The basics every business needs to know about eCommerce

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The basics every business needs to know about eCommerce

Before you start trading online, ask yourself some key questions to work out what eCommerce solution is right for your business.

As with any business, an eCommerce venture needs careful planning and preparation. The first question to answer is whether eCommerce is the right strategy. Some businesses are not right for online trading, although very few can prosper without some web presence.

Businesses that are best suited to selling online are those which have products or services where the audience understands what they are buying. The customer knows how to assess the product features from a distance, without personal contact.

Researching your market

Ask yourself:

  • Do other businesses in the same sector use eCommerce, and are similar products to yours sold online?
  • Do your existing customers buy online already, and will they welcome the opportunity to buy your products and services from home?
  • Will your pricing let you compete in the market - or perhaps succeed where other businesses are not doing so well?
  • How big is the market, and how easy is it to identify and find potential customers?
  • What are the non-product sales costs, including storage, packaging, delivery and after-sales support?

Starting to sell online

If you think your products can be sold online, you'll need an online presence to get them in front of the market. There are several ways of doing this:

  • testing the water by selling through online marketplaces and auctions such as eBay, Amazon and other eCommerce solutions
  • buying or renting an off-the-shelf online store, with templates which can be tailored to your needs
  • putting together an eCommerce website using a combination of standard eCommerce programs, combined with bespoke elements
  • using an eCommerce website designer to create a unique site, entirely from scratch, to meet your precise requirements

Elements of an eCommerce store

All eCommerce shops have similar core elements:

  • a facility for looking at and choosing products - this is known as the 'shopping cart'
  • a virtual shopping basket into which selected products are added, and which includes a check-out facility
  • payment processing, including order confirmation and receipt

What else do I need to think about?

Other basic considerations for eCommerce include:

  • how selling online will impact on your existing business
  • what resources are needed for order fulfilment and after-sales service
  • how the site will be updated and amended
  • how visitors will find the site - typical methods include search engine optimisation, online promotion, emails and pay-per-click advertising
  • how visitors can be converted to customers - think about incentives, loyalty schemes and good customer service
  • how visitors can be converted to customers - think about incentives, loyalty schemes and good customer service

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