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January 11, 2013

Buying into Ecommerce

BCAMA Marketline Article – September 21, 2012

Over the last decade ecommerce has exploded from just a few success stories and a lot of failures to a vast opportunity for businesses to expand markets and drive new sales. This is increasingly true for the B2B marketplace as well as the consumer space.

It’s interesting to see that the Top 100 etailers of the last few years feature a mix of what we think of as ‘traditional’ ecommerce companies (think Amazon, Apple and Netflix) and not-so-traditional online stores like Wal-Mart and Weightwatchers.

What is ecommerce?

We seem to talk a lot about ecommerce without defining the genre. Simply stated, ecommerce is any website where an online transaction can be completed that is directly tied to revenue. This can be as simple as offering one product via a ‘buy now’ PayPal link to a complex shopping cart system with the capability of selling thousands of products.

How can ecommerce benefit your organization?

Think in terms of how you can shift the sales process to an automated customer-driven experience. The transition to online sales can help you…

  • Increase sales while reducing costs
  • Expand your customer base in existing and new territories
  • Reduce time to market of new products
  • Improve the buying experience for your customers, and
  • Use customer buying behavior to create a better result for them and you.

From a brand value and market-position perspective companies with ecommerce websites are also often seen as the most progressive and forward-thinking players in their fields.

Would you like fries with that?

Amazon.com is the king of upselling. When you purchase a book or other product on their website they immediately provide useful guidance to related product options and bundles. The upsell process can help increase per-transaction online sales dramatically and with ecommerce you can directly control what options you offer for each product and customer.

Think Big

Traditional bricks-and-mortar stores are often limited in their growth potential by capital costs and by factors beyond their control such as proximity to a large market. With effective search engine optimization and Internet marketing you can capture qualified web traffic to your online store. You also don’t need to limit your reach to customers in your local market – the world is one click away.

Happy customers

You can lose customers when they have to work too hard to find the suitable choice from your array of products. If a customer finds a product that is a perfect fit it then more often than not it will lead to a completed sale.

With ecommerce each product can be tagged with attributes that allow the customer to quickly narrow the choice to a preferred short list of options. For example a customer can choose by category, then by brand and then by product attributes such as colours and price ranges. Getting the right product quickly will help lead to a happy customer, a quick sale and hopefully repeat business.

With ecommerce your customers can shop at any time, from any location. What can be more convenient than that?

Give and you shall receive (sales)

By giving your customers a lot of information you will receive a reward: increased sales.

  • Provide product details and price comparisons
  • Share customer reviews
  • Showcase hot-selling products
  • Offer cost-saving product bundles

Made to measure

With ecommerce the resulting shopping and purchasing data can be mined for valuable insight into customer behavior patterns, thereby helping you to make business decisions that will increase sales.

You can also test the market viability of new products by using the powerful analytics tools of ecommerce systems. That can help you understand the potential for product success.

In February 2011 a strange yet intriguing situation took place whereby the retail chain Target discovered that a teenager was pregnant before her father did! Target sent a postcard to the teenager’s house with a direct advertisement for baby products. Target had deduced from the teenager’s online purchasing habits that she fit the profile of a pregnant mom-to-be.

Build it and they will come

Bottom line: build an effective shopping experience though ecommerce and you will attract new customers to your online store.

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