Supplementing your brick-and-mortar business’ sales through an online store seems like a fairly complex proposition.
That might have been true a few years ago, with notoriously difficult-to-manage ecommerce platforms, but today it’s much easier than you think. If your physical store is doing well on its own, you’re already primed for opening a successful ecommerce counterpart to increase sales.
Sooner or later, every major physical retail shop will have to offer online shopping – 8 out of 10 Americans are online shoppers. Opening an online store vastly expands your reach. Not only are you creating convenience for your existing customers, but you’ll also be in a position to attract new ones. There are no geographical boundaries online, neither are there any business-impeding holidays. Your store will be open 24/7.
More reasons to open an online store: 40 Amazing Online Shopping and Ecommerce Statistics
Know Your Audience
Launching an online store is easier than it seems, but there is still some crucial planning to do. Don’t rush the process and hire a bunch of developers to simply set up a website. Business comes first, and for that ask yourself: Who is the primary audience?
- Who is the primary audience?
- How do I leverage my existing customers?
- How will the above find my website?
Your primary audience is mostly going to be your existing customer base. And for new online stores, this can be a great way to launch. There are always circumstances where your existing customers cannot come at your physical location to make a purchase. That is when an online presence comes in handy to increase sales.
Select Products to Sell Online
You may be thinking of putting all of your store’s products online, but think twice before doing that. Ideally, you should choose products that are best sellers in your physical store.
A general rule of thumb is to narrow down your product selection to around 100 products, and be sure to include all of your best sellers. Be sure to include items that have a wide appeal to attract new customers as well.
Every business has competitors, and once you move online you’ll discover that competition in this avenue is particularly fierce. Thus, if you want to be a viable alternative, you’ll need to pre-plan your pricing strategy.
Go to your competitor’s website and see what sort of pricing they offer. And don’t just look at the MSRP – take into consideration tax, shipping charges and service/handling fees.
Abandoned shopping carts are a major problem for ecommerce stores, and part of the responsibility for that lies with unexpected shipping fees. Watching a reasonable purchase go into the realm of what-the-F when a vendor adds shipping fees is always an unpleasant experience.
It’s a major turn for would-be customers, who will look for alternative sellers offering better shipping rates. Ideally, flat-rate shipping is the way to go in order to set up customer expectations correctly. You can incentivize customers to spend more to qualify for free shipping as well.
Shipping fees are never welcome, and there are a few best practices you should follow:
- Offer real-time shipping rates where customers can see them (product page ideally). If displayed on the checkout page alone, you’ll have cart abandonment issues.
- Offer free shipping when a customer spends above a certain amount.
Every reputable online seller has an excellent refund policy. It’s part of the customer experience, and unless you’re a big brand you’ll need to come up with one before launching your online store.
It goes without saying that you should be absolutely transparent about your refund policies. Create a separate page on the website which details the refund policy, product return process and any associated costs the customer might have to bear.
Leave no stone unturned – there should be no confusion or misconception your customer’s mind otherwise you could have problems later on.
Online Store Development
Online store development used to be a tedious and resource-intensive process. Ecommerce platforms used to be complex, and would require a development team to launch and maintain.
Thankfully, that is no longer the case. Hosted ecommerce platforms allow anyone – with no technical knowledge whatsoever – to launch a professional online store within days.
Hosted ecommerce platforms also have a distinct advantage, because they have their own developers to manage each site. This takes any responsibility of updating or patching completely off the user. These are simple buy-and-use tools similar to Gmail, Discord, and Teamwork.
But you have to be extra careful when choosing an ecommerce platform. The reason being, there are several options out there.
Here’s the questions you need to ask when choosing an ecommerce platform:
- Is it capital-intensive? What are the launch costs?
- Can I afford to maintain it? Will I require expert help in maintaining it?
- Is it user-friendly and intuitive?
- Is it easy to customize visually?
- Are there any limits on the number of sales, orders, and products?
- Will I be able to process online payments with ease?
- How good is the customer support? Are there specific timings when I can reach them?
Customer support is especially important here as an ecommerce platform is a technical product, and you will require assistance in using the more advanced feature. As such, it is always good to know that you have access to a responsive and knowledgeable support team.
You wouldn’t want to wait 24 hours to hear back. Some services even forego weekends and offer support during specific hours of the week to increase sales.
- Building an Ecommerce Website in 7 Steps
- 7 Questions to Ask When Choosing the Best Online Store Builder for Your Business
Marketing to Increase Sales
Once you have gotten your online store up and running, it’s time to look at your store’s marketing.
Good product descriptions are absolutely critical to maximizing the order value and conversion rates for your online store. We understand that writing effective descriptions for 100 or so products is a time-consuming process, but it’s necessary to increase sales.
Focus on highlighting key features of the product, as well as the value they provide given their price. If you’re in a hurry, a simple sentence explaining the basics about the product such as its primary specification and purpose will do the job.
Do not use product images you found on Google. Take that as a rule. Product photography is easier than you think, and will help your site’s overall SEO footprint.
Some stores with more aesthetic products such as luxury clothing or accessories might want to invest in a professional photographer. Otherwise, you can take decent photos even using a smartphone such as an iPhone 7.
Organic Inbound Marketing
Building organic SEO content related to your store’s niche is important for improving your Google search rankings and attracting qualified traffic to your website.
Focus on simple yet proven methods such as:
- SEO-optimized blog content
- Customer engagement on social media
- SEO-optimized product descriptions (so your products have a higher likelihood of appearing in Google searches)
Advertising on Google and Facebook can be worthwhile, but we recommend this option for experienced marketers. Costs for pay-per-click ads have been increasing gradually over the years, and they’re simply not as cost-effective anymore.
It might be worth your while to look into micro-influencer marketing to increase sales as well. People with a thousand or even hundreds of followers can be quite effective at marketing your business, especially considering the costs.
- How to Find Influencers for Your Niche
- Creating Facebook Ads for Your Online Store: The Ultimate Guide
By following this brick-and-mortar business to online store guide, you should be able to significantly increase sales. Online stores open a variety of opportunities for you, so be creative and try out different techniques. New marketing methods are constantly coming into play, be sure to utilize these to get ahead of the competition.
Here’s a condensed version of the points discussed above:
- Have a plan. Before considering anything else, pay attention to who your target audience will be. If you have a base of loyal customers, your store is going to have a head-start in terms of sales. Just have a plan of how to use them.
- Transparent pricing and policies. Never give customers a reason to abandon their shopping cart. Be upfront about shipping rates and refund policies.
- SEO is key. SEO-optimized product pages and meta descriptions will get you organic traffic. In the long run, this is the best strategy for any business.
- Slow-and-steady. You’re not going to see a hundred orders the first day your online store goes live. Be sure to market consistently, and create awareness amongst existing customers.