In today's world, consumers have never been more demanding. This year alone, it's expected that 300 million people will shop online for products -- with the majority purchasing something once a month or more. And who can blame consumers? They want to shop from the comfort of their home, snuggle on the sofa, watching on-demand TV because it's easy.
If your brick-and-mortar store doesn't have an online equivalent, you're missing out on sales and limiting growth opportunities. So, how can you take a sizable physical storefront online? Let's explore.
Before you move online, it's essential to understand the opportunity for revenue in your industry (likely huge!).
Luckily for you, brick-and-mortar retailers have been tapping into e-commerce for years, so the data is out there. You're familiar with what sells well on your shelves; why not apply that knowledge when building your online shop?
Opening up online sales can increase your sales by at least 16% or more — and this figure is only set to grow as by 2040, it is estimated that 95% of purchases will be facilitated by e-commerce.
You need to choose the right e-commerce platform to support your business. This is a big decision and will determine your online store's growth rate, so spend more than a moment researching this with your current team.
But what kind of homework should you be doing?
First, think about the features you need. Do you want something simple? Or do you need more advanced features like inventory management tools or integrated email marketing campaigns? Do you need fulfilment tools? Some platforms offer these services, while others don't. But, what you gain in features, you can often lose in customizability. For example, WooCommerce is fully customisable but only offers a few out-of-the-box solutions; the onus is on your development team to create features. Whereas Shopify is feature-rich, the costs add up very quickly and so can be expensive.
Before committing to anything, be sure to research which platforms seem to suit your needs and look at what other stores in your industry use. The platform you choose will influence the cost of online store maintenance (some platforms carry a hefty monthly fee) and how many employees are needed once web traffic increases (more on staffing later!).
Next up: Think about the cost to your business. Sometimes investing more money upfront can help you later down the road — especially when moving an established offline business to an online space. More expensive initial investments in custom stores on WooCommerce often come with additional benefits worth paying (for example, built-in SEO tools or advanced analytics reports).
Are you finding all this information overwhelming? Here are a few differences between two of the most prominent players in e-commerce: WooCommerce and Shopify.
Once you have decided on your platform, it's time to get down to business. Here are some things to keep in mind as you set up your online store:
Importing tens of thousands of SKUs to an online store can seem overwhelming to anyone. Doing it by hand (or copying and pasting) will take valuable time away from your staff.
E-commerce platforms have solutions for this, so you don't need to spend that much time writing products manually. For example, if you're using WooCommerce or Shopify, your integration partner should be able to help you automatically pull product information from your current POS.
Happy days! Your inventory is now online. You will need to spend time cleaning it up, though. No inventory list is entirely clean. In our experience, even a POS that is 'clean' has a few tweaks you'll need to make.
Here are a few things you (along with your e-commerce agency partner) will need to fix:
One of the mega advantages of taking a shop online is that you can customise every part of the buying experience for potential shoppers. E-commerce stores that are customised for user experience have, on average, 2 to 5x higher conversion rates than out-of-the-box stores. For a store that currently does $100,000 monthly, that's a difference of $1.2M a year.
Customer service is particularly low-hanging fruit when it comes to customisation. Humanistic buyers tend to favour human connection above all else when amid a purchasing decision, so optimising your customer service has enormous potential. This can range from having a chatbot to having a large team of people ready to guide buyers through the buying process through live chat. Being around to answer potential customers' questions during the process using techniques like chatbots can increase conversions by 52%.
Delivering products to customers in their homes can unlock growth potential for your business.
You can ship products and fulfil orders directly from your online store or outsource this to a third party. On platforms like WooCommerce, you can even integrate with the packagers, and delivery team, to mean that customers know exactly where their parcel is at any time. We did something similar to this when we completed a custom build for Zest meals.
If you partner with a fulfilment warehouse or distribution centre, most good e-commerce platforms can also integrate with their software.
Customers are accustomed to stores like Amazon, which update them at every part of the fulfilment, so ensuring your store can update users on estimated shipping times when the order is ready and when it's out for delivery can help with conversions.
Finally, the time has come to market your store! People don't just magically appear on a website — you have to attract them.
We have a few great tips for when starting to sell online here, but if you'd already in the middle of your marketing budget cycle, here are a few ways you can integrate marketing your online store with existing efforts:
With all this said, you might think migrating to an e-commerce store is too much of a headache.
It's anything but that! While there are many moving parts to an e-commerce business, the right e-commerce growth partner can make the process easy and unlock a significant new revenue stream.
For now, don't get overwhelmed by the number of options available. Instead, focus on understanding your online opportunity and immediate requirements.
When you have a vague understanding of your requirements, it's time to call in the cavalry! AirVu Media is here to help you when migrating your bricks & mortar store online. Contact us today for a free consultation.