Great Business Ideas: Selling online

Great Small Business Ideas to Start: Selling online

Selling online is a fast, flexible, and highly effective way to reach customers and increase revenues. Online sales are growing at a phenomenally fast rate—and yet the first online sale occurred as recently as 1994 in America. What are the lessons, and how can a business increase online sales?

The idea

Meeting the challenges of selling online and integrating online activities with the whole business is essential for success.

Seven basic principles characterize online selling:

  1. The balance of power is continuing to shift decisively to the customer.
  2. The internet is revolutionizing sales techniques and perceptions of leading brands.
  3. The pace of business activity and change has been accelerating, and the need to be flexible, adaptive, customer-focused, and innovative is at a premium.
  4. Competition is intensifying.
  5. Managing and leveraging knowledge is fundamental— knowledge is a key strategic resource that needs to be captured, nurtured, and developed.
  6. Companies are transforming themselves into extended enterprises to add value for customers. They are re-evaluating factors as fundamental as objectives, markets, and skills.
  7. The internet is increasing interactivity among people, companies, and industries.

Online selling is immediate, and enables businesses to reduce costs, while improving marketing effectiveness. The Economist Intelligence Unit, an international publisher of business information and part of the Economist Group, has successfully developed an online business that is seamlessly integrated with its products and overall approach.

In practice

Several fundamental steps will enhance online sales.

  • Generate participation, ownership, and commitment within your business.
  • Ensure that your internet selling strategy is all-embracing and dynamic, continually evolving, and learning from past experience.
  • Simplify the customer’s experience so that the sales process is streamlined, with barriers to purchasing removed.
  • Ensure that your website is sticky and compelling. Customers need to remain at your website (known as “stickiness”)—your competitor is only a click or two away—and you need to ensure that customers come back time and again.
  • Focus on flexibility and personalization so that customers are empowered to buy exactly what they want, their way.
  • Avoid duplication and a complicated, high-cost approach when an effective, low-cost alternative is available.
  • Plan and prepare for the benefits of an internet sales strategy, so that you avoid investing too much, too little, too late, or too soon.
  • Help customers (as well as distributors and salespeople) to navigate easily through your site. Enable customers to move in a seamless fl ow, with simple decisions and preferences included in the process, so they can make decisions and express preferences during the process.
  • Ensure that the website, or the web provider and developer, is flexible enough to take account of ways in which your website requirements may evolve.
  • Ensure that your website is competitive: to achieve this it needs to provide an experience for the customer that is simple, interactive, engaging, and compelling.
  • Give customers access to your information so that they can quickly and easily decide how best to buy. The advantage of this is that it can be a two-way process. It provides you with opportunities to capture and use specific information about each customer (data mining), as well as enabling you to enhance the effectiveness of your website, following the pattern and fl ow of customers’ mouse clicks while online (clickstream data).
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