Analysis: Is E-Commerce the Way to Go After Covid-19?

Summary

In a world-changing series of events, the coronavirus has changed multiple aspects of society – including consumer behavior in big and small ways. Of course, retailers have to respond accordingly, or they too will be consumed by the lasting effects of the pandemic. This blog will tackle the significant and widespread industry shift towards e-commerce, and why it’s slowly becoming the most practical way to go for both merchants and customers in a post-virus future.

If we have learned one thing from the calamitous year that was 2020, it’s that things can change in one snap of a finger – changes we thought we had decades to prepare for, habits we assumed we’d stick to forever, expectations we have of ourselves and the society we live in. 2020 has proven itself, time and again, to be world-changing – in terms of the way we live, the way we work, and the way we shop and buy as consumers.

But perhaps the most significant effect of Covid-19 on retail and commerce is the realization that, for many of us, geographical location has been rendered irrelevant – so long as you’re connected to the internet. In fact, this flexibility was only fully realized after the pandemic decimated brick-and-mortar foot traffic by more than 60 percent, while 43 percent of shoppers started to rely on online shops for products they would’ve previously bought in physical stores. Consequently, this sudden shift towards e-commerce allows more consumers to move away from metropolises.

The virus also catapulted e-commerce strategies – at an almost overnight pace – from a perpetual yet stagnant “top priority” status on every retailer’s short-to-long term plan to a desperately needed lifeline that could potentially save them from the economic distress caused by the great lockdown. Small-to-midsize retailers in the US collectively poured in a staggering $10 billion in e-commerce infrastructure, investments, acquisitions, and partnerships from May to July 2020.

Essentially, the first year of the 2020 virus pandemic accelerated previously existing, but stalled, efforts to innovate the retail landscape. For most, however, the series of events that have unfolded last year spurred an imminent reset of the way businesses think about consumers’ needs and the future of e-commerce.

Moving forward, what experience do you want to
create for your consumers?

To be successful in e-commerce,
you need to think bigger than e-commerce.

Instead of asking yourself “What e-commerce investments do I need to make?” you should be contemplating about “What consumer experience do you want to offer in the new normal?”

This realization comes as a shock for many retailers who have long had a mentality that’s rooted firmly in brick-and-mortar commerce. Then again, Covid-19 has only emphasized and established the reality that consumer experience is rapidly evolving from one that’s built upon in-store shopping to almost personal, ongoing, enriching, and digital business-to-consumer relationships. It’s like drawing a journey map together with your consumer – one that is highly dependent on the other, reaping mutual benefits for both businesses and customers.

So for retailers to offer compelling consumers experiences, they must understand the future set anew, even forcibly, by the coronavirus pandemic. Undeniably, e-commerce is an unequivocally vital piece of that future.

How can retailers know if they fit into this
imminent future painted by a few all-powerful
players and a global pandemic?

Here are some core questions to help define your investments and business model decisions:

• Do you have a dynamic, intuitive e-commerce platform that understands that every consumer journey
and experience is unique?
• Is your key organizational structure free of obstacles – which isolate e-commerce, core operations,
supply chains, and marketing – that interrupt the experience?
• How can you be price-competitive and still maintain margin? How can you drive sales and purchases in
an online environment? What role do store architecture and merchandising play in this?
• How do you seamlessly orchestrate the consumer experience from digital to physical and back again?
• And ultimately, how would you maintain the experience all the way to consumers’ doorsteps?

Always Open Commerce helps you answer these key questions and provide adaptive solutions to ensure your business will fit perfectly in a post-virus future. We help retailers think bigger than e-commerce – not just out-of-the-box clichés that sometimes fail to reflect real-world growth. Here at AOC, we’ll help you set realistic and reasonable goals that your business can achieve slowly but surely – one by one in a smooth, upward projectile.

Regardless of how consumer behavior continues to change, businesses must be prepared to innovate and develop stronger, deeper relationships with their loyalists – both online and in person.

The Black Hole: Why Many Independent Retailers Struggle to Sell Online

The Black Hole:
Why Many Independent
Retailers Struggle to
Sell Online

Working for an independent brick and mortar retailer for 5 years and now working with them for 12 years on the e-commerce side has given me a unique perspective on why selling online can be elusive for some.

If you would like to skip the next two thousand words and get it all summed up in one sentence then here you go.
Steve Berke
June 09, 2021

Owners don’t treat their online store
like a brick and mortar store.

It sounds so simple and something they should inherently know, but for a variety of factors it’s not. The core reasons independent owners have made their businesses successful are:

1. They work hard.

2. They hire the right people.

3. They listen to their customers.

4. They provide a great in store experience.

5. They differentiate themselves from their competition.

I was asked by one independent owner recently for a “blue print, template, step by step instructions” on how he can have a guaranteed successful online business to complement his wildly successful brick and mortar business. While I usually don’t give my secrets away for free, I figured I could make an exception, so I gave them to him.

