Thinking of shifting your brick and mortar store online to connect with all those hungry e-shoppers? It’s a smart move — e-commerce sales have been growing steadily, even before stay-at-home orders hit and denied consumers access to physical storefronts. Of course, the pandemic has also helped inspire shoppers to try new things. According to Adobe Analytics, U.S. online sales for September 2020 increased 43% year over year, reaching over $60 billion. And now that many shoppers have experienced ordering from the comfort of their couch, they’re likely to continue to do so. In addition to the increase in potential sales, there are many other benefits of opening an online store for your business:
• 24/7 customer access
• Increased reach
• Ability to build an email list
• Easily updated
So, how does one go about shifting their brick and mortar store online? Here are some strategies to help you make the move.
Easy Steps to Creating an Online Store
Create a Plan
While it’s exciting to think about making sales to buyers living across the world, it’s best not to jump into the project without doing your due diligence. There’s a lot more to opening an online store than just creating a webpage with a checkout plugin. Here are a few questions that need to be answered upfront:
• What supplies do you need? Will you be shipping the products yourself?
• Will you employ help? Do you need a developer to create your online store, or a designer to create your branding?
• How will you take photos of your products? Will you hire a photographer?
When you start answering questions like these, you’ll gain an understanding of the breadth of work ahead, and the associated actual costs and new overhead.
Consider Using Multiple Selling Platforms
If you set up an online store, you’ll already be using multiple selling channels: your brick and mortar location(s) alongside your online storefront. From there, you can further expand your portfolio of sales channels by selling on different online marketplaces to increase your reach, from Amazon to social media. Which channels you choose depends on your customers and product. Each comes with its own advantages and drawbacks.
General marketplace (Amazon) A comprehensive site like Amazon gives you credibility with consumers and allows you to reach a large audience. It’s good for businesses selling general interest items like electronics or books. However, you may lose brand recognition if your product seems like it comes from Amazon. If your business benefits from strong branding or unique products, you might want to choose another channel.
Social media (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok) Social media pages can be quickly set up to start cultivating an online customer base. Just create shoppable posts with good looking images of your products. Instagram works well for jewelry and apparel. Although it’s easy to get started, social media requires a lot of management. You need to consistently post eye-catching content and building a following. It’s best to have a team member dedicated to its management.
Additional online channels include auction sites like eBay, your business website, or an e-commerce platform like Shopify.
Use Multimedia to Showcase Your Products
Before buying a product, customers want to see if it’s a good fit for them. Outside of your brick and mortar products can’t be tried on or handled so consumers need to gather as much information as possible through the virtual medium. Multimedia helps them do that. Types of Multimedia to Use:
Photos Try to capture every angle of your product. It helps to include other objects in the scene to demonstrate the relative size. Tripods can help to maintain consistency across images.
Videos Keep videos short. Product videos can include a 360-degree view of the item for sale or product demos. Videos can also be fun, entertaining, and a great way to build your brand while also giving your customers a chance to see your product in action.
Customer experience Photos from previous buyers are a wonderful way to build credibility for your product. You can also use this as a chance to build your relationship with previous consumers by offering them something in return for pictures of them with the product.
Use Content Marketing and Influencers to Drive Traffic
Unfortunately, you can’t put up an online store and expect people to find it. You must dedicate time to marketing and promoting your store. Two of the most effective ways to market your online store are content marketing and influencer marketing. Let’s take a closer look at both of these methods.
Content marketing can be a bit of a slow burn but can yield fantastic results in the long-term. This type of marketing involves creating and providing free valuable online content (blog posts, videos, e-books) that help your customers solve a problem, answer a question, or achieve some goal. The idea is to be an expert source of knowledge while building brand awareness with your audience. This way, when they’re ready to make a purchase, they’ll remember you and come back to your store.
For example, let’s say you’re setting up an online storefront for your bookstore. To compete with the likes of Amazon, you need to form a personal relationship with your potential customers, which can be achieved through your content. Quality content for a bookstore could be a blog post on “How to Read More Books This Year” or YouTube videos of your staff’s favorite recommendations. You may want to take advantage of live webinars to host interviews or Q&As with your consumer base. Your target audience’s tastes and preferences will serve as your guide for what makes your content interesting.
Influencer marketing is using those individuals with a significant social media presence and following or “influence” to share your products with their followers. Those followers should fit your ideal customer profile: buyers who would love to own your product. With all of the social media apps out there, it can be hard to choose which is best for you. When it comes to influencer marketing, Instagram is often the best choice. Of course, it depends on where your customers hang out. If your buyers are Millennials or Gen Z, for example, they’ll likely be on Instagram, but older generations might be more active on Facebook.
Track the Effectiveness of Your New Store
Once your online store goes live and you begin marketing and selling your products, you need to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. This will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to your strategy so you can continue to effectively increase sales. Here are some key metrics to track:
Cart abandonment A count of how many shoppers add something to their cart but leave the site without completing a purchase. High abandonment rates could mean that your prices are too high or that you have a broken sales funnel.
Sales conversion rate Total number of sales divided by the number of visits to your store. This metric gives you insight into how your sales channels are performing.
Sales ranking Which product has sold the most, and which the least? This helps you determine which products to put in front of your customers, and which to maybe leave off the site (reducing inventory costs).
Traffic drivers The great thing about online stores is that you can track where your online traffic is coming from allowing you to pour more investment into the most effective marketing channels.
Control Your Product Range
It may not be cost-effective to offer all of your products in your online store. Instead, save resources by selling your most popular products first. This makes it easier for your customers to understand your brand specialty. If your business is known for having the coziest sleepwear around, make it obvious to the customer. In addition, with a controlled product range, you can funnel customers to your most popular products more easily. There are fewer pages and products for them to siphon through before they reach your bestsellers.
Though an online store may seem daunting at first, once you see those sales trickling in from customers across the country, you’ll be happy you invested the time and energy!