Many small business owners are happy to be just that – owners of a small business. They form the backbone of many communities and provide a very nice standard of living for their families. For those who want to grow beyond the borders of their hometown, though, you might want to consider adding an e-commerce element to your strategic plan.
If you jealously observe the overwhelming success of Cyber Monday and Free Shipping Friday, then it might finally be time for you to jump on the internet bandwagon. Before you do, here are a few considerations that can help you decide whether you should use e-commerce to gain access to a wider market:
• Can you deliver the goods? This needs to be answered in both a literal and figurative sense. If you provide a product, can you produce enough to respond to demand? And then you have to get it to your buyers. Shipping and delivery problems add a whole new dimension to any business. Those who provide a service need to consider whether they have the time or manpower to deliver. Entrepreneurs who are accustomed to doing everything alone may have a difficult time delegating responsibilities to other people.
• Is your online face presentable? You might have a great retail location, but if you want to go into e-commerce you will need to take a look at how outsiders view your business online. The website has to be up-to-date, clean and easy to navigate. It should be easy to buy what you have to offer, and it must be mobile-friendly to appeal to today’s mobile consumers.
• Do you have a communication strategy? Who makes up your potential consuming audience, what messages do you need to convey to them, and how are you going to do that? You need to know in advance what motivates consumers to purchase your product or service, and then make sure that message comes across in every communication outlet. It must be consistent on your website, your blog, any advertising, and in your social media. Prospects need to receive multiple messages before they are motivated.
• Can you follow-up? One necessary component of successful businesses is repeat business. Getting customers on a one-and-done premise is expensive and exhausting. Have a plan in place to build a customer database and use it to communicate regularly with existing customers to keep them on-board. You can also have them help you gain a larger audience by asking for their positive reviews and referrals.
One thing you don’t want to lose in the rush to expand your market reach is your one-on-one connection. In the sometimes impersonal world of e-commerce, customer service can also play a big role in success. Make it easy for customers to communicate via telephone, email, or social media, so they will still feel like they are getting that personal touch, and your small business will definitely benefit from e-commerce.