1. Work hard.

2. Hire the right people.

3. Listen to your customers.

4. Provide a great online user experience (UX).

5. Differentiate yourselves from your competition.

Many independent owners have been thriving for decades, so these things don’t scare them or they would have gone out of business a long time ago. However, once you look closer you see something that does scare many owners and it can be summed up in only one word.


Change

“The only constant in business is change” which means owners have been here before. However, many I meet fail to change and do not apply their same core principals to their online business. It all starts and stops at the top; the owners themselves and 1. on the list.

Most owners can’t work hard on their online business because they are already working hard on their brick and mortar business. I have yet to meet an owner of any size, in any vertical, anywhere in the world who said, “Sure. I have an extra 50-60 hours a week to wear another hat.”

Yes, there is a “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” aspect happening as many owners in the independent channel are on the north side of 60, so this whole technology (change) thing is certainly harder for them to grasp. But that’s not the core issue. It’s the time or lack thereof.

Okay, so owners don’t have time to do a lot of things this isn’t exactly a revelation. That’s why there is 2. on the list as they just hire the right people to get the job done. Problem solved.

Only this creates a bigger problem as many owners don’t know who to hire, so often they hire the wrong people. With the right people a business can do tremendous things. With the wrong people a business can go out of business.

They are looking for
the wrong people
to begin with.

Instead of looking externally for an e-commerce manager with business experience they look for an “IT guy” with IT experience. The world certainly needs IT guys and my company would not run without them, but they are there to help build the online store, not the online business. They need to be an integral part of the team, not run the team.

Instead of looking internally at a top performing store manager, salesman, or marketing lead who can learn the e-commerce manager position they look for an underachiever who isn’t an asset to the company. Why? An e-commerce manager is still not seen by many owners as a real full time position in their company, so taking away a top performer from something that does make money to put them on an unknown is viewed as counterproductive.

Imagine an independent opening a new flagship brick and mortar store that will be their most visited and visible. The owner first goes to hire a store manager who will help build the team and run the day to day.

Would they look to hire outside the company for someone with IT experience (IT Guy) or someone with business experience (Business Guy)?

Business Guy

Would they look to hire within the company and promote a bottom performer who doesn’t even do the bare
minimum or a top performer who excels and goes above and beyond?

Top Performer

If an IT guy or bottom performer was running that flagship brick and mortar store then I would question the long-term profitability and viability of that location. Same goes for having no manager at all. In the brick and mortar world this would never happen to any store. In the online world, it happens every day and whether owners like it or not “your website is your flagship store; it’s the most important store in your arsenal” and having the right person at the helm is a necessity.

The buck stops here as 3-5 on the list won’t even come into play without an engaged owner and the right person leading the way. Only the buck doesn’t stop, it gets passed externally and a phrase I have heard on multiple occasions, from multiple independent owners gets thrown around.

“ The Black Hole ”

No, not the one in space. The one in a business where money keeps getting dumped into an initiative with no ROI. Are the owners, right? Can their online business become the proverbial black hole they fear the most?

Yes

Only not for reasons most think and this goes back to the early days when an online store was a minimum 6 figure investment. Ten plus years ago it was expensive to get into e-commerce and out of the reach for almost all independents. They have all heard the horror stories of enormous sums going into technology with no results. This should scare anyone.

Flash forward to today and Open SaaS e-commerce platforms like BigCommerce have leveled the playing field for independents. Even five years ago if I would have told an owner in the appliance vertical that they could be on the same technology, infrastructure, and 24/7 support network as GE Appliances for only $299 a month, then I may have been called crazy.

If I would have told a owner in the furniture vertical that they could migrate to the same highly customizable and scalable platform as an e-commerce startup who has raised 55 million to date with only a 4 digit investment then I may have lost all my credibility. Burrow Gets Cozy With New Ecommerce Platform

Over time, technology (tangible or not) gets better, more intuitive, sleeker, faster, and more affordable. No different than the products they sell, but independent owners still predominantly attribute a direct correlation to the black hole and technology. Also, agencies like ourselves often get sucked in as well. Technology and those who support it should be independents best friend, not their enemy.

After I already put fingers to keyboard on this blog post I ran across a polarizing article from Forbes “Independent Home Furnishings Retailers Are Losing. Only The Big And Virtual Will Survive.” I’ve since read several compelling counter arguments, so to please everyone I suggest to alter the headline to “Many Independent Home Furnishings Retailers Are Losing.” There are some independents who fully embrace the new omnichannel reality, but I would put them in the minority.

If Technology Isn’t the Cause of
the Black Hole, What Is?

In Feb 2020, I was at an event in Houston where I was set to present with some colleagues in front of a small buying group of about 10 independents on how they can enhance their e-commerce business. Right before I was about to speak the head of the group stood up and said, “If you do not do this, you will go out of business.” While I would not have been so blunt, certainly echoed his sentiment. Now he was not referring to next month, next year, or even the next 5 years. This was more of a 10-15 year down the line statement.

