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Adding an online component to a brick and mortar business is a no-brainer for most retailers today. But instead of just adding a shopping cart to an online brochure, savvy store owners take advantage of sophisticated new ecommerce tools that can help simplify operations such as inventory and accounting, while also refining the customer experience for their shoppers. The payoff for good planning can be huge: online sales that complement and build on the offline business.
Prioritize What Customers See
Keep your focus on your customers and they will be more apt to buy with you.
Create Showroom Online
Stylish shop windows, well-stocked shelves, organized aisles. Why is it that some retailers who obsess about details in their physical stores forget the basics when they move online? Create the “wow factor” with compelling photos (or video), seasonal product displays and creative promotions. Yes, it’s easier to change website colors than it is carpeting in stores, but that doesn’t mean you can go wild with fonts and hues. Tie in the color scheme for the online store with the branding used in brick and mortar stores and other marketing materials. It builds trust. Play it safe to start with Miva’s ReadyTheme templates.
Set Up Navigation Strategically
Can customers find what they’re looking for at your online store? While your homepage showcases what you want to promote, your navigation should help shoppers find what they’re looking for, with a variety of categories as entry points. Your navigation needs to be intuitive and well organized. The technical design needs to be responsive, letting your online store to travel to shoppers’ mobile devices seamlessly. Search options should be prominently displayed and optimized to give the most meaningful results. Adding Miva’s custom lookup tools to an online store helps shoppers find products efficiently and avoids navigating through multiple filtering layers. Incorporating logic-based functions can help automate your site, such as updating a display to show that a product is sold out.
Make Buying Easy
Don’t you hate it when you’re in a store ready to buy and you can’t find the checkout counter – or there is a long line? In addition to making the BUY button prominent, be sure and streamline your checkout procedure. Nothing is more frustrating for retailers on or offline than looking at a well-stocked shopping cart that’s been abandoned. Shoppers HATE filling in forms, so skip unnecessary fields and use auto-fill where you can. (A study by the Baymard Institute, a web research institute focuses on ecommerce usability and optimization, found the average checkout contains 14.88 form fields – twice as many as is needed. Be particularly careful of asking questions that may be considered too personal. The Baymard study found a surprising number of users would strongly consider buying a product elsewhere if they were required to provide their birth date (35%) or their gender (11%).) Similarly, you may want all your shoppers to open accounts so you can extend your relationship with them, but if you don’t offer an easy guest option they may simply walk away and buy elsewhere. Be sure and offer a variety of different ways to pay. You can simplify the checkout process by giving them the option of logging in to a payment account where their information is already stored, such as Amazon, PayPal or Apple Pay.
Use Digital Tools to Expand Your Business
Taking your business online not only opens up new sales channels, it also provides an opportunity to improve your business processes and marketing.
Streamline Your Systems
As you migrate from an information-only website to a full ecommerce business, you can integrate a variety of tools that will make running both your online and office businesses easier. By incorporating an enterprise resource system, you can synch orders with inventory, integrate your accounting system and eliminate the feeling that you’re running two separate businesses.
Cross Promote to Customers
Adding an online gives you opportunities for cross-marketing between the two channels. Many shoppers who buy online also visit brick and mortar stores. You can promote your online outlet by dropping leaflets in bags at brick and mortar stores, and then also develop separate flyers included with the shipped purchases that encourage a visit to the physical stores. Using zip code information from sales can help you, direct customers, to be a regional option. It may sound obvious, but don’t forget you can email customers to alert them to your new online store. (And don’t forget that an email that is personalized has by some reports a transaction rate that is six times higher.)
Count on Coupons
A recent study by the CMO Council suggests that 71% of US internet users’ purchase decisions were influenced by coupons and discounts. Offer in-store customers an enticement such as free shipping or 20% their first order, but don’t forget to offer repeat customers incentives too. Coupons can build brand loyalty, conversions, and recurring sales.
Build Traffic with SEO and Content Marketing
When you get your site set up, you’ll want to start driving traffic to it. There are a variety of options, which range from the simple to the complicated. This recent Miva blog post has a good overview of strategies to build traffic online, but here are a few things you’ll want to consider, with links to where you can find more information:
- Search engine optimization is an art and a science. Whether you study up and do it yourself or hire an expert, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics. Read 5 Ways to Improve SEO for your Online Store.
- A blog with tips from your product experts not only gives customers a reason to return to the site, but it can also dramatically improve your organic search rankings. Read Why Your Ecommerce Store needs a blog.
- Email marketing can be done well – and it can be done very, very badly. Nothing will alienate customers more than spamming them. Make sure you have a sound strategy. Read Ecommerce Business Send Strategies.
Embrace Google Analytics
It’s not as daunting as you think. Take a deep dive into Google Analytics and you’re likely to see details that will shock, scare, amaze and excite you. Before you begin sinking money into paid advertising programs, be sure to read how to Make Smarter Marketing Decisions with Google Analytics.
About The Author
Elisa Williams is a journalist and communications strategist who combines storytelling with solid research and analysis. A contributing author to the Miva Blog, Elisa has written for a wide array of consumer, business and technology publications, including Newsweek, Real Simple, Computer Life and Inc. Her marketing and content development work includes supporting technology companies that specialize in ecommerce, financial services and big data.