In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, since the shutdowns took effect, more consumers who were fearful of entering traditional stores have moved online. This has had a significant impact on brick-and-mortar retail businesses. According to a recent survey, 90% of consumers didn’t tend to shop offline because of the virus, while 45% considered online shopping as a necessity during the crisis.
Another survey reveals that there has been a 40% increase in e-commerce revenue since the US declared a state of emergency. As you see, lockdown affects traditional stores more heavily in the face of rapidly changing consumer behavior and shopping habits. That means traditional brick-and-mortar companies of all sizes should move online to stay competitive in today’s landscape.
Having that in mind, we have outlined key reasons for going online and ways to transition from brick and mortar to e-commerce. Let’s dive into the details below.
Below we have provided some benefits that derive from moving a brick-and-mortar business into an online environment. Keep on reading to start expanding your brick and mortar store with eCommerce!
Reaching customers globally while staying locally
With an e-commerce store, you can expand globally by exploring new markets across borders and oceans. Moreover, it stands a chance of attracting more prospects who are interested in shopping or buying online. With worldwide customers involved in your e-store business, you can keep in touch with them by providing information about discounts, coupons, or offering freebies and any other perks relevant to your audience.
In addition to that, people who aren’t able to go to traditional brick-and-mortar shops can easily make a purchase online without having to leave home. Not only does it help you expand your market reach and grow internationally, but also you will extend your reach to more potential online visitors within the local areas and drive more sales as well as revenue.
Delivering more personalized experiences to customers
Buyers are more likely to make a purchase if a company is able to provide a more personalized experience. It’s important to mention that they tend to share their personal data if it helps brands to deliver a better experience by personalizing offers and interactions.
That’s why once consumers sign up and share their personal information and location, you can offer personalized promotions or invitations to special events that increase the level of customer satisfaction and loyalty to your online business as well as maximize the ROI of your efforts.
Reducing the costs of storage spaces
Many brick-and-mortar stores can minimize the storage space cost thanks to moving from brick and mortar to online and redesigning their warehouse strategy. Instead of shipping from large retail stores directly, e-stores can consider a mini-warehouse or commercial self-storage solution – renting only the space needed to fulfill and ship orders faster. Not only does it help save on storage space expenses, but also it enhances customer service and satisfaction.
Get comprehensive data-driven customer insights
It’s no secret that customers leave and share terabytes of information intentionally and unintentionally when shopping online. Only by analyzing their data can you turn it into powerful insights about their visits, purchases, behaviors, etc. which allows you to move from insights to action. Not only can you gain an in-depth understanding of the customers’ needs and preferences, but also you can better target them and provide more customized personalization with the power to drive more sales and fuel your online e-commerce business.
Providing 24/7/365 access to customers
Operating 24-hour globally is crucial to remaining competitive in today’s fast-paced market. Whether it’s about locating information, engagement, interaction, or leaving a review, 24/7 availability is a must. Not only can companies keep their customers satisfied and happy, but they can build and maintain valuable client relationships.
Let’s take a look at some successful examples of moving online. A leading specialty brick-and-mortar retailer TYLER’S has made a transition online because of the pandemic. By enhancing their site search functionality, upgrading customer-focused marketing capabilities, and providing user-friendly navigation, it managed to address today’s consumers’ needs and remain connected to their customers. Ever since they moved online, there has been a two-fold increase in their conversion rate, over 60,000 SKUs, and drop shipping from nine different brick-and-mortar locations.
Another example is a candy company Lammes Candies with five brick-and-mortar locations: this company has built a solid online presence by integrating their brick and mortar stores with online e-commerce that boosted sales incredibly – 8% increase in revenue and 6% increase in site traffic. What’s more, it helped them to increase their conversion rates during their peak season up to 14%. As you see, connecting with online customers is key to success both online and in-store.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide that will help you discover how to take a brick and mortar business online. Let’s dive into the details below.
1. Make a decision on which online channel to use
Online e-commerce platforms are essential if there is a likelihood to run an online e-commerce business. Whether you are a B2C or B2B traditional brick-and-mortar business, the right e-commerce platform will enable you to execute complex business functions online. Not only can you move the process of interaction with your prospects faster, but also you will minimize the human intervention of your staff and eliminate human mistakes.
However, selecting an online channel is not as easy as it seems to be – it strongly depends on the items you are going to sell and the target audience. That is why the best e-commerce system is the one that meets your business needs and requirements. Let’s take a closer look at the e-commerce solutions available from which can be chosen to take a brick and mortar business online:
Fully-functional e-commerce sites: mostly this type provides companies with the ability to utilize ready-to-use ecommerce solutions such as Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, etc. that bring significant benefits. Not only are a variety of these CMS solutions open-source and free, but they also offer unlimited customizations for your e-commerce business.
However, if ready-to-use CMSs lack the required features and functionality for the future solution, you can build your own custom CMS from scratch to meet your unique needs and requirements. Let’s delve into details below:
- You can integrate third-party solutions such as analytics, email marketing, workflow automation features, or payment gateway options. Whether you need to track the progress of your online e-commerce in real time, streamline the order process or make data-driven business decisions, integration capabilities provide real advantages.
- You can get customers’ insights by incorporating analytics to retrieve actionable customer data (names, e-mails) and analyze their preferences, likes and dislikes, to offer products based on their personalized needs.
- Only by delivering a more sophisticated experience to the visitors of your e-store can you get higher conversion rates.
However, when moving from brick and mortar to online you should take into account that a profitable business requires spending money on marketing efforts to have a positive return on investment.
Online marketplaces: these types of e-commerce stores don’t include purchasing a license – it’s quite easy to set up and maintain. All you need is to register and upload your products. However, online marketplaces have the pricing structure that means they can charge a commission on every item listed or sold while your profits or payments are usually delayed. Moreover, you must communicate with the customers by their rules and guidelines.
Here are some examples of the popular online marketplaces:
Social commerce networks: not only can you promote your traditional physically located business with social media platforms, but also they allow you to sell some products. What’s more, you can simply sync or embed your existing online e-commerce business (if you have one) into a social commerce site for selling. The disadvantage of social commerce networks is that you need additional resources to manage your online presence because they provide very limited tools for customization. In addition to that, you need to incorporate a clear social media strategy that requires additional time and money.
However, it’s worth noting that if you have enough time and financial resources, there’s no rule against selling on multiple e-commerce channels. Not only does it allow you to test each channel, but you can also reach a wider audience and potentially increase sales.
2. Design your e-store
Undoubtedly, design defines the competitiveness of your e-commerce business. Whether you use a ready-made e-commerce template or create the design from scratch, a memorable interface or look should go in line with your brand identity and should stand out among the others. Moreover, thoroughly thought-out logic, simple and clear microinteractions, high-quality product presentation, frictionless payment flow, extended filtering, as well as sorting and categorization options are also important to increase the pool of customers and stand out in the crowd.
However, in the very beginning, you can create a basic layout or skeleton to test before fully turning a brick-and-mortar retail store into an online store. Only after testing can you work on other elements to showcase your brand’s unique voice and personality.
3. Create and optimize your product pages
More customers visiting your e-store decide whether they want to buy your products or not when landing on the e-store product page. That means they are just a click away from making purchases. However, that will never happen if you don’t optimize product pages for conversions. That’s why creating high-converting product pages on your e-store is a must.
All product pages should include the following elements:
- Product photos: it’s essential to create high-quality images. Only by showcasing various angles can customers see what a product looks like from all sides.
- Branding: your product pages should tell your customers about your brand
- Description: only by adopting a brand voice and carefully crafting short product descriptions can you deliver sufficient information and sell more products.
- Social proof: 84% of people consult reviews during their browsing and buying journey. That’s why you shouldn’t forget to include reviews and ratings that build trust and increase conversions.
4. Integrate your brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores
It’s clear that integrating a brick-and-mortar store with e-commerce opens up golden opportunities for your business. What’s more, modern customers prefer shopping across multiple channels. In a brick-and-mortar store, they can test items, pick up orders in-store, or easily make returns if there is a necessity. Not only can it help you drive more sales and conversions, but it will also build customer loyalty through the physical experience. As you see, linking your traditional and digital stores is an attractive idea.
Here are some ideas you may take into account before integrating an online store with a brick and mortar one:
- Pick up in-store: customers can shop at home for all their favorite styles and fits, place their order online, and pick up either the same day or after the item is shipped to the brick-and-mortar store.
- Endless aisles: you can provide your customers with in-store kiosks or touch-screens. Thanks to them, customers can search and order different products or items that aren’t showcased in the brick-and-mortar store. What’s more, they can order shipping to their home or in-store pickup. As a result, not only can you capitalize on the buyer intent, but you also don’t have to carry inventory for each item or product at all brick-and-mortar stores.
- POS integration: only by syncing your e-commerce business with a brick-and-mortar point-of-sale (POS) solution can you provide an omnichannel commerce experience. That lets your potential buyers find your business online through a variety of channels such as a webstore, social media marketplace or even at a physical store offline. Moreover, if integrated successfully, you will manage your online and offline business as one system, keep track of inventory as well as increase brand loyalty and customer retention.
5. Set up shipping option
When migrating a brick-and-mortar business online, it’s imperative to set up shipping options and deliver a convenient experience to your visitors. Not only does it keep your business moving during economic uncertainty related to pandemics, but it also provides your potential buyers with highly orchestrated order fulfillment and shipping methods.
Below we have provided a few suggestions:
- Offer table rates per shipping. When offering DIY methods – shipping the products to your customers and charging for delivery, you should take into account the following – destination, size, weight, number of items ordered before setting the rates. In addition to that, think of the shipping notifications, whiсh need to be up-to-date and available on multiple channels, and a way in which customers will track the items ordered.
- Incorporate a live shipping rate strategy by providing third-party carriers (DPD, UPS, FedEx, or DHL) with global and local delivery options. That allows customers to get the exact calculation of their shipping directly from the carriers selected on the shipping page. Moreover, in the rush to get products delivered, don’t forget to include applicable surcharges to cover your packaging or order fulfillment costs.
6. Analyze your e-store’s performance and make improvements accordingly
Undoubtedly, analytics helps you understand how well your e-store performs. When armed with a top-notch analytics tool, you get access to a tremendous amount of data structured in easy-to-understand reports. Not only does that illustrate your e-commerce success and weakness, but it also shows what fixes or changes you should make to increase sales and conversions.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak has affected consumer needs and behavior significantly. That’s why traditional businesses should adapt to this shift to stay competitive by moving from brick and mortar to online. The quicker offline companies all sizes make the move online, the better their bottom lines will be. Once you can make all the adjustments in response to that shift, you can be assured that your business will take advantage of the digital e-commerce environment in terms of gathering revenues.
Want to move your brick-and-mortar business online, grow your customer base and start catching up with the competition or simply need expert advice on how to integrate an online store with a brick and mortar? Contact us now for a free consultation!