The remarkable increase in online trading and business activities have led many traditional offline business owners to seek to take their business online, although they are still those more traditional entrepreneurs who still ponder whether there is scope in taking such a step.
What one should always remember is that setting up a venture exclusively online, such as an e-commerce outlet, is not the same as creating an online presence for an already existing, traditional brick and mortar company. Having said that the actual process to follow is in many aspects identical, however upgrading a “traditional company”, i.e. a company with a specific physical location that sells products or services, either in person, by phone, or mail, into a company with an effective online presence bears some unique characteristics as a process.
If done properly, establishing an online presence of any type of offline business is neither extremely complicated nor significantly risky. If fact taking the next step and “putting your business online” will result into great benefits and advantages. Read on to find out the rationale behind opting to starting selling/operating online as soon as possible to reap the multifaceted gains it comes with:
The instant improvement and enhancement in the image and prestige of your company and the added value this offers is the immediate advantage to be had as soon as you start doing business online and it is a very significant justification for any company to opt to go down this lane. In today’s fast moving and technology advanced world, consumers and prospective clients are definitely going to question how credible and serious any company that doesn’t have an online presence is about its job. Not having a website, an online blog, or membership in social media channels gravely harms the image you project and gives room and opportunity to competitors to engage with and eventually steal not only prospective customers but also many from your already established client base!
With few exceptions, most traditional businesses cannot be available to serve customers or make sales for more than a few hours per working day. For online businesses however, time is no longer an obstacle. In contrast to a brick and mortar store for example, an online e-commerce store can be making sales on 24/7 basis for 365 days per year! Anytime of day or night, on working days, weekends and holidays the online presence of your company is always there and always available and customers can make purchases, browse through your offering, submit inquiries, request quotes etc and generally generate leads and prospects that you can chase after and nail as soon as possible.
The traditional way of customer support either through face to face contact or via phonecalls is a costly process that is also time consuming both for the company and for the prospective or existing client. On the contrary, having an internet presence widens the horizons when it comes to the available methods of customer support. Since most clients are usually looking for specific information and usually ask the same type of questions regarding your offering, having those answers and information uploaded to a freely and easily accessible source, such as a company website, either as plain text or as part of an FAQ (frequently asked questions) section, or even illustrated in the form of slide shows, videos or webinars, can save loads of time and effort for both your clients and yourself. Also you should bear in mind that email marketing has been proven to be one of the most effective and efficient ways to establish relations with prospective customers and generate increased sales.
Especially if you already have an offline business that is doing well, having a smooth product supply process in place, then transitioning to an online business venture should be pretty straight-forward and could be done at a very low cost. If you are technologically savvy then you can even design and construct your internet site or e-commerce store on your own, using free or low cost software and tools that are easily available online. However, perhaps the more sensible solution would be to outsource the more technical parts as well as those requiring an in-depth understanding of market trends and conditions, such as social media marketing, to real experts, who can provide tailor-made solutions for you. Nevertheless, remember not to fall into the trap of trying to re-invent the wheel or trying to construct the best site or e-store from scratch. It is better to keep it simple and to go for solutions that have been proven stable and reliable as well as user friendly.
In short and especially if you are on a tight budget you don’t need to spend much as the basic expenses, such as web-hosting, securing a domain name and building a site/store do not incur massive costs. Moreover, remember that once everything is set up correctly, then the whole venture can be run with minimum effort.
This is especially true for those companies who can obtain an online e-commerce store. You can accept stores and receive payments in seconds with no need for any kind of contact and with less hassle. You can offer a premium customer service experience by informing, educating, helping and “directing” customers through online means. Last but not least, you will be able to increase traffic to your site and business to your company through the varied cost-effective methods of traffic generation that the internet provides and also take advantage of the fact that word of mouth and spreading the word both work much faster and more efficiently online than in any other context.
One of the best but perhaps less obvious advantages of taking your business online is that it automatically offers you incredible location freedom, since you only need to have a good and fast internet connection conduct your online business from anywhere in the world. This can mean a great improvement for your own personal life as well and the general quality of life that you enjoy, since thanks to the internet you can have your business adapting to your lifestyle instead of vice-versa.
If you take advantage of all the benefits, synergies and efficiency that taking your business online has to offer, then this will definitely result in a great reduction in your operational costs. By operating online you need less customer service staff and less resources dedicated to customer support. Moreover, decreased employ numbers in turn mean less office space needs and less running expenses. When operating online all aspects of your business, such as purchasing, billing, order fulfillment and shipping can be simplified, streamlined and performed more efficiently, effectively and at a lower cost.
Working solely from a brick and mortar business location means that your business offering is easily accessible and visible to a limited number of prospective clients, usually from the immediate vicinity of your current physical location. On the other hand, by taking your business online you immediately open up vast new opportunities and horizons, exposing your services or products to an unlimited number of people from across the globe. An online business venture virtually knows no physical geographical boundaries and thus has an unlimited potential for expansion. Moreover, the internet makes marketing your job and attracting more clients much easier and effective, through various techniques such as social media campaigns, content marketing and many others at a fraction of the cost of most offline traditional marketing activities and leading to much more lucrative results.
The instant response to client’s requests and the much faster execution of orders and the entire business process means less workload for staff. Moreover, today’s technology offers countless opportunities for the full automatisation of all procedures, such as inventories and the tracking or sales and pending orders. Besides lessening the administrative burden and offering you a clearer picture of where you stand at any time, this leads to better responsiveness towards clients, who are more likely to be happy from your level of service and thus more prone to becoming repeat customers as well.
The benefits and advantages of taking your traditional offline business online and more than obvious and depending on the line of business you are in and immensely wide and varied. With little to lose and vastly to gain and if you want to remain in pace with the modern world and on par or even ahead of competition then going online TODAY is an one-way street!
SEO Expert, Marketer
Natalie is a prolific part of the global SEO community worldwide and she regularly contributes to e-marketing and promotion publications on and offline as well as best practice guides and round tables.
A good looking website is useless if it doesn’t have the content or optimised website design to make sure it can be found on Google. You Need Someone Who Knows What They Are Doing.