Why You Should Be Using Google’s Shopping Insight Tool

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Picture this. You’re the owner of a seemingly successful retail clothing store with locations in Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Things are going well for you – in fact, your Chicago location just sold out of a certain grey sweater, and you need to reorder.

You think to yourself, “If that sweater sold well in Chicago, it’ll do well at my other locations too, right?”

So you go ahead and order a massive amount of inventory for all three locations. You think you’re about to make a TON of cash off this grey sweater, but alas! It’s just not selling!

Apparently, grey sweaters aren’t as popular in Los Angeles or Miami as they are in Chicago.

If only you could have known this before you ordered all that inventory, you could have saved yourself a lot of time and money (not to mention a giant headache).

But…what if there was a way to know which products were trending in different markets?

Enter, Google’s Shopping Insight Tool.

If you’re not using it, you should be.

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Whether you have an online business or a traditional brick-and-mortar store, Google’s Shopping Insight Tool is definitely something you’ll want to take a closer look at.

Providing insight into online searches for over 5,000 of the most popular products on Google Shopping, the Shopping Insight Tool highlights search trends based on location, time of year and the device used to perform the search (mobile, desktop, etc.).

So, essentially, this tool helps retailers determine which products might sell best in certain cities, based on these trends. For example, if you were interested in the popularity of Xbox One vs PlayStation 4 on Black Friday, you could search to see which was more popular in which cities (In 2014, PlayStation 4’s were more popular in New York, but in Los Angeles, Xbox One’s were much more popular).

If you’re a retailer who sells gaming systems, this sort of information would be extremely valuable, and may even influence your marketing strategy for certain products.

So, how do you use it?

It’s really quite simple. On the Shopping Insight homepage, just type in the name of the item you wish to find information on into the search bar and the tool will generate all the data it has on that particular product.

You can also use it to compare the popularity of different products. Going back to the gaming system example, you could type both “PlayStation 4” and “Xbox One” into the search bar to see the popularity of each system based on location, time and device.

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Having access to this sort of technology and insight is extremely valuable for retailers. Here are just a few ways in which it can help:

  1. Compare Product Demand on a Local Level – If you have stores in various locations, the shopping insights tool would allow you to compare the popularity of products across different markets. Then, given the trends, you would have a better idea of what might sell well in each local market.
  2. Measure Consumer Interest Across Different Cities – Taking a broader approach, retailers can see what is trending on a national level, but also based on cities – what works in one city might not necessarily sell well in another.
  3. Inventory Management – Product demand and consumer interest are a good indication of what will sell well in your market. With insight into this data, inventory becomes much more manageable, as you are able to stock only what is expected to sell well in your area. 

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  1. Understanding Trends in Popularity – 87% of consumers research online before entering a store, but at least 90% of goods are still sold in stores. When you better understand what customers are researching online, you’ll be able to better understand what they’d like to see in a physical (or online) store.
  2. Generate Ideas for Local Promotions and Investments – Along the same lines, if you know what products people in your local market are interested in, you can come up with better ideas for promoting those products locally.

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So now that you understand what the Shopping Insights Tool is and how to use it, let’s take a closer look at the Google Insights features:

  • Heatmap Technology – This allows you to view the popularity of a product based on location over a specified time period using different shades of colors to indicate interest levels. For example, a darker shade of blue would indicate a higher interest level, while a lighter shade would indicate less interest.
  • Time Series Graph – This graph shows the popularity of a certain product during various intervals of time – useful for determine what times of year products are most popular among consumers.
  • Device Filters – Shows the popularity of products based on the various devices used to perform the search – for example, you could compare searches on smartphones vs. desktop computers to gain further insight into your customers.
  • City Filter – Allows you to search the popularity of a product based on any given city.
  • Product Comparisons – You can also compare two or more products using any or all of the above features. Extremely valuable for determining the popularity of different products across various markets!

