Taking out a loan or leasing to increase production capacity can help grow your embroidery, screen-printing or heat-pressing business, but do your homework first.FULL STORY
Build Your Business: Management
Grow Your Business With E-Commerce
The term “e-commerce” gets thrown around quite a bit these days. Simply put, it refers to selling products and services through a website.
With a growing volume of retail business being done this way, it’s certainly an option worth exploring for screen printers — and one where they can get in on the ground floor. Done correctly, e-commerce allows you to take advantage of new opportunities that can expand your business exponentially. And, it’s a trend that will continue to increase as customers become more comfortable with purchasing online. For customers, e-commerce equals convenience.
For screen printers, it offers the ability to market anywhere, unrestricted by geography or shop size. Having e-commerce capabilities conveys professionalism, which helps create an impression of competence and trustworthiness. This is particularly important for printers because they are, at their cores, marketing companies helping to promote their customers’ messages.
E-commerce may not necessarily become the standard sales model for printers; certain types of business, such as high-volume contract work, likely will remain primarily based on relationships. However, e-commerce is becoming a common way of doing business for printers. This is due to the increasing expectation among customers that it will be offered, and its value in growing printers’ business and projecting a professional image. You still can do other types of marketing, and grow your business with Internet marketing and e-commerce.
Your website should do two things: project a professional image, and generate leads and orders. Engaging in e-commerce is an investment in both. As an investment, it should be focused on returns. That means committing to doing it correctly to generate the maximum benefit for your business.
E-commerce websites for screen printers pose unique challenges. The greatest is that you’re dealing with customized — as opposed to standard — products. Accurately charging for goods and services requires taking many variables into consideration: the garment, number of colors, setup, quantity, volume discounts, etc. You must have software that considers each variable and moving part, and the business logic of general e-commerce platforms does not always make sense for apparel screen printing applications.
Custom printing necessitates a customized solution, whether it’s purchasing software specifically developed for the industry or hiring someone to develop a custom website to meet your needs. With the former, it’s important to look for an established product that has been proven in the marketplace. With the latter, watch out for developers who don’t understand that standard technologies won’t work for your products.
Either way, you have to be fully committed to seeing the task through to completion and supervising it because there are so many variables. Focus on generating revenue from your website instead of having it be an endless expense.
Regardless of the approach you take, here are some basic tips to help:
Get your act together offline. Review and nail down your pricing matrix, promotions and company identity that you want projected on your website — including its expression in your logo — before you apply it to e-commerce.
Bring your existing website up to date. A web presence is a living entity that should change with the market, customer demands and your needs; that’s the beauty of it.
Be aware of the costs going in. In addition to development, you’ll probably use a host site for a monthly fee, typically $99 to $200.
Minimize the variables. Offer a limited number of quality levels (good, better, best), major categories (youth, female, male, “fashion”), colors, etc. Focus on the goods you’ve found most popular with your customers. Don’t overwhelm potential customers with too many choices. Capitalize on the “herd mentality” by letting customers know (with percentages, stars, etc.) the most-popular choices.
Seek industry tools. Seek out and incorporate materials (descriptions and photos of products you offer, etc.) that are available from suppliers’ online catalogs.
Commit to doing your website correctly. It’s the only way to make your investment pay. If necessary, empower an employee or hire someone to focus on e-commerce so you can continue to run your business.
Your website is an investment. It upgrades your business and forces you to really embrace it. Don’t be scared off by the investment in energy, time or dollars. Remember, it’s all about attitude. Weigh the projected returns against what you’re putting into your e-commerce venture. It is an opportunity for a company of any size to use technology to level the playing field in a way never before possible.
J.P. Hunt is one of the founders of Inksoft, a company that offers a comprehensive business suite, including an online designer, e-commerce platform and other business tools. He also is the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. For more information or to comment on this article, email J.P. at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit inksoft.com.
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