Last year, as people were largely confined to their homes as a result of the pandemic, e-Commerce soared to heights that were once unimaginable. According to Statista, more than 2 billion people across the world paid for something in an online setting, adding up to a whopping $4.2 trillion. That’s trillion, with a T.
When you see numbers like that, it becomes clear that a digital presence for your business isn’t just a bonus or some kind of luxury; it’s the only way to ensure your business is built to succeed for years to come.
e-Commerce will only continue to grow as the last few physical holdouts invest seriously in their own internet infrastructure. And the great thing is, as e-Commerce becomes more common, it’s also becoming more democratic.
While there’s certainly a time and a place to set up shop on Amazon Marketplace, eBay, or any other seller that provides an outlet for third-party vendors, it’s easier than ever to do business on your own terms. You can build your own store, one that’s not reliant on anyone else, even the traditional e-Commerce providers that have had a monopoly on digital storefronts for so long.
A digital foundation is crucial for your business, and it’s easier than ever to get started. Let’s explore why that is and how you can put e-Commerce to work for your business in a way that makes sense for you.
The Cost Is Lower Than Ever
No matter your business, the process of turning your commerce into e-Commerce is cheaper than it’s ever been.
Any number of providers offer online storefronts that are ready to go right out of the box. Most let you immediately start plugging in details of your products, enter in your shipping and tax parameters, and open your online marketplace for the world to see.
And the best part is, thanks to the advent of headless e-Commerce, you’re not reliant on a single vendor for all your needs. You can pick and choose the features that work best for your business, then tie them all together with APIs that transfer data seamlessly.
Solutions range from straightforward consumer-grade platforms to full-scale enterprise software that lets you create thousands of products and streamline every step of the process. And launching an online shop is a minimal cost in comparison to opening a physical retail location.
Online marketplaces are cheaper than ever, at a time when more people are shopping online than ever. Meanwhile, supply chain issues, escalating rent, and inflation have made the launch of a physical location more expensive than ever.
Looked at in this way, a digital-first framework is a no-brainer.
Physical Locations Are Increasingly Unnecessary
This leads right into another crucial point: physical locations simply aren’t a must-have anymore.
Spurred on by the pandemic, more and more businesses have gone completely online. Some are by choice, while others were forced into the situation by circumstances outside their control.
Think about the impact of COVID-19 on retail storefronts, and the chaos the pandemic created for business owners whose customers were no longer allowed to legally enter the premises. They were forced to pivot to an online-first model to save their business.
Some establishments elected to keep their physical stores and supplement them with an online marketplace, while others converted these into de facto warehouses for goods purchased online. It’s not uncommon to see former retail storefronts no longer let individuals in to shop; instead, e-commerce and curbside pickup are the only options available.
When exclusively physical retailers don’t even use their storefront to do business anymore, you know we’re living in a brave new world. The cost of retail locations continues to rise while e-Commerce costs continue to decline, and many savvy business people are realizing that the physical costs simply aren’t worth it.
For businesses with a physical footprint, you’re stuck catering to specific geography, and you’re at the whims of operating hours and foot traffic (not to mention landlords). But e-Commerce opens up your business to the world. You’re not limited to any one spot, and you can be open 24/7, confident in your ability to fulfill orders wherever and however they may arrive.
A Digital Foundation Is a Tool for Your Marketing Team
How do you learn about a business? If it’s a company you’ve never bought something from before, you probably saw an ad on Instagram, an influencer discussing it, or saw it featured elsewhere online. In all likelihood, those placements probably led you directly to a page where you could buy the product or service immediately.
In this way, a digital foundation is a boon for your marketing efforts. Because your sales aren’t tied exclusively to a physical location, you can cut out the process of an individual driving to your business. Instead, if they see an ad for a product they like, they can immediately make a purchase.
Nowadays, most people are Googling you and visiting your website or social media channels to find out more about your brand before they ever visit your physical location. So why not eliminate a step and give them the chance to buy your fantastic goods and services where they’re already searching?
Without a digital-first mindset, it’s impossible to make the most of your advertising dollars. But when you really invest in your online presence, you quickly see the difference. Sales increase, friction decreases, and the customer service experience become seamless.
What’s more, when people are happy with their purchases, they can become veritable brand ambassadors, leaving reviews and offering testimonials that then cause others to seek out your storefront.
As with e-Commerce itself, marketing in the digital space is quick and relatively low-cost in comparison with old-fashioned media such as billboards and radio ads. Plus, thanks to sectors like paid search, social ads, and other forms of advanced targeting, you’re much more likely to reach the audience who’s actually interested in your product, rather than being forced to pay for views from people who aren’t your target demographic.
People Will Question Your Legitimacy Without A Substantial Digital Presence
And if you don’t have a digital foundation or you offer a subpar experience? The average consumer in today’s marketplace will wonder if this lack of foresight speaks ill of your overall brand.
The modern consumer is more discerning than ever, especially younger adults. If they can’t purchase something from an online storefront, they’re going to immediately wonder why not. Nine times out of ten, they’ll simply move on to a competitor or forget what drew them to the business in the first place.
A digital foundation is just that: a foundation. Without one, there’s no entry point for consumers to engage with your organization. It’s like a skyscraper with no first floor and no elevators, just an empty atrium held up by concrete pillars.
And nobody would want to walk into a skyscraper with no first floor.
Data-Driven Business Strategy
Finally, there’s one more thing you get with a digital foundation: data.
Thanks to automation and streamlined business operations, online storefronts provide you with data you can use to make changes to your short- and long-term strategy. You can see what products and services sell well and which ones don’t, then make adjustments as necessary.
Sometimes, that means tweaking prices in order to land on just the right sweet spot that makes the purchaser feel like they’re getting a good deal while you get a hefty return on your investment. Other times it might mean getting rid of products and services entirely and focusing instead on the things that drive the most revenue.
You can even use data to make adjustments to your operations themselves. Let’s say that nearly a quarter of the visitors to your website leave items in the cart and then click away to another webpage. Could there be something negative about the front-end user experience? You might be able to correct it and increase that follow-through rate. Or maybe you can win back customers by creating an automation program that emails those people asking if they’d like to reconsider.
If you use data the right way, you can increase your margins and gain new customers than would otherwise be possible. The level of data visibility afforded by e-Commerce is unprecedented, and it can allow you to scale your business to new heights.
Apply Some Digital Foundation
I want you to take a second and think, really think, if it’s impossible for your business to have a digital foundation, or if it just seems that way because of tradition. So many barriers have been broken down, and more companies are growing wise to the possibilities every day.
Car dealerships that let you select your car care package and services and pay all at once, no hassle or negotiations. Boutique brands are unique to a certain city or state that now ship all over the world, competing and even beating out high-end labels. Travel experiences that can be compared and booked by customers in one easy spot, free of the endless pain of airline ticketing sites and a million browser tabs each open to a different rental car homepage.
No matter your business, it can flourish with a digital foundation. If you’re interested in getting started, then let’s talk about how Aleran can help you get there. With a variety of e-Commerce solutions to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes, we can help you make the digital leap or expand your efforts further than ever before.