It may be easy to be carried away with fantasies of people flocking to your website and buying millions of dollars of products. On the other hand, you may not see how your business can benefit from a web store. This view may impede your success, particularly if your competitors offer Web shopping and you don’t. As a business owner, you must provide your customers with the services they want or they will go elsewhere.
Many business customers prefer placing orders on the Web because it is faster and easier than talking to a sales or customer service person. Many customers have chosen the Web because of the difficulty of getting to a “real” person by phone. Be careful that you don’t sacrifice customer service as your business model changes.
To evaluate the need for a web store, conduct a customer survey. Have your sales staff ask about interest in a web store as they call on your customers. Incorporate the survey as part of your standard order entry process. This is a perfect opportunity to compare your perceptions to the actual needs of your customer.
Why Include the Web as an Order Source?
The answer will depend on your customers and marketplace. Time, distance or language barriers may make the Web the best way to receive orders. The web order may simply be more convenient than faxing or talking to a customer service representative. A web order may be very different from any other order you receive.
What Challenges Will This Present?
Without strategic planning and tight controls, these differences can skew your profit margins to where it costs you money to sell on the Web. Consider the following when analyzing your specific challenges:
- Stocking, Picking and Shipping Methods
- Lead Times
- Warehouse Layout
- Computer Systems
- Manual Systems
- Employee Stress
- Customer Adaptability
- Disaster Preparedness and Recover
How Will You Handle Order Processing?
Processing orders over the Web presupposes automation of many steps that may be manually completed in your business now. Consider these questions carefully as you implement your Web store. Discuss them with your office, sales and warehouse staff. Also include your accounting software, network and Web service providers.
Programming and Development:
Hiring individuals from these disciplines can be extremely expensive. If you already have these resources, utilize them. If not, be sure to define your needs (especially future needs) carefully before you decide to hire a consultant or new staff.
We encourage you to contact BASM to discuss your web store implementation before making a decision, as not all web store applications will integrate with your ERP system.