In the UK alone the average person spends one whole day a week online, and it never used to be that way until recent years! This goes to show the exponential growth that is possible when businesses go online. Online stores have never been so popular, with over 48% of UK consumers intent on increasing the amount they use digital shopping channels; eCommerce platforms have never been so vital to business growth. Even if your customers are just looking to find out when you're open with a quick google search or to find your physical shop's location, your business will need an online presence to provide this info!
In the current global crisis, buying online has never been so important. Giving nations access to products that previously they would have bought in person, enabling people to buy their favourite products is a fantastic reason to convert to eCommerce. With a wider reach through the internet, you can increase business and increase your visibility to potential customers.
Now that we've got the basics down and you've thought about the unlimited potential eCommerce can provide your business, let's get into why this is the smart move for you and your business!
What is eCommerce?
eCommerce stands for 'electronic commerce' which is the act of buying and selling goods or services over the internet. Whether you are buying a book on eBay, selling a blanket you crocheted on Etsy or even just renewing your car insurance it's all eCommerce – shopping online!
We can trace eCommerce back as early as the 1960s when businesses began sharing documents such as invoices or purchase orders electronically. This method of communication grew in popularity moving into the 1980s as electronics became faster and more high-tech. However, it was the 1990s when eCommerce really started to come into it's own with the rise of shopping sites like eBay and Amazon, the way consumers purchased their goods was being revolutionised. Now it's just a standard part of everyone's day-to-day!
eCommerce is around all the time - when you're browsing through the 20 baked goods pages on Sainsbury's website or speciality bath bombs on a small business' online store, it's all eCommerce! Selling online can help you grow from a business with 3 items to sell to a brand with unlimited categories filled with fantastic products!
What are the benefits of eCommerce?
As Joakim Gavelin, founder of Detail Online said: "Right now, there's huge potential for brand owners to increase online sales in 2020. [Retail reports] tells us that the change in consumer behaviour that many expected to take three to four years is happening in a few months."
Now is the perfect time to move your business online - with many people spending hours online and screentime increasing rapidly, translating your business online has some definite benefits:
- Access to a wider audience: sell to the world over and ship (with us we hope!) internationally as well as locally
- Flexible working hours: update your website at 3am - no need to stick to the 9-5 structure
- Flexible opening hours: allow your customers to buy whenever and wherever they are
- More space: you won't need to worry about making room for increasing levels of stock, on your online store you have all the room you'll need
- Environmental choice: work wherever you want! Do you want to work at a cafe by the beach? Do it - why not!
- Low set-up costs: many sellers start with an Etsy or eBay account and a handful of products so starting costs are near to nothing!
- Low running costs: online stores don't need to pay expensive retail unit rents, all you need is some online space and a laptop!
Now don't get us wrong, it's not just as easy as opening up an eBay account tomorrow and being a millionaire this time next year. But if you're prepared to put in the work, eCommerce can drive your business forward allowing you to reap the reward.
Are there disadvantages to eCommerce?
Despite the clear benefits of opening an online shop, there are some characteristics of shopping online that can't replicate the experience of brick and mortar shops. Although, as the country remains in lockdown and shoppers can't visit their favourite physical stores, taking your store online is still a very good idea as 32% of global consumers expect their share of online shopping to increase even more past the pandemic.
So, we think that taking your business online is a fantastic way to grow your brand, but for arguments sake let's have a look at some of the potential downsides of eCommerce:
- Physical restrictions: Customers can't touch, smell or try on products
- Customer service: you can't engage directly with browsing customers or 'upsell' them at the till
- Rising popularity: you could become a victim of your own success and sell too many goods too quickly!
- Impatient customers: if you purchase online customers have to wait for the goods to be delivered
These issues can all easily be remedied with a bit of thought and care. Customer service needn't be a problem, we suggest including an email address or telephone number where customers can contact you - our customer's service lines at Interparcel are an example of this, opening from 8 am-8 pm, Monday to Friday our customers can contact us via email, telephone and live chat for any queries.
Use descriptive language to help customers appreciate the quality of your products and help get around them being unable to touch, smell or try things on. Take plenty of photographs in decent lighting or even include a short video really showcasing your products in action.
Although online shops can't provide customers with the immediacy of purchasing from a physical store, customers don't need to be kept waiting! It's important to choose a delivery agent you can trust to get your customers their purchases quickly and safely. That's where we come in, Interparcel have dedicated accounts with all the major courier companies and can offer you discounted rates on Same Day or Next Day delivery - so you can offer your customers a speedy service at a great price!
If you find that you've sold so many items you are struggling to keep up you can integrate your online store with the free Interparcel Shipping Manager. we do all the hard work pulling in your order data from the most popular eCommerce platforms, validating addresses, generating labels and fulfilling orders in seconds. All you need to do is focus on restocking your shop and delivering that excellent customer service!
Will eCommerce take over from physical retail?
In recent years economists, market analysts and consumers alike have debated whether eCommerce will soon overtake brick and mortar shops and make them obsolete. In the current climate especially, with rising uncertainty around Brexit and Covid19 it's never been a better time to adapt your business.
Whilst we don't think the high street will disappear completely it's unlikely that we will see a return to bustling shops and heaving crowds - at least any time soon. But that doesn't mean people aren't still shopping, they are just doing it online. Think about it, if you aren't selling to your customers online, are your competitors?!
How does Interparcel support small businesses?
At Interparcel we want to give our customers all they need to grow small businesses and do it with as little hassle as possible. That's why we've designed our parcel comparision tool to be quick, easy to use and with the best prices.
We listened to our customers and built our Shipping Manager! It's now so easy to import orders from Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce & Squarespace (to name but a few) that you can book hundreds of parcels in seconds.
Our customer services are like no other - at a time when other companies are shutting down phone lines and hiding behind screens we are proud to say our UK call centre is here for you from 8 am - 8 pm Monday - Friday and even weekends 9 am - 1 pm. You can contact us by Phone, Live Chat & Email - take your pick! We know how important it is to our customers to have a delivery service they can trust and we just won't compromise on that.
Make sure you have a peek at our other blogs - we've put together a bunch of How-to's to keep you and your small business in the know and thriving. Staying up to date with the latest marketing strategies, knowing how to run a sustainable business and knowing what to make of customer feedback are just a few of the topics we've covered for you, have a read!
So why not get online today and see how much your business can grow!