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eCommerce is just as relevant to service-orientated business as it is to online retailers

by Tim Rimington | January 20, 2012

Your business doesn’t sell tangible (“shippable”) products but it does sell something. So why shouldn’t you sell your services online within an eCommerce environment?

eCommerce has dominated business news for the best part of 12 months but there’s a sudden peak of interest from both print, online and television “affairs” programs. Consumers are flocking to buy online and the media is picking up on the fact.

For all the talk, it must leave service-orientated businesses scratching their heads in wonder. We speak to a lot of these types of business each week and it’s more a case of not understanding eCommerce than it is of wondering how to sell a “non-packaged” product. I’m thinking restaurants, clubs, accountants, property managers, recruiters - the list goes on. Some of these types of business see the opportunity that eCommerce presents but many simply don't know how to sell their "product" online.

Restaurants are the perfect entity for jumping into eCommerce. Restaurants are able to sell group booking specials, banquet deals, special occasion offers such as new years and Valentine’s Day, cooking classes, matched wine nights and so on; even cook books (as some of our restaurant/café clients already do).

Clubs sell similar things to restaurants, as well as membership packages allowing back office admin staff to concentrate on other things without needing to field phone calls for each and every membership renewal. Coupled with email newsletters to help drive membership, clubs are in a great position to benefit from eCommerce (much in the same way as restaurants in their email campaigning endeavours).

Accounting, brokerage and “book keeping” type businesses can sell information or discount/referral offers and packages to clients.

However, the biggest opportunity I see with these types of business is that of paid email newsletter/website access subscription. There are no shortages of boutique consultancy firms selling subscriptions to their weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletters.

Last year I began a paid subscription to a wine review website, with paid-only access to the site included as part of my subscription cost. At just $45 a year, it's a bargain - and these people have thousands of subscribers.

Blogs, if discussing something that people are happy to pay for, are another active channel for eCommerce. Like my wine example above, all you need to do is maintain a healthy subscriber base, give them what they want, and you’re staring at a viable revenue stream. Tap into people's passion, and they'll pay for the service - information is big business!

The point is, even if your business isn’t selling products that are traditional in terms of shopfront marketing (consumer items, etc.), there shouldn’t be a reason why you would shut the door on at least investigating ways to sell your service or knowledge online. Other businesses are already doing it, so it’s perhaps high time that you consult with someone who understands eCommerce and, just as importantly, starts you on the road to turning your website into a cash register as opposed to an inactive online brochure.

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