Traditional retail stores (brick and mortar stores) that don’t have ecommerce websites often complain. They complain about people buying from overseas and not paying sales tax. They complain about people who walk in, try on clothes and then buy online from a cheaper source. They complain about rent and not being able to compete on price.
Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. But seriously, an ecommerce website can be a great addition to a physical store if done right. Online marketing has evolved to the point where you need to be online and in front of your customers. Ecommerce tools and online marketing can build you an effective multi-channel marketing plan. It can then compliment your bricks and mortar store.
Shoppers use mobiles and computers - you need to connect with them there.
Showrooming is when people come in and try something on and then go home to buy the same product online. The reasons people do this is they want to see the product from themselves. Or see if it fits if it is clothes or shoes. Then they can buy the same product online for a lower cost. Sometimes people just need to think about a purchase for a while before buying.
If your bricks and mortar store has an online store then they could end up buying they same product they viewed in your store. Or you could be the one who picks up a sale that someone has viewed in another store because you have the same product cheaper.
Online research is kind of the opposite of Showrooming. It is when people research products online and then come into a store to purchase it. This is common for big ticket items and technology products. People like to read reviews and view the specs before committing to purchase a big screen TV for example.
This is another example of where you can make contact with would be customers online. They might research online and then come into your physical store to make the purchase.
Almost everyone is on some form of social media. Brick and mortar stores usually have a FaceBook page or twitter account. You can integrate social media into an ecommerce website to help market both your store and your ecommerce website. Different type of social media can connect with different demographics. Teenagers love using SnapChat. Fashion and food brands can connect with users of Instagram. Using Facebook advertising you can connect directly with your ideal customer.
One huge advantage of an ecommerce store is the ability to collect your customers email addresses. Email marketing is the most effective form of online marketing. If someone has already bought from your store then they trust you and will listen to what you have to say. You can then send emails notifying them of specials, sales new products. All for much less than an ad in the newspaper.
Advantages you already have
You can talk to people in the store. Ecommerce website owners find it hard to get feedback. If people don’t like their site or product they just leave. With a physical store you have the customers attention. You can ask them why they purchased and product. Why they returned and product. And you can see the type of person that usually buys from you. All valuable feedback you can use for your ecommerce website and online marketing plans.
You already have a brand and brand awareness. Even people who have never been in your store probably know it because they drive past it every day on the way to work.
You probably have customers that come in regularly to browse through the new stock. Happy customers recommend your store to other people locally.
Because you have a physical location then online shoppers will be more inclined to trust you. They know there is a store where they can go to to ask a question or return a product. A brand new online store that doesn’t have any bricks and mortar outlets can take a long time to build up the same credibility.
It is difficult to have a personal connection with customers online. It’s not impossible, some ecommerce companies do it well, but nothing is the same as the personal touch.
Local SEO advantage
Google is placing more emphasis on context when people search for things online. Usually when people search the first few listings will be local suppliers. This is Google’s attempt to connect you with nearby companies. If your physical store has a Google Business page, and it should, you will show up near the top for people searching locally. This gives you an instant advantage over non bricks and mortar online stores. It can be a long, hard slog to get traction with search engines and get to the top of search results for online only businesses.
Advantages of having a ecommerce website
New revenue channel
Having an ecommerce site is another way people can give you money. You can get your product in front of people who have never set foot in your store. An ecommerce site can compliment your bricks and mortar store.
Location independent / Non local customers
You can market and sell to customers that live miles away from your town. This can open up new markets. Also an ecommerce store means you aren’t tied to one location. If the time ever came to close down your physical store or move it people will still be able to find you. An added bonus is an ecommerce store stays open 24/7 and you can keep tabs on it while on holiday. As long as someone is there to send out the orders.
Create an email database
You can easily collect people’s email addresses and continue to market to them. As I said above, email marketing is a very effective and cheap way to market to customers and keep them coming back. Ecommerce websites can send out emails automatically. Send them on peoples birthday’s and use other information you collect during the checkout process to connect with them.
You can test new products online. It is much easier to add a new product line online to test the waters first.
Grow your business
All the above advantages can work together to grow your business beyond a single store or a few stores.
People can quickly search price ranges, colours, sizes etc to find that right product for them. A good ecommerce site will have a good search function and / or price filters. This can be faster than search though a store for the right item.
You can have a live chat widget on your website. People can ask questions about products before they buy through the widget. This can easily be done by a sales person.
Accounts / Bookkeeping integration
To make live easier for you and your accountant, ecommerce websites can be integrated with accountancy packages. MYOB, Xero and many more can integrate with an ecommerce website.
Inventory tracking / integration
Most ecommerce sites can handle basic inventory and stock keeping. If you need to keep track of stock sold online and in the physical store, there are packages that can do that. Online and Point of Sale software can be integrated too.
Customer tracking and targeted marketing
There are many integrated solutions that will allow advanced online customer tracking. Cart abandonment add-ons can email a customer if they fill their shopping cart with items and then leave the website without checking out. This has been shown to increase sales by 15%. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways you can target your marketing to your customers actions and wants.
You can get started selling online cheaply and see if it works for you. Choose the right platform for you and your store. The way people buy and consume is rapidly changing. Businesses that keep up with the times will grow and prosper.