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Running an online store used to be so complicated that even the largest businesses had difficulty setting them up and maintaining them. We develop several solutions for the small businesses that are looking to grow up in this space.

Now, e-commerce and online retailers are commonplace, and consumers are increasingly comfortable ordering products online. In a recent report, “UPS Pulse Of The Online Shopper,” comScore showed that one in four shoppers worldwide bought products from retailers based in other countries, half of which were retailers from the U.S. The study also found that half of the U.S. shoppers surveyed bought products from international retailers. This may seem like news that only applies to the Amazons and eBays of the world, but in fact, it’s possible for businesses of all sizes to get in on this growth due to the proliferation of e-commerce applications and services. In essence, these lower priced and more advanced tools are leveling the competitive playing field between the smallest and largest businesses so that even mom and pop shops can go from local to national or international, as long as they have ambition and ability to do so.

Tools Of The Trade At A Reasonable Price

UI5 HTML is the need of the hour and we have deployed several sites using this technology.

Raymond Boggs, vice president, small and medium business research, at IDC, says that you used to need dedicated subcontractors and quite a bit of capital to build a website capable of taking orders or even having a shopping cart function. But in the past 15 years or so, technology has changed so considerably that now you can not only have those basic retail functions, but also take advantage of data analytics and advanced marketing strategies. “The biggest thing is the search engine optimization and getting the metrics in place,” says Boggs. “It’s the ability to make use of the technology in much more effective ways than ever before. I used to have a website and had no idea who was visiting, but now I can capture the metrics, drive traffic, look at how much click-through activity there is, and so on. The higher level of understanding about the whole process is available to me in a real way.” For small businesses in particular, there are quite a few easy-to-use website builders that prioritize style and function over coding ability. For example, companies such as Wix.com and Squarespace offer templates specifically designed for businesses and e-commerce stores. Users can choose to use existing templates and fill in relevant information, or dig in and fully customize their sites to match their tastes and requirements. Most website builders today offer drag-and-drop-style interfaces, which makes it easy to change elements on the page without having to spend hours or days digging through HTML code.

Perhaps the best part is that users can typically start for free, or start at a reasonable monthly or annual rate, and then pay for additional features as the site grows and the more functionality is required. Additionally, our developers support RWD (responsive Web design), meaning that with little or no effort on your part, your website will look and feel as though it were natively designed to be viewed on any device, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. “Five years ago, that was an enormous song and dance, and now the tools are in place to allow you to have the right formatting and the right rendering and display depending on whatever device is being used by the customer,” says Boggs. “You get exactly the right clear image and graphic clarity that will not put off the customer, but engage the customer.”

Helping you Meeting Consumer Expectations

Right solution tailor made for you is the mantra here.

If you’re entering the e-commerce space for the first time or looking to improve your existing setup, it’s important to remember that today’s online shopping space needs to center on the customer experience. Boggs says online retailers such as Amazon are so engaged with consumers nowadays that “everybody is comfortable with ordering online and getting stuff sent to them.” However, Amazon is an enormous company with resources to spare and can afford to put forth an easy-to-use and high-quality product that smaller businesses have to try to match. The best place to start in this respect is to look closely at what customers value from the biggest online retailers. They want intuitive search functions, graphically appealing product information pages, a quick and painless transaction once they decide what to buy, and then information on where their product is in the shipping process. Fortunately, those tools are available to companies of all sizes, but the challenge is using them in the right way and being able to handle what may come next. “I want to get the resources in place that allow me to do just as good of a job as Amazon,” says Boggs. “On one hand, that’s terrific, because those resources are available. On the other hand, it’s terrifying, because I used to just have to compete against the other guy down the street who’s the same size as me. I just had to do a little bit better than he was doing. Now,” Boggs adds, “I have to do as well as the biggest company in the world in implementing e-commerce, or else the customers are going to get sore. You’re caught between these two conflicting sources.”

Helping you get to As Big As You Want To Be

Small businesses typically become successful because they make one specific product or offer one specific service that is so highly specialized and unique that no other company could reproduce it on a larger scale. But in the past, those businesses didn’t have access to the same resources, which in turn give that business access to customers all across the world. If you take advantage of that scalability and start thinking nationally or globally, then you have to prepare for that potential growth and success. “It’s almost like you want to advise folks to fasten their seat belts because you may find growth that you’re going to be pretty surprised at if you hit the market and start to resonate with prospects,” says Boggs. “These are the kinds of things that can really transform your business from the sort of local operation that you used to have to one that’s national or even international, assuming you have the shipping and capabilities in place to execute on those orders.” So, how do you handle that success? There are essentially two ways to go about it, according to Boggs. You can focus on revenue and profit margins and take the biggest orders that come your way, provided you have the supply chain and shipping partners in place to handle it. Or, you can “be ready to say no, raise your prices, or be more selective,” he says. You ultimately have to decide if you want to be everything to everyone or if you want to tailor your product so that only a certain set of consumers will pay a premium for it. “That’s the hardest discipline in the world to maintain,” says Boggs. “I’m looking to pay the bills, I’m worried about cash flow, and I have make payroll. I hear this big order comes in. Terrific, how am I going to say no? When Walmart knocks, are you really prepared to say ‘go away’? It’s going to change your life, and maybe not for the better. It requires a real discipline. Do I just want to make money or is there something else I have in mind as a mission?”

ChatBots and much more

Bots have been around for quite some time, but there has been a resurgence prompted by Facebook and other companies. Facebook Messenger recently introduced bots, which are able to serve as news aggregators or even digital salespeople, depending on the offered service. Text messaging bots are also growing in popularity and can be used to order lunch and take advantage of special offers. Bots aren’t necessarily a fit for all companies, so you need to determine if your product makes sense for the technology. Chatbots aren’t new by any means, and in fact if you’ve ever called a business for any reason, chances are you’ve been greeted by one that essentially serves as a digital secretary. “Press 1 or say ‘sales’ to talk to sales. Press 2 or say ‘help’ to talk to customer support.” Restaurants offer another example as they use phone bots to let people know the hours of operation, the daily special, or even help them get a reservation, all without ever talking to a real-life human being. Technical support is yet another area that has seen an influx of bots, both over the phone and via websites. At their best, support bots are talking (or chatting) mini-encyclopedias that offer helpful information that may have been difficult to find on the website. At their worst, they serve as a circuitous, automated mazes that serve as inferior stand-ins to living, breathing experts. However, the goal of phone, chat, online, text, and social media bots isn’t to frustrate users, but rather to make life easier for them while simultaneously not forcing the business to pay an employee to handle all sorts of organizational processes, no matter how mundane. The next wave of bots goes beyond simple phone call routing and basic customer support to cover everything from news aggregation and weather updates to shopping and entertainment. Facebook is becoming a major driver in this market by offering bots directly through its Messenger app, and many companies have jumped onboard with their own bots to offer products through the service. And even though they may seem more advanced, these new bots aren’t necessarily that different from the bots with which you’re already familiar. “These bots don’t strike me as all that different from automated site chat features on, say, a store or bank’s website,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “What’s different now is that Facebook and other large tech companies are investing in them, which gives them credibility and presumably scale to gain rapid adoption. Ordering an Uber on Facebook Messenger is considered a bot function, though it’s also been called chat commerce and contextual commerce.”