Exceed your customers’ evolving expectations with an e-commerce solution

January 29, 2024 | 5 minute read

Shoppers are opting to make more of their purchases online every year, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. More than 15% of all retail sales in the U.S. were made via e-commerce in the third quarter of 2023, and by 2027, e-commerce will account for almost 25% of retail sales globally, according to the market research firm Statista.1 Digital sales at brick-and-mortar venues such as restaurants are accelerating, too. Since 2014, ordering food online has grown 300% faster than dine-in sales and now accounts for more than 40% of total restaurant sales, according to recent research.2 With millions of consumers making purchases online, retail e-commerce sales hit $284.1 billion in the third quarter of 2023 alone, a 7.6% increase from the same quarter of 2022.3


Despite the trends, many small business owners still aren’t selling their products online. Only 31% of small business owners reported implementing an online sales process, according to the Bank of America 2023 Small Business Owner Report.


It’s not that they don’t understand the value of e-commerce. Many are already taking digital payments and planning a digital-first marketing strategy. More often, there’s a knowing-doing gap. It can be hard to find the time during the hustle and bustle of running a business to get up and running with e-commerce. Some owners fear they don’t have the know-how or budget to learn the nuts and bolts of e-commerce, and others aren’t sure how best to apply it in their industry.


If factors like these have kept you from diving into your own e-commerce efforts, there’s some good news: E-commerce technology, for small business websites, is getting more user-friendly and affordable with each passing year, allowing many businesses to get up and running with an investment of several hundred dollars a year.


“It’s never too late to get started on creating an e-commerce website,” said Lauren Waryjas, vice president, Small Business product manager at Bank of America. “Many small businesses are finding that making the time to add online sales options is a great way to add new revenue streams and sales channels, helping them to stay competitive.”


How e-commerce can help you grow your business

Here are some benefits e-commerce can offer:

  • Makes it convenient for new groups of customers to do business with you. Offering e-commerce may allow you to serve customers who can’t make it to your place of business during the hours you are open.
  • Expands the markets you serve. Even if you run a service business like a restaurant, you may be able to reach customers outside of your community if you offer products — whether that means T-shirts for your biggest fans or bottled hot sauce — via e-commerce.
  • Speeds payments to you. Tired of waiting for customers’ checks that are “in the mail”? Letting customers pay bills online can speed up the payment process. This is particularly useful for small medical, dental and accounting practices and services like counseling.
  • Diversifies your sales channels. If you are already selling some products on a giant online marketplace such as Amazon® or Etsy, putting up your own website will give you an additional route for online sales.
  • Builds on the web presence you already have. Your business probably has a presence in online directories and — if it serves consumers — on sites such as Tripadvisor® and Yelp®. You can make the most of this visibility by “owning” these profiles and using them to drive traffic to your e-commerce site.

The nuts and bolts of creating an e-commerce website

When creating an e-commerce website, it’s critical to consider the overall user experience. Here are some key steps to take:


  • Determine and secure a preferred domain name, which maps to the URL or address of the website. Domain names should be as close to the business name as possible.
  • Once you’ve purchased and registered a domain name, secure a hosting platform and content management system (CMS). Typically, both the hosting platform and CMS can be offered through a single off-the-shelf offering.
  • If you’re adding e-commerce capabilities to an existing site, be sure to test several types of e-commerce software for compatibility and ease of use. Make sure whatever option you choose works well on a mobile phone, where many people make their purchases.
  • If your budget allows, find a web designer and team of programmers who can help integrate the e-commerce content into your site in an engaging and intuitive way.
  • To get the most out of your e-commerce efforts, consider investing in professional photos of the products you are selling through your site and hire a copywriter to write enticing descriptions.


Create an unforgettable online presence

To build additional awareness online, make sure to set up social media profiles and encourage satisfied customers to follow you. You can use social media as a form of free or paid advertising, showcasing new or existing products and services as well as upcoming promotions, such as contests. Be sure to add social media icons to your website to encourage users to share information or post pictures displaying their recent purchases if you haven’t already done so.


“When we think about the online environment as a whole, it’s really intertwined,” said Waryjas. “Social media is a great way to let people know you exist in the first place. And having that connection where someone visits the website and realizes that a local business they’re passionate about has a social media presence could help develop customer loyalty and lead to increased followers.”


The bottom line

With nearly all industries — from restaurants to retail — shifting toward online sales, having the ability to stay competitive while providing a convenient way to reach customers and improve their shopping experience is a win-win for merchants and is simply good business.

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