How to Grow Your Business Outside its Geographical Boundaries
Ecommerce began a little over a decade ago when the Internet became available for commercial use in 1991. It took a few years to develop different security protocols like HTTP and DSL, but when finally developed, these methods provided quick access and connections to the Internet.
Around 2000 businesses in America and in Western Europe began to showcase their products over the Internet, and since then the amount of businesses using the Internet has steadily grown, although only 10% or less of all businesses are using the Internet to its full potential or using it at all for marketing and actual sales. As of 2007 the estimated retail ecommerce sales were less than 3.5% of all retail sales in the United States.
People use the Internet for different reasons like finding information about a particular subject, looking for entertainment and some use it for research but the main reason people use the Internet is for shopping. The reason people are using the Internet for shopping is because people can shop at their leisure without the need to get dressed, spend gas or travel to different stores.
Shopping on the Internet is so easy to do because one can compare products, prices and look at customer reviews all in one place before they choose what to purchase. Many people do their research before they drive to the actual store to make the purchase, so a business that is going to survive and prosper in this new highly technical marketplace will be forced to use the Internet in combination with their brick and mortar business.
Many businesses ask questions like "How can I use the Internet for my business?", "Why is it necessary for my business to have a website?" and "How do I use the Internet to grow my business?"
Business owners sometimes become overwhelmed with these questions because they think of ecommerce and begin to wonder how they can build something like Amazon or Ebay. Most businesses do not require a massive site like Amazon or Ebay, the first step, for a brick and mortar business, is to concentrate on exposing their business to local Internet users that are searching for their products and services. Fortunately this can be done with very little cost and technical experience required by the business.
Search engines, especially Google, realized the trend of people searching online for local products and services a couple of years ago and created free tools and resources to give brick and mortar businesses exposure on the Internet. One of the most efficient Internet resources, plus easiest for a business owner to begin, is to set up their local listing. All the major search engines which are Google, Yahoo and Bing provide these local maps listings at no cost for the local business owner.
Local maps listings can be used as the first website a brick and mortar business has on the Internet. The local maps listings rank above the other results on the search engine results pages so when people are looking for local products and services the page includes the business owners information including address, phone, products, hours of operation, payments accepted along with photos, videos and even reviews by customers. The local listing is everything that a business owner needs to reach local consumers with their products and services.
Once a business has got their local Internet presence created a lot of the intimidation that comes along with the Internet will begin to fade. Now that the local people searching for products and services can find your brick and mortar business it is time to begin to grow outside the businesses geographical location, which can be accomplished by creating a website that is SEO or search engine optimized, so it can easily rank under the keywords that people will be typing into the search bar.
Having a website offers a brick and mortar business a great deal of benefits because all the products can be listed. People can purchase online, then all the business has to do is ship the products to the buyer. Businesses can now grow their inventory without the cost of stocking all the items as long as they can get a quick turnaround from distributors or even set up a drop ship arrangement from the supplier. All of these products can be listed in an online catalog so consumers can search anytime that is convenient for them and order from the privacy of their own home.
A business needs to be careful when using a web design company because many will try to sell them an expensive site when all they need to rank on the Internet is a simple design that is easy for the user to navigate. It is a proven fact that a large percentage of shoppers go onto the Internet with credit card in hand to make a purchase and end up not making the purchase because they became too confused while looking for the product, so the buying process needs to be simple for optimum results.
The brick and mortar business only needs a site that is built upon a CMS or content management system platform because these types of sites can easily rank on the search engines. A website built on a CMS platform offers some benefits also because first they do not cost as much as a static built site. Secondly website built on a CMS platform can easily be used by a business owner with no technical experience because of the easy to use dashboard that makes adding content as easy as typing an email. The third benefit is the look of the website can easily be changed because the design files are separate from the data files, and fourth the website can easily be hooked to an online catalog.
Once the website is ready with all the content and products the next step is to drive traffic or people to your website so they can see all your products. There are different ways to drive traffic to a website that all offer different conversion rates and each strategy has a different cost associated with it.
One of the most efficient and consistent ways to guarantee sales to your new online store is to buy targeted traffic. Average direct sales conversion rate for traffic that is not targeted is approximately 1% which can be increased if your products are offered to people that are interested in what you have for sale, this is the concept behind targeted traffic. Targeted traffic can also be much less expensive than most other forms of Internet traffic like SEO or PPC.