Ecommerce is far from what it was 10 or 15 years ago. When online retailers, or “dot-coms”, as they were commonly referred to back then, first began to emerge as pioneering entrepreneurs who realized that selling goods and services over the Internet was a barely-tapped, extremely lucrative channel for doing business, it was pretty exclusive.
This was a time when many consumers were still wary of submitting their credit card numbers online, but since there were still enough people who were fine with it, it opened up a whole new arena of commerce. It didn’t take long for other enterprising new businesses to jump on the bandwagon and start selling their products from a website.
There were still relatively few businesses who were participating, though, and those who dared to try it only sold certain types of products. Not only that, but online marketing was in a nascent stage, as were the adjacent fields content creation and social media marketing, which barely existed at the time.
Fast-forward to 2019, and the possibilities for a small business who wants to sell online are basically limitless, with the help of online content marketing and social media, of course. In this post, you’ll learn the reasons why you can expand and grow your small business, no matter what you sell, by using ecommerce.
Any Business Can Use Ecommerce
The first thing you have to do is to get rid of the notion that only online retailers, SaaS (Software as a Service) businesses, or online service providers (OSPs) can utilize ecommerce. You, too, can embrace ecommerce to grow your business to a degree that you haven’t experienced yet. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in; you can take advantage of the same opportunities as specialized online retailers by selling your own product online.
Even services like consulting companies, who may have never done it before, can sell their product from a website with just a little tweaking to their business model. Whatever your business sells, you can find ways to put it online and bring in additional sales that you wouldn’t be able to acquire otherwise.
We’re going to go more in-depth with this idea, but how this can basically work for you is by, first, deciding what you want to make available for purchase from your site, and then figuring out how to make it desirable for your customers to use that option.
You might even have a service that serves your local community, such as a plumbing service or a home security system installer, but that does not exclude you from using ecommerce to expand the business and offer an online purchase option. As you can only physically get to a customer’s location within a certain geographical region, you obviously can’t sell it to the whole country online; however, making your service available online lets you reach a great deal more customers who live in that specified area but wouldn’t know about your company unless they can find you online.
Tapping that larger market will require that you employ some online marketing strategies, which we’ll get into below. If you don’t already have a website, then that’s going to be the first thing you need to do. For tips on building a great website, check out the following post:
How Service Providers Can Use Ecommerce
You don’t need to have a business that only sells physical items to sell online. If you have a service-based business, then the most obvious way you can use ecommerce is to simply sell your service online, from your website. In addition to letting people pay for your service online, though, you can also branch out a little and sell physical products that are related to your business, which your customers may also be willing to buy from you.
Do you only sell a service, but no tangible products? Start creating an inventory, even if it’s just a few items, that you can list on your website and other sources online, and you may find that they start to pick up traction and almost become another side business within your business.
You are then adding a supplemental revenue stream that you wouldn’t be able to access without online sales. Having a home business actually puts you at a great advantage because if you were to sell those items in a real-world store, they might not sell too well, but you can reach far more customers online than you could in your local area.
Many services have at least understood that they can use their website to provide contact and product information, but you can use your site for much more than that. One method of utilizing ecommerce for a service is the way we’ve mentioned, where you come up with items that you can sell in addition to your primary service, but another way that the online selling platform can be really profitable for you is to simply reach a lot more customers.
You can, first of all, give customers the opportunity to pay for the service beforehand and reserve the date and time when you will perform the service for them. More than that, though, you can make this available to everyone who finds you online, through your content marketing efforts or however they found you.
Word-of-mouth is still one of the most reliable ways to acquire new business, working in tandem with whatever advertisements you’ve put out into the world, but there are still going to be a lot of potential customers whom you will only reach through the Internet, by way of web search, social media, or other channels.
Don’t Limit Yourself to a Locality
As a home business owner, you’re probably already pretty active online and most likely (hopefully) have a website for the business, but if you are only targeting customers who are within a small, regional circle or your own geographic area, then you are greatly limiting yourself.
