There are many drivers for family-run businesses to set up an eCommerce operation. It may be the need to serve an existing customer base better or a desire to expand your current offering outside of that local geographical market. It is also a cost-effective option for extending your offer beyond a limited physical space, combining the low overheads of digital with the chance to provide more convenience for the customers old and new. Whatever the reason, family-run businesses are increasingly exploring the possibilities of eCommerce for moving themselves forward.
Family-run businesses are the backbone of small business in the UK. In 2018 there were 5.1 million family-owned businesses in the UK, representing 87.6% of private-sector firms. And they have a crucial advantage over other businesses according to PWC, they connect values to value. In other words, family-run businesses are more trusted than other businesses because they understand that it’s the values of today that give the security of the business tomorrow. They don’t just look for quick wins that destroy trust further down the line.
Establishing trust is one of the key factors in delivering successful eCommerce operations, which would seem to be an easy win for family-run businesses. Yet this same study showed that digitalisation is one of the key challenges such businesses identified moving forward. So how do you balance the unique position of being on the front foot in trust and the back foot in digital innovation?
Looking to the family
Many businesses will look to family members to continue a solid tradition of delivering services and goods, based on the model that already works. Maybe the job will be given to the younger generation, as Millennials and Generation Z are undoubtedly digital natives and understand more instinctively how successful brands behave in the digital space. However, allowing someone to direct an eCommerce project and allowing someone to build an online brand and eCommerce offer are two different things. Building a shop to get your goods out to market involves more than choosing a software platform at the right price and using the generic templates provided plus a free image design service. The steps you need to take for optimal and sustained success require a level of experience it’s hard to bring as someone coming to it for the first time. There are so many things to consider, from optimising your store to be found within search engine results, to establishing an engaging photographic style and content strategy for your products and brand, to building an effective path to purchase and a robust checkout experience – decisions around all of which should be based on a deep understanding of web design and user experience.
By keeping the whole project inside the business you risk missing out on the advice of experts that will make your project smoother and more effective – and ultimately, more of a success commercially.
Short on time
Another crucial consideration is how long the project should take. If you give the whole design and build to a family member it’s hard to know how long the build will take and what all the components should be. A lot of time and thought is given by agencies to ensuring a smooth project rollout that covers every element from best practice coding to beautiful design, and from effective user experience pathways to word-perfect product descriptions. The time that your family member is not likely to have.
So how do you create the right circumstances for the most effective expression of your brand and effective eCommerce experience for your customers, whilst maintaining the hallmark of your family and the trust that brings with it?
The ideal scenario is to have someone within your business run the project but not have to deliver the actual design and build of the site. A family member is well-placed to be an effective brand guardian, knowing what feels right for the brand in terms of look and feel, tone of voice, and the nuance of your product range. While an agency will be well-placed to suggest creative ways to represent your brand, making the eCommerce experience distinctive, efficient and professional, driving commercial success. The combination of brand guardianship combined with agency expertise leads to a better eCommerce experience for your customers.
Expert design = sticky sites
In fact, a study by Google proved this, concluding that simple, elegant web design leads to a better visitor impression which leads to a willingness to spend time on the site. And time spent increases the likelihood to purchase. According to the research, users will judge you based on an impression that takes 1/50th to 1/20th of a second to form! While it may seem like a good idea to get someone within the business to do the site design and build, if their day-to-day work is not focused on understanding all the latest developments in design and user experience strategies, you’re actually jeopardising the commercial effectiveness of your offer. Worse, you can risk annoying existing offline customers, potentially damaging existing revenue streams.
Distraction from the main business
Finally, if you decide to give the responsibility for eCommerce to an internal member of staff then you are diluting in-house expertise in another area. It’s more efficient and more effective to choose a great agency to work with you and create something effective, on-brand and delightful which will bring customers back to your site again and again.
The best set-up for eCommerce operations of family-run businesses
The best way to set up an eCommerce offer is to have an internal brand guardian, whilst employing an agency to design, build and then maintain your eCommerce store, ensuring you can focus on what got the business started in the first place, a passion not for website design but for your particular product or expertise.