By now, everyone knows that ecommerce is the future of commerce. That’s not to say that brick-and-mortar stores will ever go away, but traditional is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. More and more local businesses have to be able to compete with larger national chain stores moving into their territory. If local businesses do not utilize the benefits of ecommerce, they will not stand a chance against the larger chain stores, who are utilizing ecommerce to increase their success. Being able to drive a lot of targeted traffic to these ecommerce sites becomes a major priority. Here is a list of reasons why it is important for local businesses to incorporate an ecommerce solution into their business model.
We Live in an On-Demand World
One advantage traditional business has had over ecommerce businesses is that ecommerce businesses had to rely on shipping to deliver the products to the customers. With traditional businesses, the products consumers wanted were only a walk or a short drive away. Most consumers want what they want as soon as possible, even if the ecommerce site charges a little less.
Amazon is poised to overcome this obstacle. Amazon has already begun to consume a good portion of the profits of local businesses by offer an amazingly extensive product offering and free 2nd day delivery. Amazon will soon open or has opened several local fulfillment centers across the country, which will allow them to offer same-day delivery. From a consumer’s perspective the ability to order an item in the morning and have it delivered in the afternoon provides the same immediate gratification as going to buy the item at a local business.
The way for local businesses to combat the Amazon invasion and takeover is to use ecommerce in the form of Google Shopping. Using Google Shopping will allow you to list your products on Google’s shopping engine for purchase. A customer will see your products in search results and be able to purchase them online for in-store pick-up.
Research Online – Buy Offline
Local businesses with an ecommerce website can and should allow customers to purchase online and come into the store to pick up their purchase. However, the most common form of online business model for local businesses is the Research Online – Buy Offline (ROBO) model. This means that consumers will research your products online and on your website and then come into the store to make their purchase or finalize the transaction.
Providing their customers the option of buying online with in-store pick-up, or providing a means for customers to research online and come into the store for purchase helps give local businesses a slight edge over the larger chain stores. A perfect example of a product that uses the ROBO model is tires. Can you buy tires online and have them shipped to your house? Yes, but the majority of people to not have the necessary tools to mount and balance a new set of tires, so they end up at a local tire shop for the installation service. The best business model for a tire business is to allow customers to research tires online and then come into the shop to complete the transaction.
The internet is going mobile. By 2014, the majority of internet users will access the internet through a mobile device, rather than through a PC. Now is the time to make sure that your eCommerce website is mobile ready and mobile optimized. When local customers search for your products and services on their mobile device, they will tend to use and potentially buy from the website that provides them with the most mobile ready experience. Imagine this … With an eCommerce enabled mobile site, you literally could allow someone to research your products, make a purchase or reserve a product on their smartphone on the way to your store, and then the customer could pick up the item moments later, when they arrive. That is about as on-demand and hassle-free a shopping experience as you will ever find.
The benefits of a mobile website do not stop there. In almost every smartphone operating system, the search feature and the map application are connected. When a person does a search on their mobile device, the results contain a listing of local businesses. When a person clicks on your business from the search results on their mobile device, the mobile version of your website should include a link to your location on a map. The user will be taken immediately to their map application to discover where your business is located and the best driving route to get there.
Local businesses need eCommerce to survive. However, the face of eCommerce is moving towards on-demand, immediate delivery, researching online and buying offline, and using mobile devices to access the internet. The key to success is to not only embrace eCommerce, but to also embrace the direction, in which eCommerce is heading.