You can massively scale up your business by targeting the larger market around the country, and even around the world if it’s feasible for your product. If you have a service that you provide in the real world, then you obviously can’t get to any location around the country, unless you actually have teams in those places.
You can, however, at least market your service online to reach customers in your service area, as we discussed in the previous section. Meanwhile, if you are a goods-seller, then you can start going after customers everywhere by deliberately targeting those people. One of the problems that can impede the process of targeting the larger market online is that home business owners are extremely busy.
Naturally, any small business owner is responsible for a lot of work, especially if they don’t have any help, but home business owners can be exceptionally busy because they don’t have the luxury of the traditional model wherein there’s a brick-and-mortar store and a staff of employees. Home business owners are doing everything remotely and are most likely learning how to get everything done as they go.
So, what usually happens is that the owner throws their product up on their website and waits for orders to come in, so that they can focus on running everything else, without taking much time to figure out how to draw in new customers through online marketing channels. Marketing is an indispensable part of being successful with ecommerce, which we’ll show you how to do in the following section.
Marketing is Essential to Scale Up
You can’t just put your product up on your site and pray that everyone sees it—there’s more to it than that. You have to make it easy for people; you have to facilitate the process that leads to a potential customer coming across your company, in whatever way that you accomplish that. If you don’t find ways to put your product in front of people, how will those potential customers in a wide area know that it even exists?
Using whatever methods you choose to use to market your product or service, you need to get it in front of as many eyes as you possibly can. Content marketing, social media marketing, and PPC (pay per click) ads are excellent ways to start gaining exposure with tons of new customers, the most notable method being content marketing.
To start a content marketing campaign and make it work for you, you only need to open a business blog that is attached to your website and create articles on a regular basis that are specifically orchestrated to reach web searchers who would be your customers. This is the beginning of learning how to use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to your advantage.
It’s something that you’ll need to constantly work at and continually build campaigns that reach people in more and more areas. Creating regular online content and learning how to effectively use SEO is one of the best methods of marketing today because Google reaches people everywhere.
Utilizing SEO to grow your business is actually pretty simple in its function when you understand what it really means to your business, but there is definitely more to it than starting a blog. Most importantly, you have to make sure that new people are always seeing it, which again, isn’t all that complicated.
Once you have your business blog and you’re posting at least a couple of times per week, you then need to promote it through offering subscriptions to the blog and implementing email marketing for it, posting all the time in social media outlets, and getting good at SEO. Here’s an introductory article on using SEO that will help you to get started:
The Scalability is Limitless
When you sell your product online, you can literally take it as far as you want. You already know that advertising your company online is important to spread the word about the product you have on offer, but taking that to the next level and utilizing the ecommerce platform to expand your reach to literally the entire market through online channels is another story, entirely.
The number of people whom you can reach is really only limited by how effectively you market it to them where they are. To put this in perspective, think about how many people who would buy your product exist just within your city, your town, or the community where your business is based.
Then, remove the boundaries of that locality and consider how many people who would buy your product are living in the rest of the country. That’s the remainder of your market, and those are the customers who you can reach using the ecommerce platform with a well-designed, targeted online marketing campaign.
Of course, you may have certain limitations that could impede you from reaching all of those people, depending on what type of home business you are running. Even so, you can find strategies to get around those limitations, such as the ones we’ve already mentioned here.
The bottom line and the point of this article is that there is no need for you to be limited by the local area in which your home business is based, and if you get creative, you can start selling products online for any type of business, whether you’re running it out of your home or from a traditional, outside location.
An important takeaway that you should get from this post is that, to achieve greater scalability, it’s vital for your success that you learn how to use content marketing and to commit to it. For more information on how to use content marketing and how to make it work for you, you can start with our informative resource on building content, here:
Check out all of the articles in the series, Growing Your Home-Based Business:
- How to Leverage Social Media to Rapidly Grow Your Home Business
- Key Areas of Your Home Business to Start Outsourcing Today
- Building a Brand for Your Home Business
- Grow Your Home Business by Partnering with Others
- How eCommerce Can Infinitely Scale Your Home Business
- Treating Your Home Business like a Real Business Is Vital
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.