Women in e-commerce buck the trend

There has been a sharp rise in the number of women starting e-commerce businesses since the credit crunch began, according to one of the UKs leading independent online payment service providers.

Amongst the smaller owner-managed businesses that sign up with us, an increasing percentage are owned by women, says SecureHosting managing director, Jonathan Rodger. Whilst we used to get only a handful, we are now seeing around 25% of these smaller businesses being owned by women.

They tend to do a lot of research into their suppliers and are very keen to keep costs down to an absolute minimum. Our pay-as-you-go pricing model seems to appeal to this sector as it minimises the initial financial commitment.

Jonathan believes running an e-commerce business appeals to women in particular because of such factors as the convenience of being able to work flexi-hours from home and the relatively low start-up costs. Further advantages for SecureHostings clients include a healthy cash flow from the outset because of prompt payment for online sales and a quick set-up process.

To begin accepting card payments online through their website, all they need are a merchant account with certain banks, SecureHostings payment gateway and a website with a shopping cart system or a simple payment form.

Jonathan Rodger cites Kirsty Young and Elene Marsden as two good examples of women running successful owner-managed e-commerce businesses.

Kirsty is the proprietor of Serendipity Flowers, a floristry business in a high street location in Pershore, Worcestershire, offering fresh cut flowers, gifts and plants, as well as supplying weddings, funerals and corporate events.

Our deliveries cover local, national and international orders and many of these are carried out by ourselves at the shop using a courier service for a guaranteed same day or next day delivery, at very competitive prices, says Kirsty. As we can send anywhere around the UK, we act like our own relay service, except that any customers placing an order with us are getting much better value for money as there is no middle man taking commission from their flower value.

Serendipity Flowers has been established in High Street, Pershore, for  sixteen years, although Kirsty Young has been the proprietor for only six years. 

However, we have noticed a gradual decline over the past few years in the general footfall to the shop, and a steady increase in the number of online sales,  initially generated through our relay service, reveals Kirsty. Because of this and the economic downturn on the high street, it forced us to look into other ways for Serendipity to promote and sell its products and offer more competitive services to our customers.  Whilst noticing the gradual decline in footfall, the media has reported that online sales are increasing, confirming that the future of Serendipity Flowers will depend upon the online success.

Their website www.serendipityflowers.co.uk  has been live since the end of October and has already generated orders and many enquiries, especially for their wedding work. 

It is something that we should have looked into doing sooner than we did, admits Kirsty. We now plan to expand on the contents of the website to enable our customers more options, from both the product side and the information provided.

Kirsty Young is pleased with the online payment services provided by SecureHosting.

We chose SecureHosting as our payment processor for www.serendipityflowers.co.uk because they integrated well with our business account at our bank and it was easy and straightforward to establish, she explains. They offered technical help to establish the payment processing between our website and theirs and we also found the price to be competitive.

Elene Marsdens company, betterACTnow, offers video-based IT training in ACT!, which claims to be the worlds top selling contact and customer management software for small-to-medium-sized companies. Learners can choose the date and time of their own training. They can learn at their own pace and from wherever they are in the world.  betterACTnow helps to train busy and forward-thinking ACT users across all sectors.

Elene Marsden set up the business in Ipswich after working for many years as a teacher in secondary schools and with adults.

I enjoyed it, but eventually I decided that I wanted a new challenge, says Elene. So I established Corazon IT, a training company which provides IT training to the business community. I was always interested in finding new training products and one of these was ACT!  My tutor-led courses were popular and soon it became difficult to meet customer demands on delivery, both in terms of sheer volume and geography.  I decided that new technology could provide an excellent solution. Thats why I created online ACT! training courses that are available globally, 24/7.

Now that Ive experienced running an e-commerce business, I think Id find it extremely difficult to work any other way! It has enabled me to take control of my time and nowadays I use the time Id otherwise have used for travelling, to work on my own personal and professional development. As an educator, thats extremely important to me, but it also helps me to stay focused on the needs of my clients and their busy working lives.

Like Kirsty Young, Elene Marsden enjoys her partnership with SecureHosting.

SecureHosting was recommended to me by my web project manager when we first set up the betterACTnow website, recalls Elene. Ive never looked back! I find the customer service staff friendly, well informed and helpful. I like the fact that their team is based in my region and Ive met some of them at events, so I dont have to deal with a remote, anonymous call handling centre. I had a technical hitch once with card payment processing, and the MD stepped in and took overall responsibility for getting the problem resolved quickly. I was impressed with that. Im happy to recommend SecureHosting to other e-commerce companies.

SecureHosting, which supplies a secure credit card payment environment for about 2,500 Internet and mail order retailers, has noticed continuing robust growth in e-commerce transactions through its system, with transaction volumes up by over 30% compared with the previous year, in stark contrast with the decline in high street sales figures.

I think entrepeneurs and business owners are attracted by the relatively low costs and rapid deployment times associated with an online business, says Jonathan Rodger. The fact that Woolworths is being resurrected as a pure online retailer reinforces the message that e-commerce is now a mainstream business choice and no longer a sideline activity.

 

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