E commerce was supposed to change the world. In the infant days of the DOT.COM Revolution(early 2000s) Brick and Mortar stores were said to be a thing of the past. Whereas E commerce stores were thought to be more efficient with lower overhead cost.
And we all know what happened to the DOT.COM bubble when it burst. As a result the E commerce revolution didn’t occur as quickly as originally anticipated. The main reason for the delay in consumer adoption to E commerce shopping was the lack of familiarity and comfort. As the general consumer still had anticipations about issues regarding credit card security and reliability with the delivery of products.
Moving in 2010, E commerce has advanced considerably. Which larger players like Amazon and Ebay have helped spread the general consensus that E commerce shopping can be safe, fast and easy. As a result, year over year E commerce shopping has increased.
While the traditional ways of doing business still exist for most. Lending a portion (Even a small amount) of your business to a E commerce component on your website can drastically increase your efficiency.
E commerce solutions are thought to be of benefit to those only focused on selling products. As most companies providing services are limited by their Geographical region (Usually to their local area of service such as Toronto, Ontario). However, there are some applications which E commerce can be effectively used for Services. Furthermore, the traditional geographical limitations in providing services can now be faced with the myriad of the free technology available to us. This includes tools such as Sykpe (Long distance calling), Youtube and Social media(Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). Particularly if your business involves consulting as opposed to a physical service.
The beauty of E commerce utilized for the sale of products is that your store can be everywhere and serve at any time. Which exceeds the typical limitations of Brick and Mortar store. Here are some broad categores of where E commerce for products can be used effectively:
Electronic Media – These include e-books, videos, audio and any form of Electronic media. Special consideration should be given to e-books which in todays age is rising in usage. This was confirmed when Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon has claimed currently(Oct 2010) that 35% of sales from Amazon come from E-books(See Article here). As E-books are a great way to distinguish yourself as a credible expert in your field. And have a lower cost of production than hard copy books. There are a variety of ways Electronic Media can be sold through an E commerce platform. Which either the material can be downloaded within a limited timeframe (ie. 3 to 30 days window of opportunity to download). Or can be downloaded multiple times indefinitely for a flat fee. As with any electronic media, the susceptibilityto piracy is always factor and a threat in having downloaders redistribute the product for free.
Deliverable Products – This includes physical tangible objects which can be delivered by mail such as gift items, CDs, Videos and Promotional products etc. Which virtually any product can be sold on-line. However, consumers may be reluctant to buy from your website with the fear of receiving damaged goods upon delivery. This can be challenged by outlining a solid customer satisfaction and return policy. And describing your measures for effective packaging. Consumers also might be reluctant to buy from your website since they may not be able to see, touch or feel the product. Effectively integrating Video on your website for each of your key products can reduce reluctance. Which the Video can display the product from all angles and its useful applications. Consumers often feel enticed to buy a product based on a TV Commercial alone. Done properly, Web Video can work in a similar manner to invite the consumers to buy.
Customized Products – This can be either a subset of a deliverable product or an electronic media item. And can marketed in a manner that is similar. However often the challenge with Customized products sold online is the variable pricing. Which price can be determined by different factors (size, colour, accessories). A strong identification of all the factors that make up the price of the item in a logical system can resolve this issue. Where the different factors to scale the price can be programmed into the system.
Using E commerce for the sale of your services can be used in a variety of manners. Included below is a brief example :
Events – This includes Seminars, Parties, Network events and Social events. Whereas pre-registration is often required for many events to get an accurate estimation of the number of people in attendance. Receiving a deposit for the event on-line can help to ensure more committed attendees show up. Events can be promoted on your own website as well as third party websites such as meetup.com
Payment to Vendors – E commerce cannot only be used to get paid by your customers, but it can also help to pay your Vendors and respective partners. This can be particularly useful if your vendors are overseas. As platforms like Paypal can make it easy to transfer money
Services with a Variable price – This can include services which may vary in the price per item such as consulting services or donations (If you are not for profit). However, depending on your E commerce setup ,it can be designed to handle a variable price specified by yourself or the consumer on each transaction.
There are a variety of options which to house your e commerce platform. Which is all dependant on your unique needs. However, if you have under 20 items to sell on your website. A dedicated platform may not be necessary at all. As items can be sold with Paypal buttons extended onto your website. Which is relatively easy and inexpensive to setup.
For a greater quantity of items. A dedicated platform maybe required. Which would also provide additional benefits such as advanced reporting tools (Showing most popular items), ability to enter stock quantity and expecting time of arrival. In choosing a E commerce platform, open source software is often recommended.
Open source software is free software which a collective community of programmers continue to improve upon the functionality of the system. Which yields regular and free upgrades in security, plug-ins and features. In the past, it used to be the case that open source software was inferior to commercial grade packages. However in 2010, often Open source packages can be more powerful. Since the strength of hundreds of thousands of contributers can be greater than a single development team for a commercial package.
Stand alone open source E commerce packages like OS commerce and Zen cart have proven to be popular choices. Which offer relatively easy installation and expandability. However, if you already have a website and have taken the painstaking time to have it developed, there are options to extend upon your original site. Such as if you have a WordPress (A popular content management system) site, there are various E commerce plug ins such as Welcart which can expand upon your current website without having to revamp your website design.
Utilizing E-commerce on your website is not as daunting as it seems. Its true in the past by majority E commerce was considered cumbersome and impractical. However, the Internet has and never will be in a fixed state. And technologies have greatly matured since its early days. With the number of shoppers going on-line growing year over year, it’s becoming more important for businesses to not neglect this route. As a effective E commerce plan can save you time and money while increasing your sales.