Digitalisation offers companies new opportunities to expand their customer base. Through independence from physical locations, as is the case with e-commerce, it is possible for companies to acquire new customers worldwide in a very short time. It is small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular that benefit from e-commerce. However, in order to be able to keep up with large market players, which, unlike SMEs, usually have the corresponding financial means and budgets at their disposal, it is important for SMEs to know the success factors of e-commerce business models.
One of the classic discussions in companies concerns the choice of channel with which to sell products: via online marketplace providers or via a classic online shop. Usually having your own ecommerce allows much more flexibility and means that you can control the entire sales process. From marketplaces like Amazon you can benefit from a huge customer base. However, they make a profit on every product sold and you are limited by their sales conditions. A long-term solution could be to work with a combination of the two channels: customers are undoubtedly found more quickly on established marketplaces, but most of the money stays in your pocket in the long run with your own ecommerce. Having a product that is searched for and bought is still the necessary basic condition for turning to ecommerce.
To be more precise, the list of possible marketing and sales channels is even broader, as entrepreneurs can draw from a very diverse pool that, in addition to online shops and sales platforms, can also include digital customer portals, social media shopping and much more. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all channels are equally suitable, especially if the company operates in B2B or B2C.
Ecommerce boom: some data
If in 2020 we witnessed a steady adaptation to the world of e-commerce by a large number of businesses, we now have confirmation that this trend is not going to stop with the pandemic, but reflects a genuine change in the way people shop.
According to the Shopping Index, Salesforce's quarterly report, in the first quarter of 2021 the e-commerce world grew globally by 58% and traffic on shopping sites grew by 27%.
In this scenario, Italy has managed to rank fourth among the countries that have experienced the greatest growth in the sector, even reaching an increase of 78% and thus positioning itself after Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Another important fact to consider is the steady increase in the use of mobile devices to make purchases: the use of PCs has in fact halved from 40% in the last quarter of 2020 to 20% in the first quarter of 2021.
All this data not only confirms that spending habits are clearly oriented towards online purchasing, but also that the demand for an online presence by companies will continue to increase.
eCommerce systems for online business success
1. Web-based solutions and open source e-commerce systems
If you want a simple online e-commerce that you can easily set up and manage yourself, then systems like Shopify may be a good idea. These systems require no programming knowledge, are quick to set up and cost little. However, they lack total flexibility and can hardly be further developed.
2. Open source e-commerce systems
This type of e-commerce can be adapted to individual needs and can be hosted on one's own server. These e-commerce systems offer many features and are a good compromise for entering the world of professional e-commerce. Some of these systems are WooCommerce, Shopware, Prestashop, Magento and Drupal Commerce.
3. Enterprise solutions
These platforms are suitable for large companies with in-house e-commerce management and development teams. Use is under licence. Enterprise solutions include Spryker, SAP, Salesforce, Oracle and Elastic Path.
4. 100% customised shop software
If you want to sell many products, connect a professional ERP system and build a solution exactly tailored to your company, then you cannot avoid customised e-commerce software. This software can be completely customised in terms of design and individual functions can be added. However, to set up such a shop, you need an external software house to take over the entire technical development. The latter is also required to further develop the shop. We also offer such solutions.
How do B2B e-commerce differ?
As mentioned earlier, the choice of the most suitable channels for one's business is also influenced by the sector in which one operates (B2B vs. B2C). The main difference between the two sectors stems from the different behaviour of customers.
In the B2C sector, prices are fixed, order quantities are considerably smaller and the handling of purchase and delivery is very standardised. In contrast, in the B2B sector, the focus is on the individual needs of the customer. To this end, collaboration with the supplier takes place step by step. The main objective of B2B e-commerce is to understand the customer's wishes in more detail before the purchasing process and to offer an individual solution as a basis for long-term cooperation.
Therefore, the following characteristics emerge for B2B e-commerce operators:
- The purchasing process is characterised by extensive information observation and comparative research.
- Prices vary widely and depend on various framework conditions, such as the order quantity and the exact requirements of the customer.
- The delivery of the service/product is much more complex, often demand-driven and must therefore be designed flexibly for the customer.
- The sales process is not triggered by a direct sale, but through the expressed interest in a product or service (lead generation).
As you can see, setting up an online shop requires processes and efforts behind the scenes that can be very complex. With the rapid development of technology, e-commerce is increasingly positioning itself as an important sales channel also in the B2B sector. Companies must approach this development as an opportunity to identify their customers more efficiently online and to respond better to their needs in the pre-sales process.