October 29, 2007 Jacksonville Business Journal
JACKSONVILLE — Small businesses are becoming increasingly interested in selling their products online, with many moving to cyberspace stores.
E-commerce can allow businesses to expand their markets and better serve existing customers, said Robert Myers, area program director with the Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida. The growing familiarity with the Internet means businesses are looking for more than just a company Web site.
Installing a standard e-commerce option to a Web site costs about $1,500, according to Seventhman, a Web design and development company in Orange Park.
Adding an e-commerce option to your business, however, costs more than just the initial startup, said Joe Lemire, co-founder and chief innovator at eLYK innovation inc., a Jacksonville Web design and development firm. “If you spend X amount of time on e-commerce, you’ll need to spend twice that to generate traffic.”
Marketing methods include advertising using blog networks, banner ads and targeted e-mail campaigns. Search engine optimization, which increases the likelihood of businesses coming up in online searches, is another tool. Letting traditional customers know about the online store also is essential, Lemire said.
Those extras can spur growth for a business. In some cases, e-commerce can ensure a business’ survival.
Barbara Nailler said her St. Augustine book store would be bankrupt if it hadn’t started selling online. About 30 percent of Wolf’s Head Books Inc.’s sales are made online. The online option means sales from all over the world, but it also requires constantly updating the Web site.
Not sending orders promptly or displaying books that are no longer available causes poor customer reviews. “We need to have someone looking at our computer every day, or we need to pull everything online and then put everything back online,” Nailler said.
Before entering the e-commerce area, small-business owners must consider whether their products are suited for the online market. This is especially pertinent if they are starting off and don’t have a “bricks and mortar” customer base, said Shaleen Shah, president and CEO of Seventhman.
E-commerce is likely a good fit for any company that can sell products or services over a long distance, he said. Companies that target a two-mile to 10-mile radius should take a critical look at e-commerce.
Shah said e-commerce can work for businesses that traditionally wouldn’t see an opportunity there. For instance, Seventh Wonder Day Spa is selling gift certificates all over the country for buyers who want to treat their Jacksonville friends.
- Mark Szakonyi
Jacksonville Business Journal