Mark McArdle of Intact Software on the importance of thinking through your approach to setting up an online shop.
While hardware retailers and builders merchants in the greater Dublin area saw the strongest rise in business activity last year (see HAI’s Member Confidence Survey 2015), the rest of the country
was slower to see the gains of an improving economy.
With more people buying online than ever before, the industry needs to start taking advantage of the increased market reach and potential sales revenues this sales channel could offer. For Irish retailers and merchants, the absence of an online sales presence in 2016 will put them at a huge disadvantage to competitors. It acts as a major disincentive to customers, for whom buying online is now the norm.
Countless studies have shown that consumers are doing their research online before they ever hit your store. They’re looking for the best price, the most convenient way to purchase and how quickly they can get what they want. Take a moment to think of the possibilities:
They will all begin their research online and you have to be there to be considered. Some hardware stores offer a click and collect service where customers come in with the exact code of the product they’re looking for. This is because they’ve done all their research and know exactly what they want. If collecting doesn’t suit them, they can also get products delivered.
An online shop is not only a great way of generating additional revenue 24/7 but it is also an opportunity to promote and upsell featured items, discount ranges and related products. One of the
most efficient and cost-effective ways to add an online element to your business is to integrate a B2B or B2C e-commerce website to your business software system.
There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to go about setting up an e-commerce webshop, especially if you want it to integrate with your back-office system. Rush into it and you’ll probably pay the price down the line. Get it right from the outset and an integrated webshop will see you managing a single database where all stock information, pricing and products are updated in real-time on your web store as changes are made in your back-office system.
Your investment will reflect the level of complexity required and the overall digital strategy you wish to pursue. While many businesses choose the path of least resistance and simply duplicate their ERP (enterprise resource planning) data to an independent website, this unfortunately can result in huge issues with data duplication, human error and timing problems.
Dive into your e-commerce project without a plan and you are sure to fall at the first hurdle. If you’re thinking of embarking on this journey, you should treat it with the same level of importance and consideration as opening up a new physical branch or outlet. It requires plenty of thought, sufficient time, adequate resources and the right service provider.