The capabilities of ecommerce are rapidly expanding among a world of isolation, but the online shopping revolution has been building for years before this latest surge, and it certainly won’t fizzle out now that physical businesses are beginning to reopen.
Even back in 2017 – far before the COVID-19 crisis began – NASDAQ was estimating that 95 percent of sales would be made through online sales by 2040, demonstrating a trend that has been building for a while as customer attitudes and preferences have evolves. With this data available, it is surprising how many business owners choose to ignore the potential of ecommerce for their businesses, instead deciding against it because they think it’s not conducive with their industry, too expensive to operate, or a logistical nightmare waiting to happen.
For all of these concerns, however, the benefits of building a successful ecommerce site far outweigh the potential headaches. As it becomes more difficult to get customers to come to you, it is becoming more and more important to meet them where they are – and more than ever, that means being online.
Online Sales Reaching New Frontiers
Despite the tides in shopping quickly turning toward online platforms, a survey done last year by Visual Objects reported that a shocking 40 percent of small businesses do not even have a website. In this day and age, there isn’t much of an excuse for this – an online presence is essential today, and a functional, good-looking website can be made quickly and inexpensively.
Now, in the light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, 40 percent of small businesses lacking a website is an even greater cause for concern. However, even for the 60 percent of businesses that are online in some way, there’s a good chance they’re not making use of the ecommerce capabilities of their industry.
Ecommerce capabilities are only just being explored in some major industries, and it can be difficult to know how to approach presenting an online shopping experience to someone not looking for tangible products like clothing, books or electronics. For a look at how that adjustment can work, let’s explore two examples of major industries that have been recently made a successful expansion into the world of online selling – grocery and auto sales.
Despite Amazon having a delivery service since 2007, the grocery industry didn’t quite take off on ecommerce until after Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market in 2017. After the takeover, there was a surge in online grocery orders.
According to a 2019 survey conducted by Coresight Research, over 38 percent of Americans have ordered their groceries online at least once throughout the year, a 23 percent increase from its 2018 survey.
And, as with everything else, along with the increased demand came more competition. This led to the development of multiple options for grocery delivery including other third-party providers such as Postmates and Instacart. It has also forced other traditional retailers to compete, as we see with investment in online grocery ordering and delivery by companies like Walmart, Target and others.
Practical Ecommerce recently reported that although Carvana, an online used car dealer that utilizes vehicle delivery and vending machine options, lost around $280 million in 2019, some experts believe they are laying the groundwork for automotive ecommerce in the traditionally face-to-face auto industry.
Despite the overall losses, Carvana raised almost $4 billion in revenue in that period, proving that there is a market for online sales of cars and trucks. This has caused speculation that the short-term financial losses may not matter to Carvana, as it is instead focused on defining the operations of ecommerce in the auto industry, much how Amazon wrote the rulebook on general ecommerce in the 2000s.
Going Online Is Less Expensive Than You Think
Another misconception about ecommerce is that it costs a ton to operate with shipping, processing fees and more adding up.
While there are fees to connect with a payment vendor to accept credit/debit cards or other online payment options like Paypal or Venmo, these can be fairly low. You may even be able to roll in costs with the payment vendor you already use for card transactions in your physical store. Plus, being able to take payment online opens a new channel for revenue – often more than worth the added cost.
However, if your business can’t afford to build or maintain a new ecommerce website, the other options to sell online continue to grow. Search Engine Journal recently reported that Facebook and Instagram have started to allow businesses to sell their products directly from their social media accounts, an option that does not require a standalone site. There are similar options for small-scale vending through providers like Etsy or the Amazon platform, where products can be listed even without a full ecommerce website.
In addition to processing fees, the cost and hassle of shipping is often another deterrent for business owners when considering whether or not to add ecommerce. For service vendors, this is obviously not an issue, but for those offering products, options like in-store pickup bypass the need for shipping altogether. It also provides an opportunity for foot traffic to your business – as health conditions allow – which can lead to further sales or even building that client relationship.
Off-Hours Sales Rep
But what if you don’t sell products, but services? Surely there’s no point in looking into ecommerce, right?
Wrong. There are many easily accessible online services that allow customers to book and pay for appointments through an ecommerce site. Many of these tools are also simple to configure to integrate seamlessly with existing scheduling tools used for client management.
Adding online sales and booking functionality to your existing appointment management methods also gives you greater access to potential customers. With ecommerce integrated into your service business website, it can make sales at any time – day or night. While you may be great over the phone, there’s a good chance you won’t be answering them at 3 a.m. on a random Tuesday when Sally Q. Random sees a mouse in her pantry and wants to schedule an exterminator ASAP. Ecommerce lets you take that appointment, even when you’re not actively manning the phone lines.
We Know E-Commerce
Although it’s something you should be doing, we understand that building online sales capability isn’t a simple process, and we’re here to help if you need us. At JFG, we know what it takes to build and maintain a successful ecommerce site, no matter what industry you’re in. Customers are moving online – make sure your business is there to meet them.