It's no secret that eCommerce (electronic commerce) has impacted the retail world. With online sales projected to reach almost half a billion dollars (USD) in 2018, it is quite obvious that consumers are increasingly doing their shopping online.
If you have a physical store, you may be scared by this fact, and feel that online stores will negatively affect your business. But this does not have to be the case. Rather than feel threatened by eCommerce, retailers need to embrace it. Building online stores allows you to reach a larger audience, be open 24/7, and have more sales opportunities.
Large companies such as Walmart, Target, and JC Penney have designed hybrid business models where they integrate online sales with sales in their physical stores. They have, for example, services where the customer buys online and picks up at the store. This is called the Omni-Channel or Multi-Channel sale. It is about offering a similar experience in all sales channels, be it online, by phone or in the physical store.
Many businesses choose to use more than one channel because it helps reach multiple consumer groups. Groups of consumers who need the same product buy it from different channels because they live in separate locations or have individual purchasing preferences. For example, one shopper might prefer to shop online, while another is more comfortable in a physical store. This broader market coverage leads to increased sales. Retailers can integrate sales channels and design a distribution system that works in harmony.
Fortunately, moving your physical store to the digital world is not as difficult as you think. There are many affordable and easy to use tools on the market; You just have to spend some time to research the best ones for you, and implement the solution in your business.
Here are 5 steps to achieve it:
Step 1: Decide which channel or online platform to use
There are several ways to sell online. Depending on what you're selling (and who you're selling to), you can go with a full eCommerce store, get a seller account through an online marketplace like Amazon and Ebay, or sell through social media.
I recommend the Shopify platform. A Shopify store is equivalent to your online store. You can have your own domain name for your store, share your store's story, and expand your brand. It also allows you to start building an email list of your customers to start email marketing campaigns. Through this channel, you will own most of the data about your customers and be less dependent on another channel (for example, Amazon) if it decides to increase fees or implement new policies.
Another advantage that the Shopify platform offers is that you can integrate online sales with those of your physical store. If you still do not have any inventory management system, you can start using this platform where you will only have to manage a single central inventory for both sales in your physical store and for sales in your online store. It also includes the ability to include the point of sale system for your physical store where you can accept credit card payments.
Step 2: Design your online store
One thing to keep in mind when designing your digital store is consistency. You want your customers to have a similar experience whether they are looking for products in your physical store or in your online store. So take a look at your existing locations and pay attention to any themes or design elements you might bring online. It's true that implementing certain elements would be a bit more difficult in marketplaces and social media, but there are still steps you can take to embed your brand into these sales channels.
Step 3: Build and optimize your product pages
Your product pages are crucial to achieving online sales. Customers often make their purchasing decisions on these pages, so make them right. The main challenge here is to make people feel comfortable in buying your products online. Unlike a physical store, where shoppers can touch and feel merchandise, online customers rely on product photos , descriptions, and ratings ("reviews") to decide whether to purchase an item. This is why you need to go above and beyond to make sure your product pages are attractive, easy to navigate, and compelling.
Step 4: Get your physical store and your online store to work in harmony
Having a physical and online store is nice, but having those channels work together is even better. Modern customers love it when retailers allow them to shop across multiple channels, so linking your physical and digital stores will result in better shopping experiences and happier customers.
An example of doing this is the Buy Online, Pick Up In Store service. As the name clearly indicates, a "buy online, pick up in store" program gives shoppers the ability to make purchases on your e-commerce site, then stop by your physical store to pick them up instead of paying (and wait) for shipping.
It's a convenient service that helps shoppers save time and money. What's more, these initiatives can also increase sales for retailers. Research has found that 45% of shoppers who opt for store pickup end up buying additional items during their trip.
Step 5: Analyze your store's performance and make improvements
Congratulations! You have successfully moved your physical store online. The next step is to make sure that your store works well. To do this, you need to keep an eye on metrics like sales and conversion rate. These numbers can help you gauge your store's performance, so you can act accordingly.
The available metrics depend on the sales channel you are in. If you have an e-commerce site and you're using Google Analytics , you'll have access to a series of numbers that paint a clear picture of how your store is doing. If you are selling through social marketplaces your metrics will be limited to what they allow you to see.
Setting up an online store can take a bit of work, but when implemented correctly, the rewards (increased sales and customer satisfaction) are well worth it. If you haven't already, start exploring ways you can move your physical store online. Do your research on available sales channels, weigh your options, and start selling.
As a retail store owner, you need to start selling online to stay competitive in the future. Customers keep changing their behavior in the way they shop, and you as a business owner need to keep up with these ever-evolving trends.