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How to ride over the challenges of doing business on internet



Stewart Jakarasi

Doing business online has a number of challenges that you need to address if you have to leverage on e-commerce.

Once you have decided to do business online the first challenge would be designing the best website ever. The consumer will decide to do business with a company within the first-glance of a company’s website. If the website lacks that good enticing look then the customer will move to another site. You need therefore to employ the services of a good web designer. The best web designers should build websites that look great, function well and gain and retain customers.

One other challenge that small businesses face is how to host the website. There are three options available to a business either to host their own website or host their site with a web hosting service provider or host their site with another portal such as Yahoo for a monthly fee. In all these options there will be challenges. If you are using a host or a portal then you have to consider issues of reliability, updating information or content on the website and download times. If you have to host on your own you have to make decisions about hardware, operating systems, and application servers which naturally require considerable knowledge in installation and setup and as well as installation costs and any other costs related to network routing equipment.

Once you have a website, the next challenge is to create the content that will appeal to visitors searching for products and services you are providing. You need skills to produce the right content in written form or as videos. Overcoming this challenge usually involves hiring professionals to create content for you.

Now that you have the content you need to start promoting that content. You can do this through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube. The aim being to grow a large audience that is interested in your business. This involves posting advices, responding to questions raised across all of the social media platforms. You obviously need time to do this.

Each visitor who comes to your website should at least leave contact details so that you can follow-up later. Consumers usually never make a purchase the first time they go onto a website so you need to communicate with them a second time or even more. You therefore need to create a personal relationship between your company and the visitor and you can do this by giving away free content in return for the visitor’s contact details especially email address. In due course the visitor will soon become your customer and invest in your products and services as they build trust in you and see you as an authority in the product or service you are providing.

Operating business online is a 24/7 business which will require in some cases staff to attend to customer service, technical problems such as site upgrades, server crashes, and power outages, or evaluating how the system is handling peak traffic or page download. These costs have to be covered by the operations. There are certain companies that provide these services so you can actually use them.

There is a lot of competition as you do business online because the barriers of entry are very low. A lot of players are able to set up their business and start trading online. As a result consumers have a wider choice of suppliers and therefore demand quality products at competitive prices. There are also a lot of companies that provide price comparisons on the internet and these provide the required information to consumers to be able to play off suppliers against each other.  The resulting increase in competition has a negative effect on entrepreneurs’ ability to survive. The provision of price information by informediaries has reduced customers transaction costs effectively giving power to the buyer. Trading online therefore requires that you charge competitive prices.

Another challenge is one of security when transacting online. Online business is open to hacking into the site to get credit card information. Customers might therefore be reluctant to deal with your business if there are frequent hackings. Entrepreneurs will therefore need to assure their customers that they have taken all precautions to ensure the security of confidential data. If an attack on the system takes place the company should have contingency plans to deal with attacks and ensure continued business in a secure environment. Contingency plans are very important because they give assurance to customers of the security of the company’s site. Online consumers are likely to avoid websites that experience frequent security problems. It would be very critical to invest in reliable systems and servers and also to continuously update your technology or software to address the latest threats. Online security breaches can destroy a small company through lost business or through claims from customers.

Attracting customers to your site requires that the site is attractive and user friendly. A customer might only click once on your website and might not come back if the site is not attractive or user friendly. First impressions are very critical. Internet marketing is a highly technical and competitive task. The nature of the internet is that it offers the possibility of reaching a huge, global customer-base, but the danger is that you can waste resources if the campaign is not well crafted. It’s vital to craft a cost-effective and targeted internet campaign if you have to experience success on your online businesses.

One of the keys to having a captivating site is when your brand is well known. A well-known brand will create perceptions of trust in the customers’ minds and therefore customers will feel safe to do business with your company and even to the extent of paying online. Another way to develop trust with customers is to have reciprocal links with complementary sites, carry out banner advertising, or enter into affiliate programs with other merchants who are well-known on the internet.

Having innovative ways of providing customer service on the web can help building trust and confidence in customers. Companies can have links with answers to frequently asked questions.

Operating online can create new challenges for companies that have traditionally operated their businesses with a physical shopfront. A company will therefore need to design its website to be able to show its products so that customers will be able to make a choice of the products.

The other challenge is the theft of intellectual material on the internet. It will be very important to protect your site and related information through copyrights and patents. Also your website should be secure and reliable.

Doing business online requires that a business owner possesses knowledge of doing business online. Necessary skills would include knowing how to market your business online. If you lack these skills it would be advisable to outsource some of these services.

Online trading can open up markets all over the world but it can be difficult to develop ongoing business relationships. It will be difficult to have an opportunity for face-to-face meeting with a customer in distant countries.

Despite these challenges e-commerce is here to stay and we need to know it and leverage on it if we have to remain competitive in this digital age.

About the author

Stewart Jakarasi is a business & financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy and performance management. He provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, preparation of business plans and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations. For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts: or +266 58881062 or on WhatsApp +266 62110062

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