Online retail sales continue to grow, spurred on at least in part by consumers’ rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets. The sector was expected to reach $262 billion in 2013, and forecast to increase with a 10% compound annual growth rate through 2017, according to Forrester Research.* E-commerce could be a brilliant way to grow your retail business.|
Think it through
But before you rush to put a shopping cart on your website, it’s wise to consider how your costs might increase, then create a budget to help your business grow strategically, without drying up cash flow.
Inventory — Will your current space be able to handle increased inventory? You may need more warehouse space or the services of a fulfillment house. Will you need a new inventory tracking system?
Shipping — Which carrier(s) will you use, and at what cost? Will the volume be high enough to allow you to negotiate bulk shipping discounts? Also consider costs for shipping materials and their storage.
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Taxes — There has been much debate about proposals to require online retailers to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence. The federal government is still considering the issue, but in the meantime, some states have adopted legislation to require sellers to collect the tax.
Customer service — Customers may have different needs and expectations when shopping online rather than in person. They may want more detailed information about products than they can glean from your website (be sure to use product photos prominently). And they likely expect a prompt response when they send an email with an inquiry or complaint.
Photography — High-quality photos and videos (if appropriate) of your products are key when customers are unable to see or feel the product directly. As you add to or update inventory, you’ll need to update the photos, as well.
Marketing — You may need new online marketing channels to promote your online business, such as social media, blogging, paid and/or organic search engine optimization (SEO) and email marketing.
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* Source: Forrester Research news release, March 13, 2013, forrester.com.