From Bricks to Clicks: Moving Your Retail Business Online
April 22, 2021
If the past year has taught retailers anything, it’s to embrace a digital-first approach. Whilst the likes of Fashion Nova and Amazon make it look like a piece of cake, there’s a lot of hard graft involved in transitioning a brick-and-mortar store to a booming ecommerce business.
In this post, we take a look at the benefits of moving your store online, how to handle an omni-channel sales funnel and offer a step-by-step guide to achieving ecommerce success.
Moving your store online: long term benefits
Whilst there’s been a lot of focus on the short term benefits of ecommerce due to in-person shopping being limited by the pandemic, there are also a variety of long term benefits to entering the digital landscape which really make it worth the investment.
An online store never closes, meaning you can receive sales 24/7, 365. Brick and mortar stores are generally only open for around 8 hours per day, limiting how much money you can make. Without utility bills or a shop window to dress, you can quickly maximise profits with an ecommerce store.
Sell from anywhere
With a physical store, you’re limited to a particular area. An ecommerce store means you can serve the entire country, and even international territories. As long as you get your shipping costs right, lack of location restrictions gives you the freedom to serve a much larger number of customers, who can shop via their mobile devices anytime, anywhere.
Diversify customer base
It’s no secret that there’s a generational divide when it comes to shopping preferences. Millennial and Gen Z shoppers tend to prefer online shopping, whilst Baby Boomers lean more towards in-person retail. Adapting your brand experience for the online world allows you to target and appeal to those demographics that may not have discovered your store had you not cultivated a digital presence.
Find more customers
With so many of us spending hours each day online, the internet is a great way to connect with more customers. An ecommerce website allows you to fully utilise all digital marketing channels, from SEO to PPC and email marketing. It’s cost effective and allows you to reach a wide number of people based on their interests. You can of course implement a digital marketing strategy for a physical store, but it’s much easier to convert a customer with a link to purchase there and then than with a journey somewhere. Your website will be able to track users who visit your online store, allowing you to retarget lost sales and build a PPC strategy.
The shopping experience these days is all about convenience, and with 53.6% of the world’s population using social media for an average of 2 hours and 25 minutes per day, channels such as Instagram Shopping can make your products more visible and accessible to your target audience.
Moving your store online: step by step
1. Develop a strategy
It’s always best to make a plan before you start something. This gives you a chance to organise your timescale, budget and processes before diving in. You should also begin to consider your ecommerce and marketing strategy – which channels will you sell on? Who is your target audience and how will you reach them? Will you offer a discount to encourage sales upon launch?
2. Create your online store
You’ll need to first select your ecommerce platform. We recommend Shopify for beginners, as it’s easy to use and offers great scalability. You’ll find a step-by-step overview of setting up a Shopify store over on our how to use Shopify blog. This will entail creating key landing pages, product pages, shipping processes etc.
Make sure you have good quality photographs of every product and have conducted thorough keyword research to give your products the best chance of appearing in search and converting website visitors. It’s vital that your website is lightning fast and provides a seamless user experience. A slow loading speed leads to increased bounce rates and lower conversion rate. Shopify can handle thousands of transactions and visitors per minute so you don’t have to worry about your website crashing when you need it most.
3. Start driving traffic to your store
Once your online store is set up and launched, it’s time to implement a marketing strategy. If you’ve already got a social media following, publicising the launch of your website via your social channels can be an easy way to drive some traffic to your store immediately. Same goes for an existing email marketing list. The great thing about already having an established brick and mortar store is that you may already have built up a following and loyal customer base who can help raise awareness of your website. You can also use local inventory ads to drive nearby shoppers to your brick and mortar stores to make the most of foot traffic and ensure you aren’t neglecting your physical locations.
4. Manage your inventory
So you’ve set up your online store and have begun to fulfil orders, but just as you would restock the shelves of a physical store, you need to replenish your online stock too. If you are running your online store alongside your brick and mortar shop, then you may face some unique challenges. This is because buying habits tend to differ between online and offline shoppers. Decide whether you will fulfill online orders from the same location as you will store stock for your retail shop – there are pros and cons to this. You will need to implement a highly organised system to ensure you don’t run out of stock for online orders when replenishing shelves and vice versa. This is another reason we recommended Shopify – you can use their POS system to keep track of in-store purchases and ecommerce sales in one place and organise your inventory.
Brick and click stores: the future of retail?
Becoming a brick and click store allows you to take advantage of two different sales channels – all you need is a unified retail strategy. You may think that the future lies only in ecommerce, and after witnessing the impact of the pandemic on shops, you’d be forgiven. Many businesses, particularly fashion brands, have opened physical stores over the past few years despite previously being online-only businesses, so there is definitely still profit to be made in traditional retail. Online sales currently account for 36% of total retail sales for 2021, meaning an omnichannel approach is hugely beneficial to maximise profits and prepare for the future.
Looking to develop your retail store’s online presence? We’d love to chat with you – send us a message and we’ll be in touch.