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Is ECommerce Right for Our Business?

The Internet has emerged as a cost-effective and reliable medium for performing online business transactions. More and more companies are now adopting this medium for procuring their goods. E-procurement advantages primarily include saving money, time, and extra workload normally associated with paper works. The conventional procurement process usually involves lots of paper processing, which consumes a large amount of time and money. In some instances, the processing cost has been reduced by as much as 85%.

If your business features products or services for sale, undoubtedly the topic of eCommerce has come up. What is eCommerce? Literally defined as the conduct of financial transactions by electronic means, it refers to purchases made over the Internet. There are popular slang terms such as ebusiness, click and mortar, dotcom, cyber-mall and multiple spellings (eCommerce, e-commerce, E-Commerce), but they are all basically the same thing. Don t let the different phrases confuse you, it all comes back to the same principle: selling online.

So how do you know if selling online will be beneficial for your business? There are a few basic questions that can help you with this decision. First and foremost, can you afford to develop a professional eCommerce storefront on your Web site? You ve heard the phrase if you can t do it right, it s not worth doing at all . This is especially true in regards to eCommerce because people will not purchase from your Web site if it looks amateur and is poorly done.

Custom developed eCommerce sites can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but pre-built shopping cart solutions such as WebSolutions Marketplace can provide your business with a professional eCommerce storefront for a fraction of the cost. Another benefit of a program like this is whereas a Yahoo or eBay store may be less expensive to get going, it s going to be less customizable, and as your business grows, you ll outgrow the site and need to start over again. An option like the Marketplace provides a great starting place with unlimited building potential and growth.

After the cost issue is addressed, you need to evaluate the potential of selling your product or service online. Are any of your competitors selling online? If not, have a brainstorming session and try to think of any logical reasons why they aren t. Could it be that they tried and failed or is it that they just haven t thought about selling online yet? One key to remember is that once you make the decision to sell online, your product and pricing is now available 24/7 to anyone that stumbles upon your site.

After evaluating your competitor s Web sites, you need to look at your product line and determine your target audience. Who buys from your now? Are you selling to businesses or individuals? If the answer is businesses, are they generally companies that are active on the Internet or businesses that don t rely on the Web as much (such as mechanics, restaurants, etc.). If the answer is individuals, what demographic(s) are you advertising your products or services to? You need to be sure that the people you want purchasing your product have access to the Internet and are willing to shop online. Few businesses realize that over 80% of the world s Internet access speed is still dial-up, so loading huge catalogs, Flash files, and large graphics will deter a prospect from purchasing.

Taking the next step of selling online is a big decision for your business and isn t to be taken lightly. There is significant cost and risk involved, but there is also significant reward waiting to be had. Be sure to consult with your Web developer to find out which options are available to you and do your research ahead of time. Not every eCommerce site is profitable, but if you prepare, there s no reason yours can t be.

Finally, you need to determine how you can make your business stand out from all the rest. If you re selling copier supplies, why is someone going to come to your site versus the other millions of copier supply Web sites? Are you going to sell based on price, location, quantity, quality of service? Are you going to provide online shipment tracking, account management, wish lists, real-time credit card authorization and processing, and other advanced eCommerce applications to make your site more professional? These are all issues that need to be addressed before you start designing your first product page.

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