This year, according to eMarketer, one billion people worldwide will have Internet access and nearly 250 million households will have broadband. Although, Asia accounts for 56 percent of world population, but only 10 percent has access to the Internet at present. With the rapid economic development of Asian countries this figure will increase dramatically in the coming years. This ubiquitous presence of the Internet is forcing companies to embrace the Internet as a marketing and sales channel aggressively. Many companies have adopted Internet based technologies to streamline their crucial business processes and benefiting enormously from it.
Import Export companies are no difference! Most export import companies are using the Internet to augment customer base, tap into new markets, research competitors, find new products and evaluate country opportunities. However, many of these same companies are still slow in implementing eBusiness features in their daily business activities and, as a result, fail to garner true value from the use of the Internet. Trading companies – those which are still not doing online business transactions – should follow the examples of their retail counterparts and adopt eCommerce strategies.
According to a recent study conducted by Forrester Research, retail sales are expected to rise 20 percent to US$ 211.4 billion – a two fold increase from only three years ago. Whether you are in exporting or importing business it does not make any difference, by using eCommerce and adding some of the basic eBusiness functions to your website you can also profit from this trend.
Electronic commerce is the process of selling products through the Internet. There are two distinct segments of eCommerce – Business to Business and Business to Consumers. Retailers are mostly involved in B2C and import export traders are often more in the B2B sector. That’s why you need to realize that the components of eCommerce you may need in your website will be based on your business specifics. In general, all eCommerce sites are a combination of some of the following business functionalities:
• An eCatalog so that buyers can browse through the products you have to offer
• Product specification that gives detailed technical and delivery information
• A feature that allows sending request for quote online (RFQ)
• A product order placing system – normally a shopping cart
• Ability to view order status
• Sending a notification if a new product added to the catalogue which was requested by a prospective buyer
• At least one payment method. For small orders you should have a merchant account.
• Purchase order sending ability. Buyers should be able to send PO for the products readily available or the contracts already negotiated with you.
• Billing system should generate invoices automatically
Once you implemented these features there is virtually no geographic restriction on where you can sell your products. If you are an export company you may consider translating your eCommerce site to the language of your targeted market. This gives you an extra ability to leverage your sales endeavour.
Benefits of eCommerce
Increase revenue: By implementing eCommerce you are opening a new sales channel. Study shows, a well prepared eCommerce strategy can increase sales from mere 10 percent to several times within the first six month of implementation. There is a possibility that order size per customer will also increase thanks to some eCommerce functionalities like advanced eCatalog, Notification service, order status viewing system and ability to offer related products.
Expand client base: Depending on the exposure of your site, you can acquire customers from every corner of the world. You are no longer confined to any geographic area.
Reach niche market segments: You can market your eCommerce site by pin pointing a specific market segment with the help of the Internet.
Lower operating costs: Your eCommerce site will eliminate or reduce workloads of sales and support force. Marketing on the Internet is significantly cheaper than in offline world. You will also benefit from lower telecommunication costs, losses incurred from document errors, inventory and sales management costs. This will have direct impact on your company bottom line.
Better customer service: The ability to provide decisive information, real time interaction with customers and customer relationship management functionalities allow you to serve your customers better and help increase customer retention.
Enhance your company image: A well-managed, robust and user-friendly eCommerce site enhances positive image of a company.
Are you ready for eCommerce?
Before you implement an eCommerce plan, you need to figure out as an exporter or importer how viable it is for you right now? Are you going to receive the benefits mentioned above? Will the customers from different geographical location benefit from your new service channel? How critical is a well-described product specification for your customers?
Any company no matter how small or big it is from an eCommerce site no doubt it will benefit immensely from an eCommerce site. But the question is, are you ready to commit enough time and money to make your new venture successful?
Developing your eCommerce site
Depending on the type of eCommerce site you are planning to build it might take somewhere from three months to over a year.
There are several ways of starting an eCommerce site.
Building in house: You should consider developing your eCommerce site in house only if you have significant experience in this field. In order to build a successful eCommerce site you will need a team of experts in programming, designing, copy writing, and, most importantly, a project manager with the knowledge of your business model, enough technical proficiency and experience so that the system gets developed on time with expected business functionalities.
Outsourcing: There is no doubt that outsourcing is more cost effective and less time consuming for most of the companies. The only thing is you have to choose the organization which will build your site carefully and professionally.
Using web stores: If you are constrained by time or would like to take advantage of eCommerce immediately you can also get eCommerce site from online service providers. These web stores have all the needed functionalities for a true eCommerce site. Some of them are also capable of providing supply chain management and other key business automation abilities. Check out sites like Rusbiz.com.
While implementing eCommerce strategy you need to remember that eCommerce just enhances and complements your present business model but the fundamentals of your business remain the same. However, eCommerce with it’s innate flexible nature may open new business horizons for you with all the risk and reward implications.
Nowshade Kabir is the CEO of http://www.rusbiz.com, a leading B2B portal with many unique B2B functionalities. On http://trade-leads.rusbiz.com you can post export import related trade leads. For outsourcing your eCommerce website requirement check out http://www.rusbiz.com/design_package.html.
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