Implementing online stores for your clients offers a number of ways of making money, but the trick is to go beyond merely deploying technology.
Help your clients to make more sales and you will deliver additional value that you can share. VARs are well placed to do this because it requires a combination of traditional marketing skills alongside an intimate knowledge of what is possible technically.
For the first time in IT history this blend of marketing and technical savvy is needed to really deliver bucks for the customer.
In addition to offering basic deployment services, VARs can offer expertise in a number of revenue-generating areas. For example, search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising are fields where experience can pay dividends. Developing a good service involves a steep learning curve, but it is possible.
Recently my own company decided to do its own online marketing, and it took about a year to build up the expertise. If you search for 'e-commerce software' in Google's UK sites, companies that have got their online marketing right will be at the top of the list. The great thing about SEO and PPC advice is that it is ongoing, and hence brings in repeat revenue.
Usability studies are another growth area. Experts such as Jakob Nielsen have found that small changes to usability can have a big impact on online store performance. Minor tweaks have been known to increase sales by as much as 100 per cent. This is another fruitful area full of potential.
Another revenue-generating area where VARs can add value is in helping end-users to engage interactively with prospects at online stores.
For instance, how should your clients up-sell from their website? Two for the price of one? Special offers for customers who chose widgets because they often also buy floggits? Email shots of offers to existing customers based on profiles? Referral schemes?
The great thing is that the more successful you make your client, the more happy they will be to pay you.
Right now, e-commerce is in prime position. The press in recent years has over-hyped the crash as much as it did the boom.
We did a quick check with some of our customers' Christmas results. Most stores saw growth in sales from the previous year in the range 10 to 30 per cent, with the highest a mighty 400 per cent.
If your customers' sales aren't tracking up fast, then they are behind the curve. Given that conventional retail stores hardly saw any growth, the business case for e-commerce is easy to make.
This is an area where lots of expertise is required, but with determination it can be acquired. What is stopping you from sharing in this opportunity?
Chris Barling is chief executive of e-commerce supplier Actinic.
Security firm set to become part of acquisitive Shearwater Group
Distributor merges three northern sites into one new hub in Warrington
Activist investor puts forward five director candidates as turmoil continues at security giant
Nima Green asks what is driving public cloud uptake in Germany