Is eCommerce now the most obvious route to business success? (as published in the Oxford Times)

Every business person spends time trying to figure out the best direction to take their company in. In the 2010s there are now so many different options that could be followed it’s becoming harder and harder to be sure you’ve made the right decision. As the economic climate continues to be hard going for most businesses it’s even more critical to find the right option, as there’s not the time to make mistakes.

Oxford Times Inbusiness supplementRight now one of the most attractive routes to market is eCommerce, by eCommerce I mean selling things online, taking the money and the order right there and then. This is now possible for almost any product you can think of – if you think it’s not possible for someone to buy your products online, you should think again.

If it’s possible to buy cars and houses online, then it’s possible to sell people almost anything online. We all know about businesses selling physical products that need to be shipped to the customer. Other businesses are selling service or training online, and a clever few are now selling virtual products – ebooks, videos, mp3s etc.

Customers (shopping for themselves or their businesses) are looking for ways to save time and money, and eCommerce offers that. Consumers are also increasingly happy buying online – for most of the population the first reaction to paying online isn’t fear or confusion anymore. Now they shop with confidence.

It’s easy to get your products in front of the consumers that want them. No longer do you have to hope there are enough people in your chosen geographic location who want your products – via eCommerce you can easily sell nationally, or even globally. So even the smallest niche becomes a viable marketplace. Just look at Oxford business  10 years ago it would have been impossible to create a successful business that only sold tea towels. Because of eCommerce todryfor are able to market and sell their products internationally.

Whilst some may find the constant changes in online marketing options frustrating, it’s that constant development that means there’s always a great new opportunity for getting your products in front of potential customers.

One of the latest online marketing options is Pinterest is a game changer for anyone dealing in visual mediums. The accessories marketplace have embraced it, and earlier this year revealed how Pinterest users spend 10% more than their average site visitor ($180 vs $164). 12 months ago Pinterest wasn’t an option, and in 12 months time there’ll be another new choice. If you can embrace this changing landscape you can really drive great sales.
Marketing for eCommerce sites is also very trackable, no more “I don’t know what marketing’s working” – if you’re selling online you know. Using free tools (like Google Analytics) you can find out which traffic sources are driving your sales. That makes it really easy to optimise your marketing activity – do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t. So your marketing budget will stretch further, making your business more profitable.

These days in ecommerce you don’t even need a website.

That’s right – no more do you have to spend thousands of pounds on an eCommerce website, the functionality and design of which is out of date within 12 months. Now you can harness the customer base and website functionality of a plethora of different companies to get your products out there. Everyone knows you can sell stuff on Amazon and eBay – but did you know there are many people running successful businesses through those platforms, and not bothering with a site of their own?

If you’re operating in a niche (especially design or craft or vintage) then there’s probably a PiggyBack website just for your niche. A PiggyBack website is one like eBay or Amazon, where you can sell your products by ‘piggy-backing’ on their software platform. Above I mentioned Boticca – a global marketplace for fashion and jewellery companies – they feature the unique products of over 260 designers from 40 countries. There’s also NotOnTheHighStreet in the UK for gift and homeware products, or which is a global marketplace for vintage and craft creations.

If you’re considering the eCommerce route what should you do next?

  • Step 1: Understand the business structure you’re going use – will you be Online Only? Or are you going to have a shop too? Do you need a website or can you become a PiggyBacker?
  • Step 2: Choose and scope out your website – what does it need to do on day one?
  • Step 3: Check the numbers add up
  • Step 4: Choose your products and promotions
  • Step 5: Create your marketing plan

So there’s lots of scope for reaching your potential customers, and great marketing options for building a profitable sales channel and you might not need a website – what’s stopping you? Take another look at your products – how could you sell them online?