Most local retailers don’t go into business solely for the money.
I mean, obviously it’s a business and you expect to profit.
But that’s not generally the thing that makes “your heart sing.”
What most local retailers are truly passionate about are their products – and most imporantly – the people who buy them.
Loyal customers. Flesh-and-blood people.
That’s why it can leave a bad taste in your mouth when you’re told your business ‘has to be online’ to succeed. Sometimes ‘going online’ –with all its nameless, faceless transactions–doesn’t feel very people-oriented at all.
But the good news is that if you do things right…you don’t HAVE to make a choice.
You can have the best of both worlds–be online AND grow a loyal customer base at the same time.
And this article is going to show you exactly how…
How The Web Can Steal Your Customers – If You Let It
Katie is on her way home from work, when a beautiful window display catches her eye. She goes into the shop to get a closer look at that watch in the window.
She tries it on…
She learns a little more about it from the salesperson…
She gets the price…
Then she takes off the watch, browses a little more, tells the salesperson how much she loves the store…and then…she leaves.
Why? Hint: It isn’t the price, it isn’t the salesperson, and it isn’t the store.
It’s because Katie needs more information before she buys.
She’s noted the details of the watch. Now she’ll go home, go online and look it up. She’ll get the specs. She’ll read reviews. She’ll find your competitors who offer the same watch.
But will she find you?
Why Your Online “Location” Might Not Be Enough
According to Internet Live Stats, there are about 40,000 search queries on Google every single second. Do the math and that breaks down to about 3.5 billion searches per day. That’s not a misprint… According to Retale.com, $1.2 million is spent online every 30 seconds.
Then why is it that (according to Inc. Magazine) as much as 50% of retailers don’t even have a website?
It doesn’t make sense… There’s obviously a huge demand. But retailing online is just not that easy to do.
You Need A Website, But Getting It Found Is Hard
When a retailer builds a website, the vast majority of shoppers will never actually find it. If you’re using pay-per-click advertising and trying to rank in organic search results, it’s getting harder every day for customers to find you. If you don’t come up in the top 5 results on the first page of Google, chances are, Katie simply won’t find you.
Amazon, eBay or Shopify are Enticing But…
While jumping on a platform like Amazon, eBay or Shopify will definitely increase your chance of being found, they have clear drawbacks:
- You will likely have to pay a monthly fee regardless of whether you’re making sales or not.
- Your brand presence might be diluted. So if Kate buys from you on an Amazon, EBay or Shopify, she’ll probably only remember their names -not yours. Frequently the bigger platforms will minimize your branding, not allowing links to your own website or even direct communication with customers.
- In effect, you get a ‘transaction’ with a stranger rather than a relationship with a customer. You will likely find yourself competing solely on price. Unless you’re a discount store, that’s not always good for your brand. You don’t want people thinking of you as “cheap”.
7 Proven Steps For Retailers To Get More Customers Online
Given all of these challenges, why don’t we take a look at the 7 tips to grow your retail business and get more customers from the World Wide Web?
1. Show Your Personality
People love your bricks and mortar store because of you – because of the personality you’ve given it. Take advantage of every opportunity to show who you are.
Customers will even pay a little more if they have good reason, such as a truly unique shopping experience, a sense of humor, and a general sense you share their values. You can take advantage of opportunities to showcase who you are with cleverly written descriptions, product images, tag lines and promotions no one else offers.
Let more YOU come out in your messages to your customers…customers can go anywhere online now, but there is only one you.
2. Use Video
Use it on the homepage to animate product images. Use it on product pages to describe the item in your own words.
Videos don’t have to be studio quality, either. A 30-40 second video of you – the person most passionate about the products – will sell more than 100 static images.
3. Ship Fast & Ship Cheap
Online customers are impatient to receive their packages.
The big retailers figured this out pretty early and they’ve set the delivery bar pretty high.
Here are a few ideas:
- Ship orders immediately
- Make sure customers know the cut-off time for placing an order for shipping the same day
- Offer upgraded shipping so packages arrive on doorsteps as soon as possible
- Ship as cheaply as possible
- Offer free shipping for a minimal order amount
You’ll be surprised how many will happily pay a premium to get their order tomorrow or the next day. Test after test has shown that in a choice between two identical items, shoppers will choose the slightly more expensive item that ships free – even when the total spend is the same.
4. Follow Up
Once someone buys from you, don’t let him or her drift away.
You’ll send order and shipping confirmations, so don’t let them to go waste. Make those emails personal in order to reflect your store’s personality.
In the days and weeks following the purchase, reach out again (if you have permission).
Offer tips on using the product or discounts on things that go with it. But DON’T send sales pitch after sales pitch. Customers will abandon your list and forget about you.
A good rule of thumb is 80% helpful information, 20% sales or promotions.
5. Get the Merchandise to the Cash Register
The statistics are pretty grim: nearly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned before the sale is complete. If you have the shopper’s email address, send them an automated, friendly message (again, infused with your personality) about the items they added.
But whatever you do, don’t try to get them to come back with a hard sell. Instead ask if there’s anything you can do to help them decide on the items.
You might even offer a discount coupon if they respond within a certain time.
Give links back to the shopper’s cart to make it easy to finish the purchase.
6. Leverage Your Data
Once you’re online, you’ll start to generate massive amounts of data about how your customers shop and buy.
But you need to know how to ask the right questions of that data:
- Are items purchased together online located close to each other in the store?
- Do certain items sell better at certain times of the year?
- How do different demographic groups shop?
- What draws the most attention online and in-store?
This market research is priceless. Collect it… Analyze it… And ask the right questions and react both online and off.
7. Choose the Right Platform
Even though you may be considering launching your own website, some shopping platforms give you unlimited access to data and customer relationships and seem really tempting. If opting for one of those websites make sure to keep an eye out for ones that:
- Charge low or no monthly fees. Those fees are fine when your store is ringing up sales, but they can really hurt in months when you’re not selling as much.
- Allow you to compete as you. Look for a place where you can really express your brand image and compete on quality, uniqueness, service and personality.
- Put the spotlight on you. An e-commerce platform that comes between you and your customer wrecks your chance of building a relationship. Look for one that spotlights merchants and merchandise.
- Make everything easier for you. It should be super simple to upload your branding, contact information, inventory, pricing, descriptions and media.
How Your Customers Want To Buy
The whole time she’s researching that watch, she remembers your store.
How helpful the salesperson was.
If she can find you there’s a good chance she’ll complete her sale with you.
That’s why your brand personality matters.
That’s why shipping quickly and inexpensively matters.
And being able to understand the data from both your online and bricks-and-mortar locations – that really matters.
But the thing that matters most is having the tools and freedom to build a relationship with Katie.
There is one shopping platform that lives up to all of these guidelines and more. To learn about ShopOnMain and how we can help your business grow, check us out here.