The Internet has made quite a few common processes easier, including buying and selling goods and services. However, while e-commerce is experiencing extreme growth, it may not be the right fit for every business. There are a variety of considerations to balance out to determine if e-commerce is something that you should be leveraging.
Do I Offer Something That Can Be Sold Online?
The first variable you need to examine is whether or not you offer something that translates to online sales very well. For instance, if your business is more service-based, what you can sell online may not be as apparent as it would be for a business that deals in physical goods. While this may be seen as a challenge, there is plenty that a service-based business can offer for sale online. Even better, many of these options also allow for you to give your marketing a boost.
Materials that prove your value as a provider, that can be sold online, include training packages and digital reference materials, like access to whitepapers, eBooks, and videos. If you do elect to offer access to content for a fee, then you need to make sure it offers an added benefit that your openly-available website content doesn’t feature.
There is also the option to include an order form for your services themselves, but this could be problematic if your services are priced on a sliding scale. If that is the case, you may want to forego the online order form, and replace it with a call-to-action recommending that the prospect contact you to discuss their needs.
Does an Established Marketplace Make More Sense?
Depending on what you plan to offer, leveraging an established marketplace like Amazon or eBay may make more sense, especially if you’re just starting out in the e-commerce space. While selling through these outlets does incur a fee, there are plenty of advantages to utilizing them.
For instance, not only do these online stores already have significant pull as far as search engine optimization is concerned, but also the people you are trying to target are already aware of these platforms. Furthermore, because these online stores are so established, they have processes with the kinks and issues already ironed out.
What Costs Will I Incur?
If you do plan on utilizing an established marketplace, there will be fees for their services, as discussed. However, there are also costs associated with leveraging e-commerce, in addition to the domain name registration, web hosting, and site development that comes with maintaining any website. Depending on your area, you may need to pay registration and licensing fees to your local municipality, and of course, you will want to promote your online store with some marketing initiatives.
Finally, you should also consider shipping and return costs, if your business plans to sell physical goods, as well as how ‘shippable’ your products will be. Many people now view “free” shipping as an expected benefit on items they purchase online, so you may have to absorb those costs and/or account for them in the total you charge for the item in question. This only gets to be more expensive if the items you are shipping are more expensive, and therefore require more protections to keep them safe during transit. The same goes for returns--the cost of returns can easily eat into profit margins, and customers take notice of return policies (for instance, if a business charges for returns to offset the costs).
Check with Your Existing POS System
Many physical Point of Sales systems have an online solution. If yours doesn’t, or if the capabilities or limitations don’t seem very attractive, then it’s worth considering a solution that can handle both. Your POS system is a whole separate investment on its own and requires the same care and safeguarding as any other device on your network, meaning it needs to be properly maintained and kept updated with security patches to prevent online threats.
If you are looking to modernize your POS system, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, and we can evaluate your current solution and help you deploy a system with the capabilities you need. Ultimately, you will have to make the call as to whether or not e-commerce is the right choice for your business. How would you utilize e-commerce? Share your thoughts in the comments!