all the necessary features like shopping
cart, product catalog and payment gateway as any regular ecommerce site. In
most of the cases, you construct web store online from templates and easy-to-use
editor and you hardly need to know html or other script languages.
The benefits of using a web store that you can build online are enormous.
Quick to build: If you have all the materials handy, you can build a web store
within a day.
Easy in use: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to build a fully functional
ecommerce site. Step by step procedures of making pages from templates allow
anybody to create a professionally looking web store in no time.
Affordable: Although, some of the providers charge commissions on your sales,
as Yahoo does, in most of the cases your expenses are less than US$ 100 a month
to have a good web store.
The only disadvantage you have with this kind of web stores is you might not
be able to give the customized look and feel to the site as you intend to. Then
again, once you start generating enough sales through your web store, if you
must, you can always build an ecommerce site by hiring web design companies.
If you are still hesitant in starting online business using web stores I would
suggest you to read the following eventual benefits that you may have from ecommerce.
Increase your sales & profits
If you are a brick and mortar company, online commerce will definitely increase
your sales and with it profits.
Enhance your company image
Today, even small companies understand the importance of having a website. Planned,
sophisticated and professional website creates positive image of the company
and help building brand name.
Reduce costs and save money
If required features are available on the website practically all business
processes are possible to carry out on the Internet, which allows you to reduce
overhead costs, costs incurred due to documentary mistakes, document processing
Improve customer service
Frequently Asked Questions pages, forums, Internal Messaging Service, chat
lines, etc. all these features help you effectively running your customer service.
Become a global player
Thanks to the reach of Internet you are no longer confined to a certain geographical
boundary any more. You can sell products to any place of the world 24 hours
a day. Add sales channels
By joining e-marketplaces and B2B exchanges you can significantly increase the
number of sales channels available to you.
Reduce supply chain cycle
If you automate supply chain processes through Internet, you will be able to
shorten the entire cycle from months to days. You will be even able to eliminate
certain phases of your supply chain process.
Market products and services
There are numerous ways of getting traffics on your site and popularize your
products. In fact, you can get more people in your web store than it is physically
possible to accommodate in a bricks-and-mortar shop.
Compete with large companies
On the Internet you may successfully compete with the behemoths of your industry
and even curve market shares out of them.
Low start-up costs
Normally, starting a brick and mortar business requires significant cost involvement.
On the Internet - opposite is true! To start a business online you hardly need
any major investment.
No entry barrier
As you know, many businesses in real world are tightly controlled by certain
groups. On the internet there is no such barrier! Anybody can start any business
of his choice.
No need to close existing sales channels
By adopting Internet as a sales channel you do not loose anything as your web
store only complements existing sales conduit.
If you are new to ecommerce world, I would advise you to go slow! First create
a plan with long term and short term objectives. Try implementing your plan
gradually. Make sure that you do not spend too much money on your initial ecommerce
project. Remember! Over 80 percent of all software projects do not finish in
time within the budget; and do not work as planned!