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Is eCommerce Just About Transactions?

by simon
Global online retail sales will grow significantly faster than total retail sales in 2016, if research estimates prove accurate.

Worldwide eCommerce sales should reach US$1.915 trillion this year, representing about 9% of the total $22 trillion of all retail sales expected by end of year. Total retail sales growth is expected to clock in at 6% year-on-year, while eCommerce expansion should hit 23.7%.

The bottom-line is if you’re not selling online already, you may be missing the boat, and it isn’t just about driving revenue. eCommerce is about meeting customers where they live and work, creating a holistic presence not just for transactions, but to bolster customer relations, regardless if they are B2B trading partners or end users of your product.

As Web Host Industry Review puts it, “you need to build a total brand and customer experience that goes beyond the checkout process. This means ensuring a post-purchase customer experience worthy of being talked about among friends and peers.”

The growth of eCommerce has spurred myriad platforms that turn company websites from passive displays to dynamic, interactive fora. Magento, WooCommerce and Shopify easily stand out as the leading eCommerce platforms.

Choosing among platforms depends on what you can afford, what resources will be required to develop and maintain an eCommerce channel, functionality and aesthetics, the extensiveness of your catalogue, interoperability with your other business technology and even whether or not you want to host your site yourself.

New Zealand-based Kereru Brewing, which makes European style ale, lager and stout for wholesale and retail customers, has had an eCommerce channel for three years, nearly as long as the company has been in business, and has used Magento since the end of 2015, shortly before becoming a Cin7 customer. It was important for Kereru to mesh its eCommerce with its existing technology solutions, without overburdening the company’s IT developers.

“We went with Magento as it was a recognised partner application for our previous inventory management system,” says Chris Mills, Kereru’s co-founder. “Fortunately, Cin7 also works with Magento.”

Mills says Kereru’s particular use of Magento meant it took a little time for the developers to smooth out interoperability with Cin7, but “we are nearing a place where I am happy with the integration between the two systems.”

“In the long run, the most important thing is that Magento truly reflects our stock available and allows for information to smoothly flow back and forth between Cin7 and Magento,” Mills says. “We spent far too much time with our old system double-handling data for eCommerce plus our POS. Now it all happens in one system.”

While Kereru enjoys an average 35% year-on-year sales growth across all channels, its eCommerce sales have grown three-fold since 2013, selling to both consumers and retail trading partners.

“What this is showing is that there is a lot of scope for increasing online sales,” Mills says. “At the moment online sales account for ~1.5% of our total revenue. I would like to think we could grow that to around 5% of total revenue over the next 3 years.”

The company attributes its historic online sales growth to smart use of social media to drive customers to their website. Thus, their eCommerce strategy, which is not just about hanging a virtual shingle but about full customer engagement, has helped grow sales leads faster than revenue.

“We equate that to our brand getting better visibility and our brand having a positive and interesting story to tell,” Mills says. “People are starting to ask for us more often. We also use social media to drive people to our website and this has also lead to increased interest.”