Posted at 10:21 AM
Over the past 20 years, the retail landscape has evolved with the rise of eCommerce -- where consumers can shop conveniently anytime, anywhere. If you’re a brick and mortar store and have not yet created an online presence, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. Aside from providing the convenience of purchasing online, having web presence increases a brand’s chances of getting sales offline as well. Consider the behavior of consumers today:
- In 2017 alone, the sales value of online retailers is projected to be $2 trillion
- 60% of Americans are happy that they don’t have to go to the mall or store to shop
- Before making any purchases, 81% of buyers research product information online
These figures don’t lie. If you want to stay afloat, having a competitive web presence and online store is an absolute must. In this article, we’ll cover the steps you should take to bring your brick and mortar store online.
1. Create Your Online Presence
Setting up a store online can be done in several ways -- building your own eCommerce store, joining marketplaces, creating shops on social media platforms, or doing all three.
Building Your Own eCommerce Store
Creating an eCommerce store isn’t as difficult as you may think. There are plenty of out-of-the-box eCommerce solutions that come with tools for designing websites, uploading products, adding descriptions, optimizing your pages, and more. You actually don’t need any HTML or coding knowledge to create a professional looking online store for your business!
Online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon have huge user bases, so plugging into these platforms will allow your products to potentially be in front of millions of people who visit these sites every day. Some of the sites will also sometimes advertise your products for you, which means more traffic to your pages and more potential revenue. However, you have limited control on the features, branding, and design of your product pages. Marketplaces also have rules and restrictions you need to follow. There are instances when you need approval of your products before you’re allowed to list them. That being said, the possible exposure your products will get is worth the limitations.
Creating Shops on Social Media Platforms
Selling on social media platforms is also popular these days. Some small merchants are able to run an online store by just posting pictures of their products, adding descriptions, and engaging with their audience through chat and comments. Others find that integrating a third party solution helps them manage their social media stores easily. Selling through social media can give you a lot of exposure to your target audience, especially if you use a platform that they frequently use.
2. Optimize Your Product Pages
Use Killer Product Photos
Blurry and pixelated photos aren’t going to appeal to buyers. Make sure you spend time capturing great images of your products, and showcasing various angles of every item you sell. If necessary, take close up photos to show details as well. Bear in mind that since a lot of people who buy online aren’t able to see and touch your merchandise, your photos need to make up for that buying experience gap.
Create Compelling Product Descriptions
Online, there won’t be a salesperson who can explain your products to your customers. Although there is an option to talk to them through comments and chat with social media platforms, if your product and sales copy isn’t enticing enough, customers won’t even approach you to ask questions. So create copy that will catch your audience’s attention so they will initiate a conversation. In most cases, if your photos and product descriptions are appealing enough, there won’t even be a need for a pre-sell conversation -- they will just click that buy button immediately.
Layout Your Pages For Easy Navigation
Make the buying experience easy for your customers. The goal is for them not to feel overwhelmed or confused by your product pages. Go for layouts that look clean and are easy to navigate.
Quick Tip: Studies show that most people lose interest in a product page’s content as they scroll down, so it is important that you position the most important information above the fold. This information includes: product image, product price, product variations, add-to-cart button, customer ratings, and other pertinent details (i.e. warranties, shipping cost, etc.).
3. Accept Digital Payments on Your Website
The ease of processing payments is a crucial part of the customer’s buying experience. This will help you get more sales and increase customer satisfaction. Not being able to pay online will make your potential customers abandon their cart and buy elsewhere.
Below are your digital payment setup options:
Use a Payment Gateway
An eCommerce store needs to be integrated with a payment gateway to process and accept credit card and debit card payments automatically. This will enable the transfer of key and confidential financial information between the bank/processor and your online store.
Use the Payment Processors of the eCommerce Platform
eCommerce platforms are designed as an all-in-one solution for online stores. Therefore, you can expect that a payment processor is already directly integrated into their system. Take note though that you still need to sign up with a third party payment processors, but once that’s done, you’ll just need to connect your account to your eCommerce platform.
4. Build Your Social Proof
Comments, customer photos, and reviews can all build your brand’s social proof, and this can do wonders for your sales conversions, so aim to get a lot of these and incorporate them in your product pages.
Ask happy customers to share photos of them using your product. To get people to do this, you can run contests that require participants to share a photo of them using the product in order to enter. This will give you a lot of good photo testimonials to use in the future. If you’re doing this on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you can even create a special hashtag to create more hype around it.
Studies show that around 94% of shoppers refer to reviews before they make purchases, and 86% of them believe that consulting reviews is essential in their decision-making process. Make rating your products easy for your customers by adding features on your pages that allow them to do so. You can also contact them after a set period of time to invite them to leave a review about their experience with your products. This will not only help you build stronger social proof; it will also make your customer feel that you care about their feedback and experience. This can also be an opportunity for you to improve your products, if necessary, based on your customers’ feedback.
If you’re selling on social media networks, you may not always be able to show product ratings with stars because some platforms do not have this feature. However, you can encourage your past clients/customers to share their positive experience with your products and leave comments on your posts or page. People are more likely to make purchases if they see real-life positive feedback from other users.
Shoppers have changed their buying behavior in recent years, and as a business owner, you have to adapt to the needs of those you serve. This does not mean that a brick-and-mortar shopping experience is obsolete. A lot of buyers still want the experience of being able to see, touch, examine, and try the products in person. However, consider offering your customers the added flexibility of finding your products online and grow your business.
Blogged by Krista Fabregas a staff writer and ecommerce analyst for Fit Small Business, specializing in ecommerce. Krista spent 16 years building two specialty ecommerce sites up to more than $1.5 M in gross annual sales.