Online retail has been generating something of a buzz recently. Two weeks ago China celebrated 'Singles Day', a holiday dedicated to massive discounts and online shopping which sees massive internet-based sales every year. This year, the e-commerce giant, Alibaba (China's answer to Amazon), saw sales worth $14 billion in just 24 hours. 'Black Friday', 27 November, is set to see a high volume of sales in both the US and the UK. During 'Black Friday' in the UK last year an estimated 8.5 million online transactions took place. These grand figures are backed up by a steady rise in the year-on-year share of retail sales which take place online, in the UK it's predicted to be 15% this year. Clearly online retail is big business. What's more, these aren't just for corporate giants, there are extremely lucrative opportunities for companies of all sizes. Today, we thought we'd give you a quick guide to the benefits of creating an online store (or using sites like Amazon) to get your products out into the world and to getting the most out of your online operations.
If you're looking to venture into new markets then this is the way to start out. With no need to establish an on-the-ground presence, there's little in the way of overhead costs to get in the way of you spreading your market reach. Particularly in the EFTA, this is an extremely attractive option and can help you sample demand in different regions and lay groundwork in terms of brand recognition and customer base before you fully commit to major operations abroad.
Keeping up with the competition
In the UK, over 50% of shoppers make use of online retailers. If you're brand isn't available online then you're losing out on a potentially huge number of customers who will simply look elsewhere. Being online isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.
Access to rapid feedback and ratings
This may not immediately seem like a particularly attractive element of online retailing but actually it can be extremely useful. Many online retailers, such as Amazon, allow their users to comment on and rate products. While this might seem a bit daunting, this feedback means that you can isolate any problems and remedy them as quickly as possible. It also lets you engage with dissatisfied customers and, hopefully, improve their experience of your brand.
'Dos' and 'Don'ts'
As with any area of business, there are risks as well as benefits awaiting those who venture into the world of online retail. Here are just a few of them.
Emphasise brand identity and use well-targeted advertising
This will ensure high levels of traffic to your product's page and help distinguish your it from the potentially large number of alternatives available online. Creating a buzz around your product can also be extremely advantageous; marketing campaigns and discount sales can be a good way to do this.
Take issues such as delivery costs and customs issues into account
It almost goes without saying that, if you're selling abroad from the UK, that you need to make sure that shipping costs don't eat into your profits. Also, particularly if you're selling outside of the EFTA, you need to make sure that you comply with any customs duties and market regulations that may be applicable in the region that you're selling to.
Make sure to respond to customer feedback and address issues
A bad reputation can spread like wildfire on the internet and bad reviews below the product you're trying to sell don't look good. Make sure you respond to customer complaints quickly and that you do your best to mend any damaged relations.
Rely on discount sales
Although, as we've seen, online discounts can generate a huge volume of transactions, this isn't always the best course of action. It may reduce the demand for your product for the rest of the year and hefty discounts can eat into your profit margin. It's worth noting that many UK retailers are moving away from 'Black Friday' this year because of this. Carefully consider your product and client base before entering into a sale. Don't sell at a discount what you could sell at full price.
Over-focus on online sales
For many businesses and shoppers, e-commerce is only a part of their retail experiences. Make sure not to neglect other sales opportunities elsewhere and try to make sure that your online business complements, rather than takes business from, your physical sales.
That's it from us this week. We've only scratched the surface of the topic but we hope it's helped give you an insight into some of the retail opportunities available out there on the world wide web. If you're interested in setting up an online retail presence or improving the appearance of your site, please get in touch with us and we'll be happy to give you a quote.