The value of e-commerce for your business

Digital and innovation

7 April 2017

Online sales now account for 14.6% of the UK’s total retail spend.

With customers everywhere embracing the convenience of shopping from their computer or smartphone, it’s time to think about your own e-commerce strategy.

The evolution of e-commerce

Amazon and eBay first launched in the mid-90s, revolutionising retail. As we increasingly got to grips with this new online world, the Web 2.0 approach of the early noughties saw a shift in emphasis towards user experience. New technologies made shopping online a rich, interactive exchange.

The latest rise is in mobile shopping. In 2015-16, 51% of all UK online retail sales were made via mobile or tablet. As apps become slicker, this ultimate in convenience shopping is likely to keep growing.

The evolution of the high street

With the development of e-commerce, concern about the death of the high street was only natural. However, the two forms of retail have been proven not to be mutually exclusive, and owners of bricks-and-mortar shops can take advantage of the potential of becoming a partially online business. The big supermarkets, for example, spent years creating the ideal physical shopping environments – then had to adapt to develop the best virtual shops, too.

What we’re seeing is not the death of the high street but its evolution. It’s actually a return to the days when the butcher, baker and milkman delivered directly to our grandmothers’ larders. Just look at the veg box delivery approach of greengrocers Riverford Organic Farmers.

Why become an online business?

There are so many benefits to taking your business online. For starters, you can increase your product range and geographical reach without the cost of moving premises or extra overheads. Many restaurants, both chains and independents, have got on board with e-commerce website Deliveroo to expand their customer bases without having to change their physical locations.

There's also great potential to be had from using location-based marketing via mobile apps. Use social media and blogs to create interest and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Trialling an e-commerce strategy

To begin, choose a few key items to take online and build from there. Starting small makes any teething troubles easier to deal with.

Make sure your existing branding carries across to your online shop, so clients will recognise you. You'll also need to provide a smooth customer experience – research the best delivery methods or consider offering a click and collect service.

Don’t lose sight of your real-world shop, as a physical high street presence helps you compete with e-commerce companies. Amazon may sell millions of titles, but can it offer its customers fresh coffee or host book groups?

Your business strategy is under your control, but not everything can be. AXA retail insurance can help protect you against unforeseen occurrences.