In our last blog post we laid out the case for not following the predictable path of cost-cutting and downsizing that most businesses fall prey to during a recession. We argued that in the current business climate large companies are mostly locked into a beggar thy neighbour type strategy of cost reduction (in fact where they are pursuing growth, they’re doing it through takeovers and mergers) and that small businesses hold the key to recovery through their innovation and risk taking.

Over the next few posts we’ll try to suggest some ways in which small businesses can take measured risks in order to reap large rewards. We’ll point to some potential avenues of growth that, while they do involve some up front expense to exploit, could lead to capturing some of the markets that the large corporates are too cautious to go after and emerging from the downturn in a much stronger position than before.

The first such suggestion is ecommerce.

Taking your sales online not only opens up your catalogue of products and services to a much wider audience who are suddenly only a couple of mouse-clicks away but also allows you to exploit the accessibility and cost-efffectiveness of online marketing channels. With only a few hours research any business owner is able to start taking steps to promote their business online – be it through social media channels like Twitter and Facebook or by tweaking your website to make it appear higher in Google search results (a process known as Search Engine Optimistion). With an ecommerce website in place, any successful marketing activity will drive customers directly to your place of business and potentialy result in sales.

As well as facilitating this have-a-go approach to marketing using tools like Google analytics with your ecommerce website make it possible to track exactly where on the interent your website visitors are coming from, which search terms they’re using to find your site and which ones are actually converting into sales  – allowing you to work out who your best customers are and tailor your marketing efforts for these kind of people.

Getting an ecommmerce website up and running won’t be cheap – you’re looking at an expenditure of at least £1k for a decent website. In straightened economic times and with bank finance so hard to get hold of we understand that that’s no insignificant sum. But when you consider that online sales in 2011 topped £62bn while high-street spending dwindled, and that over the last year the number of small businesses trading exclusively online rose by 31%, you realise that getting your products and services online is a no-brainer.

Preaching to the converted?

Okay, we know we’re writing a blog entry here and that if you’ve found our site because you’re interested in the internet and business that you’re probably trading online already. So, do we have a suggestion for you, the experienced e-commercant?

Yes: M-commerce.

Mobile phone users were the source of 2% of all ecommerce transactions in 2011 and with the proliferation of smartphones that figure is expected to more than treble over the next few years. With that in mind, ask yourself this: how mobile friendly is my ecommerce site and am I doing enough to embrace smartphone using customers?

If your site isn’t optimised for use on a mobile device which has a small screen resolution, limited bandwidth capabilities and possibly no support for Flash you could already be missing out on a significant number of sales – especially if what you’re selling is aimed at younger, more tech-savvy customers.

Whether you need to develop a mobile website or mobile app is a question to which you should give careful consideration (and you can get more advice here) but what’s certain is that smartphones users are the future of ecommerce.