Smaller companies are expanding their export opportunities. The U.S. Commercial Service provides resources to help businesses grow. As digital is often the way to go to establish a global presence, here is some advice from the organization.
The first step is to have a business plan for your ecommerce strategy when you’re planning to create or renew a business website. You should research the ecommerce platforms to:
- Maximize your return on investment (ROI)
- Create budgets and forecasts that ensure you get an ROI on your ecommerce strategy
- Define the look and feel of your website and to develop your strategy in your overseas target markets.
Your eCommerce Strategy:
- Objectives: Does your business need its own website? Some ecommerce auction or retailer sites such as eBay or Amazon are a good place to start before investing in your own website. If you’ve established that your business does need a website, then define why your business needs a website. This exercise will help you to keep focus as you develop your ideas. What do you want the website to achieve? You must clearly convey what you are trying to create in and with your website.
- Resources: Does your business have enough capital for the initial investment in ecommerce, and how long can it survive without the ROI? Can you afford to hire a website specialist on salary, contract, or ad hoc? If you don't have much of a budget, you will need to compromise on what you want the site to do. Have an idea of your contingency options should you discover that your investment in ecommerce does not work out.
- Target markets and audience: You must ensure that you or your local U.S. Export Assistance Center has done some in-depth market research to establish market potential for your product. You need to identity the key audiences that visit—or that you would like to have visit—your company’s website. In ecommerce, the primary focus is attracting visitors and returning customers. Ignoring your competition in target markets will leave your own business strategy vulnerable. What are the competing products in this market? Who are the competitors that supply them?
- Competitor analysis: Who are your closest industry competitors, and what are they up to? Who has the best site and why? You should make a list of your closest competition and consider what elements of their websites are good; then consider borrowing those ideas for your own website.
- Feature list: You should define what the technical requirements are for your website, such as (a) the content management system (CMS) or order management framework to be used, (b) the payment gateways that you want to use, and (c) any other systems integration that you may want out of your website. It may be helpful to do simple sketches or to create a PowerPoint mockup of how you want your ecommerce website to look. This process can be fairly easy for information delivery sites, because most of those static pages will require only minimal inputs and functionality. For ecommerce transactional sites or hybrid transactional or informational sites, you should make sure to list requirements for your home page such as product lists, onsite search, and product detail pages.
In addition to the components covered in this section, here are some other items to consider when launching your new (or revised) site:
- Data encryption. Secure socket layer (SSL) will protect your customers’ private information. The majority of popular ecommerce platforms already have this built into their programs.
- Shopping cart. meets your business needs? Many platforms have plenty of shopping cart applications to choose from.
- Online orders. Can your current information technology (IT) system handle the order fulfillment from an influx of online orders?
For advice on other topics related to exporting click here.