How essential is e-commerce to your target market?
E-commerce: that little shopping cart in the upper right-hand corner of your site. Are you tempted?
For many manufacturers, e-commerce seems like an obvious feature on their site. However, not every manufacturing website needs to have e-commerce to function well. And even those who would benefit from e-commerce aren’t necessarily prepared to launch it. Here are a few things to think about as you come to a decision.
Do you have the resources?
We’re talking about both time and manpower here. A ghost store is the last thing you want floating around on your website: it looks bad and frustrates customers looking to buy your product. But maintaining a clean store takes effort: even electronic stores need staff (in a manner of speaking!).
How’s your inventory?
Doing e-commerce right means being able to track and manage inventory. If you only have one product, this isn’t so hard. But for manufacturers with many products, each with their own design variations, sizes, features, etc., tracking what you have on hand could require some more complicated software. Make sure you know how to handle this before you find yourself selling product you no longer stock.
Can you deliver?
Once you sell a product, you need to be able to deliver it in a timely and affordable manner. Long shipping times and steep handling fees can put off many of your customers. In a world where most of us are used to Amazon delivering our items for free in just a couple of days, you have steep expectations to compete against. Your efficiency doesn’t need to be Amazonian, but unless there’s an obvious reason for added time and shipping costs, it should be in the same ballpark.
Could Amazon take care of this for you?
We aren’t actually in favor of this as your only solution: Amazon will charge you a monthly fee to have your product on their site, and they’ll take a cut of your sales. However, many manufacturers sell so much of their product through Amazon that these fees are worth it, and that might be a decision you make as well. More importantly, you can have Amazon take care of all order fulfillment, so if you don’t have the resources listed above (time, personnel, inventory, distribution), you can make a start through Amazon.
What about a contact form?
Let’s say you manufacture a highly-customized product. Maybe it requires a lot of up-front discussion with your client before you can start. Or perhaps you only fill huge, bulk orders that require an up-front contract. In these instances, you can forgo e-commerce in favor of a contact form or “request a quote” button.
Don’t rule e-commerce out for the future
Maybe e-commerce isn’t the right solution for your manufacturing company, or maybe it isn’t the right solution right now. If you aren’t ready to put in a lot of effort to make it work, then consider investing in other parts of your website and business first. You can always reassess later!