E-Commerce. Is it the right move for small businesses?

This month we have a guest article about e-commerce sales from our guest blogger Bob Curran of Buy4Now.ie.

Doing business internationally is always a challenge for companies, with language, technology and different buying behaviors globally. Bob is an expert in this field as over to Bob…

E-COMMERCE. IS IT THE RIGHT MOVE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES?

One of the biggest questions facing retailers today is whether or not to begin trading online with a transactional website. What is the right move for small businesses?

Sure there are the usual arguments that your website is your most important calling card to prospective customers and a professional website inspires confidence in the consumer to do business with you. Your website builds your brand, showcases your products and is a more cost effective method of communicating with your customer base than traditional marketing.

Much talk has revolved around ROBOS (shoppers who Research Online but Buy Offline). All of these things are true, but if you are still on the fence about the importance of online shoppers and selling than these following hard facts are impossible to ignore…

According to the latest ComReg data newly published figures for the final quarter of 2009 show the total number of broadband subscribers at 1.44 million, a 20% increase year-on-year. Mobile subscribers are the fastest-growing category, accounting for 467,000 subscribers, an increase of 51% on 2008 levels.

In 2009, the average internet user was online for 13.2 hours a week, compared with 10 hours a week the previous year.

As internet connections increase, the home becomes the social and shopping hub as more and more people are time poor and internet rich. Some other benefits to consider before you enter the e-commerce realm:

E-Commerce Lowers Business Costs

Business on the Internet does not require bricks and mortar or staff around the world, just a Web site and perhaps one central warehouse or location to pick orders from.

E-Commerce Is Accessible Anywhere, Anytime

The audience is on the Internet 24/7.  A business online is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Customers can shop at their convenience. The cash register is open all day and night, even while the business owner is sleeping.

E-Commerce Strengthens Customer Service, Increases Customer Loyalty

A website allows a business to address its customers on a personal level.  How often do you learn all about a business upon entering a store? How often do you walk away with a free sample? A website allows businesses the opportunity to give customers information about their company while offering something of value.

For example, a company selling cooking utensils could offer the visitor recipes, a software company could provide interesting articles about the industry, a music store could offer sound bites of new music. By reading about the history and background of a company, the customer feels they have chatted with the owner. Personalizing a company creates customer loyalty. A website is a soft sell: it gives the business an opportunity to market itself while gently leading the audience to purchase its products.

Case in point

Sheilas Flowers is a family run business whose headquarters are based in Bray, Co. Wicklow. Nigel Banks is the MD of Sheila’s and according to Nigel, he realised early that the flower business was better suited to online sales. His answer was to close the company’s high-street shops and join the Buy4Now online family in 2002.

“Some of the main challenges we faced were related to processing the orders, managing the stock and getting orders ready for delivery, we quickly realised that another level of infrastructure was required to manage the online store and its orders, and proceeded rapidly to implement new IT systems. We were able to reallocate existing staff to deal with the additional business and maintain the site to keep it fresh.”

“The current website, which is hosted by Buy4Now Technology group, is now fully integrated with our own in-house order processing software.”

Sheila’s Flowers was a true trendsetter in 1988 when they became one of the first flower shops to have a website. For other retailers the question whether or not to trade online remains, but the answer should in most cases be yes.

Footnote

Sheila’s is Ireland’s only florist to be awarded Interflora’s Ireland’s Florist of the Year seven times.  Sheila’s Flowers offer same day flower delivery throughout Dublin, Bray and North Wicklow, and can send flowers through Interflora to practically anywhere in the world.

The STAR Team

Updated: 14th of March 2016

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