An Introduction to Ecommerce: Part 2

An Introduction to Ecommerce: Part 2

The following is a four part series focused on providing you with an introduction to ecommerce. We will answer many things along the way, including such questions as:

  • “What is ecommerce?”
  • “Should I build an online store?”
  • “Do I have the expertise”
  • “What are the costs involved in such a site?”

In part 1, we looked into the “in’s and out’s” of ecommerce. In part 2, we will continue the series by answering another important question: Should I build an online store? Let’s get started…

Introduction to Ecommerce – Part 2: Should I Build an Ecommerce Site?

When asked this question, I have found that people are often inquiring because they:

  • are unsure if they really do need ecommerce, or
  • want to see if they really HAVE to put forth the time, effort, and cost required to build an ecommerce site

To answer this question, I often look at five key points of data:

  1. Does your competition offer ecommerce?
  2. Has your clientele requested it?
  3. Will it save your business both cost and time?
  4. Do you have a strategy in place for marketing and maintaining the ecommerce site (and the resources to do so)?
  5. Most importantly, will this increase revenue?

Let’s take a look at each point one-by-one and determine when the answer should be “yes” or “no”.

Does your competition offer ecommerce?

If your business has direct competition offering ecommerce, this is a strong indication you should do so as well. The commitment of time and money required to build and maintain an ecommerce site alone is a sign that your competition has found it worth the effort. Thus, imitation often breeds success.

There are many times, though, when businesses simply start ecommerce sites because it is the cool, fashionable thing to do… I call it the “Everybody is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?” syndrome. Obviously, this is poor reasoning and one that will eventually lead to failure. In this case, it is wise to look at market data and see if there has been success with ecommerce within your industry.

Has your clientele requested it?

Has your company’s management or sales team been consistently peppered with questions such as “Can I just buy this on your site?”, “Do you have an online store?”, “Do I have to come to you each time I want to make a purchase?”. If so, this is another strong indicator that it is time to implement ecommerce. By asking such things, the client-base is showing interest in this… Granted, this alone does not always equal success, but we are looking for indicators right now. And this is a good one.

But, if the clientele has not requested it, then things begin to look a little more shaky. Before saying “no”, it would be advisable to send a questionnaire out to your client-base inquiring if they would like to:

  • be able to expedite purchasing online
  • beta test the store

If clients typically answer “yes” to the first question, then it is worth continuing to research the idea of an ecommerce store. But remember, it is always easy for someone to say yes to an idea. Yet, when it comes down to it, will they actually follow through? By asking them the second question (their willingness to beta test the store), you are getting a commitment of action from them. This is another good indicator whether they would indeed buy from the shop.

Will it save the business both cost and time?

There is simply no need to implement ecommerce within a site if it will ONLY add to your overhead and time commitments. Businesses are already struggling to keep pace with demands and costs. Simply put, will you cover your time and cost investments on an ongoing (or even long-term) basis by building an ecommerce store?

The answer to this is again found by gathering market and industry data and going through the key points listed in this article. If the answer is “yes” to most of these points and there is significant market data to back up your findings, this is another good sign that ecommerce is a good fit.

Is there a strategy in place for marketing and maintaining the ecommerce site (and the resources to do so)?

There is an old saying within the web development business that goes along the lines of:

“Building and launching a website is only 25% of the work. The rest comes with what you do after launching the site.”

Indeed, this is true… Marketing the site to current and potential clientele in all the numerous ways available is work enough. Add to it the logistics of maintaining the site (i.e. – Are products in stock? Are they being shipped on time? Are inventories being updated? Is it time to offer sales or discounts?), and any business has their work cut-out for them. Thus, it is important to ensure that the site will be both marketed and maintained correctly, lest the store languish with lack of traffic or be filled with mis-information.

Come to a conclusion by asking the following and ensuring you have good answers:

  • Is there a plan for marketing?
  • Is staff available that can be trained for maintenance?

If the answer is “no” to either of these, it is time to take a step back and put steps in place for both marketing and training.

Will this increase revenue?

And now we come to the most important point of all… Will an ecommerce site be a money-maker or a money-loser for your business? This is answered – again – by both market/industry data and reviewing the key points in this article.

If you have found that the answers to each point are typically “yes”, and there is market data to back it up, move forward and build that store! If not, don’t sell goods that are doomed from the start. This is simply bad business and does no one any good.

By asking all of the above and researching each key point, you are doing a service for both yourself and your client. Saying “yes” is always fun, as it means more potential money in your pocket and another possible source of revenue. But, saying “no” is sometimes simply the right thing to do. By building something that will inevitably fail, you could be wasting invaluable time and resources.

View part 3 in our series on An Introduction to Ecommerce