Getting customers to visit your brick and mortar store can be difficult — especially since 8 in 10 Americans are now shopping online. In fact, 51% of Americans report that they’ve made purchases with their cell phone recently. So what does this mean for the future of your brick and mortar store?
Simply put, you may need to take your store online in order to survive. And you’re not the only one who’s dealing with this transition. Countless major retailers like Macy’s are closing their stores across the country as they face the same statistics of consumers turning to online shopping.
If your brick and mortar store is doing fine and you aren’t seeing a decrease in revenue, that’s great! You should still consider taking your business online, even if you’re not feeling the demand from consumers just yet.
What can I gain from putting my store online?
Benefits of taking your store online include:
Gaining greater visibility. This leads to new customers flowing into your business each year.
Lowering costs. Putting your business online allows you to increase revenue, often without increasing your physical overhead.
Staying open at all hours. Online businesses are open 24 hours a day, which allows your customers to shop whenever they want.
Increasing your reach. The internet gives your business a global reach, allowing anyone to shop from any location.
Staying competitive. People are shopping online more than ever before, which means you’ll want your business to be accessible on the internet.
So whether you’re feeling like your business is about to be left behind by digital consumers, or you just want to stay ahead of shopping trends, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll take you through the steps needed to take your storefront digital.
How to take your business online
Moving your storefront to the digital market may seem overwhelming, but there are lots of simple strategies you ensure a smooth transition.
Research your customers’ needs and expectations
Doing customer research can help you to attract more customers, set the right prices, and create effective marketing messages. This ultimately helps you to increase your revenue and provide a better customer experience.
Some ways to research your customer base are:
- Looking at your target audience’s presence on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.
- Gaining feedback from your current customers in-person and on your social media platforms.
- Analyzing competitor sites that share the same target audience
- Sending email surveys to your current customer base
During this research phase it’s important to identify:
Who your customers are
What your customers want to buy
Where they expect to buy it
How much they’re willing to pay
Use existing platforms to take your business digital
There’s no need to start from scratch when taking your business online. Utilize the many digital tools available to you to start an online store that is realistic for the time you have to operate it.
If you want to get your store online as quickly and easily as possible, try using Constant Contact to create an online store in a few simple steps.
Alternatively, websites like Amazon and 3dcart allow you to sell both physical and digital products on their site, which can be a great way to gain residual income. In fact, selling items on these websites can help you gain your customers’ trust because you’re affiliated with their well-known brand. Amazon will even help you with digital fulfillment.
Create your website
Even if you use a site like Amazon or Shopify to sell your products, you still want to create a website for your business so customers can learn more about your products. For instance, your website should display your products and include details about them, even if you’re selling on a third-party site. In that case, it should also include links to where your customers can buy your products.
Display your inventory
We’ve all been surfing a site and seen poorly taken photos of products. In most cases, we’ll look at other websites when this happens. To avoid this happening to you, you can:
Take pictures from multiple angles. You’ll want to show off every detail of your product so your customer isn’t surprised when it arrives at their door.
Use inclusive stock photos that represent your target customers. This is important because people buy products that relate to them.
Put your products into real-world scenarios. This helps your viewer see themselves using your product, which can increase your sales.
As you increase your inventory, you’ll want to adjust your small business insurance coverage. It’s essential that you have enough coverage for your entire inventory as well as new equipment.
Sort out your shipping costs
Fast, reliable shipping is important for keeping your customers satisfied and coming back in the future. For instance, if your customers are looking to buy a $12 book, and the cost is $15 for shipping, they’ll likely buy it elsewhere.
Usually, a flat shipping rate is the way to go. This is one single rate for packages regardless of their shape, weight or size. You can also look at what competitors are doing to get ideas. Remember that if you’re running a fulfillment operation yourself, you’ll need workers’ compensation for all your employees, including those that work in your warehouse.
However, you can also look into fulfillment services to help you ship products efficiently. These companies are third-party warehouses that prepare and ship your orders for you. This is a good option if you don’t have the time to handle shipping or you’ve grown too big to do it yourself. These companies usually charge fees for:
- Managing your inventory at their warehouse
- Storing your items
- Packing your products
- Shipping to customers
Use social media and digital advertising
Social and digital advertising are essential for enhancing your online presence. The best way to build a positive reputation online is to create content people enjoy and find informative. You’ll want to avoid posts that are clearly trying to push your products. However, you should always have your social media advertisements link back to your website.
Remember, your goals with social media marketing is to:
- Grow your visibility — the number of people who see your message
- Engage more with your customers
- Increase traffic to your website
How do you compete with other online businesses?
Perfecting the strategies above gives you a strong foundation to compete online. To go even further, consider these three strategies for staying competitive online:
1. Provide outstanding customer service
This is important for inspiring brand loyalty and customer retention. To provide quality customer service, you should:
- Practice active listening
- Train your staff on your products and services
- Respond quickly to customers
- Keep your promises to customers
2. Provide web content to engage new customers and build trust
Use your social media platforms for:
- Responding to customers’ comments and concerns
- Posting videos about your brand or product to promote understanding
- Asking for input on recent changes or on your products or your services
- Posting informational content, facts, discounts or upcoming events
You can also engage your customers by starting a blog. Each blog post is an opportunity to speak directly to your audience and relate to them. Over time, this helps to build a relationship with your customers. Blog posts are also a great way to showcase your expertise in your industry and gain more visibility. Customers can share your posts across their own social media accounts, and help you increase your customer base in the long run.
3. Get customer feedback and reviews
Your customers drive your business and profits. That means you’ll want to pay close attention to their feedback and make changes accordingly. Remember that both positive and negative feedback are important for growing your business and customer base.
What Are the Disadvantages of Selling Online?
There’s going to be challenges ahead as you transfer your brick and mortar store to the internet. Some problems to be aware of include:
Other companies may copy your business. This includes your ideas, products and content. The increased visibility on the web allows other companies to research your ideas. This means if you debut new products competitors may start producing similar items. Other businesses may also copy the content you produce directly, such as any informative articles on your site.
Security can be difficult to maintain. Hackers target both large and small businesses. This is important to consider because data breaches can be harmful to your reputation and finances. One famous example to consider is Target’s security breach in 2013. The company paid $18.5 million after hackers stole personal information.
It can be difficult to establish credibility. Traditionally, your physical location helps communicate that your business is legitimate. Customers also perceive credibility by interacting with your store’s employees, which won’t occur online.
One strategy for establishing yourself as credible is to allow customers to post honest reviews of your business on your site. This can help customers form their own opinion of your brand and also shows that you’re being honest with them.
Make a plan and take your business online
Updating your business is the only way to stay relevant to consumers as society evolves. For many business owners, that means taking your brick and mortar business somewhere you haven’t ever gone before – the internet.
Although it may seem overwhelming, those that make the leap are the ones that will likely thrive. And any stress you have about taking your business digital will hopefully be relieved when you start seeing that additional revenue coming in from your online store!