Look at that date again. At this point Covid was still just a joke or a punch line to many. I know I was still sending memes on how the Corona Virus was only going to be bad for Corona Beer sales. Then a month later the world changed overnight. Stores closed and e-commerce boomed, which gave those words immediate merit.

This of course meant the independent owner who made that bold statement worked even harder to get their online business up and running, right? They would put the right people in place, right? Then everything else would take care of itself, right?

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E-commerce in a Post-Virus World – Part 2

Learn how businesses cope up with the changing e-commerce landscape.


With the global vaccine rollout facing major slumps in small-to-midsize economies, experts predict that the world will not return to normal until the warmer months of 2022, according to an article published by The Atlantic. So with a full year ahead of us, how can e-commerce businesses endure these uncertain times? Here’s what online stores do to stay afloat.

Sell to the post-virus market.

Offer Discounts and Incentives!

  • 73% of top online retailers are running sales regularly.
  • 40% is the median discount rate across all active sales.
  • 90% of customers say free shipping is the most in-demand perk, so more businesses are adding this incentive to their stores.

Market at the Right Place

Since Day 1 of the pandemic, people flock to social networking sites more than ever. Facebook Marketplace has a potential market reach of 2.7 billion monthly users, though that’s a highly inorganic number. Still, marketers predict that Marketplace will soon become the Internet’s leading market listing platform, overtaking current titleholder Craigslist.

  • U.S. online orders in market listing platforms increased 56% YoY
  • Mobile sales expected to drop globally by 5% in 2021-2022
  • Podcast downloads are down 20%

The coronavirus is here to stay.
So must your business.

Just like the major pandemics of the past, Covid-19 may never go away, health experts say. People will only have to develop immunity against the virus. As we wait for the vaccine rollout to trigger herd immunity, the world needs to carry on and continue doing business as usual.

For online businesses to stay profitable and maintain growth, they have to:

  • Adapt to meet changing customer needs
  • Sell thoughtfully to the right market
  • Stay safe

We can help! AOC’s mission is to assist online businesses in achieving stability and maintain growth.

Tell us your story. We’re interested! Visit this page and let’s talk about your business’ success amidst this pandemic.

E-commerce in a Post-Virus World – Part 1

Get a glimpse of how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted and changed the landscape of E-commerce.


Businesses around the world have been grappling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic for almost a year. Everything from rapidly changing customer behavior to logistics and supply issues proves to be a challenge for entrepreneurs trying to keep their businesses afloat. In this blog, we’re offering a bird’s eye view of the key data around these changes and how E-commerce is adapting to them.

The market has changed.
Permanently.

All figures are based on a year-on-year comparison (2019 and 2020).

After the impact of Covid-19,
What are people buying online?

  1. Gifts and Specialty Products – 18.9% increase YoY
  2. Apparel and Accessories – 14.3% increase YoY
  3. Home and Garden – 8.4% increase YoY
  4. Groceries – 7.2% increase YoY
  5. Toys and Games – 7.0% increase YoY

 

After the impact of Covid-19,
Here’s what people aren’t buying online:

  1. Luggage – 77% decrease YoY
  2. Cameras and Equipment – 64% decrease YoY
  3. Swimwear – 62% decrease YoY
  4. Gym Bags – 57% decrease YoY
  5. Store Fixtures and Displays – 50% decrease YoY

 

Businesses must change, too.

To stay ahead of the pandemic and meet changing market needs, stores are adapting to the new normal.

 

Bricks-to-Clicks

If you’re among the millions who closed down their physical stores, don’t lose hope. Set up a store online and reconnect with your customers.

  • Due to Covid-19, E-commerce sales grew by 25% in 2020.

 

Less Contact, More Sales

Because of the continuous threat of the virus, shoppers order more items through stores with less physical contact.

  • No-contact deliveries are up 62% since April 2020.

 

Popular Products

In a time where people only buy what they need, you can make a pivotal shift to selling what customers are buying.

  • Face mask sellers grew 5 folds in just two weeks.

 

Learn what online retailers are doing in Part 2!

The Technologies that Will Shape the Future of Ecommerce

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”—Arthur C. Clarke

Who would’ve thought that we’ll be developing a form of technology so advanced it can replicate human consciousness and has the potential to become self-aware? Okay, well, we’re not there yet—but it’s so close it can be a bit overwhelming if not frightening. Thankfully, the world’s visionaries have found ways to trickle down these massive, bleeding-edge techs into something more applied and practical. Most importantly, technology benefitted the way we do business.

          Technological developments have made a tremendous impact on the world of commerce, transforming the way consumers interact with businesses and empowering them to identify which brand fits their wants and their budget. When electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce, was introduced during the early 1980s, public reception was lukewarm at best. Not because the world hasn’t fully exploited the potential of the Internet, but because it defies the concept of shopping—weekends at the mall, lunch with the fam, you get it—that sort of mushy stuff that accompanies brick-and-mortar shopping. Ecommerce faced an opposition founded on family-based traditions, and it was almost wiped out until technology took over the steering wheel before the end of the 20th century.

