Hopefully, you are among the 71 percent of small business owners who already have a website. Even those retailers who have held out until this point, say their website is currently a work in progress. According to a survey by Clutch, a Washington DC research firm, 21 percent of respondents project they will have a website up and running by the end of the year. The time is quickly approaching when it will be unheard of for a business to operate without a website. It is something customers expect and demand. But, is a website enough? Are you prepared to step up your game and move into e-commerce?
Selling online may not be something you want to tackle right now, but it’s an important next step for home improvement retailers and small business owners who want to be competitive and remain relevant into the future. Here’s are a few results from recent surveys that focus on e-commerce and the shopping habits of American consumers:
- 51 percent prefer shopping online
- 80 percent shop online monthly
- 30 percent shop online at least once a week
It’s likely, these percentages will continue to grow as consumers become increasingly dependent on social media and technology to validate their purchasing decisions.
To make the online transition to e-commerce more manageable, home improvement retailers should view the operation as being similar to adding a niche business. It may take time to get off the ground, but the payoff will exceed the cost.
To overcome uncertainty and to start moving in the right direction, it’s important to understand how social media and e-commerce work together:
- Within a one-year period, social media referrals to e-commerce sites increased 198 percent
- Twenty-three percent of online shoppers are influenced by social media recommendations
- Family and friends encouraged 45 percent of consumers to shop online
Statistics clearly show that e-commerce has a growing influence on the profitability of large brick-and mortar chains. An online store offers these retailers the ability to reach more customers, promote the brand, generate sales and improve profits. In theory, the same results should hold true for smaller retail outlets. So, it may be surprising that only 36 percent of small businesses have an e-commerce enabled website.
Truth be told, businesses often give the same responses they used decades ago to explain why they shy away from e-commerce. Could this be you?
- Lack of technical skills
- Lack of time and money to invest in a website
- Not necessary in my type of business
In past years, you had to be a web developer or e-commerce guru to enter the
e-commerce playing field. Now, many wholesalers offer retailers “plug and play” options that enable store owners to tap into existing sites and incorporate the stores’ brand. Independent freelancers and small agencies may also be an option for building and updating your website if a store employee cannot assume the responsibility.
Every home improvement retailer can choose to engage in e-commerce today or at some point in the future. Customers want more options and e-commerce is another avenue to providing great service.
Most Americans would agree that Henry Ford, the automobile manufacturer, was a visionary who understood what customers wanted and the dictates of the marketplace. At a meeting in 1909 he told a salesperson, Ford cars “should be any color as long as its black.” But, over time Ford changed his mind and later introduced more colors. My point, it’s ok to change your mind to be relevant and connected to your customers.