Laura Chambers’s business was the least likely company in America to adopt e-commerce solutions for her rental company. For the past 17 years, JEAL LLC has operated the way it did when it was founded: hand-written quotes, snail-mailed invoices, and frustrating phone-tag to collect on receivables. These “personal touches” added nearly 5 hours to Laura’s work week
The adoption of newly-available e-commerce solutions isn’t always done for the business owner’s benefit; instead, its the business’s customers who value the new flexibility the most. Indeed, a minor investment can have huge returns in terms of new business and customer loyalty
Customers have become accustomed to, even prefer to, conduct business through their smartphone. Whether it’s online ordering from a mobile-friendly website or app, text alert appointment reminders or even online check-in for services from haircuts to oil changes.
The best thing about adopting new technology? The competitive environment for these tools mean that businesses have many choices, and in virtually every case, the e-commerce tools save the business time, money, and drive higher customer satisfaction
Brick-and-mortar businesses are using technology not only to improve efficiency, but also to find and attract new customers. Claims like “book online!”, “schedule from your phone” and “save 15% when you use our app” have become the norm for upstart and established businesses alike. No longer are business-friendly e-commerce tools the domain of big-budget companies with huge I.T. departments.
Many of these new tools come with a free trial, and most seamlessly integrate with other popular business tools. Examples include Freshbooks.com, a cloud-based accounting system that integrates with several point-of-sale systems, Renterval.com, an e-commerce rental store builder and management system that directly integrates with CardConnect and Authorize.net credit card processors, and Clickatell.com, a text/SMS messaging tool that integrates with many popular scheduling calendars.
Many small businesses are concerned about the skills, time and investment needed to add new e-commerce tools to their business. In the past, even the most minor change in systems required expensive consultants, outsourced tech teams and project managers. Today’s tools are hyper-focused on do-it-yourself implementation. They offer pay-as-you-go, “plug and play” simplicity and an abundance of free, anytime support.
The Small Business Administration provides a comprehensive planning guide for evaluating and selecting e-commerce tools to help small business owners do more with limited resources. Another great resource is Capterra.com, a software review site, where businesses can find and read reviews of all sorts of software, from hiring management to customer relationship management.
As for Laura’s business? She invested less than $80/month in new e-commerce tools, and now her customers can rent her equipment online, get SMS reminders, and pay open invoices from their phone. Her sales are up over 18%, and she reclaimed 20 hours per month.
– This guest post is an unpaid submission by Andrew Chambers, Founder of Renterval