by SCORE www.score.org
Small businesses on the Internet are racing up beside large multi-national corporations on the information superhighway and giving them quite a scare. On the Internet a small business like can compete with, and even surpass, large national firms.
But can all businesses profit online? The best selling products online appeal to the technology savvy or a wide geographic audience. They are computer related items, specialty items difficult to locate elsewhere, or items that can be purchased less expensively over the Internet.
E-Commerce Lowers Business Costs
A global business on the Internet does not require bricks and mortar or staff around the world, just a Web site and perhaps one central warehouse. An e-commerce (electronic commerce) Web site costs about $600 a month. Generally, the cost of the site is about 8 percent of that business’ revenues. Because business transactions are primarily handled electronically, there is no need for a large sales staff. The virtual storefront also minimizes theft, damage, or breakage of the inventory.
E-Commerce Is Accessible Anywhere, Anytime
The audience on the Internet is global. Consumers all over the world are shopping online. A Web site can be multi-lingual, allowing visitors to choose their language upon entering a site. When it is 3:00 am here, a customer in Sweden, where it is 10:00 am, can make a purchase. A business on-line is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Customers can shop at their convenience. The cash register is open all day and night, even while the business owner is sleeping.
E-Commerce Strengthens Customer Service
A Web site allows a business to address its customers on a personal level. The computer can recognize and greet repeat shoppers.
For example, when Mr. Smith, a frequent buyer of books on the Civil War, logs onto "booksale.com" a message could read, "Welcome back Mr. Smith! Check out our new book on The Civil War." The business owner can also follow up with Mr. Smith by sending him a catalogue of Civil War books. The computer can track customer’s buying trends so the business owner can market accordingly.
E-Commerce Develops Customer Loyalty
How often do you learn all about a business upon entering a store? How often do you walk away with a free sample? A Web site allows businesses the opportunity to give customers information about their company while offering something of value.
For example, a company selling cooking utensils could offer the visitor recipes, a software company could provide interesting articles about the industry, a music store could offer sound bites of new music. By reading about the history and background of a company, the customer feels they have chatted with the owner. Personalizing a company creates customer loyalty. A Web site is soft sell. It gives the business an opportunity to market itself while gently leading the audience to purchase its products.