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eCommerce and the role it plays in domestic and international trade
eCommerce is an abbreviation for electronic commerce; commerce is based on the theory of exchange which really is marketing which should ultimately lead to sales. Therefore if you are using your website to do commerce, you are an eCommerce participant. You may be a service provider, manufacturer or virtual non-tangible product like a software developer, and trade using eCommerce. The smart websites choose to accept payment directly on their website. Think about it, they have just closed in the point of sale.
What are the industry statistics showing? Techcrunch.com reported that Black Friday sales alone for 2016 resulted in $3 Billion, resulting in a 21.6% increase from 2015. $1 Billion of the total sales came from mobile devices, which means, make sure your eCommerce strategy includes having an online store, which is geared towards mobile devices such as smartphones and most importantly tablets. The report reveals how tablets were the favorite for consumers as oppose to smartphones, with some opting to buy using desktop computers. For a full review on the article, click HERE
President-Elect Donald Trump with his pledge to bring back manufacturing to the USA with Twitter storms on increasing tariffs has turned heads, rattled CEO’s to think about manufacturing locally and just recently in January 2017, sparked a visit from Jack Ma, Founder of AliBaba.com. Not sure why this breaking news now but Jack Ma is advocating and encouraging sales of USA made products to China using eCommerce i.e. Alibaba, with a goal to create 1 million jobs domestically. China has for years used Amazon and eBay to sell direct to consumers in the USA, with mind boggling low pricing and in some cases free shipping. It makes perfect sense for the USA to think about using eCommerce to sell direct to international countries.
Two key macro factors, sales yielding billions of dollars and billionaires jumping on this shift in paradigm. This in itself is very telling that eCommerce plays a significant role in trade going forward. It really is the future for exports from the USA to the rest of the world. It is also a great tool to get conservative American business owners to venture out and sell interstate domestically. The encouraging fact is that it applies to a wide range of sectors from Agriculture, Food, Electronics, Technology, Consumer Goods and many more. Think about within 6-8 weeks, you could be selling from California to Canada or from California to Mexico and just like that you are now trading internationally! And if you have never sold interstate, now is your chance to organically grow your business domestically.
Websites are perceived to be a commodity a cutthroat industry with thousands of website design and development companies dotted around the globe. Be very careful with whom you select on your website design and development team and think about YOUR sustainable investment. A $500 website may not be your best solution to yield a $1 Mill return on revenue. When mapping out your website, look at the websites that win business i.e. produce sales, leads or retainers. Your website is the eCommerce platform, your number sales and marketing ambassador for your business. Therefore, if you go the cheap route, you may not be presenting your brand, your products at the value it is meant to yield.
Website design must always start with a sales and marketing strategy. Many business owners forget the need to understand the commercial game plan before sketching out the website site map and design. User interface, user experience are all critical issues.
Generally speaking marketing strategy consists of target marketing, competitor reviews, branding, communication and the integration of the marketing mix: product, price, place and promotion. Being eCommerce the focus has to be how to sell, how to entice and how to close a sale on the website. Doing this without fully understanding what your competitors are doing alongside the essentials of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a recipe for disaster. So priority one get a strategic marketing plan for your eCommerce website. Keep it simple, you are not writing a thesis for your MBA program. At Iffel it is called a Functional Marketing Plan (FMP) – it has to be factual, fluid and actionable. To find out more, check in with me @hemadey on Twitter.
Most people think Amazon was built from nothing, looks easy and they just sell cause of their brand…. WRONG! They had a strategy, to become a robust domestic and international online retailer, offering the concept of a “House of Brands”. Their strategy involved keywords, working in with search engine algorithm challenges, database management, logistics and fulfillment, invoicing and payment, returns and credits (chargeback), managing a fulfillment center under the Amazon Prime program, customer service and much more. This has earned Amazon the right to charge fees (hefty for some) upon a sale, because it is not just a listing that is working but a super sales engine that is there to promote and provide a higher sales probability for your product.
