Bookings, merchandise, event tickets; there’s a lot of different revenue streams that tourism businesses are able to take online nowadays – so why should yours be any different? Selling online offers a direct approach to potentially lucrative markets, even global ones at that.
According to Statista.com around 22% of the world’s population have purchased something online, a figure that will only grow. Although it certainly opens a lot of opportunities, there are often a few hurdles to overcome before you can expect to make a return on your efforts. We spoke to two leading experts – Gori Yahaya (Director of Upskill Digital, a Google delivery partner and digital skills trainer based in London) and Stephen Whitelaw (an independent ecommerce consultant, based in Scotland) about the most common hurdles businesses face with ecommerce.
Cost is of course one of the first questions that any business needs to look at when it comes to developing an additional approach to their existing services. Ecommerce demands upfront investment, so how can you limit risk and maximise ROI?
Stephen suggests: “Try out your international ecommerce using existing marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. You can begin to develop your ecommerce this way without any major investment. You’ll gain market knowledge and business understanding that will ready you for expanding through your own ecommerce platform.”
Gori says: “When it comes to choosing an ecommerce platform you need to select the one that is right for you and your business. It will depend on what you are selling as different platforms offer different product templates.”
Technical know-how is, as with most digital disciplines, always helpful. You’ll probably have questions like; ‘How do I choose the right ecommerce system and engage the right developer?’ or ‘How do I understand enough to make the right choices?’ Gori’s keen to emphasise just how important online learning resources like DTS or Google Digital Garage can be for shedding light on technical areas you might not know much about. He says; “The idea is to open the door to anyone that wants to develop their digital skills. That might be a student, an individual or a small business.” So you’re definitely in the right place!
Scotland is world-famous for its wealth of attractions and each year welcomes millions of visitors who travel from all across the globe to sample our country and its culture. Understanding and reaching foreign markets isn’t always easy though, but Stephen has some quick tips: “Develop your ecommerce website and get it working for your local market first, the rest will follow. Translate your content, using a native speaker (don’t use Google translate – no translation tool is good enough!). Buying a local domain name, offering a local phone number and providing prices in the local currency will also go some way to giving you more credibility with foreign markets.
Security is often a concern of those getting into the world of ecommerce, especially if you have your sights set on international markets. Buyers look for websites they can trust and reliable payments systems go a long way to helping this. Stephen says: “Both PayPal and Worldpay are recognised in many countries around the globe and are therefore good choices for payment systems. Google has recently launched a trustmark known as “Certified Shop” in the UK (“Trusted Store” in the US) and this is expected to have a positive impact on sales for sellers who adopt it.”
Of course if you’re keen to investigate ecommerce and foreign markets, it pays to keep up-to-date on export information and regulations. Gori has some key advice here; “Make the most of the advice and information that’s out there. Scottish Enterprise’s export advisers and the Department for International Trade’s E-Exporting Programme are the best places to go for export support.”
Then of course there’s the matter of actually being found by those abroad! Here’s the expert advice from Stephen and Gori on shaping your website into an effective channel for your potential customers to find and buy your products. Stephen says; “Get great relevant, fresh, up-to-date and unique content on your website. There are over 200 factors that influence Google’s placement of your company in a search engine, but up at the top of the list is content. Google will penalise you if your content is copied from another site, so write your own. Add new content, such as blog content frequently and ensure it is relevant to your product or service.”
Gori backed up this point by saying; “Google offers several tools that can help you understand your audience, use the right keywords and create the right content. Google Trends helps you to see what people are searching for in different places around the globe and the particular words and phrases they are using. Google Consumer Barometer is a tool to help you understand how people use the internet across the world.”
Ecommerce can be relatively labour-intensive, so how can you best manage the time and costs involved in shipping products around the world? Stephen had this to say; “This takes us back to talking about the marketplace options. Exploring your international market in a small scale way by using marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay will allow you to identify issues and deal with them before investing heavily in an ecommerce platform.”
Looking for more info on ecommerce? Why not check out our event schedule? No matter what skill level you’re at, you’ll find an event that’s perfect for you.
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