Setting up an online shop can help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in a number of ways, allowing them to compete more effectively against larger rivals.
Once they are operational on the internet, SMBs can sell goods and services to people across the country - or even around the world - not merely in their local community.
The web allows consumers from any location to find small firms and view their products and services. Where there are ecommerce facilities, customers can also buy over the internet.
Business Link claims that selling online has "a number of advantages" over selling by conventional methods, including reduced setup costs and operational costs.
During the early stages of an SMB, there is no need to rent out a high street premises, pay shop assistants or answer a lot of pre-sales queries.
The advisory service says that reducing order processing costs is another major benefit.
"Customer orders can automatically come straight into your orders database from the website," Business Link notes.
Operating online also means that SMBs are essentially open for trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Consumers can go on their website and place orders at their own convenience, not merely when the shop is physically open for business.
Business Link notes that, when using ecommerce, SMBs receive payment more quickly - helping to improve the cashflow situation.
They can also use the data gathered by tracking customer purchases to tailor their offering to specific markets, and make improvements across the board which should help increase sales.
Existing customers will be able to use the website as a catalogue for products and services, which helps generate revenue in the future when they next want to buy, Business Link adds.
The service notes that the best ecommerce providers have well-defined products or services that can be sold without human involvement, fixed prices and products or services that can be delivered within a predictable lead time.
"Whatever form of online shop you choose, it's important to take a strategic view," Business Link states.
"If you launch a website that disappoints your customers or is overwhelmed by traffic, you risk damaging your reputation and losing sales."
Posted by Jenny Arthur