By Shawn Budde
A small business without a web presence today is like a horse-and-buggy driver that ignored the potential of cars. However, a web presence alone is no longer enough. Three years ago, a merchant could get by with a just Facebook Page and a slew of reviews on Yelp. Today’s consumers expect more. When something catches their eye, they want the instant gratification of purchasing it then and there. In response to this demand, businesses need to provide their customers with the ability to transaction, as opposed to simply offering an informational website. Here are three reasons why every business should offer ecommerce.
1. Ecommerce is exploding. There are 191.1 million online shoppers in the U.S.. and 80 percent of people who use the Internet have made an online purchase. The growth of ecommerce in the U.S. now far outpaces overall retail sales and is expected to outpace sales growth at brick-and-mortar stores over the next 5 years. Online retailers also saw the largest gains in traffic and revenue during the 2014 holiday season, according to a Web Marketing Pros study. Web Marketing Pros President Peter Roesler wrote that while a majority of commerce still happens offline, an increasing number of consumers are “eschewing brick and mortar stores for online sites,” and this trend will continue. All this data indicates that business owners who don’t offer ecommerce will be left in the dust.
Furthermore, this trend isn’t just happening in the U.S., but around the world. eMarketer predicts that the Asia-Pacific will become the leading region for ecommerce sales in 2015. Markets in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa also stand poised to send ecommerce sales soaring, thanks to increasing Internet and mobile penetration, expanding incomes that are creating an emerging middle class, and the fact that the physical retail sectors in these markets are “relatively underdeveloped.” An ecommerce presence enables merchants, regardless of their size or location, to reach potential consumers anywhere on Earth.
2. Online is more secure. In the early days of the Internet, skeptics did not believe that people would ever be comfortable entering their financial information or buying things online. Today, that is no longer the case. Not only have technological advancements made online transactions more secure, but notorious security breaches at brick-and-mortar retailers have called into question the safety of offline payments. Target and Home Depot were just two of the many high-profile retailers to announce that tens of millions of customers had their data hacked.
These retailers are vulnerable to attack because their systems are painfully out-of-date. They still store and transmit data in environments that are insecure and inadequate and operate on data security standards that were written for a different era. These vulnerabilities cause them to lose billions of dollars a year to hacks and fraud, and make consumers wary. Security is still one of the top reasons why people don’t shop online.
Meanwhile, the tools for securing online transactions get more sophisticated every day. Ecommerce merchants have a large toolbox at their disposal filled with ways to protect their customers’ data, including encryption, SSL certificates, automatic system scans, and now tokenization. Selling online enables small businesses to give their customers the security they demand and deserve.
3. Shopping behavior is changing. 1-in-20 retail dollars are now spent online. Among millennials, this percentage is even higher — people aged 18-24 spend nearly one-in-ten of their dollars online. Furthermore, 72 percent of consumers today participate in “showrooming,” meaning they look at something in store but make the actual purchase online. There is also a strong trend towards self-service, whereby consumers don’t necessarily want to interact with a human if they don’t have to, and would rather take care of the entire process (research – browsing – purchase) on their own.
These trends mean that ecommerce is a “must” rather than “should” or “could.” Without an ecommerce presence, merchants will struggle to adapt and benefit from changes in the retail landscape. Enabling transactions online enables SMBs to stay relevant and give their customers the shopping experience they want, and will be able to find elsewhere.
Ten, or even five, years ago, setting up a functional ecommerce site was a challenge, much less a user-friendly and secure one. The high barrier to entry prevented many small business owners from setting up shop online due to a lack of time, resources, expertise, or all of the above. Fortunately, the astonishing growth of Internet use and ecommerce has led to a wide range of website builders, payment providers, and online marketplaces that make it possible for anyone to start selling online.
With all the available tools and services out there, there is no reason why any small business can’t start selling online. Ecommerce enables merchants to reach a significantly larger audience of customers, sell around the world, and take extra steps to protect their customer’s data — all with a minimal amount of cost or effort. Additionally, it is a necessary part of ensuring that a business is relevant now and into the future.
Shawn M. Budde, CEO of 2Checkout, is a veteran of the financial tech industry and a serial entrepreneur. Follow him at @shawnbudde.