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March 22 2017

Would an online shop be of benefit to your business?

For a business to grow, it needs to keep existing customers, and reach new ones. There is an overwhelming trend towards online shopping, so if your business sells products (as opposed to services), then the short answer to this question is 'yes' - you probably should have an online shop.

Of course the longer answer is never quite so straightforward. Whether its a good idea to invest in developing and maintaining an ecommerce website depends on a whole array of factors, and its a decision that only someone with a deep understanding of your business, your products or services, your customers, and your competitors can take. 

ECommerce Ready Products & Services 

Our usual approach is to start from a customer's perspective. If you offer complex products or services, prospective customers may be unlikely to shop online. Our own services are a good example - whilst you can buy a website 'off the shelf', the very nature of the bespoke graphic design, web design and digital marketing services that we offer make our services unsuitable for an ecommerce site - customers need to discuss their requirements with us in depth, and no two 'products' that we sell are the same. 

However, if your products or services (or at least some of them) come in standard units or packages, and have standardised pricing, then an ecommerce platform is worth considering further.

Existing Customers Shopping Online

If you don't have an online shop then it follows that your existing customers are happy to shop at your physical premises. If your business is doing well, it can be tempting to assume that you just need to keep doing what you are doing.

However, even for existing customers, an ecommerce option can be extremely powerful in improving their customer experience and deepening loyalty. An online shop need not be a replacement for visiting your physical location - existing customers are most likely to welcome a 'hybrid' approach. 

You may try to visit your local butcher once a week, but in a busy week you resort to ordering your meat from a large supermarket, along with the rest of your online grocery shopping. An ecommerce shop is always open - so if your butcher had an ecommerce site where you could easily browse this week's offers at 10pm and place your order for quick collection, he'd probably retain more of your custom.

New Customers Shopping Online

For some businesses, the move to an online shop broadens their potential reach by hundreds or thousands of miles. But even if your products or services require your customers to be physically present at the point of consumption e.g. to attend an event, or receive a beauty treatment, or are difficult to ship due to their size or weight, the ability to find, select and pay for a product on your ecommerce site could lead to a significant growth in your customer base. 

With an ecommerce website, potential new customers can find you from the comfort of their sofa, or from their desk at work, and importantly, they can make their purchase decision without having to break their journey by calling, emailing or visiting your premises. 

ECommerce Platforms

Ironically, an ecommerce shop is one of those things you really shouldn't buy online! There are lots of different options for ecommerce platforms and we have experience of working with many of them, including Shopify, Magento, FoxyCart and WooCommerce. They all have different strengths, offer a huge array of different plug-ins and require varying levels of bespoke development depending on your ecommerce requirements (product ranges, system integrations, payment options etc).

If you are interested in developing an ecommerce solution for your business, or have an existing online shop that needs an overhaul, drop us a line or give us a call and we'll be happy to discuss your requirements and options.