E-commerce provides a way for your small business to expand and reach markets never before possible. When planning to take your business online, look at how your web site reaches new customers, and plan the steps you need to take to be ready for success.
Expanding on the Internet
When planning to expand your business via the internet, you'll need to know the basics of how users search, and how your web site is found. Your web site needs to be easy to use, interesting and secure. Make it easy for customers to decide to do business with you.
Increase Local Traffic
The internet can produce new online business and bring new customers to your business' physical location. Local advertising probably only reaches so far. However, a well-designed and enticing web site can expand your local and regional presence. Customers may learn about business as a new "local" source.
Viewing your business online gives customers a preview of your business, prompting them to drive the extra mile and take the time to come to your shop or office. A web site allows for the virtual tour of your business, its products and services. Newspaper and even television spots can't come close to a virtual tour.
New Market Reach
The internet can take your business to new regional, national and even international markets. Advertising can be much more affordable than in local or trade publications, especially if your site and its content are designed to rank high in search engine results. Many consumers prefer shopping online because it's easy, and often saves time and money.
Your business may have the specialty product or service out-of-state consumers are looking for. A web site can be used to educate consumers, and earn their business. Internet consumers are searchers - they have a need and seek information online. The internet is an interactive medium. Your business' web site can be tailored to provide information through articles, bulletin boards or blogs. Your online business can be a customer's information and solution source.
Logistics and Planning to Serve New Customers
Survey your business and its mission, and plan to meet the demands of new e-commerce customers. Plan how your business will approach practical steps in a transaction such as:
- Taking orders and payments
- Customer service methods, either by e-mail or phone
- Distribution and shipping. Address storage and delivery costs and time before making an online sale
Other issues your business may need to address are taxes arising from e-commerce and regulatory controls. Sales and income tax are generated from e-commerce and your business could be responsible for collecting and/or paying these taxes. Your product or service could be regulated and restrictions or prohibitions on interstate business or shipping could apply. Licensing may be needed. You might not be able to ship alcohol or flammable products, for example.
Expanding via e-commerce could accelerate some of your business plans. For example, if your business lacks a central location, you might face expanding to include a second distribution center in another part of the country for fast product delivery. You could find yourself hiring more employees for new areas, such as a dedicated IT and online customer service staff.
In building new markets via e-commerce, new and different business plans and services may be needed, and a business law or e-commerce law lawyer can help you get it all done and take your business to the next level.
Questions for Your Attorney
- My business has distribution rights for a product line; how is a sales territory limited when a business is online?
- Can a manufacturer control online prices for its products sold on my web site?
- What are the tax issues I need to look at if I'm thinking about opening distribution centers in other states?