E-commerce, activities that relate to the buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet, is becoming essential for small business. In the past few years, the e-commerce economy has grown rapidly, and is expected to grow further for years to come. In fact, in 2014, web sales in the United States exceeded $300 billion for the first time, and remained strong in 2015 totalling $341.7 billion for the year.
Furthermore, studies show that online shopping increases dramatically during the holidays, with over 60 percent of U.S. shoppers reporting they make the majority of their purchases online during this time of the year. E-commerce also helps level the playing field for small businesses when it comes to competing with big businesses, as a small business’ site can attract potential customers 24 hours a day and enable you to sell your products to anyone, anywhere in the world. Online storefronts draw Internet users in droves, and any small business that does not offer e-commerce needs to start now to take advantage of the following three benefits:
No. 1: Sheer numbers. The total number of online shoppers in the U.S. is expected to exceed 215 million by 2018. Additionally, 80 percent of Internet users have purchased something online at least once, while 50 percent have made a purchase more than once. Small businesses that do not offer e-commerce should also be aware that 71 percent of shoppers believe they will find better deals online, as opposed to shopping in brick-and-mortars. Keep in mind that when free shipping is involved, 58 percent of consumers report they are willing to add items to their virtual shopping carts to meet the free-shipping obligation.
No. 2: Increased sales and customers. By selling products and/or services via a cyber-storefront, small businesses can drive traffic to their websites from search engines. Online customers have a tendency to recommend businesses to their friends and family on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., which can attract a wealth of new customers. Additionally, it is possible to identify repeat customers and monitor their online buying patterns, and tailor marketing strategies to fit said behavior. Keep in mind that the revenue of a business that opts for e-commerce can increase by up to 250%.
No. 3: Decreased costs. Web-based management systems allow small businesses to automate inventory management, which saves on operational costs and money on personnel as checkout, payments and delivery are fully automated. E-commerce also saves money on advertising and marketing. Furthermore, the start-up cost for establishing an e-commerce operation is substantially less than expanding a business with another brick-and-mortar store.