Many retailers usually start out by listing on the online marketplaces or e-marketplaces as they are called, such as Amazon, Flipkart, Ebay, Snapdeal, Myntra, Jabong etc. What most vendors don’t realise is that there are many hidden expenses and opportunity costs that could add up to ruin your business.
Instead, if one is willing to invest the time and effort, there are significant benefits of selling through direct channels.
You could build your website from scratch / hire an expert to build your website or buy ready-made templates and customisable platforms. Based on your business needs and technical capabilities you need to select the right system
- Technical competency: Can you learn how to build a site from scratch or would you prefer to buy custom built templates? Are you capable and willing to hire additional staff with expertise if required?
- Pricing: Is a monthly or a yearly plan better for the different components of the site or platform? Pricing also increases as features provided improve.
- Back Office Integration: How does the system fit with your existing back office capabilities? Is there a possibility for smoothening the move or extension of current facilities into online capabilities?
- Time available: Not just to understand and set up the best possible option but also to maintain and update the site to keep it running smoothly. If time is critical, are you capable and willing to hire additional staff with expertise to save time?
- Support offered: What are the levels and mode of support offered by the different platforms when problems arise? What is the level of responsiveness when help and guidance is required?
- Website features: Evaluate the additional features such as the website’s ease of use, security, mobile friendliness, etc as per your expectations and requirements. Keep in mind that basic features offered may be enough for starting out, but evaluate additional options on offer since it is almost a given that these will be required at a later point.
- Marketing tools: Tools for SEO, email marketing, CRM and integration with other websites are decisive tools in order to grow your market and brand.
- Unique customisations and features needed: Do you have any unusual needs and can the platform cater to your special requests?
The final decision will definitely depend on your requirements and needs. It will also vary based on the time, money and effort one is willing invest into this venture. Furthermore, you will need to consider long term strategies and evaluate whether the current decisions will leave room to scale the operation based on future necessities.
Remember that no matter what method you choose to go online, you don’t need to be restricted to just one channel. Selling through your own e-commerce store doesn’t mean that you cannot also sell your products through a e-marketplace to reap the benefits of both; Nor are you restricted to listing in only one online marketplace. Many successful retailers, especially the larger ones, prefer to be involved in multiple channels. However, each additional route takes time, money and energy to understand its processes and maintain it. What is important is that you take the time to consider the options available and formulate a strategy that works the best for YOUR requirements.
In my next post, I will look at some of the prominent ecommerce platform options available and rate them according to the measures mentioned here.
This post was first published on LinkedIn, by Karina Pais, Consultant with Futureshift on Karina is an MBA graduate from UK and engaged with us a a consultant in digital marketing.
SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) and IoT (Internet of Things) are the five buzz words in the technology industry that is driving innovation for business and hence valuations for businesses that are in that space.
Let us address this one by one. In this two part series, we will cover introductory and business aspects of SMAC+IoT in this part and take up deep dive in the next.
SMAC delivers an ecosystem to help businesses have maximum reach with minimal costs. It also helps business to be present in front of the customer without being intrusive. We are all creating peta-bytes of data both in structured and unstructured formats. In today’s day and age, anything that we do on the internet is captured in more than one way. This explosion of structured and unstructured data is generating through billions of devices and services – mobile devices social media, sensors, loyalty programs and browsing website and is creating new business models built upon user-generated data. Each of the four technologies – social, mobile, analytics and cloud (let us keep IoT out of the equation for now) – is critical and creates a synergy and provides immense competitive advantage for businesses when used efficiently.
Social Media has provided billions of users and millions of businesses
with new ways to reach and interact between businesses customers and between customers to customers. The mobile technologies have dramatically altered the way people communicate, shop and work and have fun. Analytics allow businesses to understand how, when and where people consume goods and services. Cloud computing provides a disruptive way to access technology with data a business needs to quickly and respond to rapidly changing markets and solve business problems. Each of the four technologies can impact a business individually. But the power lies in the integration and the coming together of the four is proving to be a disruptive force and is creating entirely new business models for service providers.
While it sounds simple the integration involves immense complexity at the back end. There are tools available to achieve the stated purpose. Integrating SMAC requires clear systems, policies and management tools that can automate business processes. The online-retailer company Amazon is a
good example of a business that has successfully harnessed the power of SMAC.
