Advantages of E-Commerce
What is Electronic Commerce?
Officially, electronic commerce is “... the paperless exchange of goods or services through the use of electronic data”.
This term has been in use for dozens of years and was originated to describe the transfer of data between two companies through dedicated or dial up connections. It wasn't until the advent of the public Internet that e-commerce became a household word. Today, the more typical definition of e-commerce is “To sell goods or services on the web.”
This type of e-commerce is definitely here to stay. Growth of Internet based sales is growing in double digits and the growth of Internet use by the public is still showing dramatic increases. The ease of placing an order online has brought the buying public to Internet sales. The technology may change but the market will remain.
The true benefits of the Internet as an electronic commerce medium are easy to delineate. The web allows almost instant change to your entire business structure, merchandise, pricing, marketing, promotions and sales process. In fact, the Internet will allow you to change all of this from customer to customer. Unfortunately this is only useful if you have a web site that will allow it to occur. Static HTML sites cannot give you the ability to let the site customize it's self to the customer. You need sophisticated computer programs running your e-commerce site.
E-commerce actually helps flatten the playing field between large and small businesses. In fact, many customers would rather do business with a small company rather than a large one because the customer service is more personal and interactive. The cost of creating an online store has dropped dramatically over the last 10 years. Today even a small retail store can have a valid online e-commerce site starting under $2000.00.
The biggest roadblock to getting an e-commerce site off the ground today is the cost of marketing the site. Just about every small business can afford the two or three thousand it costs to create a real, viable, personalized e-commerce site. The costs of marketing can run ten times that amount if you hire a professional company to help. However much of the work can be done by you or one of your employees. This will greatly reduce the cost. But to do this will require an investment in time.
The Internet has little in common with your physical store. Internet users have totally free access to your information through search engines. As a site owner you find yourself in the precarious position of having to market to the search engines to get good placement in searches and to your potential customers. You purchase advertising for your physical store. On the Internet you are marketing to the visitor and the search engines.
Any e-commerce software worth it's salt will provide you with a full featured site that is easy to maintain. It should also give you ample support for marketing your site to search engines for new visitors and to your existing customers. There are tried and true methods of both.
If the e-commerce solution you are looking at does not offer these methods and support, find another e-commerce solution.
The complexity of online credit card payments has been reduced dramatically. A few online merchant account companies have bundled the entire process into one inexpensive and simple to use and understand process for the average online e-commerce site. If you need custom features they are available but, for most companies, the standardized processes work just fine.
The complexity of finding someone to host your e-commerce site has also been reduced over the years. Your best bet is to host your e-commerce solution with the company you purchased the solution from. When you do this you can rest easy about functionality problems. It will not matter whether it is the software or the hosting solution… the same people are responsible for making it work.
If you are interested in getting into the e-commerce game, start with your e-commerce solution provider. They will be able to help you with every other aspect of the start up.