|Well, maybe not easy but certainly more!|
Online shopping is no longer a luxury. Today, being able to buy the products and services we want online has started to feel like a right. It's weird when we don't have that option. So, really, the question is: If you aren't offering your products and services online, why not?
From an entrepreneurial standpoint, offering your wares online is good for your profit margin. By selling online, you're expanding your market. The wider your market, the more sales you stand to make. The more sales you make, the more you earn. That's not philosophy - that's math.
Beyond the basic money stuff, though, offering your products and services online actually helps you improve your customer service. How many times have you ordered something through Amazon - even though there was a brick-and-mortar store selling the same thing nearby - simply because you didn't want to carry it home? Or maybe you didn't realize you needed it until late in the evening but didn't trust yourself to remember to stop by the store and get it the next day. Or maybe the store that sells it locally is only open while you are at work.
Selling online allows your customers to buy directly from you whenever it is convenient for them to do so.
In Portland, Oregon, there is a chain of grocery stores called New Seasons. Customers can go to the store and shop in person - the same way they'd shop at any other store. They also have the ability to order their groceries online. While the chain doesn't deliver anymore, customers can still reserve their groceries for a later pickup time. If the store doesn't have something in stock, customers get a call and have the ability to either delete the items from their orders or allow a store employee to choose a reasonable alternative.
A good example of this on a national scale is Best Buy - you can shop a store's inventory and have an item held at their customer service desk or have it shipped to you.
Being able to check a store's inventory ahead of time - and sometimes even pay for it - keeps customers from making what could wind up being a futile trip to the store and wasting their time.
Anybody can set up a website, install code for processing credit cards and other forms of payment, and start selling their products and offering their services via the web. Yes - even services. Thanks to teleconferencing, desktop sharing software and other tools, you can provide all sorts of services via the Internet. Even if your services are primarily home based (plumbing, for example) or require you to meet in person (hairstylists), there are tools that allow your clients to reserve appointment slots and even pay a basic fee for your services online.
< It's only a matter of time before there's one of these buttons on every keyboard.
Erin Steiner is a full-time freelance writer from Portland whose business is run entirely via the web. In addition to maintaining her own content portals, she writes about small business, internet, and other topics for a variety of clients.
First image courtesy of Stuart Miles; second image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici.