As a retailer, you always have one eye trained on market trends. You know that moving online from a traditional retail set up can help you gain access to more customers. In the United States, consumer interest in e-Commerce is growing steadily, as witnessed by the increasing percentage of online sales.
Online purchases made up about 5% of all sales in 2012, a number that has steadily grown to 8% by 2016. In terms of numbers, this is huge. By 2019, which is just three years away, online sales are expected to cross 600 billion US dollars. Don’t you want a chunk of the pie?
The challenges of going online are unique as they are troublesome to address. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind before you take the leap and take your retail store online.
With a physical store, we think about the layout, product placement and a few personal touches. With online stores, we need tithing of how accessible they are.
- Firstly, your E-commerce site needs to load quickly. People use a variety of internet speeds and from several different locations. If your site is too bulky, it will just not load quickly enough to hold their attention.
- There will be periods of time when you’ll experience a spike in the number of visitors, just like in a physical store. You need to be prepared with a reliable web host that can handle these spikes.
- Keep in mind that people also access the same site on a mobile device. Your site needs to perform well on every device and still continue to load as quickly as possible.
A customer’s interest in your website is directly proportional to the amount of time it takes to load, so the way it behaves is extremely important.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of having a digital catalog is the ease of production and distribution. Problems such as printing and distribution costs are cut down significantly. Moreover, a digital catalog is easy to share through a variety of media, and thus serves to increase consumer recall. Your customer can now see your catalog on your website, in their email and even on Instagram. As with a print catalog, ease of reading is paramount here.
- Consider having lots of high quality pictures.
- Curate the contents of your catalog based on a trending theme.
- Consider having an engaging description for each product.
- Don’t forget to mention the product’s price and code.
While selling across multiple channels is a great way to improve sales, the inevitable issue of stock management often crops up. How do you make sure you don’t continue to receive orders when you’re actually sold out?
- A good inventory management system can help you keep track of what you’re selling.
- At Primaseller, we’ve built software that can take care of your inventory woes. Our automated inventory management system ensures that your stock levels are dynamically updated across your sales channels, throughout the day.
A payment gateway is a portal where your customers will pay for the product they buy from you. Not all payment gateways are created equal though. A payment gateway securely processes your customers information, accepts the payment from them and generates a confirmation number. A good payment gateway does all of these without ever creating a problem.
- Consider how much it costs you. A classic gateway costs lesser but requires that you set up a separate account. A gateway like PayPal can be linked to an existing account, but the transaction fees are slightly higher.
- Each gateway is a user experience. Play around with a few to see what it looks like on the site.
- Start with a gateway that charges a lesser fee from you and upgrade as your sales volume grows.
When going online, a rather unique problem crops up- that of delivery. As opposed to the instant gratification of buying a product in-store, a customer now has to wait for their product. Several things can happen if delivery goes wrong, doesn’t arrive on time or arrives in a shabby state. This is why it is so important to choose the right delivery partner.
- Always go by their past record. Consider how many people in the same domain as you are using this partner’s services.
- Be firm about your delivery expectations. This is especially true for perishable homemade goods that you ship to far-off locations.
- Talk about who will deal with packaging. Set your packaging expectations on the table so you don’t have disappointed customers. You can also discuss an arrangement where you will do the initial custom packaging and the delivery partner will ensure it arrives in spotless condition.
If your delivery partner is looking after the bubble wrap, you may want to consider customized packaging. A customer’s brand recall depends heavily on how they were ‘treated’ by the brand.
- Include personalized messages or handwritten notes expressing your appreciation for the customer.
- Throw in a coupon for a discount on the next purchase.
- If you’re selling cosmetics, beauty products or lingerie, consider adding in a bit of fluff. Use stuffing material that will add some extra appeal to the box.
- Let your box speak for your brand- your company colors and a logo can work well.
- Keep the entire package light, else you will be paying out more for the weight of the box itself while shipping.
Just like you have a returns policy for a physical store, it is important to have one for your online store. While designing a returns policy, be sure to be specific.
- For an online store, ‘seven days from the date of purchase’ can mean several things. Do you expect to have the product back within a week since it arrives at a customer’s place? Should the customer ship it to you within that time frame? Think through them.
- Set clear guidelines for what can/cannot be returned.
- Specify what condition the product must be in for you to accept returns. Since the returns process is happening remotely, this is crucial.
The Devil Is In The Details
You already know that there are several online stores that also perhaps sell a product similar to yours. How do you stand out?
- For every single one of your products, always use an original image of the product itself. It is tempting to use fancy stock photos, but this will only disappoint the consumer. Sites get a bad rep when they advertise one thing and deliver a cheap imitation.
- Set yourself apart. You can do this in every step of the online shopping experience. Think about the process as a customer.
- How quickly a customer gets to the cart and checks out depends on how much relevant information you have provided, so make sure each product sells itself. Provide all relevant details and cut out the fluff.
If you keep a few of these things in mind and use a judicious combination of sales acumen and customer outreach, taking your retail store online can actually be a walk in the park!