With the introduction of the World Wide Web or “The Web”, it didn’t take long for industries to realize the endless possibilities the Internet could offer their various proprietors. From mere company and customer support information, websites evolved to highly- interactive marketing machines and automated retail solutions. E-Commerce has grown from a US$1.5 Trillion industry in 2015 to US$1.9 Trillion in 2016. One of the big factors of its exponential growth is outsourcing; it has changed the way online businesses operate.
2014 was a watershed year for mobile technology. It was the year where mobile gadgets dislodged the PC as the primary source of online traffic. As the number of smartphones continues to outpace world population, expect more consumers and businesses to patronize Internet- based services.
Although only 28% of businesses have websites, this number could rise due to the increasing role of the Internet and the influence of social media. Another factor which could spur the growth of websites is its affordability. 20% of small businesses surveyed revealed they did not have a website because they could not afford it.
But the cost of building a website has declined the last few years. There are 2 reasons for this: the availability of free website templates and the growth of the web design industry. Outsourcing web design to service providers from remote locations like India or the Philippines can lower the cost of building a website even more.
You can hire a web designer from India or the Philippines to create a customized website for you at a cost of $200 to $800. E-Commerce websites are more expensive because of its advanced features and may cost you up to $1,500.
And there is no compromise in quality. Both India and the Philippines are among the world leaders in global outsourcing. India is the acknowledged leader in Information Technology or IT.
The Internet has also created more efficient and effective avenues for marketing and promoting businesses. Before the Internet became widely accessible via broadband technology, marketing campaigns used traditional methods such as press releases, ad placements in various media and Point- of- Purchase (POP) collaterals.
These materials were very expensive to produce, would have short- term relevance and unsustainable. Flyers and posters ended up in the trash bin while press releases and print ads became yesterday’s news.
Inbound marketing which uses tools, processes and programs found in the Internet to generate website traffic is more efficient. It costs less to produce online collaterals and materials which are also re-usable.
Inbound marketing techniques such as blogging, social media and PPC Advertising are popularly used to target specific market demographics. Best of all, results can be measured accurately through the use of onsite and offsite analytics. You can track the changes in online behavior of your market.
Online businesses can simply outsource inbound marketing services to third party agencies. The costs will be lower because these outsourcing rates have comparative cost advantages in labor plus economies of scale. They have flexible terms of payment that can accommodate most budgets.
As an online business proprietor, you can set up your own inbound marketing team of remote workers. You can hire virtual assistants from the Philippines to manage the different areas of inbound marketing including digital marketing, content writing, social media marketing, SEO, graphic design and website management.
Once your outsourced marketing team has generated a consistent stream of inbound traffic to your funnel, you should have a sales team work on converting those leads into paying customers.
You can outsource sales to a remote team that can perform the following functions:
- Outbound Calling Services – Your sales team can contact the numbers collected from the e-mail listing or those who subscribed to your newsletter or patronized a call to action such as a free e-book.
They can do trial closings, offer guarantees, discounts or free subscriptions to encourage the prospect to come onboard.
- E-mail Support – Send consistent updates about your online business to those who signed up for your mailing list. The sales team can likewise offer limited time benefits to entice the subscriber to become a paying customer.
If you are in the real estate business, it is absolutely important to have an outsourced team of sales people. Given the size of the investment, it will take some time for a prospect to make a firm decision on property. Often times, the real estate agent will hold off the pursuit after the second call. But statistically, 80% of sales are closed between the 5th and 12th calls.
An outsourced sales team can keep the pressure on without making the client feel uneasy about the investment. In real estate, the day you forego the sales call might be the day another agent converts your lead into his client.
The Philippines is a popular destination for outsourcing telesales work because the locals have good command of the English language. They also have the ideal personality for sales: accommodating, patient, understanding, disciplined and very respectful.
Running a successful online business isn’t all about signing up new customers. In competitive industries, market retention might be more important than new market creation.
The cost of retaining old customers is much lower than the cost of acquiring new customers. As paying customers, they already made the choice to patronize your product. But if you do not take care of them, they might go to your nearest competitor.
This is where excellent customer support services come in. You should be able to answer all questions, issues, concerns and problems that are put forward by your customers. Not only should you resolve these issues but they should be done within an appreciable time frame.
In customer support service, you should have at least 5 points of contact:
- Mobile Phone
- Chat Support
- Social Media
- Regular Mail
By outsourcing, you could significantly reduce the cost of maintaining customer support services. You could hire virtual assistants or freelancers from remote locations to manage different areas of customer service so you can take advantage of time zone differentials.
For example, if your business is located in the US East Coast, you can outsource e-mail, chat and social media support to virtual assistants in the Philippines. They can cover the shift after regular office hours so that all inquiries that come once you’ve called it a day can be responded to right away.
You will not have to pay overtime and every visitor to your online business whether he or she ends up as a paying customer will come away having a positive review of your customer support service.
Even if you are running an online business, you still have to organize the different areas of responsibility. You should keep track of obligations to creditors, suppliers and payroll, if you have staff working for you. You also need to be updated on the payment of taxes, renewal of business permits and licenses.
An important part of managing a successful online business is to always stay on top of your finances. It is good practice to regularly plan and prepare your cash flow projections and payment schedules.
But as crucial as these areas of responsibility are, you should not find yourself tied down by them. Attending to these tasks will take away valuable time from the core functions of your business.
Administrative and supportive tasks can be outsourced to virtual assistants. Organization is a core competence for virtual assistants and they can do a great job managing these tasks for you.
The Future of Online Business
The online business industry is expected to continue its upward growth trajectory over the next 3 to 5 years. You can see its effects on the brick-and-mortar retail industry in the US where several giants have been shuttering or downsizing stores.
Despite a decline in market size in 2016, global outsourcing should again pick up as economies worldwide continue to struggle and business conditions remain uncertain. There will be increased demand for outsourced services as more businesses; online and onsite, will find ways to manage costs while increasing revenue.
Outsourcing has made online businesses more efficient, effective and has increased its overall viability as the new business model for the new generation of entrepreneurs.