Perhaps the question might be better phrased as, ‘What will happen to me if I don’t embrace e-commerce?’ Whilst you won’t lose customers overnight, or immediately collapse in a heap of debt, the answer is that, eventually, you are likely to be left, behind. Other businesses that are in competition with yours will be moving forward, whilst you stand still. You may be in a business where the notion of standing still is not a particular problem. It may, for example, be a business with an established reputation and way of doing things, a business where stability and personal contact is important. Nevertheless, if your competitors continue to move forward and you continue to stand still, then it is inevitable that you will either lose customers to them or have to watch while they gain customers that could have been yours because they provide an enhanced service. You should look at your own operations and see exactly where each could benefit from the use of new technology such as mobile communications, electronic data interchange (EDI), the World Wide Web or other advances.
The key thing about e-commerce and online home based business is that it provides an extra means of marketing or sales, whilst taking nothing away from the existing nature of the business. It is an additional benefit, obtainable for a reasonably low outlay, not a way of doing business that has to replace what you already do well. The mistake is to think that the traditional part (and character) of your business would not be able to survive if you had an e-commerce element to your business. It will not only survive, but be enhanced by the e-commerce element.
Even as a new business, you have the opportunity to set up quite cheaply (it can be much less expensive to set up a ‘virtual’ business than a ‘real’ one) and to try out your products or ideas on potential customers. Take no notice of the dot.com failures -who suffered from an excess of marketing and advertising expenditure combined with over-high expectations – and start off quietly and small.
What e-commerce offers your business is the chance to compete with competitor businesses regardless of their size and influence. Your web site fits onto the same size screen as that of the Coca-Cola Corporation or Esso. Whatever extra resources such companies can throw at their e-commerce arms, you have the opportunity to compete – in this medium at least – on a playing field that is virtually level. E-commerce offers you the chance to expand your customer base by introducing them to new products or services, by ‘selling up’ to them – adding value to enhance their dealings with your business. Not only can you introduce new lines, you can also use your web site for market research -asking for opinions, test marketing, trialling – at a fraction of the normal cost and with a much faster response time.
E-commerce can also take over some of the jobs which you or your staff do – payments, deliveries and even enquiries can be dealt with – leaving you free to develop your business creatively. And of course you can tap into the ever-expanding global market place.
Growth in global markets:
More than ten million new users, on average, connect to the Internet every month. This sort of growth is likely to continue until virtually everyone in the world has Internet access, creating a truly global market which will amount to a staggering size of 200 million-plus people. Penetration in some countries is already reaching over 50 per cent, while others are not far behind. A further expansion is predicted to take place once access to the Internet no longer relies on a personal computer. Once the Internet is available through television (via a cable or satellite connection), manufacturers predict a further explosion of users. What will you need in order to be able to reach this vast market?