iWorld by Sharad Agarwal

e-retailing : The Competitive Advantage

Competitive advantage is the means by which a firm manages to keep making money and sustain its position against its competitors

e-retailing : The Competitive  Advantage

Smart companies take advantage of a recession to sprint ahead of their competitors, while some competitors ‘hunker down’ and conserve their capital.  The forward-thinking firms plan and install new capacity during the dullest of times. Then, when favorable economic winds begin to blow, their capacity is coming on line.

Result: Their competitors are caught flat-footed and the companies that had their high-beams on gain significant market share.

So many ‘brick and mortar’ retail organisations are finding it hard to pay the exorbitant rents and fixed overheads, when sales are slow. The solution is pretty obvious. You can reduce your operation costs by building an online storefront.

comScore, a leader in measuring the digital world, reported a 4% increase in e-commerce spending for the 2009 holiday season. The 2009 online holiday shopping season was a positive one as its growth rate surpassed the forecast and returned to solidly positive rates after nearly a full year of marginally negative growth. The retail sectors that scored the most were jewelry, watches and electronics, ticketing - nabbing a cumulative 35% slice of that delicious shopping pie!

The macro stats all point to a strong case for moving the sales process online. It is of course important to build your store right. You need to hire a professional organisation that can provide you a customised  e-commerce solution that meets your exact needs. E-commerce and shopping cart usability matter mostly due to the fact that if a store is not easy to use, and simple to buy from, it can greatly affect it’s ability to generate regular sales. With Ajax, jQuery and dynamic front-end web applications, it is now possible to build ‘state-of-the-art’ shopping carts for an enjoyable online shopping experience

Here are some ‘Best Practices’ that need to be implemented for your online store:

  • Use Headlines, Subheadings and Breadcrumb navigation to show shoppers where they are
  • Make sure contact information and a phone number are clearly visible on the home page
  • Keep the site search function in plain view so shoppers can query the catalog anytime
  • Allow shoppers to refine product results by color, shape, size etc.
  • Show related products and cross sell before the checkout process and after items have been added to the cart
  • Use product page copy that answers shoppers questions about products they may be interested in buying
  • Show product videos and client testimonials to convince customers to buy
  • Allow shoppers to add items to their cart before making them register for an account
  • Allow shoppers to add items to a wish list
  • Show the price of the item, amount saved and any applicable shipping or taxes
  • Show stock and availability of products as early as possible within the checkout and order process
  • Keep security badges, trust certificates and an updated SSL certificate in place so shoppers can tell your site is secure
  • Offer a variety of payment and shipping options so shoppers can pick the one they have an account with or most often use

Finally, test different combinations of best practices to see which ones produce the best results for your store and shopping cart.

Once you have built your e-commerce platform you have gained the competitive advantage of having a cost effective sales channel that can reach out to new customers in new markets in quick time - at a fraction of your erstwhile sales cost. Not only this, you are ready in good times to capture the niche business opportunities with very little competition.

Send your comments to Sharad at sharad@cyber-gear.com or visit www.SharadAgarwal.com

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