With the economic crisis forcing small business owners to slash costs while building up sales and revenue, e-commerce is increasingly being seen as an attractive market environment for small businesses to operate within. In an online environment, trade is relatively open in terms of market access. Small businesses can compete on a level playing field with their larger industry competitors, and minimize their business costs.
The powerful, yet relatively low-cost, e-commerce platforms available today let small businesses reduce the costs of developing a compelling retail face for their businesses. They also manage the administrative back office, while streamlining their brand and product marketing and promotion costs.
With this in mind, here are perhaps the three most important e-commerce practices small business owners should adhere to this year:
1. Capture e-commerce market share with limited dollars. It’s imperative for small businesses to be as lean as possible. Budgets are limited, and small business owners need to get maximum bang for their buck. Generating traffic and capturing market share on the Web is critical, and the best ways to do this include the following:
- Build a credible and professional Web brand and presence. Make your site speak to users and show them that you understand them. Make it easy to use, and allay any fears consumers may have about entering into a remote financial transaction with you.
- Market and promote your site and offering. Don’t rely on the “build it and they will come” principle. Proactively market your online business using online marketing tools, such as search engine optimization; pay-per-click advertising; and offline marketing programs all focused on trade publications, direct marketing, public relations and other tools.
2. Despite the economy, don’t pull back on marketing. Don't make the critical mistake of pulling back on your marketing and promotional activities. Some of the most successful companies increase their marketing spend in these economic downturns, because they recognize their messaging will have much less clutter and competition.
3. Build market trust. Small business owners must establish and maintain market trust in the coming year and beyond. Even if a product or service is priced lower than a competitor’s, when buyers have uncertainties about the quality of their purchases — or the companies behind them — they simply won't buy. Take the steps you need now to build credibility, and you'll be much better positioned to survive and thrive across all economic cycles.
Daniel Meyerov is founder and CEO of OnlyBusiness.com, a Los Angeles-based business platform and community that provides small businesses with Web-based tools and services. Reach Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.