Having a presence online is one thing, but selling online is another, and hopefully your business, with our help, can evolve to offer this! We at Objective Marketing can guide you through the minefield of trading on line! One of our sister companies uses e-commerce and we found a perfect solution in Actinic Software http://www.actinic.co.uk. They win technology awards every year for ease and simplicity. You can set it, leave it and watch the pounds crediting your bank account with minimal intervention on your behalf. Perfect, seamless e-commerce!
Selling on line can broaden your markets from local and national to global and presents endless opportunities for your business however small or large.
When your on-line business increases dramatically, it might make sense to have a bespoke software solution, probably built using a database driven facility.
What’s suitable to sell Online
Certain products and services appear more suitable for online sales; others remain more suitable for offline sales.
Many successful, purely virtual companies deal with digital products, including information storage, retrieval, and modification, music, movies, office supplies, education, communication, software, photography, and financial transactions. Examples of this type of company include: Google, eBay and Paypal.
Virtual marketers can sell non-digital products and services successfully. Such products generally have a high value-to-weight ratio, they may involve embarrassing purchases, they may typically go to people in remote locations, and they may have shut-ins as their typical purchasers. Items which can fit through a standard letterbox - such as music CDs, DVDs and books - are particularly suitable for a virtual marketer, and indeed Amazon.com, one of the few enduring dot-com companies, has historically concentrated on this field.
Products such as spare parts, both for consumer items like washing machines and for industrial equipment like centrifugal pumps, also seem good candidates for selling online. Retailers often need to order spare parts specially, since they typically do not stock them at consumer outlets - in such cases, e-commerce solutions in spares do not compete with retail stores, only with other ordering systems. A factor for success in this niche can consist of providing customers with exact, reliable information about which part number their particular version of a product needs, for example by providing parts listed by serial number.
Products unsuitable for E-Commerce
Products unsuitable for e-commerce include products that have a low value-to-weight ratio (cheap heavy goods), products that have a smell, taste, or touch component, products that need trial fittings - most notably clothing - and products where colour integrity appears important. Nonetheless, Tesco.com has had success delivering groceries, albeit that many of its goods are of a generic quality, and clothing sold through the internet is bigger business in the US, but the UK is catching up fast. As an example, Next is believed to take around £1M per day on-line.
Success factors in e-commerce
Technical and organisational aspects: In many cases, an e-commerce company will survive not only based on its product, but by having a competent management team, good post-sales services, well-organised business structure, network infrastructure and a secured, well-designed website. Such factors include:
Sufficient work done in market research and analysis
E-commerce is not exempt from good business planning and the fundamental laws of
supply and demand.
Business failure is as much a reality in e-commerce as in any other form of business
Management and IT Strategy
eCommerce should embrace a good management team armed with good and sound information technology strategy. A company’s IT strategy should be an extension of its e-commerce business process.
Making buying online easy
It is important to provide an easy and secure way for customers to effect transactions. Credit cards are the most popular means of sending payments on the internet, accounting for 90% of online purchases. In the past, card numbers were transferred securely between the customer and merchant through independent payment gateways. Such independent payment gateways are still used by most small and home businesses (including ours - Netbanx). Most merchants today process credit card transactions on site through arrangements made with commercial banks or credit cards companies.
Providing reliability and security
Parallel servers, fail-safe technology, information encryption, and firewalls can enhance this requirement.
360° Customer View
Providing a 360-degree view of the customer relationship, defined as ensuring that all employees, suppliers, and partners have a complete view, and the same view, of the customer. However, customers may not appreciate the big brother experience.
Constructing a commercially sound business model
If these factors key had appeared in textbooks in 2000, many of the dot-coms might not have gone into bankruptcy.
Engineering an electronic value chain in which one focuses on a “limited” number of core competencies — the opposite of a one-stop shop. (Electronic stores can appear either specialist or generalist if properly programmed).
Operating on or near the cutting edge of technology and staying there as technology changes (but remembering that the fundamentals of commerce remain indifferent to technology)
Setting up an organization of sufficient alertness and agility to respond quickly to any changes in the economic, social and physical environment.
Providing an attractive website
The tasteful use of colour, graphics, animation, photographs, fonts, and white-space percentage may aid success in this respect. Streamlining business processes, possibly through re-engineering and information technologies. Also, don’t forget the most important word, even on e-commerce sites, content!
Providing complete understanding of the products or services offered which not only includes complete product information, but also sound advisors and selectors.
