Service providers can profit from shopping carts too

The wonderful thing about increasingly affordable technology is that your business can do things that weren’t previously possible on a budget.

For example, both of email marketing and social networking allow business operators to communicate messages to their customers and prospects for what amounts to petty cash.

And good old websites provide information about your business to anyone around the world with an internet connection.

If you compare these benefits to the pre-digital world, the capabilities enjoyed by smaller business – at least for those who have ventured into it, are simply astonishing.

Unfortunately, many hesitate and watch more digital-savvy competitors swipe customers from right beneath their noses. Then instead of learning from the mistake, they embark on another by accusing the government of not taxing competitors, failing to educate them or worse still, threatening to withdraw business from suppliers who supply to online competitors.

All sad, all true.

Creative use of new technology

Sometimes new technology can be used in ways that were never intended by their creators.

Take digital shopping cart (or eCommerce) technology for example. The script says that business who sell product and can reasonably deliver them have little trouble setting up their eCommerce website and start selling online.

But smarter providers of services are now finding ways of using this technology to boost and streamline their own businesses.

And there are several ways they are doing so.

1. Bundling services into defined packages

Clever service providers are going beyond the old and time consuming ‘brief and quote’ practice by bundling services at a fixed price and selling them from their websites.

This is an approach gyms have been using for years. Instead of receiving infrequent and small admission fees, they bundle admission into set time packages with its larger fees and ‘creaming’ of unused credit.

This approach has many advantages, including closing sales more quickly (and hence avoids losing them to a competitor) and improving cashflow by depositing part or even all funds with the order. Some may even gain money for nothing by putting an expiry date on it – a key factor in the success of recent online deal providers such as Groupon, etc.

And depending on the package provided, customers can gain by getting more service than if they had bought it on an ad hoc basis.

2. Vouchering

Vouchers are an outstanding way of improving cashflow and making sales where you once couldn’t.

Apart from getting your money upfront, offering vouchers has the added bonus of appealing to a much wider market than your service could previously cater to, for example, as a gift to a valued client, etc.

3. Selling ‘hours’ or credits

My own business has created a new stream of business by selling help ‘credits’. It does this by providing 10-minute blocks of help either in person, by phone or by email.

Customers purchase blocks of credits in advance and are provided with a timesheet showing where the time has been spent. When they run out of credits, they simply jump onto the website and purchase more.

What’s more, the cart does all the invoicing and receipting for me, removing a layer of administration time and inconvenience.

4. Just being creative…

I’ve found that simply by establishing capabilities like eCommerce, you start to become creative. Knowing that you can now sell your services online gets your creative juices flowing and allows you to come up with new revenue streams that were never possible before.

For example, I would never have thought of selling help credits unless my cart was sitting there waiting to be harnessed.

So it may be worth investing the now tiny amounts in establishing an eCommerce capability just so you can avail yourself of the benefits whenever you need to.

All of these capabilities can be offered using a digital shopping cart, which can now be added to either an existing or new website very affordably.

If you’re in a services business, it makes sense to explore how your business can be utilising them to create profitable new streams of revenue – before your competitors do!

Has your services business created new revenue streams by introducing an eCommerce capability? Tell us about it below!

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.





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