          Today, the Internet is a busy marketplace. Millions of customers are ordering online from electronic shopping platforms (ex. eCommerce websites) as the can get anything from undergarments to mattresses to coffees right at their doorsteps. And as the commercial landscape continues to evolve yearly, new opportunities for businesses are emerging.

 For you to stay ahead of the curve, you must educate yourself about the latest technological trends in eCommerce, and how you can utilize them to your advantage.
Chatbots

        Fathom CEO and founder Gareth Dunlop predicts that virtual assistants – chatbots – will be integrated to more than 25 percent of all customer support services by 2020.

          Kelly Vaughn, founder of The Taproom Agency, supports Dunlop’s forecast, “Customers want prompt and accurate answers to their inquiries, and in busy times, eCommerce merchants are not always able to keep up with the rate of messages coming in. Thankfully, chatbots are getting smarter, and I expect to see this trend to continue upward.”

          Neural networks allow tools like chatbots to get a better understanding of how humans interact with machines—in which case, what questions are being asked most frequently when customers shop online. Because AIs are modeled after the human brain, machines have ‘somehow’ developed the ability to parse customer data for deeper personalization of support experience to a specific customer.

          “Advice is probably obvious here—if you haven’t tried using a chatbot on your online store, give one a test run,” says Kelly.

Augmented Reality

          Ever played Pokémon Go or Harry Potter: Wizards Unite? These are popular mobile games, with the former being credited as the catalyst of the AR revolution. WeMakeWebsites co-founder and lead designer Piers Thorogood believes that the years of 2018, 2019, or 2020 will witness the explosion in popularity of augmented reality – way beyond its limited use to mobile games and apps.

"With tools like ‘Shopify AR powered by 3D Warehouse’ and a growing number of 3D modeling experts, it’s become extremely easy to integrate AR into eCommerce stores," Thorogood explains. He emphasized major advantages for both consumers and merchants. For the former, AR means a much richer shopping experience, getting to test out a product as if they already have it. As for the latter, this means higher conversion rates.

Ben Froedge, head of content and marketing at Shopify Plus, adds that AR is bridging the gap between the brick-and-mortar buying experience and ordering the product online.

He commented that being able to physically see the product in your home – where you want it to be placed – is a potential game-changer for shoppers. Now thousands of eCommerce businesses are combining hardware (smartphones) with applications (3D Warehouse) to integrate AR with shopping.

Future Tech

          The face of eCommerce is changing. Technological revitalizations are helping every aspect of society realize the real potential of their respective causes. At the opposite extreme lies pessimistic headlines about the dangers of uncontrolled technological advancement – that our generation is not yet ready for such drastic change in the level of 1700s Industrial Revolution. But why the grim ideals? One way or another, we’ll have to arrive on the decision that will affect us all, for better or for worse.

          Throughout this article, we have summed up the capabilities that technology can realize. Many successful e-commerce businesses invest in these technologies because it enables them to stay ahead of the curve, and to strategically heighten their success. To learn more about the latest trends in e-commerce and their practical applications to your business, we’re more than delighted to talk with you.

A Three-Part Guide to Setting Up an Online Business in Australia

PART 2: LEARNING YOUR LOGISTICS

In the previous article, we have discussed the basics of setting up an online business in Australia. We’ve summarized the entire process into 8 distinct steps, providing you a complete initial walkthrough of starting an online store.

          Part 2 is all about logistics.

          Logistics play a crucial part in any forms of retail. Whether you’re running a brick-and-mortar store or making deals through online channels, logistics is, simply put, the way you will get your products to your customers. It works like a human’s skeleton – serving as the framework of any business and by extension, the backbone of a nation’s economy.

          But how does logistics work in an isolated country like Australia? Let’s talk about the dropshipping model.

Understanding dropshipping in Australia

.

Infographic by Oberlo. For in-depth discussion about dropshipping, visit www.oberlo.com/blog/how-to-start-a-dropshipping-business

          Dropshipping is a method of retail fulfillment where the supplier—not the retailer—delivers the goods directly to the customer. The retailer doesn’t keep and track inventory; instead, when an online store receives an order, the merchant (or retailer) forwards the request to a dropshipping partner (or supplier).

          To further understand the simplicity of the dropshipping business model, here’s a sample process flow for an online store we’ve made up – the Always Open Candies (AOT) store.

Dropshipping Model

Warehouse Model

Customer Sandra places an order of 3 boxes of gummy bears on AOC store.

Customer Sandra places an order of 3 boxes of gummy bears on AOC store.

AOC store forwards the order to a third-party drop shipping partner.

AOC store confirms it has stock of the ordered product in its warehouse.

