What Is Ecommerce & How It Can Improve Your Bottom Line

The essential definition of ecommerce is simple – the trade of goods and services via the internet.  However, the process of setting up an ecommerce system that consistently sucks in high volumes of targeted traffic and converts them into customers is anything but simple.

Even so, with the internet world now so vividly surrounding us, your company had better get on the e-commerce bandwagon – or face a slow bleeding of revenues to competitors who offer your customers the choice to buy whatever they need without so much as setting foot in their store.

Why Should You Take Ecommerce Very Seriously?

Failure to adapt to and embrace ecommerce often can mean death for a company.  Blockbusters, Borders, HMV and Woolworths are a few epic examples of companies that have stuttered or failed completely because they simply failed to adapt to changing customer trends, and refused to give Ecommerce the attention it deserves.

In fact, entire industries have been flipped on their backs, because Ecommerce has fundamentally revolutionalized the way their customers expect to buy products. Amazon is a prime example – it has uprooted decades of settled, traditional big ticket bookshops, and by the end of this year is expected to account for about half of all book sales in all formats in the United States. And Ecommerce has been at the very heart and soul of Amazons business model.

Hop over the pond to the UK and ecommerce has been ruffling just as many feathers – for example, in 2011, a record 41 traditional travel agents went bust – with the blame largely being laid at the foot of surging internet bookings.

Whether you look to the left, or to the right – ecommerce is here to stay. It can be your best friend or your worst nightmare…

Why & How Ecommerce Can HELP You Build Your Business

If that first part scared you, here comes the good bit. Done right, ecommerce can actually help you grow your profits significantly. With Ecommerce, you could technically offer any of your products to anyone in the world – and all you essentially need is a website and a payment gateway.

Digital products, those that can be downloaded, are perfect for ecommerce as the whole process can be automated and your clients will be truly global since ecommerce has truly smashed any and all global boundaries. However, it’s just as relevant to physical products, and even services.

Key benefits of ecommerce? There’s no shortage and on a macro level they include:

  • Cost efficiencies. Ecommerce trade is far less expensive and far more scalable than a traditional bricks and mortar business. No physical shop to maintain and pay rents and rates on. Just a tiny hosting fee. Your website also is in effect your salesman, so there are often cost savings to be made on staff too.
  • 24/7 Automation. Done right, the entire checkout process can be automated, and your site can accept orders round the clock. Products can be delivered digitally if appropriate, or shipment details forwarded to your logistics department.
  • Global Reach. In the days before the internet, only the mightiest of companies could offer their brands all over the globe. Ecommerce has changed that, with even tiny one man operations able to reach the farthest corners of the world.
  • Low Barriers To Entry. Traditionally, there have always been stern barriers to entry in setting up a business presence. Finding the correct physical location to setup, obtaining financing for premises hire, staffing and so on. Ecommerce has changed all that, and within some niches there are practically zero barriers to entry.
  • Access Free Customers Via Search Engines & Social Sites. There’s a lot of free publicity to be had once your ecommerce engine gets going. You can siphon off real clients from free sources including Google, and the increasing number of social sites that are simply humming with buyers.
  • Create Additional Income Streams Via Your Site. There’s scope to create a strong source of extra earnings from your site by setting up links and banners for affiliated products or offering paid advertising.

Setting Up Your Ecommerce Arm – The Basics

If you’re reading this without so much as a strand of ecommerce experience, it’s possibly not quite as hard to get started as you might think. On a very basic level, here’s what you’ll need to start selling your wares via the net:

  • Website. Your website is your shop-front on the internet. It should portray credibility, and neatly outline your products and services with sufficient information for the customer to make an informed choice.
  • Payment Gateway. There are multiple online credit card gateways to choose from. Depending on your product type, you may wish to offer a shopping cart feature.
  • Targeted Traffic. Possibly the most challenging part of the ecommerce puzzle, you’ll have to create a traffic strategy to get targeted customers to your website in a cost efficient way.

Really, for almost all business owners, ecommerce is no longer a choice but a downright necessity to stay alive and, hopefully, use the internet to extend the market reach of your brand to an increasingly global market without borders or restraints.

Still not convinced? Well then I’ll leave you to mull over this simple crust of a fact. With ecommerce sales in the USA alone expected to top $278bn by 2015 (Forrester Online Retail Forecast), it means that in the few scanty minutes its taken you to read this article, over $5m has been spent online. And you’re not going to see so much as a penny of it.