5 E Commerce Questions Every Small Business Should Understand

For a small business owner, the internet can be a mind numbing experience. There are 5 key questions that small business owners and managers should understand. Prior to embarking on a new web project, take a few minutes and makes sure that you can get your brain around them.

1) Why am I using or considering using the internet? Seems like a pretty simple question and for many small businesses it can be. The specifics of any answer eventually boils down to one thing. The business wants to be found. These businesses want to market products, provide product and service information, allow their clients to locate contact information and transact business. The basics… “Get found!” When you dig bit deeper, write down a simple Internet Mission Statement. This should be a 2-3 line purpose driven statement that describes your goals for an internet project or website. “ABC Manufacturing’s Internet Mission is to provide our clients with company and product information and provide a portal by which to purchase our services.” “Dr. Healthy’s Internet Mission is to provide contact information for our clients and allow them to schedule services.” Many small business owners may need assistance in building a comprehensive Internet Mission Statement. For some small businesses, a good Internet Mission Statement may be fairly complex.

2) If I created a perfect internet world, what is the maximum benefit that the internet could provide for my business? This is the essential question that should be answered prior to undertaking any new internet projects. Certain metrics should float into your mind….increased sales and revenues???, generation of new customers???, marketing exposure???, etc… The potential impact of an internet presence can vary wildly. Does a local dentist hope to generate the same volume of business on the internet as a manufacturer of pump seals? Realistic assessments of the maximum potential internet impact, on a small business, are essential.

3) What can I afford to spend on my internet project? After answering Question #2 and only then should you begin to develop a budget for an internet project. The solution should revolve around the following question…”what must my website do and what is the most cost effective means of having one developed?” Does the website require an original scratch programming effort? For most small businesses, the answer is becoming increasingly…no. Too many simple solutions are available for small business owners.

4) What are the biggest E Commerce Mistakes that Small Businesses Make? Not getting found… The website was created but no one can locate the business on the web. Website projects require a plan to utilize Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It takes time and consistent work but SEO is a subject for other articles to address. Spending too much…All too often, a small business owner jumps into an exhausting website development project that does exactly as described. Money, time and the business owner’s patience is exhausted.

The website programming solution begins to drive the project rather than the Internet Mission Statement. Always match the project goal to an appropriate solution. Spending too little…”I’ve got a family member or friend who builds websites.” The website sits on the shelf for months as the friend or family member slaps together a website that may, or may not, suit the business owner. This approach is not always fatal but we’ve all seen the typical “Website Under Construction” web page that never changes. Failure to maintain… The reasons are numerous, probably too numerous to provide a comprehensive list. They include owner remorse (over paying for the initial site), fear (of hiring another programmer) and apathy (from an ineffective website).

5) What solutions are available? Freelance Website Programmers

Pros:

  • Totally custom websites. If you can dream it…
  • Service should be outstanding!
  • Highest technical capability
  • Unique domain

Cons:

  • Expense
  • Least immediate manner of publishing
  • Highest level of time commitment
  • Site updates come at a premium
  • Reliance on programmers

Content Management Systems Providers

Pros:

  • Plug and Play website functionality
  • More immediate manner of publishing
  • More affordable solution with moderate customization
  • Simple theme changes and site updates
  • Unique domain

Cons:

  • Limited functionality (dependent upon plugins)
  • Moderate level of time commitment

Social Media Hosting (Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, etc…)

Pros:

  • Anyone can do it!
  • Immediate publishing solution
  • Lowest cost internet presence

Cons:

  • Limited customization
  • Difficult to provide company information
  • Difficult to interact with customers
  • Limited control over site appearance
  • No company domain

Small Businesses Do Count!

We live in a world of small businesses, and apparently they are the driving force behind a successful economy.

Last month, the British Prime Minister boldly stated emerging businesses are the way of the future, saying Britain needs to “back small firms. Boost enterprise. Be on the side of everyone in this country who wants to create jobs, and wealth and opportunity.”

Granted, politicians love to say this perennially, but figures speak louder than words. According to the UK Small Business Association, over 99% of registered businesses in the United Kingdom are considered small to medium businesses. Likewise, the US government’s Small Business Administration cites 99.7% of US companies are small businesses. These small companies are set to create jobs, create wealth, and bring the world back to its prosperous self…assuming we treat them well.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) conducted a study of 10,000 firms and found that one in five (21%) managers have settled professional bills with their personal credit cards in the past year. John Wright, chairman of the FSB, explained that many companies have had to become more self-reliant as they are struggling to secure credit, as well as other necessary services, from banks. This includes access to a merchant accounts and services – services many enterprises rely on to process money and payments.

Our banks are simply not catering to our small businesses. An international company can get merchant services in the blink of a credit card swipe, but these small businesses that are driving our economy struggle to get a face-to-face meeting. Small business owners can’t be expected to kick start a boom in the economy without support that will make their financial systems flow with ease. Trading online, or ‘e-tail’ as it is increasingly being known as, is the method many of these businesses use to trade their goods and services. Rather than relying on the elusive services a bank can offer, these businesses need to turn to smaller, more intimate solutions provided by less occupied payment service providers. Relying on smaller companies for your payment solutions will result in a more bespoke system, catered to your specific business needs. It also means you will have a personal relationship with the team, rather than the stunted relationship with bigger businesses that often require you to call a million numbers before you can actually speak with someone helpful.

This added personalised relationship results in a much more trustworthy environment, eliminating the financial worry experienced by many start-ups and small businesses trading online who struggle to trust relationships with banks that are often void of any real professional connection. When competing with fellow customers that run the business world, it’s easy to feel insignificant. According to The Thomson Reuters/PayNet index, smaller firms account for as much as 80 percent of new hiring in the US. In literal terms, these start-ups and growing enterprises will employ 8 of every 10 people hired in the United States in 2011. And yet, securing a reliable payment solution method from your average bank is like entering Fort Knox. It must be said – why struggle to enter a barred up gate when there are companies out there that will open the gate for you and welcome you in?

Starting up a small business will never be the easiest of tasks, and attempting to eradicate financial concerns in any business may seem futile. But, it is these small drops in the ocean that can create a wave of change. Providing trustworthy payment solutions, mixed in with personal relationship with these small businesses helps ease worries and allows employees to focus on business growth.