We’ve just entered the busiest time of the year for online retailers.

According to various sources, the 3rd, 10th and 26th December were particularly busy days last year, and this year we’ve already smashed the record for busiest internet shopping day ever, clocking up 4.6 million online transactions on Monday.

Recession resistant

Ecommerce has been growing well for years now, and despite the onrushing recession, it’s likely online shops will buck the general downturn to an extent.

That means that while Marks and Spencer is repeating its one-day special sale to lure in business and Alistair Darling is changing VAT for the first time in 17 years, ecommerce sales are actually still on the up.

Sure, the downturn means the rapid rate of growth of ecommerce will slow, but while sales are actually contracting on the High Street, the fact that online business is growing at all marks it out as one of the more recession-resistant areas of the economy.

More competition?

So if you already sell online, brace yourself for extra competition. The recession could well increase the rate at which businesses move to the internet. But don’t worry too much – as an established online trader you have an edge over newcomers.

And if you don’t already sell online, well, now could actually be a good time to start – particularly if you’re already running a business and concerned about the impact of the recession.

Why? Well It’s a great way to find new customers, simply because you can reach a much wider audience. For instance, if you’re a local shop selling a niche product, a simple website lets you sell to anyone in the country (or the world) – think of the number of potential customers out there!

You can try ecommerce out easily too. The outlay for something like our ecommerce package is pretty small (under a tenner a month) and with a few hours work you can have a fully-functioning online shop.

How to get an ecommerce edge

Whether you’re a new or established online business, there are lots of ways you can get an edge over your competitors. Here are a few top tips, along with links to places you can get more information:

  • Get your prices right. Price comparison sites like Kelkoo and Froogle let shoppers track down bargains like never before. So keep a close eye on your competitors. And remember that many ecommerce packages (including ours) make it easy to get listed on comparison sites.
  • Think virally. Email a discount voucher to existing customers. If it’s a blinding deal, someone will post it to a deals site like HotUKDeals or MoneySavingExpert.com. Your site will get more visitors and – if it goes to plan – lots of orders. But be careful – remember that thousands of people read these sites, so be sure the offer still leaves you in profit! Here’s how Threshers did it.
  • Provide superb service. Smaller companies can often outperform the big boys when it comes to service. Be super-responsive when answering queries. Ship items out fast. And make every contact with your business a pleasure. More tips from Business Link.
  • Use the search engines. Search engines can bring your site loads of visitors. And search engine optimisation is something the big players aren’t always up to speed with (For instance, I don’t see Tesco in the top ten results for ‘supermarket’). There’s a good beginner’s guide here (take the time to read it properly!) and we’ve posted lots of information about pay per click adverts before.
  • Check your image. When you trade online, nobody needs to know you work out of your garage. So design your site well, and project a highly professional image with your own domain name and personalised email addresses.

Finally, don’t forget to read our online shop top tips and this advice from PayPal. You can also check out the comprehensive advice from sites like Business Link and Startups. There’s absolutely loads of help out there if you’re running an online business.

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