The invention of personal computers and the internet changed the world forever. The change is not minute at all; it is the most significant change the new world has seen after electricity. The Internet has affected not only the means of communication, but also our cultures, societies, morals, health, traditions, and yes, our businesses.
As people once considered, globalization is not limited to multi-national companies anymore. The internet engulfs even ordinary citizens in its massive wave of globalization. For example, a single mom from Kansas can now easily take bulk orders from foreign buyers for her homemade greeting cards. This is the power of the internet.
Is this change good or evil? Well, for some its great. While for others, it is just another nuisance that affects their lives negatively. Let us focus on how it affects conventional businesses.
Is doom really the fate for brick and mortar businesses?
The bells of trouble rang for the conventional business owners even before the start of this millennia. It all started when Amazon.com rose to fame in the 90s and set the wheels of change in motion. People foretold that e-commerce was the future, and the death of brick and mortar was near. Well, people have prophesied the end of many things that are still very much in demand today.
However, the trend of e-commerce did follow through, and it did take over the world. Though just a portion of it. That is mainly because of the competition in the physical world is growing. The rent for shops is higher than ever; and the multiple taxes imposed on physical businesses are an obstruction for startups, and small and medium businesses (SMBs).
What we take from this is that brick and mortar businesses are not really dying; however, the competition is fierce, and businesses are struggling to make ends meet.
Why you need an online presence:
It is not essential that you turn to e-commerce only if your conventional store is not bringing in enough dough. No, in fact, it should be the opposite of that. The new generation of customers is always online. They order food online, they study online, they submit their work online, and also, they shop online.
To keep up with the stride of modern customers, you need to change your methods. It is imperative for a business to have an online presence now. Nobody these days goes and asks around for a shop; no, they simply type the name in Google maps and wait for the nearest shop to pop up. If your shop is not popping up on Google maps, then you are losing many potential customers by the hour.
It is true that e-commerce is the present and the future. However, some customers have trouble deciding on what to buy unless they see it in person. Alternatively, others have a hard time trusting online businesses. That’s where the conventional physical store plays a crucial role in validating the trust of the customer.
In 2017 alone, the global e-commerce sales amounted to 2.3 trillion US dollars. Furthermore, as the statistics for global e-commerce retail sales show, e-commerce sales are expected to grow to a whopping 4.88 trillion USD in 2021.
Advantages of Having an Online Presence:
These are only a few of the assistance of having an online presence for both you and your customers:
- Your online store is open 24 hours
- You also take orders on weekends and holidays; however, you deliver them on working days only (more customers despite the fact that you are on holiday)
- The store is more comfortable to access
- The store is globally accessible
- Customers can see every product you have to offer
- Fixed rates mean no more hassle of bargaining customers
- Minimal rent and bills
- Your customers can read reviews about products before buying them
- Customers can get updates on the working hours, holidays, location, phone numbers, and other data on your site or Google
- Fewer employees
- Impulse buyers
- No shoplifters on the internet
Though there are some downsides to the world of online business too.
- The major disadvantage being user reviews. Negative and critical user reviews can destroy your business’ reputation.
- Customers don’t really try on your products. They look at high-quality photographs, which raises their expectations and often lead to disappointment in the delivered product.
- You don’t have customers if your site is down or if there are broken links. Also, the design and the degree of personalization your site offers affect the customers greatly.
- You have to reply to customer queries with an hour. Otherwise, be sure that the customer went to another store.
- The saturation of the e-commerce market has raised the competition much more than the physical world.
- You will need a reliable and fast delivery service. And, if for some reason the delivery fails or gets mixed up. Get ready for rants and bad reviews.
How to get your store online?
What is an e-commerce store?
Just like the term ‘e-mail’, the ‘e’ stands for electronic. That means the buying and selling of products and services are conducted electronically over the internet. Which gives it another name: internet commerce. This business model also includes all the transfer and transaction of data, money, and funds.
There are four major types of e-commerce.
Business to business e-commerce is when the transaction of products and/or services is between two businesses. The examples can include companies that provide auditing services, office furniture, and stationery, cleaning services, etc. to other businesses.
Business to consumer e-commerce is when the transaction of products and/or services is between a company and a customer. The most common type of e-commerce. Business to Customer e-commerce is what comes to people’s minds when they hear the term e-commerce. All the major online retail stores are using this model. This also includes software and service providers such as KidSecured.