Dropshipping partner prepares, packages, and ships the goods using AOC Store branding.

AOC Store prepares, packages, and ships the goods from its own warehouse.

Customer Sandra receives the goods at her indicated address.

Customer Sandra receives the goods at her indicated address.

         
Looks pretty good? Well, yes and no. Using a dropshipping model has its benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits

Drawbacks

Low startup costs

Challenging to find a trustworthy and reliable dropshipping partner

Easy to setup

You don’t have quality control over your products

Low operating expenses (overhead)

Lower profit margins

Wide selection of products

Inventory issues

Can run the business anywhere

Shipping complexities

          Apparently, the dropshipping model is most suitable for startup companies who have limited capital. Because of its flexible nature, dropshipping allows you, the merchant, to sell items on your online store without shelling out money for initial inventory. It also prevents you from overstocking and writing off unsold items (if the goods have an expiry period).

          If you’re really into setting up your own online business for the Aussies, you might want to look at this list (just scroll down to see the section “List of the Major Drop Shipping Companies”). It’s a list of the most trusted dropshipping companies based in Australia that focus on e-commerce logistics.

          But, what if you HAVE the capital needed to start a medium-scale online business. Would you rather opt for local sourcing, or is it safe to get your products abroad? Let’s talk about that right after the jump.

Local Suppliers vs. International Suppliers

Australia is an exporter country, with $243B exports and $199B imports in 2017.

          Part of any retail business’ logistics operations is the sourcing of goods to sell, may it be online or traditional. Say your business is growing, and you have your own warehouse to fill in, where would you source your stock?

                    The common perspective of both online and traditional merchants on this says that local sourcing is faster and easier to manage, while overseas sourcing is much cheaper if you transact in bulk. These factors may sound self-explanatory, but they can be easily missed if not properly understood.

          Low-cost country sourcing (LCCS) is the best logistic option if you want to source your goods from abroad. In LCCS, products or materials originate from countries with cheap labor and manufacturing costs resulting in astoundingly low purchasing prices. LCCS nations are often resource-rich countries with strictly imposed regulated wages such as China, India, and Mexico. Familiar with the quality epidemic “Made in China”? Now you know where that’s coming from.

          Local sourcing, on the contrary, requires some considerations. One of the fundamental reasons to source locally is proximity. Purchasers that are based in the same country as the producer has greater control over inventories afforded by frequent quality checks and clear communication. In many circumstances, companies that are based in a country that has a weaker currency relative to the supplier’s country are advised to source their products locally. It’s not only quicker; logistics are less costly when shipping domestically.

Decision Time

          Seeing your online business grow is like reaping the fruits of the seeds you sowed. As it continually expands, a business’ logistics requirements become more pressing. Sourcing locally or internationally is never a simple, cut-and-dry decision. You have to identify key factors—what is vital and what can be compromised—before establishing a solid direction.

          It is also essential for online businesses to view suppliers as a partner rather than a one-time deal, taking into consideration that some of the world’s biggest retailers became what they are thanks to loyal business "relationships."

          Ultimately, any decisions regarding the ordering of supplies or inventory stock are far more stable and risk-free if precise knowledge of current stock and future needs are laid out and properly reported. This precision requires expert-level intervention—an inventory or product management system with comprehensive capabilities of monitoring and analyzing data.
We will talk about these software systems on our third and last part of this blog series.

A Three-Part Guide to Setting Up Online Business in Australia

PART 1: GETTING STARTED

If you’re thinking of starting a business empire, Australia’s e-commerce market is a treasure trove of opportunities. To be precise, it’s a pile of loot at a value of nearly US$32 billion (or AU$41 billion), and to the delight of us all, that stockpile shows no sign of slowing down. That translates to the 5th largest e-commerce market in the Asia Pacific region, according to Forrester. In other words, it’s an opportunity to make serious money.

What’s the catch? This question.

"How do I start an e-commerce or online store business in Australia?"

Well, we’ve anticipated that. You may find the process tedious and complicated (and you will), but that’s okay. Now you’re here, you can relax. Because in this three-part guide, we will walk you through the basics of setting up an online store if you live in Australia (or planning to expand your business there). We’ll discuss the 8 steps to get your online business up and running.

8 Steps to Set Your Store Up

  1. Decide what you want to sell and your target market.
  2. Of course. This is arguably the most important step in this long, tedious process of setting up an online business.

    The Internet as a marketplace can be ruthless; no room for second chances, let alone careless errors and miscalculations. You are about to sell in the most competitive market in the world, with millions of merchants hungry to get a chunk of the 1.8 billion customers who are actively purchasing goods online. The point is you have to know what you’re going to sell and to which sector of the global market you intend to sell your products to. Ignoring this crucial step means failing to specialize your business around the interest of your target audience.

    Case in point: if you like flowers, then set up an online flower shop with additional services, knowing that your main target market is mostly females and other business which use floral products (wedding organizers, specialty gift shops, among others).

