“Let’s move our business Online”


TheStartUpStory_11

(“Let’s move our business to the online channel, to be more precise”)

These days it’s pretty much a given and an imperative that businesses have an online presence, if not a trade outlet, then at least some form of customer facing site detailing their products/services and business purpose. It’s almost inconceivable to some people that a business can survive in the modern age without the support, reach and exposure offered by the internet. More traditionally a business might have had one or two ‘channels’ (that is – methods or mediums through which they trade), which might have included their high street stores and some kind of mail order system. Step into the current day and age and new companies might not have either, and might solely operate and exist through their online channel.

For those more traditional businesses, the benefits of shifting to the online channel to either supplement or transform their existing business are numerous and include automation, efficiency, outreach, improved customer engagement, cost/overhead savings due to less staff and a reduction in call centre reliance etc.

For these businesses, success online is not a given, and the move to the online channel requires a serious investment and often a shift in their culture. Major successful players in the online business channel include Amazon and eBay, however their business, customer base and everything associated with them originated online. They enjoy an established and thriving rate of online adoption which other businesses arriving late to the party can only hope to tap into.

Probably the most successful business sector to up its roots from traditional bricks and mortar and shift towards online in recent times has been the banking sector. The banks realised the potential of moving their products and services online from a relatively early stage and if I think now, I can’t remember the last time I went to my local high street branch to conduct a transaction or change. The adoption of online banking is a huge success and great benchmark for any other businesses wanting to follow suit. Though it has taken a number of years for customers to adopt online as the default method of banking, the work that the banks put into this adoption period and into producing a viable online product and service has meant that they are and will be reaping the benefits for years to come.

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Graph: customer adoption of online {y-axis} versus time (and/or confidence) {x-axis}. Major successful/established players with established high online adoption e.g. Amazon, already have a very high rate of adoption which will now continue to grow organically. New businesses moving online will endure a (not always) slow period of adoption, before establishing their online presence and their rate of adoption after that.

It’s fairly safe to say that a shift to online say 10-15 years ago would not have met the same success, traction and benefits as it offers nowadays. Technology is now no longer a major factor on the ‘adoption period’ since internet access is now so widespread and common place. This advance has been key in allowing online businesses to capture a majority share of their customer bases through online.

Today the emphasis has shifted towards the quality of both the content and service being offered through online. This is a major driver in the rate of adoption for a business as it moves towards online. A business can’t just force all of its customers online (by reducing or closing down other traditional Channels such as phone lines or high street branches) at least not successfully, and not until (amongst other things):

a)       The online product/service is up to scratch

b)      Customers have confidence and trust in the online provision. Security, simplicity, familiarisation, perceived benefits, time etc. all contribute towards this.