Saturday, 13 December 2014

Small and Micro Businesses: Expand your Market with E-Commerce

By Dr. Cheryl Cottle 

Many small and micro businesses that deal exclusively with unique, one-of-a-kind, limited editions should be thinking about whether they should expand their exclusive business by going online. It is a great way to expand your market. With the advent of the internet, the world has the ability to go online and connect with places and people worldwide. You can now look to the internet to take your products and services to a larger and global market. Gone are the days when you worked from your humble home in a small village in what is often called, third world countries or the underdeveloped world. You can move your business from local to an international market in the twinkle of an eye.

If you are a creative entrepreneur, and your product is art or craft
painting, sculpture, carving, fabric creation, creation of knitwear, music, clothing designs, and or jewellery making, you no longer need the middle man, or business agent to take your product to the outside world. You no longer need them to be your eyes and voice to showcase your creations. You can do that now. You can now make a direct connection with your buyers, both wholesale buyers and retailers. How nice would it be to get in direct contact with your retailers?

Many wonder if this approach to selling will reduce the value of their product in the eyes of their clients. The answer is no. What going online means is that you are now taking your business to a wider target audience. It means that you are now opening up what you do to others who will get a chance to see what you do, appreciate what you do and buy what you produce. It will also mean that you now have the opportunity to leverage the value of what you do. You now have a larger market; your would-be customers are no longer local but also international.

Going e-commerce does not mean that you are closing your “brick and mortar” store or your home-based store or work space. It means that it is an extension of your business or an enlargement of your marketing plan. E-commerce simply means using a website with a shopping cart to enable your customers the ability to buy from you online. 

E-commerce provides you with the opportunity to increase your market and take it before an international audience. It creates the opportunity to move from your mini local market to a macro market. However with this type of marketing, there are additional changes that will incur on your production, manufacturing, marketing, customer service, machinery and equipment, computer technology, shipping and handling and other key operational processes within your business or company. For micro business owners this can be a great shift a massive change that requires a lot of thought, but if implemented will see great advancement and growth and certainly a great return on your investment. In some cases it will require an additional workforce to manage each operation as you expand. 

Things that you will need in going e-commerce: 
  • An e-commerce website will have to be designed and constructed. 
  • You can self-design and construct your own website if you have the skills to do so 
  • Access an outside web designer to translate what you have in mind with sound design techniques to come up with an e-commerce site that meets your needs. 
  • Register a domain name 
  • Decide which web hosting company to host your website 
  • Think about the design features for your website 
  •  Determine which products you will display 
  • Generate your product description 
  • Product Photography 
  • Select a shopping cart 
  • Establish a merchant account 
  • Establish policies (including, purchasing, customer services, shipping and handling, etc.) 
  • Shipping and handling which shipping provider will you use to facilitate your customer’s order Establish a customer service unit to deal with customer-related issues.

This article was first written in 2010 by Dr. Cheryl Cottle and it was been modified for this publication.

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