If you own a small business and don’t have an eCommerce site that allows customers to purchase your products or services online, you are throwing away thousands of dollars in potential revenue. According to comScore's quarterly State Of Retail report, 198 million U.S. consumers bought something online in the first quarter of 2014. That’s 78% of the U.S. population.
This statistic proves that the way people shop has changed. Yes, there are still those who want to go into a brick and mortar store to browse and buy. But a lot of consumers now prefer to have the option to buy online from a store as well. They enjoy the convenience as well as the bargains they can get by doing comparison shopping with several different stores.
If you want to double, even triple or quadruple your potential customer base, you need to have an eCommerce site. Having only a simple store front limits you to customers that live in the neighborhood or that are within driving distance. Having an eCommerce website can open you up to the entire world, (if you decide to ship worldwide!)
Take department store giant Macy’s, for example. Can you even remember a time when there was no Macys.com? In 2013, the company reported annual online sales had reached $3.1 billion, which was 11% of the company’s total revenue.
You don’t even have to be as big as Macy’s to experience eCommerce success. Sophia Amoruso, founder of the fashion site NastyGal, started her business as an eBay store back in 2006. Today, her company has grown into a $100 million-plus online retailer with over 350 employees.
Perhaps you’re worried that you don’t have the time or resources to handle an eCommerce site. But don’t fret. You can start small. Consider setting up a basic site with a tool like Shopify. Once your site is ready, the next step would be to spread the word via social media. You’ll be amazed at the amount of traffic (and buyers!) you can steer towards your website with just a few creative social media campaigns.
Eventually, you will want to dedicate a team to manage your eCommerce site. As it grows, it will become every bit as important, if not more so, than your storefront. Make sure that you offer the same level of customer service through your website that you offer in-store. Your brand and messaging should be consistent throughout all business processes and marketing efforts across both platforms.
Think about your business plan when you started your small business. Then develop a similar plan for your online business. Plan online sales seasonally the same way you plan in-store promotions. Consider doing cross-promotions. If someone makes a purchase at your physical store, give them a coupon to shop your store online, and vice-versa. When a customer makes an online purchase, invite them to special “in-store” only events. Give shoppers every possible reason and outlet to buy from you and they probably will.
The bottom line is that if you really want to grow your business, you need to make it easy for people to shop with you. Give them the option to buy from your online store as well as your physical store and watch your profits rise like the Phoenix. Remember, if you build it (your eCommerce site, that is), they will come.
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