An ecommerce strategy is becoming increasingly important for any business looking to sell products directly to consumers. The growth of the Internet as a tool for shopping is expected to increase at a significant rate over the next ten years. The added convenience for customers and the decreased overhead costs for suppliers create a great business case to support this shift. Firms that do not develop an ecommerce strategy risk finding themselves missing a large number of potential customers.
There are three items to consider when trying to formulate an ecommerce strategy: web presence, integration with an accounting system, and marketing. Although there are some hard dollar costs required to purchase the technology needed to support ecommerce, the greatest investment is one of time and effort. The entire business organization must shift to support ecommerce initiatives and activities. Communication and long-term planning are all central to the success of any initiatives.
The first requirement to develop an ecommerce strategy is to develop and support a web presence that reflects the company's goals and products. The website should encompass both an information section and the ability for customers to browse products and make purchases. There is a wide range of shopping cart software products and website hosting firms that can fulfill the technical requirements of an ecommerce strategy.
Full integration with the organization's accounting and customer relationship management system is absolutely essential as part of an ecommerce strategy. Many small firms start out with a completely separate system for ecommerce and fail to consider the added efficiencies possible with an integrated system. At the heart of this decision is a concern that ecommerce is a short-lived trend that will not generate the sales required to cover the cost of this technology. It is important to understand that ecommerce is a long-term revenue stream and should be treated as such.
Marketing is a central part of any successful ecommerce strategy. This includes incorporating your website address in all traditional advertising, creating an email strategy, and increasing your search engine ratings. All these items will increase traffic to the website and encourage sales.
The vast majority of firms use their name as their website address, as it is easier for customers to remember. Collect email addresses from both online and traditional store customers. Send emails on a regular basis to inform clients about sales and product promotions. Offer exclusive coupons or discounts to registered clients and publicize these deals as a benefit to online customers.