The Benefits of eCommerce: How Selling Online Helps Businesses Stay Competitive
Digital shopping has become a staple of the consumer experience, and it's not slowing down anytime soon, with sales expected to exceed $7.4 trillion by 2025. It's been gaining speed for a while, but in 2020, many businesses learned how crucial eCommerce is for weathering storms, staying competitive, and offering customers the best experience possible.
Still, the world of eCommerce is massive, and the idea of entering this marketplace might seem overwhelming. There are tons of selling options and a lot of stiff competition. Luckily, most businesses find eCommerce is well worth the effort, especially if they implement it correctly. Though it can seem challenging, eCommerce is vital to creating a sustainable, successful business in the digital age.
eCommerce is a massive driving force in retail. Worldwide, it makes up 20% of all retail sales, a number that more than tripled in 2020. In some markets and industries, the number is higher. It allows businesses to expand their reach to much larger audiences and easing the buying process for customers. Convenience is the number one reason people shop online, overtaking price and value. The added ease of use can be a significant selling point, especially with so many people shopping on their phones. Plus, eCommerce integrates well with advertising campaigns, since you can send handy purchase links directly to customer inboxes or social media feeds.
Along with the advantages of eCommerce to consumers, it is crucial for business owners who want to withstand industry volatility. From supply chain issues and inclement weather to health problems that keep people home, eCommerce can help businesses remain viable while customers are looking for more ways to get their products. For instance, almost 40% of people switch to buying online if they encounter supply chain or inflation issues.
Plenty of data demonstrates eCommerce's efficacy and growth, particularly in increasing customer satisfaction.
Why Businesses Should Sell Online
Café Ladro is just one of many TrueCommerce customers who wanted to expand their sales presence with an online storefront. While they already operated 16 retail cafes successfully, the coffee roaster wanted to reach more customers, and operate their B2B and B2C sales from a single storefront. Within just a few months of getting started, the company saw a 400% increase in sales!
Along with coffee, wineries have recently seen an explosion in online interest, especially as some states have limited or even closed liquor stores. For L. Mawby Winery, online selling offers multiple benefits. In addition to a 300% increase in sales their first year, the winery could ship wine direct-to-consumers from website orders, making it easy to maintain social distancing while keeping sales up. The company’s online wine club entices wine lovers to receive regular shipments, as well as exclusive deals, creating a loyal fan base and more reliable monthly sales.
If inventory is running low, an eCommerce store can also enable allocation settings to limit customer purchase volumes. Plus, by integrating their online customer data with their in-house systems, they can use customer profiles to help in-store shoppers find the wines that best suit their tastes when the tasting room reopens!
Of course, the benefits of eCommerce go even further. Here are a few more ways eCommerce can help your business right now, and as we move forward:
Mitigate the Impact of Retail Closures
Several issues can impact brick-and-mortar sales, like supply chain interruptions, labor problems, store closures, weather, and legal constraints, such as alcohol or nicotine restrictions in some regions. Customers also can't buy after you've closed up shop for the night. eCommerce gives your business the sales boost it needs when you can't sell in person, enabling your business to stay healthy until you're back to 100%. These benefits are especially valuable for small businesses with loyal, local followers who want to continue to support their favorite stores but feel tempted by the convenience bigger retailers offer.
Take Advantage of a Growing Market Space
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, eCommerce was a rapidly evolving market space, with online sales outpacing retail growth for several pre-pandemic years. Digital Commerce 360 reports that back in 2012, eCommerce accounted for only 8% of retail purchases. By 2017, that number had risen to 12.9%, and jumped to 19.1% by the end of 2020.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we are entering the final stages of the retail apocalypse. But it does mean that companies engaging online have a significant advantage over those that rely solely on in-store sales.
Engage with New Customers
Selling online has eliminated the limitations of local foot traffic, enabling business owners to easily connect with customers from anywhere. Even locally owned small businesses can gain national visibility and popularity and enjoy vastly increased sales opportunities.
You can also use your web storefront to find new customers through social media, search engine optimization, and paid search and display ads! In addition to your own retail store, you can also leverage existing consumer audiences. Online marketplaces like Amazon have an already loyal fan base — projections suggest that about half of all retail eCommerce purchases occur on Amazon.
Let’s put it this way — worldwide, more than 80% of consumers shop online. That's a lot of opportunity to reach new and existing buyers.
What You Need for eCommerce Success
Succeeding online isn’t as easy as creating an Amazon seller profile or storefront. To thrive in the eCommerce space, you’ll need to create a top-of-the-line shopping experience. To accomplish this goal, ensure your online strategy and process include the following tactics.
- Accurate and up-to-date product information: These details are especially relevant to your inventory availability — no one wants to order something, only to learn it’s out of stock.
- Expected delivery dates: Like inventory availability, this is a helpful way to keep customers informed and can help them plan their orders based on when they need products.
- Helpful shopping features: Related product and search suggestions, frequently purchased items, and clear sales and promotion information let consumers find new products they’ll love.
- User-friendly shopping carts: Visible shopping carts help customers keep track of their order contents, while tax and shipping calculators help reduce cart abandonment rates and capture sales.
- Rapid fulfillment: Today’s consumers are used to platforms like Amazon and Walmart offering free two-day or even same-day delivery. Make sure you set appropriate delivery time frames, and send customers tracking and delivery updates to keep them in the know.
eCommerce integration and automation software help ensure a great shopping experience without requiring a ton of manual effort. For example, a product information management solution can enable you to update product content and inventory availability across multiple marketplaces and your web storefront from one portal. eCommerce integrations with your business system can trigger automatic confirmation emails, tracking detail emails, and order updates for customers. And data automation brings orders directly to your business systems, so you can quickly process orders and meet tight delivery time frames.
Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform
There are dozens of eCommerce platforms available online, so do your research and find the best solution for your business. Here are a few things to consider when looking at an eCommerce storefront option.
Customization and flexibility: Some eCommerce stores are easy and fast to set up, but have limited features that may not meet your unique business needs. Likewise, super-customized options sometimes run into issues like long lead times and complications around changing or updating features. Finding an eCommerce solution that balances flexible features and easy updates is critical.
Customer type options: If you sell B2B and B2C, you need a platform that can support both from the same storefront. Volume-based and customer-type pricing can help further segment customers, making it easy to sell to various retailers, manufacturers, and individual consumers.
Security and PCI compliance: Protection and integrity are critical to protecting your customers and your business. Ensure any platform you use is fully compliant with Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council Level 1 and takes security as seriously as you do.
The benefits of eCommerce have been evident for years. It is a way to stabilize your business while gaining a competitive edge that will long outlast industry interruptions. Whether you’re looking to supplement in-person sales, expand your customer base, or enhance the shopping experience for existing customers, eCommerce can help you achieve your business goals with the click of a button.
How Did Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Manage 600% Growth During COVID?
With integrated eCommerce from TrueCommerce, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards had the tools and support they needed to do business in every direction.
About the Author: Craig Ross is the VP of Sales for the TrueCommerce eCommerce integration. He has been on the TrueCommerce team for over 20 years and has been involved with the evolution of eCommerce from its infancy. Craig lives in Redding, Connecticut, and in addition to eCommerce, he is passionate about cycling, motorsports, skiing, and music.