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An unexpected way to save money in 2012…

By Rob Drummond on Mon 09 January 2012 in Web & eCommerce

If you are like almost every business in the UK, you are probably looking for ways to cut costs in 2012. What are the best ways to cut costs? 

 

We don’t know for certain, because cutting costs always involves taking a hard look at your business.

A good starting point however, is considering how your business takes and processes orders.

If you take orders over the phone, a great opportunity exists for you to save money by making more effective use of your website.

Here’s why.

Your customers do not normally enjoy ringing up to place an order. They have to ring you during business hours (when they are working too), and they may need to know part or serial numbers to make sure they order the correct product.

  • Quite often, they would much rather place orders at evenings or weekends
  • Quite often, they want exactly the same order they placed last time
  • Quite often, they want a replacement part for something you know they have installed on site

Allowing them to place orders through your website can save money, because you don’t need somebody reacting to a phone call, and you don’t need somebody re-keying the order into your accounting system. Product and price information can be automatically pulled in from your accounting system, so that your online visitors get the same experience they would get offline.

To draw on an American cliché, you can arrive at work in the morning having already made a sale. Importantly, that sale cost you very little to process.

For many businesses, the biggest cost savings in 2012 are going to be made reducing your cost of sales. While four telesales staff may take 200 orders a day costing £400, an eCommerce site costs as little as £10 for 2000 orders a day. (You might want to read that again!) Taking orders online allows you to leverage your time cost effectively.

Your website can help in other ways too.

If you operate a field sales team, you already know that operating a field sales team is expensive (especially if your role includes signing off their expenses!). With a typical sales visit in the UK costing over £200, you need your team to be closing as many deals as possible.

Unfortunately, your sales team can only attend so many meetings a week. Encouraging your customers to place orders online can eliminate unnecessary site visits, allowing your sales team to focus on high value deals.

If your customers cannot currently place orders online, and your accounts staff currently have to re-key orders into your back-office systems, then you really should take a look at creating an online store or trade portal. Depending on your website traffic, it can pay for itself in a matter of months.

Most of the information online about eCommerce is about making money and increasing sales; which is fine (and true). Quite often however the real benefits come as cost savings from faster, 24/7 order processing. Your customers win because they can place orders at a time convenient to them, and you win by receiving less inbound calls.

We are not saying you should get rid of your telephone order takers; some of your customers will never buy online. What an eCommerce store does do is allow you to leverage your time and effort, allowing your team to focus on proactive order getting, not reactive order taking. If they are going to buy anyway, why not let them buy online?

If you would like to learn more about how taking online orders can save you money, we recently put together a free special report called Real eCommerce for Real Companies. Based around five years’ experience of helping ‘bricks and mortar’ companies extend their business model to the web; the report includes case studies of industries as diverse as bicycle distribution and industrial lifting equipment.