So, you operate a brick-and-mortar business and are looking for ways to bring in additional revenue. You think starting an online store would be a good idea, but don't know where to begin.
Fortunately, moving your traditional business into the digital world isn't as difficult as it once was. Follow the tips below to get started with your first online business.
Spend Time on Your Site
Many businesses spend a great deal of time setting up the layout of their store. They consider what items are most popular and put them at focal points. They take new products and highlight them as soon as you walk into the door. Some businesses even go so far as hiring interior designers or consultants to restructure the feel, functionality and appearance of their storefront.
That same diligence should also go into the design and functionality of your company's website. Take time to think about the layout of your homepage, find a relevant theme that fits your functionality, and develop your online store in a way that mimics the attentiveness to detail that you put into your brick-and-mortar location.
Think of your online business as an extension of your storefront. The products you highlight in the store should be emphasized on your website. The color scheme of your brand and in your store, should be the same ones used on your site. There should be a consistency with your brand that is evident with your brick-and-mortar and online business.
Create Great Content
Content is the glue that holds your online business together. It's the sales copy on your website, the images you post on Instagram, the email marketing newsletter you send every month and every other form of marketing communication between.
To make the transition from brick-and-mortar to an online platform, you'll need to put time into creating great content. This is particularly important for product descriptions. When moving your business online, you need to highlight your products or services through inventive, compelling and memorable product descriptions.
Because you might not be a creative copywriter, you may want to hire a freelancer to produce the content. This is a great way to scale production without spending a ton of resources. If you do want to hire a writer, it's important to first develop a creative brief that outlines your brand guidelines, style and other parameters for the project. This document will be a useful tool for the creative to follow while working with you.
Focus on Inventory Management
Most brick-and-mortar businesses understand the concept of inventory management. You track the items you have available for sale and as you start to have fewer products available, you order more of the ones selling. Over time, you learn which products sell faster or slower and plan inventory based on that information.
However, as you move to an online business, your inventory management must adjust. You don't have the same historical data to go off and you may see different purchasing patterns and trends. Be ready to adjust and try to transition slowly rather than moving all inventory online at once.
Developing a process for managing inventory sold online versus in-store is critical to succeeding online. A bottleneck in order fulfillment can have major ramifications on your online reputation and customer retention. Make sure you consider all the issues that could arise with online order fulfillment.
All About the Customers
One of the best reasons to transition your brick-and-mortar store to an online business is the ease in customer relations. While in-store interactions and face-to-face conversations are by far the best way to market, you can't expect to scale that way. There will always be a limit to the number of conversations you can have in a day and you can't expect to remember the details of each customer.
Moving online gives you the ability to increase your reach, optimize a lead funnel, manage customer details and scale your marketing communications efficiently. Social channels give you a medium for real-time consumer feedback and retention management. Email lists allow the opportunity to push repeat business, move people through the sales funnel and remain top-of-mind. The digital ecosystem gives businesses tools and channels for consumer management that isn't available in brick-and-mortar form.
Use Multiple Marketplaces
While building your online store is important, you can also find customers on other platforms like Amazon, eBay or Etsy. These selling platforms make it easy for you to create an account, upload photos and descriptions, and facilitate the transactions quickly and safely. Not only do they make the process easy for companies to create and sell products, they also have millions of daily visitors which increase the potential number of people that can land on your products.
Amazon even has a FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) program that lets retail companies send inventory to an Amazon fulfillment center so that when that product is ordered, Amazon facilities the packing and shipping of your product to the customer. This takes the issue of fulfillment bottlenecks off your hands and takes online selling to a new level of efficiency.
With consumer trends moving to a healthy mix of online and in-store purchasing, it's important to not rely solely on traditional brick-and-mortar business transactions. Creating an online store can increase your sales, streamline your customer relations and help build an international brand. The tips above can help you take you brick-and-mortar business into the digital world.
Derek Miller is a content marketing consultant for CopyPress, which is a leading digital content production company, specializing in articles, infographics, interactives and videos. Check out their recent study on the Content Marketing Ecosystem.