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Understand what is a Virtual Shop and what are the benefits of selling online

What is a Virtual Shop?

A virtual shop is your shop on the internet - a new paradigm for conducting business. It is not a physical store and hence does not require you to buy expensive property in an expensive market place. It is a piece of software hosted on an internet server that runs 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and is accessible to anyone anywhere in the world at any time of the day. It is a shop which never sleeps.

A virtual shop is a way of extending a physically existing shop to reach out to a large set of otherwise untapped customer base. The initial cost and running costs are so less that it never hurts to open one. So, why reject the possibility of an extended avenue for fetching business if it merely entails an investment of a few thousand rupees. Even if you add a few new customers through your virtual shop, your investment in it is recovered.

With its worldwide reach, the Web is a lucrative sales channel with unprecedented potential. By setting up an online storefront, businesses can reach the millions of people around the world who are already using the Internet for buying. Millions of potential customers surf the internet on a daily basis, in search of products and services that they are planning to buy. Many buyers are now-a-days finding it more convenient and less stressful to surf the net for reviewing product profiles and taking buying decisions. By not being present on the internet, you are killing your chances of getting spotted by these customers, whom you cannot afford to ignore. In today's competitive world, each customer is important and with one customer you can build several customers.

With the widespread penetration of computers in India and easy access to the Internet from home, office and cyber cafes, hundreds of thousands of Indians are now finding it more convenient to use the internet for their requirements. These customers hate to drive down to today's crowded market places (where it is very difficult to even find a place to park), struggle amongst the crowd of customers in a small-sized shop to review the products they wish to buy. Some customers are even shy of asking the price of each and every item, though they would like to - such customers prefer to make their buying decisions from the comfort of their office desk or their home where they can review the photos of the various product designs vis--vis their price and take a better decision to suit their pocket and taste.

Further, there are several bulk buyers/traders who are always on the look out for good suppliers/manufacturers. These traders often operate at a bigger scale catering to the export market or the large volume metro market. They spend a lot of time surfing the internet in search of better suppliers and better deals, and can fetch you bulk orders. By not being present on the web, you are missing the opportunity of getting noticed by such bulk buyers who may find your products appealing and may get interested in you.

You may either be an existing brick-and-mortar business owner or a budding entrepreneur vying to make it big in business. No matter where you stand and no matter what products or services you have to offer, ignoring the huge market that the internet provides would not be a good idea. It is cheaper to run an online business than to run a brick-and-mortar business and many prudent entrepreneurs simply opt to start an e-commerce website as their primary business with no brick-and-mortar presence.

An online store business, or e-commerce business, entails selling either physical or digital goods, through a website. Creating this type of business provides you an opportunity to jump straight into a large market place where you compete with the smallest shop to the biggest retailers, all of whom have already opened up online stores for their business. For long-term success, competing in such an environment will do good to you and make you more efficient in running your business. Keeping away from it and limiting yourself to your local market, would mean that you are shying away from the real competition. This will eventually make you complacent and less competitive over a period of time. Hence the earlier you jump into the competition bandwagon the better it is for you.

Benefits of selling online

By offering your products & services on the web, your business can gain unique benefits:

  • Worldwide presence: The web represents a new source of customers. Anyone with an Internet connection is a potential customer: More than 50 million people around the world are already using the Internet for business transactions. Your website storefront is open all the time, and requires no investments in brick and mortar.

  • Market share: Surveys have revealed that 80% of web users feel uncomfortable due to a lack of security in sending credit card numbers over the Internet. The merchants who can win the confidence of these customers will gain their loyalty and an enormous opportunity for expanding market share.

  • Cost-effective delivery channel: Many products and services, such as software or information, can be distributed directly to customers via the web. This saves time for your customers, which increases your competitive appeal. It also increases your profitability by eliminating the shipping and overhead costs associated with order fulfillment.

  • Streamlined operations: Professional eCommerce systems come equipped with a complete business management system which automates your entire sales process along with integrated sub-systems for accounting, purchasing and inventory management. Manual processes, on the other hand, are manpower intensive and are fraught with errors and delays. By using a good ecommerce system, you can make your sales process efficient, reduce order processing time & costs, and improve customer service.

  • Better marketing through better customer knowledge: Establishing a storefront on the Web positions you for one-to-one marketing - the ability to customize your products and services to individual customers rather than large market segments. The Web facilitates one-to-one marketing by enabling you to capture information about demographics, personal buying habits, and preferences. By analyzing this information, you can target your merchandise and promotions for maximum impact, tailor your Web page to appeal to the specific consumer who is visiting, and conduct effective, tightly focused marketing campaigns.

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About the Author
Rajeev Kumar
CEO, Computer Solutions
Jamshedpur, India

Rajeev Kumar is the primary author of How2Lab. He is a B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur with several years of experience in IT education and Software development. He has taught a wide spectrum of people including fresh young talents, students of premier engineering colleges & management institutes, and IT professionals.

Rajeev has founded Computer Solutions & Web Services Worldwide. He has hands-on experience of building variety of websites and business applications, that include - SaaS based erp & e-commerce systems, and cloud deployed operations management software for health-care, manufacturing and other industries.

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