Three Steps to Effectively Using E-Commerce
When it comes time for your business to expand from brick and mortar into e-commerce, a door is opened to new opportunities, as well as new complexities. The goal for choosing any e-commerce solution is to scale down the complications and to optimize the benefits. Here are three key steps that can help retailers accomplish both.
Decide on a solution that fits the business model (licensed vs. hosted)
The first decision is choosing between the two main types of e-commerce solutions: licensing or hosting. Licensing is when a business either creates their own e-commerce software or buys one direct, making the business the sole owner of the code. The main advantage of this is flexibility. Owning the code means the business has the ability to change and modify the software to fit their business needs. However, there are many disadvantages to this platform, especially for small- to mid-size businesses that may have fewer resources. Having total ownership of the software means the business has complete liability if there are any maintenance, security, or technical issues. For many businesses, the thought of devoting time, money, and energy into their e-commerce solution may seem daunting. Thankfully, however, there are hosted e-commerce solutions. These solutions allow businesses to reap the benefits of e-commerce without managing the time and energy costs directly. Hosted sites can also be very customizable. Instead of hiring a designer for the graphics and layout of the e-commerce solution, many hosted sites provide template options or a completely original customized design.
Determine which features will accomplish the business objective
It is important to understand what the business objective of having an e-commerce presence is before selecting a solution. If the objective is to provide an extension of a brick and mortar store to customers, then a simple (yet reliable) e-commerce solution may be the right fit. Many free e-commerce solutions like WordPress can provide basic functions if the company does not have a large number of items to be sold and isn’t interested in advanced analytics. However, some business objectives for an e-commerce presence go beyond an online platform. Modern e-commerce solutions have the ability to provide Search Engine Optimization (SEO), customer cart reports, and price comparison capabilities. Premium plans with hosted software solutions offer a more transparent return on investment and can aid in making marketing decisions with more in-depth analytics.
Determine the bigger picture down the road
Having an understanding of the direction the business is going plays a large part in selecting an e-commerce solution. While starting out with a basic solution can save money up front, it may be damaging in the long run if the business plans to grow at a faster rate than what the software can keep up with. A good rule of thumb is to never jeopardize the customer experience. A business can pass on advanced e-commerce solutions if the features aren’t essential to their long term strategy, but it is crucial that the solution meets customer needs. A confusing, slow, or unreliable e-commerce experience can be as damaging to a business’s reputation as a poor salesperson.
E-commerce is not a one size fits all proposition. Every business has different needs and goals for their e-commerce solution, and these three steps can help clarify these distinctions. Ultimately, an e-commerce solution should be considered by any business looking to increase sales, broaden their customer reach, and enhance the customer experience.
If you’re looking to expand into E-commerce, talk to ArcherPoint – the retail advisor. For more relevant information on retail management software solutions, read our expert team member’s blogs and subscribe to our free monthly newsletter.