Naturally, the e-commerce vendor must also perform such mundane tasks as being truthful about its product and its availability, shipping reliably, and handling complaints promptly and effectively. A unique property of the Internet environment is that individual customers have access to far more information about the seller than they would find in a brick-and-mortar situation.
A successful e-commerce organization must also provide an enjoyable and rewarding experience to its customers. Many factors go into making this possible. Such factors include:
Providing value to customers
Vendors can achieve this by offering a product or product-line that attracts potential customers at a competitive price, as in non-electronic commerce.
Providing service and performance
Offering a responsive, user-friendly purchasing experience, just like a flesh-and-blood retailer, may go some way to achieving these goals.
Providing an incentive for customers to buy and to return
Sales promotions to this end can involve coupons, special offers, and discounts. Cross-linked websites and advertising affiliate programs can also help.
Providing personal attention
Personalised web sites, purchase suggestions, and personalized special offers may go some of the way to substituting for the face-to-face human interaction found at a traditional point of sale.
Providing a sense of community
Chat rooms, discussion boards, soliciting customer input and loyalty programs (sometimes called affinity programs) can help in this respect.
Owning the customer’s total experience
E-tailers (Retailer but online) foster this by treating any contacts with a customer as part of a total experience, an experience that becomes synonymous with the brand.
Letting customers help themselves. Provision of a self-serve site, easy to use without assistance, can help in this respect. This implies that all product information is available, cross-sell information, advise for product alternatives, and supplies and accessory selectors.
Helping customers do their job of consuming. E-tailers and online shopping directories can provide such help through ample comparative information and good search facilities. Provision of component information and safety-and-health comments may assist e-tailers to define the customers’ job.
Even if a provider of E-commerce goods and services rigorously follows these “key factors” to devise an exemplary e-commerce strategy, problems can still arise. Sources of such problems include:
Failure to understand customers, why they buy and how they buy.
Even a product with a sound value proposition can fail if producers and retailers do not understand customer habits, expectations, and motivations. E-commerce could potentially mitigate this potential problem with proactive and focused marketing research, just as traditional retailers may do.
Failure to consider the competitive situation
One may have the will to construct a viable book e-tailing business model, but lack the capability to compete with Amazon.com.
Inability to predict environmental reaction
What will competitors do? Will they introduce competitive brands or competitive web sites? Will they supplement their service offerings? Will they try to sabotage a competitor’s site? Will price wars break out? What will the government do? Research into competitors, industries and markets may mitigate some consequences here, just as in non-electronic commerce.
Over-estimation of resource competence
Can staff, hardware, software, and processes handle the proposed strategy? Have e-tailers failed to develop employee and management skills? These issues may call for thorough resource planning and employee training.
Failure to coordinate
If existing reporting and control relationships do not suffice, one can move towards a flat, accountable, and flexible organizational structure, which may or may not aid co-ordination.
Failure to obtain senior management commitment
This often results in a failure to gain sufficient corporate resources to accomplish a task. It may help to get top management involved right from the start.
Failure to obtain employee commitment
If planners do not explain their strategy well to employees, or fail to give employees the whole picture, then training and setting up incentives for workers to embrace the strategy may assist.
Under-estimation of time requirements
Setting up an e-commerce venture can take considerable time and money, and failure to understand the timing and sequencing of tasks can lead to significant cost overruns. Basic project planning, critical path, critical chain, or PERT analysis may mitigate such failings. Profitability may have to wait for the achievement of market share.
Failure to follow a plan
Poor follow-through after the initial planning, and insufficient tracking of progress against a plan can result in problems. One may mitigate such problems with standard tools: benchmarking, milestones, variance tracking, and penalties and rewards for variances.
Becoming the victim of organised crime
Many syndicates have caught on to the potential of the Internet as a new revenue stream. Two main methods are as follows: (1) Using identity theft techniques like phishing to order expensive goods and bill them to some innocent person, then liquidating the goods for quick cash; (2) Extortion by using a network of compromised “zombie” computers to engage in distributed denial of service attacks against the target Web site until it starts paying protection money.
The internet allows you to trade locally or internationally. E-commerce presents a vast opportunity to develop your product or service to a much wider audience.
We strongly recommend you prepare an e-commerce strategy and we would be delighted to assist you. Here are some considerations:-
Stock (controls where applicable)
Local, national or global coverage
How to promote
How to use software programming
How to use the server and space
We hope you found this information useful. We would like to remind you that this subject is best served, and more effective as part of a complete marketing plan or strategy, rather than in isolation. For further expert advice please contact us to discuss your requirements or post a question in our blog.
Be Seen, Be Found, Be Accessible, Be Successful!