Consumer to consumer e-commerce is when the transaction of products and/or services is between two customers. This is a popular e-commerce business model and is gaining popularity. The example for this is when two consumers sell something to one another directly without a dealership or a middleman to take a cut. eBay, Craigslist, and Etsy are the major examples.
Consumer to business e-commerce is when the transaction of products and/or services is between a customer and a business. Consumer to business is the least common model among e-commerce. The examples include companies that have crowdsourcing and Kickstarter campaign businesses.
What will you need to set up an e-commerce store?
Here is a brief procedure to guide you on how to open an e-commerce store. This procedure will help you whether you already run a brick and mortar business or are looking to open a business for the first time.
- The first thing is that you need to decide on the business structure from the above-described options.
- Secondly, you will need a business plan. This step is very important. The business plan will include everything like plans for financing, marketing, managing, and advertising the business to plans for running the business.
- Now, if you already have a business, then you know how to register your business’ name, and tax and IRS requirements, and all that. However, if you are opening a new business, you will need a lawyer to help you get your business registered.
- Get your stuff ready. Make an inventory of all the products you are going to sell on the online store. Get UPC barcodes for all the products to ensure you are legally selling products to consumers.
- Choose your domain name and a hosting provider. You can create your own website through the likes of Shopify, Wix, etc. However, it would be in your best interest if you hired a professional to design your online store for you. Everything of your e-commerce business should comply with your business’ niche; this includes logo, domain name, website’s design, buttons, inventory, everything.
- Setting up a merchant account and a shopping cart for your e-store.
To help you efficiently and adequately set up your e-commerce store, you can go check out this ultimate checklist that will assist you in many ways:
After setting up your e-commerce store, you will need SEO services and paid promotions to get customers to your web store. This is really important because of the saturation of online market your store will be just a needle in a haystack. You will need means to push it to the front page so people can easily find your store.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. You may have seen that whenever you put a phrase in google search and hit enter. The search results bring back millions of pages in just a mere fraction of a second. These are all the sites with the matching key phrase. Now if you’re selling shoes, and I search for black leather shoes, the search results would bring back millions of online stores, websites, and blogs about black leather shoes. It is possible that your store would be on some hundredth page of the result. That is where you need SEO; to bring your site atop on the search query.
Search engine optimization is a vast topic. However, vast does not mean that it is difficult. You can quickly get a grip on it if you follow a few basic rules. Remember, patience is a virtue. Work hard to get organic traffic to your page, and it will bear long-lasting and fruitful results for your online business. Be cautious; do not fall into the trap of easy and illegal ways of SEO. Try to stay away from dubious and unlawful SEO activities like using trademarked domains, trademarked keywords in metatags, pagejacking, spun website, etc.
You can optimize your website yourself. Though, it is advisable that you hire a professional to do the work for you.
If you want to work on your website yourself, you can learn all about SEO in this Ultimate SEO Guide for Beginners to generate organic traffic to your e store.
After SEO comes advertisement, paid promotions, and social media marketing. Firstly, let us talk about the advertisement. There are abundant ways by which you can advertise your website on the internet. Some of the prolific and famous methods include paid search, display advertising, advertising on other websites, and advertisements on social media platforms. Though, you will need a hefty budget for advertisement.
Paid promotions are vital for organic traffic and conversions. Paid promotions target qualified users to come to your website. However, your promotion channel also plays an important role in doing so. Select your targeted platform through research and how users on that specific platform will behave and interact with the site.
Thirdly, and most importantly, social media marketing. In social media marketing, you use social platforms and profiles to promote your products and/or services.
Is social media marketing really that important?
Almost everyone, no matter their age, is on social media. Social media has become an integral part of today’s communication system. A business, no matter its size, should be on social media. The reason behind this is because your customers are on social media. And more importantly, your competitors are on their too; wooing customers into buying their product. You need to be there among your customers, and spread awareness about your brand and answer their queries. It is a great way to engage traffic and boost your brand image and sales.
If you’d like to learn more about social media marketing, check these Campaign ideas. Also, learn about all the social media marketing mistakes that you should avoid.
The times are changing fast. Each day, there is a new trend in the online world. Acknowledge this change and be a part of it. Optimize your self and your business according to the market and customers’ demands.