  3. Register your business – including your store’s domain name.
  4. After careful planning about your business’ nature and structure (note: it must take time), you should now register your business. If you have an existing ABN (Australian Business Number), you’re only required to register your domain name. To maximize market reach, your domain name should match the product or service you want to offer. Does a website named petcollars.com.au selling Korean cosmetics make any sense?

    Also, noticed that .au at the end of the domain name? That’ll be useful if you want your store to specifically cater to the Australian market. If you want to go global or envisions your business to do so in the future, choose the .com domain extension.

  5. Build your store using the right platform.
  6. Now comes another important step that is crucial to the success of your online business – choosing the right e-commerce platform.

    We’ll save the discussions for this topic later, as the third part of this 3-part blog series will be focusing on the best e-commerce platforms to consider for beginners in the industry.

    For starters, choosing the right platform is similar to how a brick-and-mortar store would function on a day-to-day basis.

    It’s natural to have questions about the complexities of e-commerce, and that’s where e-commerce solutions come handy.

  7. Invest in store designs and functionalities.
  8. Today, just before the second decade of the 21st century ends, ultra-modern and AI-toting shops and stores dot multiple megacities around the world. These sweet, futuristic features come with hefty price tags, and for their respective owners and companies, they are significant investments. Unnecessary for their operations to continue, but vital for future-proofing and making an impression.

    It’s practically the same for online stores. Once you’ve chosen a platform, you must invest in designs and functionalities that give you an edge over your competitors. It’ll leave a stronger first impression and, as a result, get more conversions.

    If you want to work with an e-commerce website design in Sydney, you can click here for more info.

  9. Track your store’s key performance indicators (or KPIs).
  10. KPIs are business tools every merchant needs to know to track and assess your store’s performance. It’s like a daily or weekly financial report on how well your online business is performing.

    We’ve enumerated the following e-commerce-specific indicators that you should regularly monitor:

    • Average order value: measures the revenue you earn per order. If you want to make promos like discounts and item bundling, use this indicator to know how much you’ll be earning.
    • Customer lifetime value: a useful indicator that determines customer retention and loyalty. CLV projects the expected revenue from customers for their entire lifetimes.
    • Conversion rate: the most important performance indicator is your conversion rate, which measures the percentage of site visitors who purchase from your store.
    • Revenue on ad spend: shows the revenue you earn per advertising spend. It’s a crucial indicator of the effectiveness of your advertisements. Understanding how this works can save you from unnecessary expenses.
    • Shopping cart abandonment: this figure reflects possible inconveniences encountered by customers such as high shipping fees, lengthy checkout process, or lack of payment options.
    • Map overlay: this indicator lets you know which visitors belong to a specific country or state. This is vital if you’re planning to expand your reach overseas or focus on a particular city.
  11. Advertise your website with modern tools.
  12. Don’t even think about posting on Gumtree. You wouldn’t want your customers to have that kind of impression. What you need is a holistic approach to your marketing strategy; the kind that builds reputation and loyalty. You must avoid giving off a “one-time thing” vibe—at all costs.

    For this, you will need to use a variety of digital marketing tools.

    • Social media marketing – a direct, cost-friendly way to engage with potential customers and maintain a solid relationship with your established fans and regulars, both contribute to higher conversion rates
    • Blogging/vlogging – people’s eyes have never been this glued to their smartphones before thanks to the rise of vloggers and influencers – and it’s an effective way to tap the ever-growing millennial market
    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – online marketing’s most effective tool for making your store appear on the top results of search engines using powerful keywords and substantial content
    • Online ads – there’s no better way to generate buzz than running an ad campaign through Google or Facebook, offering cost flexibility and a location-targeted engine if you want to advertise only in a specific area
  13. Choose your payment gateways.
  14. For emphasis, you don’t want one-time customers, right? Of course. That will spell doom for your online store. So, BEFORE getting started with your Australian dream to dominate retail on this side of the world, you need to make sure your checkout process will not irk your customers.

    What to do? Opt for the right payment gateways and methods to speed up transactions, not overcomplicating them with unnecessary surveys and checkout forms.

    Here are the top payment methods for Australian customers:

    • Credit cards (MasterCard and Visa)
    • Internet banking
    • E-wallets (PayPal, Visa Online)
    • Mobile payments
    • Online bank transfer
    • Cash-on-delivery
  15. Partner with a trusted logistics provider.
  16. Yes! You’re ready to put the cherry on top of the cake. Partnering your business with a reliable logistics service is crucial, yet often overlooked step in setting up an online store in Australia. Forget to set this up, and no one’s going to visit your store again.

    If you have the resources to assemble an in-house distribution and delivery team, it’ll be ideal for your business in the long run. However, this can be difficult to manage (and finance) if you’re a from-scratch start-up. Outsourcing your logistical needs is the only way to go.

