Should your business be offering online transactions?
Let’s start with a simple fact: markets evolve and customer demand changes over time.
Before the pandemic, online transactions were already growing at the expense of the high-street-only retailers; the pandemic has not created this trend, but it has accelerated it. Massively.
The demand for many products remains unchanged, but the way people buy those products has changed. We all still shop for many of the same things – food, toys, clothes, technology – but out of necessity we tend now to buy online and have those items delivered. When the pandemic is over and we are living the ‘new normal’, I believe that many of these pandemic-induced behaviours will persist, and the longer the pandemic goes on, the more embedded these new behaviours will be.
The retail sector is where it all starts, but there is growing evidence to suggest that the behaviours learned in our private lives are also influencing the way we want to work. Builders’ merchants are a great example: Traditionally, tradespeople have been reluctant to order online, favouring the personal interaction and banter at their local branch. During the first lockdown at least, the branches were closed and tradespeople had no choice other than to order online. The result is that many have come to appreciate the benefits of being able to order what they need in the evenings, have the items delivered to site, view their accounts online to see when payments are due, and download VAT receipts.
Take this concept a step further, and it’s not hard to see the more agile B2B organisations developing their own online portals to offer at least some of these benefits to their regular customers. Any developments that make life easier for your customers can build loyalty, help avoid price competition and can differentiate your offering from those of your competitors.
If your business sells products from stock, the chances are that it will lend itself well to having a fully-transactional website. Each of the product lines would be made available to order online and payment is taken at the point of order for one-off purchases or on account for your regular customers. There are plenty of courier firms that can offer efficient delivery services, but for some businesses, packaging and delivery can be more problematic, perhaps due to the products being large, heavy, awkward or hazardous to transport.
Click and collect
If packaging and delivery is proving complex to organise, click and collect may be a good alternative. The transaction is still online, but the customer collects from your premises.
Not just off-the-shelf products
E-commerce is not limited only to off-the-shelf products. It’s perfectly possible to have a range of product options for people choose from. Many of the car manufacturers, for example, have car configurators online that enable the customer to select from a range of options and then order online.
Many services can be commoditised for online ordering too: a home survey, installing an appliance, a car service, window cleaning, landscaping… the list goes on. Any of these can be sold online with the ability to book an appointment at the same time as placing the order. It’s great customer service, and as you take the money in advance, it’s great for your cash flow too!
Adding value in other ways
If taking orders for products and services is a bridge too far, it may be worth looking at giving your regular customers the ability to log in to their accounts via a secure area of your website. This could give them the ability to see what they have ordered, when deliveries are due, when payments are due, how much they have spent, and to download VAT receipts. This might differentiate your business from the competition, creating customer loyalty and attracting new customers too.
Here to help
The expert team at 49Red have a wealth of experience in developing e-commerce websites. We can help you choose the right solution for your business and then deliver that solution efficiently and with no fuss. Whatever you need, we are here to help with cost-effective, no-nonsense marketing. Contact Hugh Moss on 07808 365214 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
This is the third of six blogs under the title ‘Five steps to post-pandemic business success’. Follow 49Red on LinkedIn or visit our website at www.49red.co.uk/news to see more.