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Over the past decade, consumers have been demanding faster and more convenient ways to shop, as is evident from the growth of major online platforms such as eBay, Amazon and Etsy. But there can be no doubt that 2020 has accelerated this growing trend. Between the first and second quarter of 2020, ecommerce in the UK rose from 20% to 31%, with a noticeable uplift in ecommerce by organisations where previously there was little demand.
Farmers have looked to sell their produce directly, and restaurants have transitioned to a take-away only service. And now, with many retailers struggling to keep up with demand, there’s a perfect opportunity to build a profitable business model with the right ecommerce strategy in place. So, how prepared is your business to reach this new audience?
Ecommerce for small and emerging businesses
Modern technology means it’s now easier than ever for businesses to get online and start selling immediately. Popular website builders such as GoDaddy now offer ecommerce features, allowing businesses to sell and promote products across all social spaces and marketplaces – including Instagram and Amazon, which are great platforms for reaching mass audiences.
WooCommerce has soared in popularity in recent years and can be added to any WordPress site via a plugin, allowing customers to set up an online store in minutes. It even enables businesses to manage their store from the WooCommerce mobile app. Another well-known platform is Shopify, providing sellers with 24/7 expert advice and support, as well as SEO and marketing assistance. With over 70 professional themes to chose from, the finished product looks great. Meanwhile, Wix eCommerce ranks highly, with its ease of use and wide range of features, including the ability to sell across multiple platforms from one integrated dashboard.
Some big names in the industry have gone one step further in supporting businesses during this difficult time. eBay.uk has introduced a number of seller protection strategies including removing negative customer feedback and late delivery counts for unavoidable delayed orders (for instance via Royal Mail or other couriers).
The role of social media in ecommerce
Social platforms are vital tools for any start-up or SME looking to gain a competitive edge. They are uniquely designed to reach a target yet captive audience in just a few clicks, with 44% of the UK online population accessing Facebook more than once a day. Facebook in particular is an extremely powerful tool, providing a one-stop-shop for business owners to post video content to market products; communicate directly with customers (via Messenger); add a call-to-action button; and leverage Facebook Analytics to provide insight into customer behaviour and interaction.
Integrating ecommerce into your website
If you’ve established a loyal following on your website and aren’t comfortable investing in a new platform, adding an ecommerce function to your pre-existing site could be the answer. Step 1 – if your website allows it, install a plugin such as WooCommerce. Step 2 – add some basic ecommerce features such as a shopping cart and payment gateways (e.g. Paypal and Sage). You could also add a Shopify Buy Now Button, which will allow you to add products to any site or blog page. Step 3 – take advantage of Facebook ecommerce, a simple and effective way of getting your product to market. Simply set up a business page and click ‘Add Shop Section’.
Next steps for ecommerce?
You could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed at the choices available. However, there’s lots of help and advice out there including comparison sites and how-to guides. If you haven’t done so already, also check out the STEAMhouse events page, where, throughout the year, you’ll find lots of sessions on social media and building your online presence. For further business support, you can also contact the STEAMhouse Incubator and speak to one of our in-house advisors.