A recent report outlined by the BBC suggests that UK consumers still purchase 90% of their goods in high street stores.
The somewhat surprising figure is the opposite of what many would have expected, with numerous high street brands failing to match sales targets and falling into the red.
But many businesses may be thinking, “Brilliant! We're back in business. No need to change!”
Yet the inability to adapt to what is still, unarguably a changing market place will spell the end for even the the largest, seemingly recession proof companies.
The online market in the UK alone is worth £3.5bn, with huge opportunities to make a large, quick buck as nominal overheads see profit margins soar.
So for new online start ups, and even companies enjoying a thriving high street shop front, an e-commerce approach can only be of benefit.
The advantages of e-commerce
Here are some key advantages to incorporating e-commerce into your website and business.
- Geographical location is no longer a factor
In the online market place, gone are the issues of footfall and paying a premium rate for the best locations.
Customers can access your 'virtual shop' from the comfort of their sitting room, in all weathers, at all times of the year, at any time of day.
- Lower overheads
Some of the most successful companies don't have a store anywhere, except from online. Online supremo’s such as Biz Chair utilize the online market place to cut costs, improve profit margins and undershoot competitors with lower prices.
- Open all hours
Nearly 30 million people work in the UK, meaning half of all potential clients will be unable to buy your product from Monday to Friday. With e-commerce any businessman, hospital worker or street cleaner can get home after a long day at work and indulge themselves in the online high street.
E-commerce is allowing companies relying on Saturday trade to boost weekly profits to enjoy Saturday-sized sales all week round.
How to make your e-commerce site successful
Unfortunately, it is not simply a case of setting up an online store and sitting back, laughing as you watch the £'s roll in.
The online marketplace is as competitive as the town centre, with big players monopolising many of the markets.
But on a relatively small budget your company can find its own niche – its own position in the market, regularly found by online consumers.
Here are some of the main things to consider when setting up your own e-commerce website.
- Brand reputation is key
As geographical location is no longer an issue, consumers can pick and choose where they buy. No longer will the notion that 'this will do, it's closer' come into the equation.
Because of that, you must develop a brand that is recognisable, trustworthy and ultimately pops into the customers head whilst searching for a product you sell.
Numerous trusted payment methods must also be provided, including the likes of Pay Pal, with certificates and assurances of their financial information being secure.
Remember, if things go smoothly, they will be back. If they have a problem, they will tell everyone they know and never shop with you again.
- Fast delivery
If a customer knows they themselves can go and buy the latest game, newest DVD or pick up a fridge from the local branch of Argos within a day, they will also expect your company to deliver their goods to them on a similar time-scale.
Aside from the usual backlogs around Christmas, consumers will become impatient if told the product they have just bought and cant wait to use wont arrive for 'around five working days'.
And unless absolutely necessary, try to also avoid charging for delivery. If you charge more than it would cost the customer in petrol or bus fees to get to the nearest stores, they may just opt for the high street instead. Or even worse, the next website selling the same product.
- Digital footfall
Although you are no longer paying a premium for a shop that’s next to the largest car park, or sits alongside the most popular tourist destination, footfall is still an issue online.
Unless you can entice the online public onto your website, you wont sell a thing and your time and money invested in an e-commerce website will have been wasted.
There are a few things you can do to improve your digital footfall.
Firstly, you should analyse keywords online to see what consumers are searching for. If the most popular search term is 'well built fences', or 'cheap sporting equipment', you should consider adding these to headings, text and even the title of your website.
Over 50% of all people using Google will click on the first search result on the page, and will disregard the rest. Analysing these keywords can help your website climb the rankings much quicker.
SEO is also another vital and commonly used component. Search Engine Optimisation helps Google and other search engines understand what’s on your website, and can rank it accordingly.
The more mentions on your site of a well searched key-phrase, the more success you will have in climbing the rankings and gaining custom.
In conclusion, e-commerce is one of the best ways to boost your profits. It's relatively cheap to set up, and if you get your online marketing spot on, you have the opportunity to make a real profit.