So, if you’re looking for valuable insight into shopping trends across the country, you definitely need to give Google’s Shopping Insight Tool a try. Not only will this help you avoid inventory disasters, but you might just discover your new favorite resource for developing and implementing effective marketing strategies both online and offline.b

 

7 Proven Methods Smart Retailers Use to Get More Customers

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The post below is really awesome, but also really long. If you don’t have time to read it, I’ve put together a quick 2 page cheat sheet that shows you how to use this strategy. It’s free and you can get it when you click this link.

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 productsand 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.

For starters…

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

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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 video…everywhere.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Remember Katie?

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.

Our Recommendation:

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.

How To Juggle Virtual Clients Like A Pro

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There’s no escaping the virtual world.

We all live on our phones, our tablets, our computers, and pretty much anything connected to the World Wide Web.

As a shop owner, it’s crucial to jump aboard the virtual train.

Many retailers have already embraced the wave of the future and have set up their virtual stores.

You might even be one of them. Maybe you’ve got your social media accounts ready. Your brand-spanking new website is up. And you’ve already had a few paying virtual customers.

But here’s a question we hear all the time at ShopOnMain: is running a brick and mortar store the same as running a virtual store?

The truth is yes and no.

When it comes to building infrastructure and processes, there are a lot of differences. With a real live store, there are countless things you will need to think of:

  • Who will your in-person staff be?
  • Where will you stock your product?
  • What will the product displays look like?
  • How about cleaning the space?

Your virtual store is going to have a whole other set of challenges:

  • Making sure that your website keeps running
  • Managing shipping
  • Worrying about staying on top of all that social media.

The one thing that doesn’t change between the virtual and real world: your role with your customers.

In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at the 3 balls you need to juggle in order to make sure that your relationship with your clients stay the same both online and offline.

Ball 1: First Impressions

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We all know first impressions are everything.

We’re used to judging a book (or a store) by its cover. Would you spend your hard-earned money in a poorly run store where the floor is dusty, the light is dark, and the quality of the products dubious at best?

The answer is no.

Your customers want a pleasant environment to shop in. And most importantly, they want an easy environment to shop in.

In store, that’s an easy (is) thing to accomplish. First off, you’re going to make sure that your store is clean and that those displays are eye-catching. Your staff is going to be friendly and helpful to each and every client who walks through the doors. You can control your potential client’s experience by the mere fact that you can watch their reactions and be there right in time to swoop in if there’s a problem.

On an online website, you’ve got to do the exact same thing.

Not sure how? Here are a few tips…

To make sure that your website is just as inviting as your physical store:

  1. Use vibrant photography to capture your customer’s attention.
  2. Display your products beautifully.
  3. Each product should have a complete (but not too lengthy) product description as well as customer reviews to give your customer the most accurate view of the product
  4. Consider including (Take a look at ASOS who show off their awesome clothes through video).
  5. Make sure you have user-friendly, easy navigation so that your customer doesn’t get lost halfway through the purchase.   (Check out our tips for setting up your Ecommerce site)
  6. Pay close attention to customer support. How will you answer your client’s questions? Via email? Consider investing in a support desk like Freshdesk or Zendesk to help you organize your tickets. Other options include live chat or phone support.

Ball 2: Engage, Engage, Engage

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Now that your online website is as beautiful and inviting as your brick and mortar store, the next question is how to make sure that you’re engaging the customers in the same way.

In a store, you can come to a potential client and talk to them. It’s as easy as that.

On a website, you unfortunately cannot greet your visitors. So how do you make sure that they get as much attention as they should be?

You need to be:

  • Between the content on your website, the emails you send out, and your customer service representatives, you need to make sure that your communication is always open and transparent. Your policies must be upfront and clear, your warranties shouldn’t be sketchy, don’t have any ‘strings attached’ that include hidden costs. This is the quickest way to lose trust.
  • Responsive When it comes to complaints, your motto should be: Always Respond & Always Respond Fast. If one of your clients has mentioned on your Facebook account that they are thoroughly unhappy with one of your products, you need to respond ASAP in order to show that you care and that you’re proud of your business. Invite them to speak offline and provide them with an email address or a phone number where they can reach you so that you can deal with their problem promptly.
  • Always Available. Be available for your customers. Make sure your contact information is visible. