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importance of online shopping (e-commerce)


The internet makes doing business much easier and faster. It’s led to changes in the way people do business with a rapidly growing world wide trend towards online shopping or e-commerce.

Online business is becoming a high income generating activity, now taking a significant portion of GDP in many countries. This is making our world a very small village, with distance no longer providing a barrier. In fact, cyberspace is gaining more importance than real world markets, with physical stores often acting only as a shop front and the real income being generated online.

Businesses around the globe are becoming greatly attracted towards this virtual world. There are no limits as to what and where they can reach, the variety of products they can easily offer, the detail and specifications they can provide and the number of prospects and customers they can reach.

Customers and prospects like to visit online stores. They enjoy the convenience, the speed and therefore time-saving, ease of transport (ie delivery), the way they can compare prices and check product reviews, the lack of pressuring by sales people and, of course, the infinite choice. While some people use the internet to research services products, then buy from a physical store, many buy everything they need from online stores.

This means, for small and medium size businesses, online shopping is assuming much greater importance and offering a wide range of advantages.

When you're thinking about establishing a business online, you first need to find the right solution. There’s a big range, varying from a relatively simple option to one which integrates with your whole business, your accountancy package and your inventory system.

Whichever you choose, you will have a database which stores information about the products and pricing, and information about customers to enable them to login the next time they purchase something from you. This can also be useful for email newsletter distribution.

Your online store should enable a visitor to browse products, compare them, see the price, choose products and place them in shopping carts, confirm the order and make payment. You should also have access to web analytics or statistics to help you understand what your online store visitors do and to improve the site on a regular basis.

An online shop will attract customers as long as they can find you – so search engine optimisation is pretty important, as is an attractive design, and easy navigation. And, you must be able to update the online store as you need to.

Marketing Your Store
Remember a marketing strategy and a plan is important for whatever e-commerce business you decide to launch.

If you were taking an overseas trip there are various questions you’d find the answers to before you started – the best route, how long you’ll be away, what resources you need, where to stay, visa requirements, currency and so on.

You need to think about similar things for your online store – so make a plan before you start!

You might think about
• your overall vision and where you want to be in five years.
• doing a SWOT analysis – this doesn’t need to be long, but consider the threats (supply chain could be one), weaknesses, strengths and opportunities (customer support). Then focus on how you might reduce the weaknesses and increase your strengths.
• reviewing your e-commerce business objectives.
• where you want the bulk of your purchasers to come from – current customers or new segments.
• your price points – the same as competitors or lower to steal business.
• reviewing your product strategies – supply chain, customer support, delivery and fulfilment etc.
• developing strategies for your customer experience, your product mix and pricing, your systems, business processes and operations.
• what will actually make your store different to the others, where your customers are coming from and their buying patterns.

This does take a little time, but it's worth it. It generally highlights the opportunities you should pursue and the weaknesses you have in your business and pin points areas for improvement.

Prioritise these and they will help you reach your business objectives and help your online business flourish!

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