An ecommerce website has quickly gone from being a ‘nice to have’ to a crucial tool for staying competitive in today’s market. Regardless of the industry you’re operating in, your customers will expect you to have a website – but what if you’ve never launched your business online before?
Giles Greenslade, Business Development Director for Ecommerce at Kerridge Commercial Systems (KCS) reveals his top tips for making those all-important first steps into the online domain.
1. Choose a fully-integrated ecommerce solution
One of the best decisions you can make as a business owner is to choose a website that will directly integrate with your ERP solution. Details such as stock and pricing will automatically be reflected from the core ERP to the online portal in real time, which not only removes the need to manually carry out the same task in two different places, but also provides the customer with precise up-to date information.
“Whether you're a builders’ merchant or working in the distributive trades, the website should be able to work within your business and provide the synergy needed to realise its full potential. Your company doesn't want to have to change its processes to work around a non-integrated ecommerce solution!” said Giles.
2. Select a solution that’s designed for your industry
Your ecommerce platform should be easy to use for both you and your customers. Choosing a partner who not only understands selling online, but also the industry within which you operate, can ensure your site is as relevant to the customer as possible. Simplicity in terms of administration, reporting and maintaining the site should be considered an essential component, and it’s made far easier with a synergetic partner.
The content management system will reflect this need, as an off-the-shelf website will offer “numerous options that are completely irrelevant to the customer”, noted Giles. An industry-tailored content management system will make it simpler to operate on a day-to-day basis.
3. See your website as an extension of your existing business
Establishing an ecommerce website is “essentially like opening a new branch” – and needs to be treated as such. “It’s not enough just to build a new website,” explained Giles. “You could have an industry-leading website, but if nobody knows it’s there, then it is unlikely to generate the desired return on investment.”
Marketing is therefore essential to your website’s success and should form an integral part of any ecommerce strategy. Any interaction with a customer or prospect should be viewed as a chance to promote your site, whether that be through flyers, van signage, Google Ads, magazine adverts or other methods. Don't just focus on digital marketing simply because your shop is online!
4. Think about your customer service
“Although an ecommerce site may remove the human element, it still needs to be thought of as another salesperson in its own right. Customers today are probably better informed than ever before, and a site that passes on knowledge will be seen as a valuable resource in attracting repeat business,” Giles indicated.
You are effectively allowing customers to see your shop front and place orders outside of standard trading hours. In doing so, you are providing a more complete shopping experience. A common side effect is that footfall in store also increases; this could be due to the option of click and collect, or simply letting the customer know you have the product available, even though they may still want to visit in person.
5. Don’t be afraid to try something new
Ecommerce provides another route to market. The use of online shopping has accelerated exponentially over the past 12 months and shows no sign of slowing. A good site should therefore support and accelerate your business growth in the digital age.
“Mobile and tablet usage underlines the shift in technology application in real-world business operations. ”The days of having to make a call to source materials while on a job are gone. Whether it's a builder working on site, or a heating engineer servicing a customer’s boiler, the ability to find the part, check stock availability and pricing and place an immediate order is now an essential component of doing business,” Giles added.
For more information on KCS and our range of ecommerce solutions, visit www.kerridgecs.com.