companies take a larger slice?
a recent survey from Forrester Research,
Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR), in conjunction with
Greenfield Online, total US spending on
online retail sales in the US for 2001
reached $47.6 billion (US$) up 14 per cent
over 2000. The US Department of Commerce
reported E-commerce sales in 2001 accounted
for 1.0 percent of total retail sales.
in Canada according to the latest survey
from Statistics Canada showed that companies
received $10.4 billion (Cdn$) over the
Internet, up 43.3 per cent from 2000.
Although E-commerce sales in 2001 accounted
for only 0.5 percent of total retail sales.
of $60 billion (US$) in N. American sales
expected over the Internet in 2002 it
appears US companies are establishing a
clear advantage over Canadian companies in
establishing E-commerce solutions.
be no reason for Canadian companies not to
embrace the Internet as an additional
marketing and sales channel. The biggest
advantage they have is the knowledge of what
worked and what didn't work for businesses
that were up and running over the last few
web design companies promote the latest
technologies, animations and a plethora of
automated 'Wizard' based solutions (i.e.,
assembly required by you), in reality,
simple, content rich, quick loading,
visually appealing web sites that are easily
navigated and designed using standard
merchandising and retailing principles are
much more effective.
It must also
be understood that while an offline business
and its online counterpart are closely
related the online version needs to be
treated as a new venture and carefully
planned and integrated into your existing
operation and carefully reflect your
companies need to develop a business plan
with definite marketing and sales goals, and
monitor them at pre-determined intervals.
Small business owners who never had an
original business plan should take this
opportunity to create one. After the website
is up and running and routinely doing
business, it may be wise to develop a
comprehensive business plan for both online
and offline arms of your business.
creating a website with the aforementioned
attributes, it must also be secure and have
access to site-traffic analysis tools,
e-mail and anything else that encourages
business-to-consumer interaction. The one
great lesson of operating online has been
that it reinforces the necessity of
establishing relationships with customers as
a key to building consumer loyalty.
are visually appealing and descriptive will
likely attract the most attention. Online
shoppers primarily depend on their sense of
sight, as they cannot touch, smell or taste
the merchandise. Everything the consumer
does at your site must be as easy as
possible. Sites can benefit by making the
online shopping experience fun for visitors.
Just like in the brick-and-mortar world,
some consumers view shopping as a leisurely,
relaxing experience. If it becomes stressful
or requires long waits, shoppers will leave.
Self-promotion is a must. The sites that are
consistently experiencing high traffic are
those that cleverly and creatively promote
themselves. Offline stores need to have
their Web site address on everything with
which the customer has contact, including
business cards, shopping bags, store windows
and anywhere else you can attract attention.
Additionally, make sure your site is well
optimized and listed with the widely-used
search engines such as Google, Yahoo!,
Lycos, Alta Vista, etc.
the full potential of the Internet, business
web sites need to sell in real-time from
their sites, allowing customers to place
orders and pay for products directly on-line
with their choice of credit card. This
requires a feature rich on-line
merchandising and shopping cart solution
seamlessly integrated into the website.
requirement is an Internet compliant
Merchant Account to authorize, accept and
process credit card payments in real-time.
This is a
relative quick and painless process for US
based companies. Unfortunately Canadian
companies experience great difficulty in
obtaining merchant accounts from Canadian
banks for conducting business on the
Internet. Perhaps one of the reasons
Canadian companies has lagged the US in
e-Commerce growth. This disparity should
disappear as more and more US banks via US
based merchant account providers, now accept
Canadian companies as clients.
your current operation onto the Internet
should be recognized as a necessary
requirement for business expansion in this
new millennium. Likewise if you have an
E-Commerce site in operation and you are not
satisfied with results, then regroup, plan
and go forwards. A slice of that $60 billion
(US$) pie has your name on it.
- John Shenton
- April, 2002