Getting Started and Moving Forward

          There you go! You just finished setting up your online store in Australia. Well, hypothetically speaking. But isn’t it easy? True, it can be quite intimidating, but you don’t have to launch a perfect online store. Ever heard of feedbacks? Just wait for them to come at you popping as notifications. You’ll get used to it, eventually. And for many successful merchants, that’s the beauty of online selling—receiving praise and accepting criticisms, all for the improvement of your business.

          In the next article, we’ll be discussing the technicalities of online selling and maintaining your store in-depth. Stay tuned!

Pros and Cons of Business Process Outsourcing

In simplest terms, business process outsourcing (BPO) is the delegation of specific business operations to a third-party service provider. It is a common practice among large-scale businesses and multi-level corporations. Call centers are shining testaments of the BPO business model.

For most small-to-medium enterprises, outsourcing is more or less a stroke of genius; it helps you seek ways to adapt and stay competitive. If you’re selling products online, you’re already outsourcing your operations to a third-party service provider (platforms or e-commerce solutions) that has better expertise—which in time will save you a lot of time, money and resources.

Yet, deciding to outsource your operations should not be an easy decision—at some cases, it might be met with some resistance within the business. That’s why we’ve collected the pros and cons of BPO, weighing the good and the bad, so you can make an informed decision on what is best for your business.

THE PROS

Business process outsourcing will provide your enterprise with many benefits, some of which are discussed below.

  • Frees up your operations so you can focus more on running the business. When a third-party handles time-consuming business processes (such as customer service), it frees up more of your time. With more time available, you can put your attention towards the business’ core competencies.
  • Minimizes overhead costs. With BPO, your business can lower overhead costs and become more efficient, being able to do more for less.
  • Grants you access to a competitive industry. Working with third-party solutions provider like Always Open Commerce gives you direct access to people with superior knowledge and experience in the industry.

THE CONS

As with any other major business decision, it’s a must to consider the disadvantages—or nitpick, if you will—of moving ahead with a third-party service.

  • Requires careful planning. Getting your business into BPO is not a matter of making the decision over a cup of coffee and then handing things over to the third-party at dinner. For instance, meetings with key contact persons are almost necessary to set things up. It takes a lot of planning and consideration.
  • Occasional hidden costs. Watch out for hidden costs, such as legal expenses, when dealing with BPO companies. Make sure everything is written on paper, so there are no financial surprises.

Should you worry about these cons when you consider working with Always Open Commerce? Not at all! And we have five compelling reasons why our clients trust us as their third-party solutions provider. Click here to learn more!

         
Always Open Commerce is a third-party e-commerce solutions provider with expertise in the development, design, and maintenance of online stores.

The Life of Warren Buffett: One of the World’s Most Successful Investors

Berkshire Hathaway.

          Perhaps, you’ve heard that name—it often makes appearances in newspapers on the financial section at page 4, or more possibly, a dedicated article by TIME or Forbes in one of its monthly releases. But most importantly, Berkshire Hathaway is the 5th largest public company in the world, with almost $500 billion in market capitalization. Its financial services earn more than any other banking firm on the planet, making it one of the most powerful corporations to have ever existed, employing—and affecting the lives of—more than 360,000 employees across the globe. Truly, Berkshire’s success is tantamount, all credit is due to its Chairman and CEO, the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett.

Who is Warren Buffett?




          Born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1930, Buffett demonstrated exceptional instincts of a businessman at a young age. After studying business and graduating at the University of Nebraska, he started taking entrepreneurship seriously by forming the Buffett Partnership Ltd. in 1956.

          Warren is the only son of a congressman and stockbroker Howard Buffett. His mother, Leila Stahl Buffett, was a homemaker. By the age of 13, Buffett was running his own business as a paperboy, filing his first tax return that same year. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School in D.C., where he continued growing his little business empire by purchasing a used pinball machine for $25. Buffett and his friend installed it in a barbershop, and within a few months, the profits enabled them to buy other machines. His co-owned gaming business grew to three different locations before it got sold for $1,200.

Establishing Berkshire Hathaway

After setting up his first firm Buffet Partnership in Omaha, he began purchasing and identifying undervalued companies that he thought was an investment. Once such enterprise is the now almighty Berkshire Hathaway, which was once a textile company. Through Berkshire, Warren Buffet began accumulating stock in the early 1960s, and by 1965 he had assumed control of the soon-to-be mega-enterprise.

          What happened to Buffett Partnership? Warren decided to dissolve the firm in 1969 to focus on the development of Berkshire Hathaway. The company’s manufacturing division was phased out and instead shifted to what Buffett is good at: investments. It expanded by buying assets in media (The Washington Post), insurance (GEICO), and oil production (Exxon). Later in 1987, Buffett steered Berkshire’s then-burgeoning success into saving seemingly failing companies—metaphorically turning rocks into gold. Most notable is his purchase of the controversial investment bank Salomon Brothers.

