Retailers today are all asking themselves the same question:
What is the best way to leverage the power of the internet to boost my business…not to mention my brand?
Where are you on your online retaining journey?
- Are you still a brick and mortar store, longing to enter the online world but just not quite sure to do it
- Perhaps you already have your website up but are disappointed in the amount of visits and sales you are making?
- Or maybe you have partnered with the Big Boy of Online Retailing–Amazon-and are not at all certain with the results?
One thing is FOR SURE. No matter where you are on your online retailing learning curve, there are lessons to be learned and traps to be avoided.
Here are the 5 biggest traps:
There are a lot of fears around being online.. which can stop any retailer in their tracks from making progress…not to mention profits:
Here are some of the most common fears:
1. The fear of failing. Like anything in life, there is nothing like fear to hold us back. The online world is a giant unknown and it isn’t surprising that the transition from your known brick and mortar world to an unknown online world can be so frightening that it can paralyze. The best defense against that is knowledge–and choosing an online platform that is right for you.
2. The fear of losing money. One of the hardest parts about online retailing is understanding the numbers. How many sales will I get? How much will it take to put up (and keep the site going?)
3. The fear of ‘resource drain’. Many retailers worry that juggling their online and offline presence could lead to a serious resource drain.
4. The fear of lack of knowledge. This is the BIG one. What is the best way to be online? How do I attract shoppers or leverage social media? How should I handle payments? What about customer service and shipping? How do I handle refunds? Should I have my own site or piggyback onto a giant like Amazon?
Lots of unanswered questions lead to fear.
And lots of fear leads to inevitable failure.
One of the biggest traps to online retailing is forgetting about the implications to your brand. At the very minimum, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- How does the online-offline dance work in terms of your brand–both in terms of how it looks but also the values it represents?
- How can you extend your brick and mortar retailing experience to an online one so the client always feels ‘at home’ ?
- What is the best way to give your clients the ‘best of both worlds’, i.e. the 3 dimensional experience of the brick and mortar store where they can see, feel and touch your products AND enjoy the immediacy and convenience of an online shopping cart?
A lot of retailers make the mistake of treating their two ‘presences’ separately, which ends up not only cannibalizing sales but also confusing customers.
And confused clients are clients that don’t pull out their credit cards.
Using the right online platform can allow you to offer a seamless client experience and ensure that your brand flourishes–rather than flounders– with the addition of online.
One of the pervasive–and rather naive–beliefs retailers have is that ‘people will find them (and BUY from them) just because their products are ‘great’.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
People won’t ‘just’ find you.
Nor will they ‘just’ buy your products because they are great.
Online shoppers are the most demanding shoppers ever.
Amazon has set the bar high for the online buying experience; every online shopper expects a LOT from their experience with you:
- They expect it to be easy to find you.
- They expect it to be simple to find the information they need about your products.
- They expect to experience a seamless (and secure!) purchasing process.
- They expect that your customer support will be friendly and responsive.
No doubt about it. Amazon is an amazing internet phenomenon. But it isn’t a perfect one. Partnering with them as an online retailer has some serious strengths and some daunting drawbacks.
Here are some of the great reasons to use Amazon:
● Access. With a customer base of 200 million people across the world, Amazon’s reach is impossible to beat.
● Respect. Amazon is trusted; if you put your store on their platform, you get the halo effect
● Cost efficiency. By partnering with Amazon you will save a ton of money getting up and running. Make no mistake however, Amazon is far from free (Each sale will be charged a transaction fee of $0.99 and 6-25% of the sale price)
● Easy. A huge benefit of working with Amazon is ease. No need to worry about tax collection or shipping, because Amazon’s got your back and will handle all of that for you (for a fee).
But there are also some real disadvantages to partnering with Amazon.
● Excessive Competition. All the pros we just listed are the same reason there are a lot of retailers partnering with Amazon…including your competitors. It gets crowded in Amazon–and extremely difficult to stand out.
● Relentless Price Cuts. Amazon is all about prices. With so much competition selling virtually the same products, it often comes down to a price war. Not a great way to build a business…or a brand.
● Weak Branding. When you sell a product on Amazon, guess who gets the credit? Amazon. NOT you! Clients will leave remembering that they bought an Amazon product and they will barely remember you. So you’ll get the sale, but little else. If you are looking to build your long-term reputation and relationship with clients–Amazon is not the ideal place to do this.
In sum, Amazon can be a terrific place for your business but you should be aware of the platform’s limitations. For starters, as a retailer on Amazon, it is extremely difficult to build your own brand or deepen buyer relationships. (Your primary role really becomes order fulfillment). Second, Amazon is all about pricing; if you use the Amazon platform you must accept that there will be an inevitable downward pressure on your product’s prices.
Do not underestimate the power of a brick and mortar store.
Despite the fact we are online, the presence of a physical store helps customers have a multi-sensory experience. According to this article, 73% of consumers want to try or touch merchandise before making a purchase.
The trick is to redefine and use your physical store as a way to bring out your brand. Take a look at the super successful glasses company Warby Parker. As a digital eye-ware company, it was a strange move for them to open a physical location. Neil Blumenthal (one of the founders) believes “ the future of retail is at the intersection of e-commerce and bricks- and-mortar”.
We represent the future of online retailing and can help you avoid all the classic and terrifying traps of the online retailing world.
If you are interested in learning more about our online platform and how it’s like NOTHING you have never seen before, go here now.