General Business News for April, 2011

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How E-Commerce Can Expand Your Business

From the dawn of the Internet in the early 1990s, e-commerce kick started a new way of doing business. Shopping leisurely online came into vogue and merchants began scrambling to design webpages for their businesses with attractive product offerings. Now, as people become more accustomed to shopping on the web, they can buy almost anything from groceries, clothing, hardware and appliances to computer gadgets and accessories. For many consumers, e-commerce has become a preferred method of shopping because it is convenient and can be done in the comforts of home.

Offering your customers online shopping for their purchases could be a path to revenue growth. Instead of expanding with more brick-and-mortar locations, consider expanding your operations online. The capital required to start an e-commerce business is far less than that of opening another physical location. There are fewer permits and licenses required, not to mention savings on utility bills. The headache of choosing just the right location is also removed.

E-commerce can actually decrease your cost of doing business. Accessing the Internet as a medium of delivery of goods is both efficient and convenient. You eliminate the cost of paper handling for retrieving bills and invoices and reduce your shipping costs as the customer typically pays for the delivery of items they’ve purchased.  Fewer employees are required to manage inventory or stock shelves. Advertising costs are lowered as your products reach more consumers over a broader demographic base. Less help is required when you eliminate the need for document preparation, telephone calls, credit card machines and data entry.

You are also removing time restrictions. Customers can shop 24-7 online as opposed to the typical 9-to-5 hours of brick-and-mortar locations, making their next purchase as easy as the click of a mouse. They will love the ease of being able to buy products quickly and transfer funds online. And while you are at home asleep, you will love that your online business is busy making you money.

Having an online presence will increase your product brand awareness. People you have never heard of will discover your product through search engine results and share their positive experience with their peers – and word-of-mouth has always been one of the most effective means of advertising.  As satisfied customers return again and again to purchase your goods and services, you create a loyal base. It might even give you the potential of expanding your business globally if you so desire.

E-commerce can be a win-win situation for both consumers and businesses. You have the potential to create loyal customers, increase sales revenue, decrease expenses and broaden your reach. There are also tax benefits to conducting business online since an e-business can claim many of the same deductions as a traditional business. Consult with your CPA for exactly what deductions can be claimed and to answer other tax questions specific to e-commerce.

A web-based business is also an affordable way to gather user feedback. Customers can express their opinion about what they like (or don't like) about your website, services and product offerings. Suggestions for improvement, polls, questionnaires and feedback forms can easily be incorporated into a website. Having data on consumers and purchases they made will give you a jump-start on conducting market research both efficiently and inexpensively.

An e-commerce business makes sense for enterprises offering niche products that do not require an onsite presence. You might want to test the waters with a limited line of merchandise and analyze your success. As the initial products sell, you will be able to expand your merchandise offerings. While e-commerce will never completely replace brick-and-mortar locations, expanding into the virtual world of online shopping could be exactly what your business needs in order to maximize its growth.


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