Don’t let a “CLOSED” sign in your window cost you a sale. Add eCommerce to your brick-and-mortar store to reach a global audience, any time of the day. Take your company online and sell 24/7!
You know the old adage, The Sky’s the Limit?! That’s what I think of when working with eCommerce stores and forward-thinking business owners. The sky truly is the limit when you take your company online. By introducing your offline products to an online market, you can reach shoppers all around the world, at any moment of their day. Sales 24/7!
Just think of the possibilities. All of those upgrades, design changes, and new products you’ve been thinking about adding? No problem! Changes in eCommerce are much easier, less expensive, and take much less time to implement than changes in a brick-and-mortar store. In a blink, you can move your company online, add whatever trending products you are interested in, and activate an eCommerce shopping cart. In doing so, you will be opening your business up to all the possibilities you’ve ever dreamed of.
Do Offline Stores Need eCommerce
Business Insider’s premium research service, BI Intelligence, predicts that by 2020, American shoppers will be spending $632 billion annually. But where will that spending take place? While it’s true that most transactions are still done in physical stores, BI Intelligence notes that the growth rate of eCommerce continues to soar with 16% growth for online sales. And though sources may slightly differ, most report that eCommerce now makes up about 10% of all retail sales. That’s more than a trend. That’s the sign of a lifestyle change – and ample incentive for business owners to take their stores online.
The benefits add up when you take your company online. These include:
- Low start-up costs – when compared to opening a physical retail store, starting an eCommerce store is pennies on the dollar and very low-risk
- Global audience – with the right eCommerce platform, your store can automatically adjust prices and shipping for international customers
- Measurable results with analytics – enjoy the trail of data that online shoppers leave in their wake
- 24/7 sales – make money when you’re sleeping or on vacation by never having to close or pay for extra staffing
- Instant flexibility – make changes in a moment with digital adjustments that reflect current trends, pricing, holidays, and more
- Customer contact – sending special offers or keeping in touch with your customer base is much easier when everything is tied into your online dashboard
- Automation – automate everything to work together smoothly with eCommerce, including accounting, shipping, inventory, marketing, and more
Getting Started With Your Online Store
Making the decision to jump into eCommerce may actually be the hardest part of taking your physical store online. Once you’ve decided that your business would benefit from an eCommerce twin, the next steps are pretty easy. Take your company online!
1. Commit to your products and uncover your target audience
This first step is 2-part because a lot of the thought processes for both tasks run along the same thinking lines. Even if you already own a brick and mortar store and have existing customers, you’ll need to think about your onlinefocus. How will it differ? What products do you want to feature, and who are you selling to online? (Hint – you can’t sell to everyone!) This brainstorming will give you your base, the foundation of your eCommerce success. You will have to use the market research of your target shoppers and products to develop all future points of your webstore.
2. Choose a quality eCommerce platform
And sign up! There are literally hundreds of eCommerce solutions on the market today so you may want to use a trusted eCommerce research and review site to help speed up your own personal research and decision making. Though most of the top eCom platforms will seem to have similar feature sets, there will usually be a few tools or abilities that set them apart.
If you’re just getting starting in eCommerce, you may want to consider a quality platform like PinnacleCart, a shopping cart software that was designed specifically for building online stores. It is one of the only eCommerce platforms that offers you a completely customizable look for your online store and includes all the features you’ll need down the road to grow your business. Even if you already own a website and simply need to add eCommerce functioning, PinnacleCart is your best choice.
3. Sign up for a merchant account
If you’re using a quality eCommerce platform, you should instantly have a wide variety of supported payment options to choose from. These are called merchant accounts and they allow online stores to accept and process payments online. There are many excellent heavy hitters in the merchant account market but some aren’t solid options. If you’re looking to partner with a reputable, reliable merchant provider, consider finding an eCommerce software that is teamed up with FirstData, Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.net and the companies of that caliber.
