5 things to consider if you're adding eCommerce to your merchant business

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

You know that thing about icebergs, right? That the part you can see above the water is only a tiny portion of the whole thing? Well the same thing is true for eCommerce platforms, particularly when it comes to complex businesses like merchants and wholesalers. So if you’re thinking about implementing a webshop and are looking at eCommerce solutions – don’t forget to think about what’s going on under the surface too.

eCommerce is a huge opportunity for merchants. Make no mistake, it’s where business is heading. More and more merchants are implementing webshops, and offering either click and collect or delivery services as well as just availability and product information. Customers, whether domestic or commercial, are becoming more used to simple, easy options when buying online – and merchants are scrabbling to keep up.

Webshops and eCommerce platforms come with plenty of new challenges around how to keep up with a new pace of business, and adapt your supply chain and operations accordingly.

So here are our top 5 things to think about up front if you’re considering implementing an eCommerce function in your merchant business:

1. Choose the right eCommerce platform for YOU

It’s important to choose an eCommerce platform suited to your industry; for example, the guys at eCommonSense are doing a fantastic job for merchants and can provide very fast turnarounds and excellent advice. Do your research and shop around – not all platforms will be suitable, so choose one that will make your life easier and help you sell your particular type of products in the right way.

2. Make sure you have the right ERP system in place

If you are thinking about developing an eCommerce platform, it’s important to consider how you’re running things behind the scenes. Using a fully integrated ERP system is a great way to ensure you are prepared for the demands of eCommerce, especially one which is Cloud-based and allows up to the minute access and information from your entire workforce.

Choosing the right commercial system, one which is tailored to your industry and allows advanced stock management and stock control is essential, so you’re always on top of availability and identifying gaps and opportunities in advance. Your eCommerce platform is a bit like the cherry on the cake - and it still needs the cake there to support it.

Oh, and don't forget about the "bricks and mortar" side of the business (which for some of you is more literal than others!) eCommerce is growing very fast, but plenty of customers still rely on the physical merchant experience so don't neglect availability onsite in favour of digital, or you could risk losing customers.

3. Get used to digital

This goes hand in hand with the previous point, but if you aren’t already using digital, cloud-based systems to run the logistics of your business, it’s going to be a lot harder to get your eCommerce offering up and running and keep it working efficiently.

Getting systems and processes in place that facilitate the easy transition to digital will do you enormous favours as you roll our your eCommerce proposition, so it’s really worth investing in the back-end to keep the front end working beautifully. Plus a good system will help you run both online and on-site merchant operations, so it's really worth investing in to prepare for the future, whatever your longer terms plans.

4. Communication is key

Life in eCommerce moves pretty fast. You need to make sure you have the capacity to cope not just with the potential for extra business and a wider geographic reach than you may have previously been able to reach, but also to communicate fast and effectively with customers, suppliers and your own workforce. Having a cloud-based system that allows for electronic PoDs, despatch notes and invoices, for example, speeds up the system data so you have a better handle on availability and order status in real time; and email and digital notification systems enable to you to provide better service to customers.

5. Work with suppliers who can keep pace and evolve with you

It’s important to be prepared for success as well as risk in merchanting. If you’re considering an eCommerce system then chances are you’ve already considered the fact that you could well be about to escalate your business significantly, with easier access to a wider audience and a broader network of customers. So it’s really important to ensure that you’re choosing systems and partners which can expand and evolve with your business, preparing for future growth and not just current performance.

Please do get in touch if you’re considering moving into eCommerce – we are able to advise on the requirements of your current system, and integrate your back-end operations with the front end selling platform. There’s a lot to think about, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.

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