Let’s say your store sells and repairs pool cleaning equipment. As a side venture the inventor inside of you has been developing a solar powered pool cleaner robot. After a “Eureka!” breakthrough last year, your store began selling the “Sunny Slurper.” You even shipped a few upstate to people who called after hearing good word of mouth about it.
Those phone sales now have you contemplating adding Ecommerce to the business. Then, one morning, you walk in to find an email from “[email protected]” written in Italian. Fortunately your Grandma Duca hails from Sicily and translates. A hotelier in Tuscany saw the Sunny Slurper in a YouTube video and wants to buy a couple. He asks, “How many Euros would it cost to have it shipped to him when using a Findomestic Banca credit card?”
This article continues our series regarding your business entering the ecommerce world (we began with “Is E-Commerce an Option?” followed by “Staffing Up Your New E-Commerce Biz”). Today we discuss the planning process for analyzing your targeted online customers and the potential geographic scope of your E-Commerce efforts.
Targeted Online Customers
When looking at a new market, you must analyze how to approach the consumer in regard to geography, demographics and socio-economics. An in depth discussion of business planning for new markets is beyond our scope here. But it is important to note that your new Ecommerce venture requires a sound business plan the same as with your brick & mortar store.
There are particular Ecommerce considerations as well. For instance, types of products/services that may primarily target certain age groups or demographics (SAT prep materials, maternity clothing). Particular geographic areas may be better or worse target for certain products (e.g., your solar powered robotic pool cleaner won’t find a target rich environment in Northern Canada). Understanding the uniqueness of your potential online audience and shaping your digital media marketing to engage potential customers is essential.
The 4 Corners of the Cyber Globe
From the moment you go live with an Ecommerce site, your product descriptions and check out cart are open for business globally. You have the option of telling the Tuscan hotelier that the Sunny Slurper can only be bought with US Dollars or is only shipped within the contiguous 48 states. But what if foreign markets may provide you with lucrative sales opportunities?
Just because servicing a market might be challenging, isn’t reason enough to forego those opportunities. During the Ecommerce business planning process you need to review the considerations involved in serving customers abroad:
- How you will handle the language differences when communicating with international customers?
- How will you convert currencies for pricing purposes?
- Payment Issues: Will you require use of only U.S. credit cards so that conversion is handled in that manner? Or use a service such as PayPal that accepts payment on behalf of domestic businesses whether the currencies is the Euro or the Yen?
- How will you ship products so they are delivered timely and intact as well as cost efficiently? (Your Ecommerce business cannot be at a comparative disadvantage with your online competitors or businesses local to the customer).
As outlined throughout this series of articles, the planning process reveals both the challenges for selling online (being open 24/7, currency exchange, etc.) as well as the potential for expanding your sales to markets outside of your geographic location (you don’t have to be physically present in Tuscany to sell your Sunny Slurper). It is for the latter opportunities that many a brick & mortar business has added Ecommerce.
Our next article regarding planning for ecommerce will be on the need to analyze what your policies will be for shipping and customer service issues. Will a 24 hour response policy for customer complaints be feasible for your customers across the time zone spectrum?