In the realm of retail, the needs and wants of customers are of prime importance. They dictate the products that merchants stock, the prices they charge, and even how payments are made. If buyers are unsatisfied with any of these elements at a particular store, they will simply go elsewhere. As a business owner who must constantly keep this fact in mind, it probably comes as no surprise that providing a combination of a physical retail presence with an ecommerce presence could be the ultimate win-win.
The benefits of online shopping.
In recent decades, the internet has come to provide us with incredibly expanded access to images, information, and reviews about a seemingly infinite variety of products. Without ever leaving home, consumers can research items, read customer testimonials, choose the items they want, add them to an online shopping cart, and complete their final purchases. Best of all, packages appear at their doors within a matter of days or even hours. When you think of it this way, you might wonder why anyone would ever visit a brick-and-mortar location again.
Advantages of physical stores.
No matter how convenient and appealing it is for consumers to do a portion of their shopping via their tablets or smartphones, the in-person experience can never be totally replaced. There are many instances when buyers want to see and touch products before shelling out their dollars, particularly if they can receive expert assistance from a trusted and knowledgeable sales associate. From the merchant’s standpoint, direct contact with prospective buyers provides the opportunity for upselling as well as the ability to furnish customers with invaluable information about their purchases that will enhance their shopping experience. Returning or exchanging items is also much easier at a brick-and-mortar location.
The best of both worlds.
Clearly, virtual and in-person buying methods each have their advantages. The good news is that many entrepreneurs are choosing the right payment technology partners to provide their valued customers with both. Imagine a situation that gives consumers a way to directly interact with items and take them home right away, while simultaneously offering instantaneous product lookup, precise in-store navigation, and fast mobile payments. In many respects, what you are left with is a hybrid experience that gives buyers the best of both worlds.
Customers are not the only ones who benefit from this happy marriage of the in-person and the virtual. Satisfied buyers tend to give repeat business, either in-store, or online. A certain percentage will also spread the word to their personal contacts about what you have to offer. If that publicity comes via social media, you might find yourself gaining a global customer following.
How to launch your brick-and-click business.
It is one thing to be convinced that the union of retail with etail is the perfect commercial marriage. It’s another to actually make it happen. If you want to launch an online presence that will integrate with your physical store, it is crucial to take the following steps.
- Identify and understand your customers. Your most loyal ones will probably be people who already shop at your physical store.
- Choose a domain name that either connects customers directly to your familiar brand or is catchy and easy to remember.
- Select a small number of your best selling products to offer online. You can always expand later.
- Scope out your competition to ensure that your prices, including tax and shipping, are fair. If you charge too much, you will lose customers; price items too low, and your business could tank.
- Gather information about the products you want to sell online. This includes writing titles and meta descriptions and taking clear pictures. Remember, this is the information that customers will see when they visit your store, so take time to make it clear and visually appealing.
- Determine shipping costs. A flat rate is easy for customers to understand. To provide incentive for bigger spending, consider offering free shipping on purchases that exceed a particular dollar amount.
- Determine what payment methods you will use, making sure that your software integrates with the solutions you already use in your brick-and-mortar location. This enables you to easily track sales trends across channels.
- Take steps to protect the security of your customers’ data. With fraud and data breaches making constant headlines, it is imperative that you do all you can to safeguard your records as well as the sensitive information that customers provide. To that end, be sure that your payment gateway, online shopping cart, and other software are all compliant with payment card industry data security standards (PCI DSS). Installing an SSL certificate on your website provides assurance to customers that transactions are secure.
- Include pages on your site that clearly outline your shipping, returns, and exchange policies, while providing answers to frequently asked questions.
- Begin to market your website. Spread the word with a robust social media campaign and come up with product descriptions that are SEO-driven. By so doing, you can raise your site’s ranking on popular search engine sites such as Google.
By employing these strategies, you’ll be able to construct a site that will not only seamlessly interface with your physical store, but will also be capable of standing alone and attracting distinct customers in its own right.
Twenty-first century retail is a complex undertaking. In order to be successful, business owners, particularly those who are struggling to establish their brand, must be creative and comprehensive. If you already have a successful retail location, providing customers with an accompanying online option will deliver the diversity of options that today’s customers demand. While it may at first seem overwhelming to launch an ecommerce presence, you will ultimately be amazed at how well it dovetails with your brick-and-mortar footprint to offer a nimble, appealing, and cutting-edge shopping experience to all of your customers.