4. Design a stunning storefront
Here’s the fun part of being an eCommerce business owner – designing your store! If you were trying to open a physical store, you’d be limited by the budget you had for rent, contractors, decor, and trendy upgrades – all costing many tens of thousands of dollars! When you take your company online, however, you can literally do anything you’d like to make a beautiful, unique site on a reasonable budget.
During the setup phase, you’ll choose ‘themes’ or hire a professional team to design your dream store. You’ll need to structure the necessities such as products descriptions, photos, shipping information, and more. You can also add apps that help with the more daily grind of being an eMerchant. These include but are definitely not limited to MailChimp, QuickBooks, and GoogleAnalytics.
5. Create an online marketing strategy
It may go without saying that the marketing strategy of a brick and mortar store is nearly nothing like that of an eCommerce store. Marketing all revolves around attracting traffic and buyers to your site. An online shop won’t have shoppers walking into their store (yet! – can’t wait for VR to improve the online shopping experience) so they’ll depend on creative content and social media to attract visitors or other websites to send traffic their way. Because of this, eCommerce businesses will need to put strong marketing focuses on things like:
- Building relationships through social media
- Creating awesome content that answers the questions and solves the problems their shoppers will have
- Placing ads in the places their target audience hangs out online
- Building quality inbound and outbound links
- Always meeting the digital needs of their customers
How to Use Your Online Presence
Once you have an eCommerce store setup, you need to know how to use it. What many retailers don’t realize is that eCommerce is much easier when you have an established business because you already have a customer base.
Take your company online and boost two major areas:
- It increases your brand presence and bring in new customers
- It rewards your loyal customers by offering them additional online services and convenience
Here are a few creative ways you can use your online store to connect with new and loyal customers:
- Social promotions – Give in-store or online discounts for customers who promote your products or brand through social media tagged images, links, likes, shares, or mentions.
- Delivery and shipping – Offer delivery service if a customer is close to your physical store location. To reach a global audience, however, offer domestic and international shipping services for those who aren’t close to your brick and mortar location. For example, Heidi’s Heavenly Cookies is a Pinnacle Cart store that has a physical storefront but also ships their baked goods nationwide.
Heidi’s Heavenly Cookies is an example of a successful physical / eCommerce combination business!
- Browsing – Allow shoppers the ability to browse your product selection online before they come into the store or order for delivery, even when they’re at work! This can be helpful for any type of business, whether it’s browsing a restaurant menu, last minute gifts for their boss, or pre-ordering a new outfit for the Christmas office party.
- Sell gift cards – Many physical stores use their online stores to sell gift cards, which users can either use online or the next time they pop into your store. This is a great feature for loved ones who live far away but still want to send gift cards from favorite local stores.
- In-store pickup – When you take your company online, your customers will get many new conveniences, including in-store pickup. Allow your customers to order ahead and have their package waiting! This is a very popular feature during the holidays or for busy working families.
- Cross promotion – Entice your online shoppers into coming to your physical store by offering a discount online if they pick up in-store. Conversely, tell people in-store that they can see special promotions if they visit your online store and follow your social media!
The possibilities of eCommerce are endless. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your online offering, and remember that your ultimate goal is to make the lives of your customers easier so they come back for more – either in person or online.
If you want to drive business to your physical location, or simply expand into a new wider reaching market, adding an eCommerce store to your physical store can be extremely beneficial. Not only will you reach a new market, but you can also make the lives of your current customers much easier. Unlike your brick-and-mortar store, the sky’s the limit when it comes to building your online empire.
Do you want to take your company online but have questions or comments? We’d love to help! Leave us your comments below or give us a call with questions you may have!
Inspired by her love of travel, Susan is a passionate supporter of eCommerce software and the idea that people should own their own internet business (so they can work from anywhere in the world). Though she currently resides in California, she is often found blogging from random beaches and teaching her kindergartner the delightful difference between ‘hola’ and ‘ciao’.
With a strong past in product evaluation, educational content, and eCommerce sales, Susan is serious about helping online merchants succeed in their goals. She loves meeting other independent business owners on the road and hopes to run into you one day… maybe in the hammock next to her!