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If you'd like to expand your business horizon and reach potential customers around the world - here's a brief guide to bringing your business online.

Becoming an Online Merchant levels the playing field for businesses. Even if you're a smaller company, you can achieve a global presence with a simple website. Any of our Cardmembers, anywhere in the world, with an internet connection can read about your product and, even better, buy it.

The number of customers looking to buy products and services on the internet is increasing every day. For instance, consider these numbers:

  • More than half of Singaporean internet users have visited an online retailer1.


  • About 8 in 10 online Singaporean shoppers make payment for their goods and services purchased online via credit cards1.

How can your business get the best out of the internet?

These three steps will help you get your business on the internet. Simply click on each step to find out more.

Before you open a shop online, it's worth considering that e-commerce is not for everyone or every type of business. You need to decide whether your product or service will translate to an internet context. As you consider taking your business online, start by asking the following questions.

Are your customers already online?

If your potential customers already feel comfortable buying products or services on the internet, then you may need to be there too. Buying from you will be a logical extension of the way they currently shop. And if your customers can't buy from you on the internet, your online competitors will have less trouble taking internet shoppers away from you.

Do you want to broaden your customer base?

The internet is worldwide. Once you put your company online, you should be prepared to do business on a much broader scale. This means thinking about the supply and distribution implications of your new global marketplace.

Does the internet work with your overall sales strategy?

Make sure your business plan addresses not only how you will sell online — but why. Set clear objectives and create a budget accordingly. The internet works best as part of a fully integrated, multi-channel sales plan. So, for example, don't give up your printed catalogue just because you have a website. Think about the whole strategy.

Is your product or service unique?

You need to come up with new and unique ways to make your business stand out in a sea of millions of websites. Customers are most likely to return to sites that offer real value or a genuine point of difference from their competitors.

Are you committed to a long term internet presence?

You wouldn't leave the same display in a shop window month after month. Or send out a new catalogue with the same old cover. The same rules apply to the internet. Are you prepared to make the effort to keep your web content fresh? Do you have the time and budget to support that commitment?

Can you fulfill online customers' needs?

The internet is a great place to build customer relationships with online product information, real-time customer service, and more. But are you prepared for all those new customers who may show up at your online business? And will your infrastructure support internet sales? If in doubt, apply the golden rule of business to the internet: never disappoint a good customer.

 

Use the internet to create increased sales and cost-saving opportunities for your business.

The internet opens up a whole new world of business opportunities. Here are just a few of the ways to make this powerful sales tool work for you.

Level the playing field with larger competitors.

When a customer arrives at your home page, it doesn't matter to them whether you're a small business or a multinational corporation. As long as they can buy the products or services they want at the price they want, and get quick, efficient service, your customers should be satisfied. But to succeed on the internet, you need a well thought-out website.

Always open for business.

The internet never closes. It's open 24 hours a day and customers like the freedom to order products or services whenever they want — from wherever they are. Now you can use that to boost your sales round the clock. And the internet is also a great way to get feedback from the people that matter most — your customers.

Keep business costs down.

As well as increasing sales, e-commerce can substantially reduce the amount of money you spend to reach your customers. For example, you may not need to print and post as many catalogues or brochures as your online customers can get all your product information directly from your website. In addition, sales, order fulfillment and customer service processes can also be automated to help streamline the way you do business.

 

Planning tips that will help you take your business online and potentially improve your profitability.

If you've decided to put the internet to work for your business, how do you go about it?

Set realistic goals.

First, establish measurable goals for your online efforts. Decide how much business you would like to do online. Whether it's 10% of sales in three months or 30% over a year, you need a benchmark to judge your success. This way you should be able to adjust your strategies and tactics to achieve the desired results.

Register your site.

Keep the estate agents' saying in mind: "location, location, location." Where you choose to locate your site is as important as where you set up your physical shop. Take time to consider site selection. Will your website be a stand-alone location with its own internet address? Or will you place your store in an existing web portal, such as e-bay? There are pros and cons to each option:

  • The amount of financial resources and effort you can devote to your site. If you lack the time and money to manage your own site, consider a web portal like eBay which will handle many of the site-management tasks for you.

  • The types of products and services you sell. Are they better displayed in an existing web portal with an established customer base, or will they stand out better on their own site?

  • How your customers like to shop online. Find out where they are. It's easier to take your product to your potential customers, rather than bring them to you.

Do your research. Consider your options. Choose carefully.

Put your back office in place.

Don't open up for business online unless you can handle the sales. Setting up an online shop window before you have the right infrastructure in place is a recipe for trouble. Be sure your site has the resources and technology to handle transactions and fill orders. Good planning here will pay off in greater efficiency and speed when it comes to order fulfillment and customer service. That, in turn, should make your customers happy and keep them coming back for more.

 

When you're ready to become an American Express Online Merchant, simply call our Merchant Services Hotline on 1800-235-6755 (Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm) (Saturday, 9am to 1pm).

 

Worldwide reach.
Want to reach our Cardmembers worldwide?

You can reach them on American Express SelectsTM.

Got a question?


We've got hundreds of answers ready and waiting.

1. Asia Digital Marketing Yearbook (2010), http://www.asiadma.com