E-Business Explained, Challenges and Opportunities. What is e-business?
Many organisations are creating opportunities by conducting business in the cloud. But for some traditional businesses, the idea of e-business can be daunting. So, are you ready for the change? Are you ready to embrace e-business opportunities?
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First, it pays to understand the difference between e-commerce and e-business. E-commerce is largely transactions using open networks. It usually relates to consumer commerce over the web, such as buying a book online. E-business, on the other hand, relates to the use of information networks to gain a competitive advantage and is much more than just having a website for your business. It is often used to describe the use of technology to improve your business processes. The term e-business can also relate to a business that is run on the internet or uses internet technologies to improve its productivity or profitability. Business in the cloud, or cloud computing, relates to resources that are accessed over the internet, rather than on a server.
The use of e-business tools can make your administrative and operational activities more efficient through:
- Accessing the internet to source information about your industry, suppliers, and products
- Streamlining your physical transactions into electronic transactions, for example, online banking, financial management, and stock control
- Human resources management, through the development of an intranet for news, policies and staff administrative functions
- Customer relationship management
- Using appropriate project management software
How is e-business different to a traditional business?
Traditional businesses usually grow organically and develop step by step. They usually have clear definitions and deal with little change in the business environment. On the other hand, the e-business journey is less predictable thanks to ongoing change in the business and technology environment. Time to market and speed are major competitive factors in e-business, which demands fast adaption. E-business tools can be used:
- To trade goods and services online
- To conduct electronic retailing (e-tailing)
- To create intranets or extranets to conduct research and manage business activities
- For website marketing and online communications such as email
- As online training for staff (e-learning)
How viable is an e-business?
Many e-business opportunities are just a click away thanks to the cloud. The benefits of implementing e-business tools are not so much in the use of technology, but in the streamlining of business processes and the ease in finding new markets. Businesses that use these tools often find:
- Their communications are quicker and easier
- Their marketing capabilities and reach are strengthened
- They are able to offer increased hours of operation
- They enjoy better access to information
- Their transaction costs are reduced
- There is an increase in efficient payment methods, such as using online banking
- They are better able to retain customers as they know more about them and can offer personalised, proactive service
- They enjoy improved image and brand position
- They are able to generate additional revenue thanks to new products and new markets
The most common implementation of e-business is as an additional, or in some cases primary, storefront. By selling products and services online, an e-business is able to reach a much wider consumer base than any traditional brick-and-mortar store could ever do.
An e-business may also use the internet to acquire wholesale products or supplies for in-house production. This facet of e-business is sometimes referred to as e-procurement and allows businesses to cut their costs dramatically. Even many e-businesses that operate without an electronic storefront use e-procurement as a way to better track and manage their purchasing.
More e-business opportunities
In addition to buying and selling products, an e-business may also handle other traditional business aspects. The use of electronic chat as a form of technical and customer support is an excellent example of this. Many e-businesses use chat to supplement their traditional phone support. This saves them incredible amounts of time while providing opportunities unavailable through traditional support. By using virtual computer systems, for example, technical support operators can remotely access a customer’s computer and assist them in correcting a problem.
Using email and private websites as a method for dispensing internal memos and white sheets is another use of the internet by e-business. Rather than producing time-intensive and costly physical copies for each employee, a central server or email list can serve as an efficient method for distributing necessary information.
E-business and the cloud?
In the past few years, virtually all businesses have become, to some degree or another, an e-business. The pervasiveness of internet technology, readily available solutions, and the repeatedly demonstrated benefits of electronic technology have made e-business the obvious path. If your business is communicating via email, selling products or services via a website, using the web for research or paying bills online, you’re probably already doing business in the cloud.
If you’re a small business owner and you’re not already engaged in e-business, is it right for you? The question you really need to ask is, ‘How can I use e-business ideas to address my challenges and improve my business?’
Many small and medium-sized business owners are getting into e-business because they are looking for ways to lower costs while improving efficiency and productivity. Others are hesitant because they’re concerned about cost, security issues, the technical expertise required and the return on investment. But while technology can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. There are different ways to implement e-business and many small businesses have produced terrific results just by putting basic, inexpensive web access and email to good use.
Remember, e-business is a business, not a technical decision. If you start with a clear-headed view of e-business as a question of business strategy, you will be on the right track.
Got an e-business idea?
More and more people are going to the internet for a range of products and services that just a few months before were never even imagined. While many traditional business owners worry about the risks of e-business, the real risk to small businesses is NOT getting involved. Those who don’t put e-business solutions in place face the real threat of competition and declining business.
So, if you’re ready to start your e-business, here’s your checklist:
- Come up with an e-business idea
- Check the market for existing competitors
- Conduct a domain name check
- Go host shopping
- Look into a web design package with well-written, engaging content
- Know your payment method
An obvious potential e-business idea for most traditional businesses is a portal for your clients so they can better engage with your business. The front office has gone digital. Are you ready for this engagement?
E-Business Explained Challenges Opportunities Slideshow
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