E-Commerce: More than Just an Online Store
If you go back 10 years, e-commerce accounted 5.1% of retail sales. Today, it’s over 16%. What does that mean? People love shopping from the comfort of their own homes. But e-commerce is not just for clothing stores. Today, you’ll find e-commerce websites being used for all industries – from travel bookings and tour reservations, to online food orders and class sign-ups. Your business has the chance to be open 24/7. Have you thought about adding e-commerce? Maybe it’s not possible with your specific service but read on and you may find a way to get creative with online sales.
Types of E-Commerce
This is the most obvious e-commerce website business model. From shoes to olive oil to toilet paper. If you already have a physical store that sells products, joining the e-commerce community will definitely help increase sales. And at times when people are shopping less in-person, an online store is a must. The best part about selling your product on your own website is cutting out the middlemen. No more money paid to the in-between guys. Direct-to-consumer sales in the wine industry for example lead to profit margins of up to 60%-80%! Check out our e-commerce integration for Hill Family Estate.
A few tips: forcing your customers to print an order form, fill it out, and mail it back is not considered e-commerce and will lead to loss in sales. And consider subscriptions – people will often opt-in to receive reoccurring products, especially if it saves them money. A subscription means your customers like your product – reward them with a discount.
While gift cards are a sort of sub-topic to any of the e-commerce business types on this list, we felt it deserved its own section. Think about why your customers buy your product and how it would translate as a gift.
Physical product gift cards may be great – we all love receiving a gift card for our favorite shoe brand or skincare products. But think outside the box. Experiential gifts are growing in popularity. People want to go on adventures – today’s newlyweds are requesting experiential gifts too. Gift cards can be a great addition to your online store if you are a seasonal business. Folks can purchase gift cards and use them at a later date.
A few tips: run marketing campaigns and digital advertising around popular giving seasons. Bring people directly to your gift certificate page when they click on your ad.l sports clubs, bicycle groups, gyms, dance studios, vintner societies, health associations – the list goes on. A lot of membership groups may require submitting payment by check in-person. Pretty inconvenient to today’s consumer. Luckily, there are many ways to integrate membership e-commerce solutions into your website. Collect payments online, create member directories, and foster an online community.
Experiences – Bookings & Reservations
Are you a tour operator? Provide adventures or experiential services? How are you accepting bookings and reservations? Hopefully online. Today’s customers don’t really want to call you to book anything. If you’re online reservation system is non-existent or confusing to use, customers will move on and book with your competitors. Allow customers to book in real time and show them your live availability.
A few tips: keep the booking fields short. How much information do you really need to make the sale? Simplify it! And remember: gift cards. We mentioned how experiential gifts are becoming more popular, plus they bring in revenue all year – an important element for seasonal businesses. See our e-commerce booking solution for Balloons Above the Valley.
Classes, Lessons, Workshops
Make it easy for people to join your class. A few clicks here and there plus entering payment info., and voila! They are signed up. Work-out classes, dance lessons, cooking classes, yoga workshops, art and music classes, language courses. These can be for in-person sessions or virtual. There are many platforms out there that can integrate into your existing website and the complexity level ranges.
A few tips: integrate a system that shows daily availability. What if a group of 7 friends want to be in the same class? Show them where the open spots are so they can choose the best date.
Restaurants – Take-out/Delivery
This may not be an option for all restaurants. It’s highly unlikely that the French laundry would be offering take-out or delivery. But, if your restaurant offers either, consider bringing the ordering process online. Again, today’s customer is not a big fan of calling. Allowing them to place the order and pay online will ease the process, require less staff time on the phone, and help with increasing sales.
A few tips: using services like DoorDash or Grubhub can be great when you want to deliver but don’t have the in-house staff. It also adds your restaurant to the list of restaurants in their apps, exposing you to more people. Of course, there are fees, but consider it if it makes sense for your business. You can also integrate a take-out order system directly into your website – they can be inexpensive but may require a one-time investment of a developer to integrate into your website.
If a non-profit does not collect donations online, they are missing out. Charities and non-profits can easily integrate donation systems into their website almost for free. We’ve worked with non-profits who were using old, outdated donation systems that charged them a large percentage of their donations. Crazy! Today’s modern website integrates with free or inexpensive platforms allowing you to collect money for your worthy cause. Check out our e-commerce website solution for Mentis Napa.
A few tips: consider offering reoccurring donations. People will happily donate $5, $10, $20, or even $100 a month – make it automatic and easy. The less donors have to do, the more likely they are to opt-in. Also, try social media advertising to get targeted traffic to your donation page. A few dollars go a long way on Facebook/Instagram.
There are plenty of membership businesses out there like local sports clubs, bicycle groups, gyms, dance studios, vintner societies, health associations – the list goes on. A lot of membership groups may require submitting payment by check in-person. Pretty inconvenient to today’s consumer. Luckily, there are many ways to integrate membership e-commerce solutions into your website. Collect payments online, create member directories, and foster an online community.
A few tips: choose your platform wisely. You’ll want a membership system that integrates into your website and is flexible. We’ve seen a lot of businesses get roped into rigid platforms that make it difficult to manage their members.
Your time is valuable and, ultimately, money. Many professions charge for consultations – designers, fitness trainers, nutritionists, etc. If your business involves any form of consultation, you can sell it online. Consumers can simply buy a consult or even service package on your website and you can perhaps virtually meet their needs.
We’ve seen a rise in online healthcare services as well. Mental health professionals and specialized healthcare providers offer telemedicine which allows them to have appointments via phone or video chat.
A few tips: selling consultations doesn’t mean you won’t be seeing your customer in person. Depending on your business, it may just be an introduction and you will have to follow up with your service. But for nutritionists, trainers, and others, you can really create a virtual business with customers all over the world.
How Can E-Commerce Work for You?
This is a just a short list of some ways to use e-commerce. It doesn’t end here. With a good brainstorming session and a glass of wine, you may just find a few ways to incorporate an e-commerce website into your business.
Remember, the goal is to make it easy for customers to purchase your product or service online. It may require a complete overhaul of your existing business processes. And that’s ok. We’ve worked with clients to build solutions that incorporate their existing processes. But, we’ve also worked with clients where the best solution was to move on and build something better.
At WSI, our core focus is to simplify the Internet for you and grow your business. Contact us today to find out more about e-commerce websites, marketing strategy, and more.