Many clients have asked us if having their own eCommerce website is necessary. They are often in a dilemma if they should opt to design their own branded website or should they simply use a third party website like Amazon, Ebay or Alibaba or do BOTH! The truth is, building a website from scratch is exciting, interesting, a great process to work through and here comes the BUT…..it is not an overnight process to get your website ranked and visible on major search engines. The recipe required to raise visibility on the first page of Google for example will take time, money and the qualified human talent who understanding applied technical marketing. There needs to be an organic and direct advertising strategy. Depending on the type of business or product, organic (SEO) rankings can take up to 6 months sometimes 12 months. Advertising is based on the creation of keywords, managing bids and making sure your ads are seen at the right time by your target audience. An ad campaign can start at $1000 a week but you may need to ramp that up even more should your competitors start increasing their bids.
So the question is why have your own website when the SEO recipe requires so much engineering! The simple answer is to have control over your brand. If you have a brand, a story to tell, an image to maintain and grow, having your own website is critical. Control is 100% in your hands. The other truth is, unique products sold on Amazon tend to be purchased by consumers who will check out the original website, alongside reviews and testimonials. So having your own website is important.
However many online retailers don’t have the time and money to invest in optimizing their websites so they go with third parties like Amazon, Ebay and Alibaba. It isn’t a bad way to start off but don’t expect your brand to get the love it requires. You will be competing head on with the same product, in a price war with other alike sellers – may the best one win. Amazon, Ebay and Alibaba are all dynamic, amazing platforms, which have been built to increase your chances of selling a product. This is a fact. Your fees to them is justified because they have done all the legwork, in SEO and website structure. Payment is simple, their returns policy and procedures are robust, delivery has to be on time – their focus is the consumer who deserves 100% customer satisfaction.
So if sales is your only focus than a third party website may just be the way to go. But if you want to control your brand and messaging, having your own website is smart. The good news is you can do both at the same time! Just be prepared to be handcuffed to your laptop or computer every day, be prepared to manage multiple stores and be ready to ship the products on time every time. O yes and one more thing, if you don’t abide by Amazon’s rules on fulfillment you get locked out, yes your store simply shuts down automatically, overnight! So your own store might just serve as a great back up!
What do you do after your website is done…..
So you have decided to go with your own website, you have gone with either an easy to use WordPress WooCommerce site or a heavy duty Magento website, both are great platforms to work with, database driven and provide the ability to be hooked up with your merchant and banking account to accept credit card, Paypal and Bitcoin payments. Yes there are others, plenty of other brands such as Shopify, VistaPrint, Big Commerce etc.
Your shopping cart is loaded with products or services and the website is now ready for launch. Question is are you ready to get it ranked on your search engine of choice, e.g. Google. Is your website ready to take on China who has a different set of internet protocols? Are you clear on where you are about to sell your products to? If it is to Mexico or Japan, do you need the site translated into the local language, do you need a different domain name? Where are the goods going to get dispatched from? Have you worked out the cost of shipping and tariffs? Are your vendor contracts watertight when a return takes place? Have you mapped out how you are going to handle returns and chargebacks? All of this can be overwhelming but the process has to be mapped out.
To get your SEO in order, have you established your list of keywords by city, state or country possibly in different languages, this will impact the way on page and off page search engine optimization (SEO) is conducted. It will also have serious impact on online advertising through Google or social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and any local networks that are deemed popular. Creating your communication calendar for social media, blogging, blogger outreach and vlogging is also necessary.
So your anxious now and not sure if you can do this, the truth is you can! However if you don’t have the skills to do it all, get the right people on your team to help you. Don’t expect miracles if you don’t engage with the right human talent, meaning a team that can apply your business into the world of eCommerce, where technical meets commercial requirements. There has to be a handshake between the two functions. Everything has to be working in concert for the desired results to take place.
Your number one key performance indicator will have to be sales. If you are not selling, something is terribly wrong. However before you get to the point of selling, you must review conversions on your pages such as, what is the traffic like, how many people are looking at your website and how many tried to check out or buy but failed. Did anyone try to ring your free-phone number or get questions answered on your live chat feature? If there is traffic and zero sales, you need to understand if there is a problem at check out, perhaps your payment gateway is problematic. Troubleshooting at this level requires patience and the ability to connect with buyer psychology.
For more on eCommerce, winning websites, SEO and creating revenue using your website, check in with me @hemadey on Twitter or simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
CEO, CMO and International Marketer
Iffel International Inc.
Los Angeles, CA