For example, when an Amazon member buys an item on Amazon on their iPhone, they are given the option to login with Facebook’s social login. After the purchase, customers are given multiple ways to provide social feedback. They can rate their experience with stars, write reviews and/or share what they just bought with friends on Facebook or Twitter. Customer data is stored in the cloud and Amazon can break down its analysis to such a granular a level that its recommendation engine can personalize suggestions for friends that are connected and have similar preferences, a concept known as 1:1 marketing.
Any modern CRM strategy would see such 1:1 marketing as the holy-grail of customer engagement and is the aim of every SMAC initiative. Critics however worry that such massive aggregation of customer data from disparate sources, data that is possibly purchased from data brokers, may violate user privacy and cause legal problems related to compliance and data sovereignty.
In spite of such criticism, SMAC is here to stay. In the next post, I will talk about Internet of Things, IoT that is the next big disruptor. Stay tuned.
ZMOT.ly (read zee-mot-lee) is all about ensuring impact at the zero-th moment of truth. This is about rapid demand creation and predictable revenue through right interventions and influencing the decision-making process even before the prospect visits your shelf (online or offline).
Before I proceed I want to share with you a personal sorry that occurred recently.
I was disappointed at mediocre internet banking infrastructure of the two banks #hdfcbank, #icicibank and the unhelpful call center of #jetairways. The numerous attempts to the call center that either put me on hold for a good 20+ minutes or were unable to understand the requests yielded no results. Such waits and both frustrating and costly. I did what was the next step. Vent out my frustration on a tweet.
In less than 12 hours, I had ‘messages’ #icicibank #jetairways requesting for more details. In less than 24 hours of me providing my contact details, the representatives called me and promised to fix the issue. One bank #hdfcbank, just chose to be unheard and non-present on twitter. Needless to say thy just lost my $10K investment that I was planning to do to their competitor.
As a customer, I was delighted that a 140 character tweet could achieve what a 20min international phone call or a 300 word email could not. Harnessing its power, let’s get serious.
Unfortunately, most companies are still treating social media like just another teenage fancy. When in fact, it’s so much more.
Where can Social Media help?
- customer service, building loyalty
- public relations, networking, thought-leadership
- and yes, may be customer acquisition, too.
- And because I’d hate to see it all not add up, I’ll add this tiny bit of advice. Do not assume that social media is the answer to every problem
- If your product sucks, social media won’t fix it.
- However, if your customer service sucks, social media can help.
- If your repeat business sucks, social media can help.
- If your company’s word of mouth sucks, social media can help.
So, here’s what you need to do:
Define your company’s online marketing strategy. Hope is not strategy
Stop thinking “campaigns”. Start thinking “conversations.
Your customers are queuing there. Your resistance to social media is futile. Millions of people are creating content for the social web. Your competitors are already there. Your customers have been there for a long time.
If your business isn’t putting itself out there, you are putting yourself out of business?
- “Why do we as a business need to be there?”
- “Facebook is for friends and Twitter is there for celebrities, not for real businesses”.
- “We are a professional organization, not some startup”
In this two-part series, I will share how social media can change the business dynamics and help you get closer to your prospects and customers. In part 2 of this series I will share my own personal example with an airline and a bank on how they leveraged social media to solve customer problems.
Well are businesses really social?
Many years ago when Avinash Kaushik, an Analytics Evangelist of Google quipped “social media is like teen sex. Everyone wants to do it. Nobody knows how. When it’s finally done there is surprise it’s not better”, it seemed like just that.
Now almost a decade later and wiser, Wikipedia defines thus – “Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue”,
Why should I care, you may ask?
Well, I can give you not one but six trends that possibly can change your perspective.
- Because 3 out of 4 Americans use social technology.
- Because 2/3 of the global internet population visit social networks.
- Because visiting social sites is now the most popular online activity
- Because time spent on social networks is growing at 3x the overall internet rate, accounting for
- Because social media is democratizing communications. Big time.
- Because social media is like word of mouth on steroids.
- Because, social media is a force to be reckoned with! If facebook were a country, it would be the world’s most populous country just ahead of China and India.
If all this is great stuff, how does it affect my business, my customers or my prospects? I will cover these in my next issue, and I leave you with this thought –
93% of social media users believe that a company should have a presence in social media.
93% of these users want a dialogue, not a monologue on social media and believe that companies should not treat social media as yet another channel for broadcasting bulls*t.
Well now that I set the grounding on the basics of Social Media, I will take up in my next post on how businesses can leverage social media in my next issue.