Our client was in a fix. It was a ‘happy’ fix, but a challenge nonetheless.
Her non-profit was flying high despite the long odds and floundering economy. She had applied her years of expertise, generated media attention, and set off robust growth. What started as a local organization fueled almost exclusively by local dollars had burgeoned into an enterprise that attracted attention nationwide.
And therein lay the problem. Our client now needed to take advantage of new opportunities to raise funds without ballooning her overhead. How could she funnel money securely and efficiently, especially now that there were too many demands on her time to spend it buried in book-keeping?
Time for e-commerce. But our non-profit visionary was reluctant, as are many business owners, even those who have made the digital leap. Marketing yourself online is one thing, they think; but to process actual money?
Caution is appropriate. Your customers (or donors) must transact with absolute confidence. So understand that e-commerce doesn’t replace good business practices; it ensures them. In fact, it’s become an indispensable tool for any venture—commercial or non-profit—that entails monetary transactions.
The key is to make your e-commerce operations speedy and secure. Never before has it been easier to do so. And organizations must keep pace with consumers who have become extraordinarily comfortable with digital commerce.
Long gone are the days when customers fretted about giving their credit card information online. And moving your catalog, statements, and billing to the Web is as easy as it is prudent. There is romance in print . . . but not profit. There’s comfort in the ‘old way’ . . . and also a mountain of costs. The Internet makes the marketplace a cheaper and more efficient place for both buyer and seller. It reduces error. It makes tracking information easier. It makes future e-marketing efforts more targeted. And most importantly? Your human capital can be invested in worthier activities.
So what do I mean by e-commerce? In simple terms, I mean offering a full-service online storefront. Not only can you let customers see what you have to offer; you can also allow them to buy. You make point-of-purchase digital, and thereby make the process more methodical.
Managing electronically does not mean managing from afar. E-commerce is not absentee ownership. On the contrary, it provides the type of bird’s-eye, big picture supervision that the demands of bricks-and-mortar processing often make difficult. Nor is e-commerce the exclusive province of big business. You don’t need to be Amazon for online payments to make sense. And if you’re a non-profit, the same tools apply. You can accept donations via credit card or e-check. The process trims your administrative expenditures and makes contributing less of a headache for your donors.
Making the leap to e-commerce helps to make all of your online operations seamless. If you run a speedy, secure e-commerce platform, your customers will appreciate your attention to detail. Consumers don’t ask for the impossible. What they want you can deliver easily. Plus, they’re more likely to be happy with their experience—and return. The more comfortable people are with your online storefront, the more familiar they’ll be with your brand, and the more readily they’ll associate future needs with your capacity to deliver.
Business owners should see e-commerce for what it is—an unbelievable opportunity to tap into a public that does more and more of its buying online.
Going the e-commerce route does not make your business less personal. On the contrary—it indicates your sensitivity both to customer needs and to the trends of modern enterprise. Companies need to be as proactive with their online commerce options as customers are comfortable with them.
As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comments section. Have you had specific experiences with e-commerce? Or do you have specific questions?
Thank you and I’ll be posting again soon.
CEO and President