          Eventually, under Buffett’s leadership, Berkshire had numerous deals with other mega companies, including a 7% stake in The Coca-Cola Company worth $1.1 billion in 1988. Warren became director of the company from 1989 until 2006. His flirtations with financial firms made him into one of the directors of Citigroup Global Markets Holdings, Graham Holdings, and The Gillette Company.

          Today, Berkshire Hathaway completely owns staple brands like underwear maker Fruit of the Loom and ice creamery Dairy Queen. As a minority stockholder, the Buffett led holding company owns a part of Apple, Inc. and American Express.

Becoming the World’s Most Successful Investor

          As of 2018, Buffett is the third wealthiest man on the planet. He has an estimated net worth of $84 billion.

          I know people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them,” said Buffett. If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don’t care how big your bank account is, your life is a disaster.”

          Warren Buffett is no doubt the world’s most successful investor, but he’s also a business icon who can deliver the gift of wisdom and truth when we need it most. As a self-made billionaire, Buffett can attest to the fact that the amount you are loved for – not your wealth or accomplishments – is the one, true measure of success in life.

5 Proven Ways that Will Boost Your Social Media Engagement Without Spending Money

Here’s an observable truth: hundreds of businesses stagnate because of failure to acknowledge an inevitable fact— that the Internet has become the world’s most powerful mechanism. And within this mechanism is a platform of boundless influence, one that reaches even the remotest sector of society. Social media has overcome traditional media as the main stage of information; equipping itself with bleeding-edge tech and bypassing conventional channels of communication through creative yet radical means—memes, vines, vlogs, to name a few. It is here to stay, for better or for worse, and businesses must adapt or else they might be jeopardizing their own market growth.

                Interestingly, expanding your social media presence isn’t as costly as setting up a new store—and definitely not as demanding. A solid social media strategy can drive growth for your business by fostering lasting and loyal relationships with customers and prospects—a much better compromise than putting up branches or pouring out thousands of dollars on traditional marketing. That leads to another interesting proposition: how can you boost your online presence in social media without spending money, or at least, not too much? We list down five proven ways.

  1. Choose the network that caters to your needs
  2. Since the world witnessed the cultural explosion brought by social media and its catalyst, Facebook, back in the early 2010s, it has brought unprecedented change to the landscape of commerce and marketing. More and more people flock to social media for their information needs than reading the newspaper or watching CNN. And because this technological phenomenon generated so much traffic online, businesses naturally flocked to social media as well, bringing their products and services online which in turn, produced additional revenue through e-commerce. Facebook was and still is at the center of it all, garnering over 2 billion memberships in just a span of a decade. The many milestones of Facebook in transforming the commercial landscape made it a universal top-of-mind choice for every marketer. Other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, target a more specific market, although synchronization of these platforms is always possible.

  3. Religiously respond to your customers
  4. Boosting your social media presence doesn’t just mean getting into the right platform and setting up an account. Let your audience see a softer side. This means interacting on social media accounts on a regular basis. Respond to posts or comments from your followers and interact when they show interest. Show them who you are, whether as a business entity or as a person and surely your audience will feel more connected to you. Eventually, they will follow your activities and start promoting you—a momentum much need for growth.

  5. Know what they need
  6. Getting more intimate with your audience is key to successful online marketing. Understanding what they need will help you be able to determine the products or services you will offer them. Once you’ve become fully aware of your audience’s needs, countless opportunities await for your business as they will definitely take interest on what you have in store for them, and what your business is all about.

  7. Pay attention to what’s in
  8. One of the best ways to reach a bigger audience and create a larger social media presence is to milk every popular trend. You can get ahead of these trends just by taking a look at what’s going on around the world—sporting events, blockbuster hits, or viral videos. For instance, staying active on Twitter can give you an overview of what is trending in the online world. Hashtagged events are also becoming a thing, like #NationalCoffeeDay, #NationalBestfriendsDay, #NationalWhoCaresDay—you get it. This simple technique will get your profile in front of a ton of users who never knew your business before and could even help your posts go viral.

  9. Use dazzling visuals
  10. Mediocrity has stagnated some business pages across Facebook and Twitter. They use re-uploaded photos of their products, posted with an old blurb without anything to drool for. You need to up your graphics games and have your page stand out. Try to avoid using too many boring stock photos. Instead, focus on sharing images that will resonate your vision. Share high-quality, well-polished, and if necessary, out-of-the-box graphics with exemplary short phrases that will connect with your followers. Sometimes, sharing your customers’ photos of them interacting with your product or service—with their permission—will also create proof of your loyalty to your fanbase.

                If you want to create a social media presence, your social media accounts must imitate real-life communities wherein people gather with a unifying purpose. This means positive interaction and appreciation. Engaging with your followers will not only increase your online presence; you will develop real relationships with customers as well. In an ever-changing world of business and commerce, adaptability is ultimately the main ingredient for a well-brewed formula of success—hot-served and well-stirred.