Local small and mid-size businesses need an E-Commerce presence. Notice I didn’t say that they could benefit from one, or that they should consider one, or that only businesses of a certain type or size need one. I said that all local businesses need an E-Commerce presence. Does this mean that every local small business needs to become the next Amazon.com? Of course not, but they must maintain an online presence that allows them to actively interact commercially with their community. This post will discuss these three aspects of small business E-Commerce and the effect on the modern consumer.
Online – Consumer Reach
The internet is changing. A simple, stylish informational site is no longer sufficient to reach new customers. Internet users now seek more than just information, they expect interaction, customization, and personalization. An E-Commerce presence uniquely extends the activities of local businesses onto the internet, the sales space that the U.S. market now frequents. A good E-Commerce presence can meet and exceed consumer expectations and expand the reach of your small business to all of the consumers in your metro area.
Your website is your reputation and first impression with many, many potential local customers. These customers form a community that is looking online for your services, products, and information. An E-Commerce store is the best way to bolster your online presence to reach these potential customers. It increases the relevancy of your site to local online searches, enhances your ability to convert online shoppers into true local consumers, and upgrades the quality and professional content of your site to compete with other sites for the short attention spans of the internet shopper.
Active Commercial Interaction - Consumer Education
The key reason that an E-Commerce site will expand your online presence is its ability to actively interact with potential customers and thus motivate them to convert from passive shoppers into buying consumers. Every local business is unique. Fortunately, the variety of E-Commerce solutions allows any business to find something that is right for them. These solutions vary in functionality, purpose, time investment, and price; and they don’t even have to sell your product or service directly, nor do they necessarily require extensive inventory management or back-end costs. E-Commerce solutions can also include online scheduling functions for dentists or hair salons as well as interactive product galleries for car dealerships.
Regardless of the particular E-Commerce solution you choose, the chief functionalities you should look for are (1) the type of active interaction the solution will provide your customers, and (2) whether or not that interaction benefits the commercial contours of your business and market. For instance:
Upscale Retail Stores and Boutiques – Look for an E-Commerce solution with an excellent gallery function that lets consumers view your products in high-quality, from all angles.
Large Volume Retailers – Look for an E-Commerce solution with handy inventory management and automation tools.
Quick Service Providers – Look for an E-Commerce solution that allows for pre-check-in, appointment scheduling, and/or service progress notifications.
Small Specialty Stores – Look for an E-Commerce solution that allows for sharing, consumer reviews, and customization of your products.
Small Service/Information Providers – Look for an E-Commerce solution that allows consumers to experiment with customization options for your service and contains a method for direct contact with your sales force like instant chat or a frequently moderated forum.
Note that these E-Commerce interactions are categorically different from other common dynamic features that companies offer their clients like blogs, forums, picture galleries, portfolios, contact forms, quizzes, tools, and reports. The key difference between an E-Commerce tool and these other dynamic web tools is its place in the sales process. Dynamic web tools are used either before the sale to foster interest and obtain information, or after the sale to follow up with the customer or provide some other value. However, the defining qualification of an E-Commerce tool is that it actively facilitates the actual process of a sale. Said another way, E-Commerce tools facilitate active commercial interactions while other dynamic web tools merely facilitate active interactions.
Community – Consumer Loyalty
Now I am not saying that you need an E-Commerce presence because your business should reach the world (though it can definitely accomplish this). I am saying that your business needs an E-Commerce presence to reach your community. To find new local customers, to interact with them in new ways, and to provide unique value to your current customers that will encourage them to use your business again. An E-Commerce site gives you the ability to interact directly with return customers, rapidly address customer service issues, and provide convenience, reliability, and a repeatable experience to your customers. A professional, interactive E-Commerce solution will make your business and online presence a habit for your customers.
Each aspect of E-Commerce enhances your ability to convert customers into regulars and to create a community with your local business at its center. To do this, your business must: (1) Be online to reach consumers; (2) Actively engage consumers through a variety of commercially interactive means; and (3) Provide tools that create habits and foster a loyal community.
This is our model at Inno Garage. We believe that every small business is unique and deserves an equally unique E-Commerce solution that is integrated with the rest of its brand. Our teams of marketing and design professionals create and personalize these solutions for each of our small and mid-size business clients. Visit our website or contact us to help you design and implement an E-Commerce solution for your business today!