Think local, think global

on Saturday, 21 November 2009. Posted in N21 Business Blog

 


The beauty of the Internet is that it allows a business to be both a local and a global player.  Even small businesses can compete in the new global market, with a little investment, creativity and marketing flair.

The Internet will account for a staggering £40 billion of spending on goods and services in the UK in 2010, with 49% of the UK population now shopping online.

 


Not surprisingly this is continuing to take its toll on local retailers. Over the past year, the highest number of retail business closures has been bookshops and florists and it is not difficult to understand why, although online sales have grown significantly in grocery, fashion, electrical, DIY and all entertainment markets.

At the same time, there is nothing to stop more local retailers selling online, especially if they are selling unusual or niche products or services which can’t be readily found on every high street.

Pounds, The Brassware Shop and Minskys are all examples of local retailers who are selling both locally and online.

So how do you go about setting up a transactional website?

There is plenty of information available online on how to set up an online ‘shop’. There is a lot to consider and can be daunting for a sole trader, as customer service and order fulfilment is a 24/7 business and can’t be switched off for two weeks while you are lolling on a beach somewhere, although it is possible to out-source nearly every aspect of the operation, including warehousing and shipping, although naturally this reduces your margins.

The most useful guide on the mechanics of setting up an e-commerce website uncovered during the research for this briefing is produced by Business Link, which you can go to, using this link.


Whilst you may well have be a regular online shopper, you probably go through the buying process on auto-pilot, iso if you are considering setting up a transactional website, it is extremely useful to do some experimental online shopping and browsing to look afresh at what works and doesn’t work. Especially annoying are sites which are clunky, where you get so frustrated that you may even abandon the transaction.


To get you started, here are Ten Easy Tips to Successful Internet Business, compiled by a useful website www.startupcommunity.co.uk


1. Form a plan of action
- DEcide where you want your company to be in six months, two years and five years from now. Try to be realistic, unless you have a huge advertising / marketing budget, sales will probably grow quite modestly to begin with.

 


2. Identify your target market - Who is going to buy your products? Do they use the internet? How much money on average do they spend on this type of product? Research is the key to the foundations of your business and its ultimate success.


3. Identify suppliers - Establish where and who you will source your products from. It might seem simple, but if costs start to spiral, you’re eating into any potential profit. Consider what your products cost. What price will they sell for and what other fulfillment costs will you incur?

4. Test your market on eBay - Before building a complete retail environment test your product sales on eBay to make sure your strategy works (its cheap).

5. Decide on your e-commerce infrastructure - Research and decide what e-commerce software is best suited for your requirements and if necessary, decide who to register and host your domain with. Once you have set-up your business you need to start considering how you can accurately track money in, money out as well as VAT. You’ll also need to start to manage contacts and customer, keep records of any sales quotations, invoices payments and receipts. Finally make sure your site is secure!

6. Analyse your competitors - Who are your main competitors? How can you create a competitive edge and offer potential customers something that they can’t?

7. Constantly re-analyse your business model - (How, What, When, Who & Why) Ask yourself as many questions about your business as possible and then answer them all in your business plan. Ask friends and family to be objective about your proposed business, take any concerns or criticism on board and provide answers in your business plan.

8. Analyse your site for weaknesses - Do all the procedures work? Are there any broken links? Are your products well categorised and easy to find? Is your site easy to navigate? Is your site atheistically pleasing? These are all potential reasons why your site may not convert visitors into sales – approach your site as if you were the customer.

9. Experiment with various on-line marketing techniques - Your traffic building techniques will become an ongoing task but you need to decide and plan the techniques you intend to use to build traffic momentum to your new on-line venture.

10. Choose your payment gateway - Research which payment gateway is best suited to take your credit card receipts.

 

We are interested in hearing about other local businesses who are using the Internet not just as a marketing tool but as a shop window and ‘cash desk’.


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The beauty of the Internet is that it allows a business to be both a local and a global player. Even small businesses can compete in the new global market, with a little investment, creativity and marketing flair.

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