If you missed the first four parts of A Look at e-Commerce Options for Individuals and Small Businesses, don’t worry: they’re still available! It’s been a while, so I’ll do a quick recap, even for those who might have glanced through them.
Part 1 focused on an introduction to e-Commerce options.
Part 5, the conclusions, are posted below the dashed line. Enjoy, and please leave any comments or questions for discussion!
With the above resources to consider using when selling online, there are additional benefits to having an online storefront over a traditional “brick and mortar” storefront. Overall, having an online store is considered cheaper and easier to set up and maintain than a physical store. Anyone can set up a basic online storefront with minimal resources and costs, if they wanted to. Common factors such as rent, utilities, local zoning laws and ordinances, staffing and scheduling shifts for stores, turnover, etc. are not very significant costs when it comes to selling online. Linens n’ Things is an example of a company that once had several physical stores with a supplemental e-commerce store, but discovered the benefits of being an online-only store after the company went bankrupt in 2009.
Originally incorporated in 1958 under the name Great Eastern Linens, Inc., the company changed its name to Linens n’ Things and opened its first store in 1975 in West Orange, NJ. Linens n’ Things grew to be “the second largest specialty retailer of home furnishings and decorative accessories in North America” (“About LNT”). In the past six months after re-launching the company under new ownership with Gordon Brothers Brands and Hilco Consumer Capital, “www.lnt.com has experienced a 150% increase in unique visitors per month and its email subscriber list is pushing five million customers. Monthly revenue has also grown by 170% during that same period.” The company is utilizing Twitter and Facebook to interact with fans and followers of the brand, many of which shopped at the store prior to the company bankruptcy. They are also going back to familiar promotions they used to use in their retail stores, like “20% discount off of one item” coupons which are now redeemed through their website via coupon codes instead of printed out and taken into stores (“The New Linens”).
Businesses with online presences are increasingly working to update and optimize their websites so they can be viewed on cell phones and other portable devices with small screens. Amazon.com, eBay.com, and other big players in the e-commerce realm have already made updates to their websites in an effort to provide convenience for users on-the-go, and future trends in e-commerce will depend on websites optimized for mobile viewing. Mobile e-commerce, or m-commerce, is the next step in expanding e-commerce and involves buying products and services using a cell phone or other small, portable device. Another technology we can expect to see in the future is checkout software that uses voice and face recognition to verify billing information when making a purchase. This kind of software will probably be used in combination with m-commerce to create an even more convenient service for buyers on-the-go.
Whether a business uses Etsy to list items to supplement a brick-and-mortar store, creates and maintains an eBay store, or builds a completely customized e-commerce website from scratch, it is incredibly important for a business to have a presence on the internet. Businesses and individuals alike are missing out on valuable exposure and sales if they have yet to tap into the internet as a tool for selling and increasing awareness about what they are selling. With the state of the economy, we might see more businesses, from the large players like Linens n’ Things to small businesses we frequent in our nearby areas, strongly considering and moving towards having an online-only presence in order to cut costs and stay afloat.
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