The last 10 years have seen a meteoric rise in consumer spending online. People are becoming more comfortable with using their credit cards online and are finding more of what they are looking for, thanks to many more businesses having a web presence than ever before. While cash is still not an option for online shoppers, the introduction of credit/debit cards by most banks in response to the growth of ecommerce has helped dampen fears of credit card fraud. Ecommerce: Bigger Profits and Lower Overheads The GFC has prompted a lot of businesses to find ways to become leaner and meaner. Recent statistics show that major Australian brick and mortar retailer profits are pretty flat, while ecommerce is growing by around 7% a year. For many businesses, their website has become their primary sales tool for reaching new clients and customers. Whether you are a backyard business or a major retailer, taking advantage of a web presence can generate significant revenue streams. Web hosting and domain name registration is much, much, much cheaper than the costs involved with running a commercial premises. If you already operate from a commercial property, the additional outgoing expense is minimal to keep your website live. Beyond that someone needs to manage the website, provide customer service and fulfilment (packaging and delivery), and all the other tasks that your business requires to operate. Online Shopping More Convenient Surfing the net for the products and services you need is much easier and more convenient than using a phone book and calling every provider. I mean seriously, who uses Yellow Pages when you have Google search and Google maps? It 鈥檚 also far more convenient to purchase online and have the item delivered than to drive there and pick it up. Sure, there 鈥檚 the delivery cost to think about, but the cost to go and pick it up in fuel, parking and time will in most cases balance it out. Savvy online entrepreneurs understand that additional postage costs are a turn-off for a large portion of shoppers and therefore offer it for free (build it into the cost-price.) The other obvious advantage to shopping online is that ecommerce sites are mostly open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week! A lot of traditional shops miss opportunities to make sales because they are only open during business hours. With most people working a full time job and doing their best to live fulfilled lives, who has time to shop? Not being a big shopaholic myself, I prefer not to spend my precious spare time at the mall searching for some widget that I want. I personally hate shopping malls and would much rather prefer to search for a product or service online at my own convenience either at home or on my mobile phone and have it delivered as well. Some of us just have better things to do... Continually Innovate to Compete The Internet has a tendency to open up markets to more competition. This is good for consumers, but means that businesses need to be better than ever at differentiating themselves from their competitors and reaching their audience. Your website also needs to break down any barriers that prevent the customer from making a positive decision. Remember that you probably have about 30 seconds or less to grab the visitors 鈥?attention before they leave your website and go to your competition. Here are a few ways that you can differentiate your website from the rest: 鈥?Have actual contact details on your website. Many websites hide their contact details and makes them look like they are running a scam. Would you give money to someone for a product to someone with a promise to deliver without a contact phone number. Good luck to you and you may be interested in this bridge I have available for sale. 鈥?Provide quality images of your products/services. Most traditional stores allow visitors to see and touch, perhaps even smell a product. While touch and smell is currently not an available technology for websites, if you can give the customer the very best visual representation as possible, this will go a long way towards assuring the customer of what they are buying. 鈥?Have a distinctive 鈥渃 all-to-action 鈥? A call-to-action, usually a button, needs to catch the visitors 鈥?eye and clearly indicate the next step they need to take to take advantage of what you are offering. This could be an 鈥淎 dd to Cart 鈥?button, or a link to a contact form or newsletter subscription. The call-to-action should also provide an incentive to perform the action that you want from your visitors. 鈥?Encourage Feedback. What your potential customers think is important. Offer them every opportunity to let you know what they think of your website, your products, your service, everything... While you will need to discern helpful feedback from people that cannot be pleased no matter what you do, doing business online creates a great opportunity for you to get opinions on where improvements can be made and therefore increase your returns when you act on them. This can be achieved with form based surveys, social media and putting a feedback form in your email correspondence to name a few methods. 鈥?Keep Your Promises. If you make ANY claims on your website, make sure you can carry it through and is truthful. 鈥?Offer Discounts and Special Offers. Recent retail market studies show that Australian consumers are addicted to discount sales. 鈥?Use SEO and SEM to Increase Reach and Visibility. I say it often and it bears repeating: simply having a website does not guarantee traffic and sales. A website must be marketed properly to get the traffic and sales it deserves. Your customers need to find you and the best way to accomplish this end is to gain positions on the Google search results for search terms closely related to your businesses products and services. This can be achieved by engaging search engine experts that can setup effective online advertising campaigns, as well as ensure over the longer term that your website appears in the natural search results of the major search engines. The last point is key to the success of your ecommerce website and its profitability. The vast majority of Internet users will use one of the three major search engines (Google in particular) to find businesses. Without good exposure to the major search engines, your business is basically invisible to most potential online customers. Ecommerce is more 鈥淕 reen 鈥?than Traditional Shops Ecommerce is much 鈥 済 reener 鈥 ?than brick and mortar stores. The more consumers and clients use the Internet to make their purchases and use email for their correspondence, the bigger the reduction in the use of paper and that 鈥檚 good for everybody. Encouraging ecommerce and using the Internet for media consumption is basically good for the planet and will go some way towards a more sustainable economy with less impact on finite resources. All that needs to be done to make the Internet even greener would be to make cleaner electricity.Ecommerce Design, Development and Marketing AWD can provide ecommerce website development, design, Internet marketing and SEO Services to ensure success for your endeavours. For information about complete ecommerce and marketing solutions, contact AWD today.