Thanks to the Internet, eCommerce has flourished into a multi-trillion-dollar industry spanning every business sector imaginable. From niche product lines and rare parts to branded goods and seasonal gifts, the virtual storefront is now everywhere and nowhere, bringing the world closer together without so much as a front door.
And as technology advances, the opportunities are growing by the day.
In the same way that eCommerce businesses operate without a traditional bricks-and-mortar shop front, a virtual office provides nearly all the same elements as a physical workplace, minus the actual office suite. As you might expect, the cost savings are significant and there are plenty more benefits in using a virtual office to grow your eCommerce business, too. Let’s take a look at them.
How a Virtual Office Works
Before we get to the main benefits, here’s an overview of how a virtual office actually works.
A virtual office shares many components of a physical office space, but for far less money and usually less commitment, too. A virtual office and a physical office both provide:
- A place to hold meetings and to work
- A commercial mailing address with on-site mail sorting, storage and forwarding
- A registered company address (that’s not the client’s home)
- A local presence in a specific city, or area, associated with the client’s target market
- Receptionist services and support
- On-site services such as printing, faxing, copying and other administrative services
The main difference is that an office lease is usually a full-time commitment. Even when you’re out meeting suppliers, attending trade shows or checking inventory, and your office sits empty, you’re required to pay for it. With a virtual office however, you only pay for the amount of time you use it.
With a virtual office agreement, you can use day office space (usually a desk in a shared environment or lobby) and book meeting rooms on-demand and pay by the hour or the day.
The rest of the time, you have no allocated office – which means you’re free to work from home or wherever you need to be. And of course, you’re not paying for space you’re not using.
Flexible Service Packages
A virtual office is in fact a collection of services. Here’s a list of typical components that can make up all or part of a virtual office plan:
- A business address
- A place to receive, pick up and/or forward mail
- Conference rooms to host in-person meetings, bookable by the hour or day
- Hot desks or private offices, also bookable by the hour or day
- Copy and faxing services
- A receptionist to answer the phone and greet visitors for meetings
- An online (VoIP) phone system with voicemail, extensions, caller menus and other phone features
- A business phone number, usually with a local area code to match your address
- A remote live receptionist service or virtual assistant
- Various cloud internet services
Basic entry level plans usually provide a business address and mail handling and forwarding service, with the option to book meeting rooms at an extra cost. Premium virtual office plans usually add live receptionist services, a phone number and VoIP phone services, and inclusive access to meeting rooms and day offices (these are often capped at a certain number of hours per month).
Benefits of Using a Virtual Office for Ecommerce
Okay, you’ve probably already spotted the biggest benefit of a virtual office: low cost. But there’s much more to it than that. Let’s run through the main benefits for ecommerce businesses:
- A flexible workplace: Even if much of your business is conducted online or over the phone, from time to time you’ll still need a private place to hold meetings or work for the day. A virtual office provides easy (and sometimes inclusive) access to fully equipped workspace on an hourly or day basis. It’s quick and easy to setup and it’s much more professional than using the local coffee shop. Workspaces are fully connected too, so you can get online and keep business moving without relying on patchy 3G or 4G data connectivity.
- Support services on-demand: We know that running an ecommerce business is time-consuming and there are times when you need to drop everything and respond to urgent requirements – such as your website server or payment gateway crashing. When this happens, on-demand support is available in the form of live call answering, appointment scheduling, or admin tasks such as data entry. Whatever you need, virtual office providers can help with all sorts of business support services to save you time and money.
- Credibility: Having a professional address gives a business the upper hand over competition that doesn’t, and sets those all-important first impressions. Given the choice between a business using a home address, and a competing firm with a corporate address at say, Wilshire Boulevard, LA, which one looks more professional?
- Professional customer service: When you’re busy running a business, or you’re working from home and the kids are home from school, it makes a much better impression if your calls are handled by a professional receptionist who has the time, and the customer service skills, to handle calls in a friendly and professional manner.
- Create a local presence: This is really important if you’re breaking into new markets or you want to attract more clients in a specific location. Signing up for a virtual office in a certain area gives your business a local feel as well as the chance to meet clients on-site.
Whether you’re looking to grow your ecommerce business and expand into new markets, or simply save time and streamline your operations, a virtual office provides an excellent low-cost, flexible workplace solution for ecommerce businesses that could use a helping hand.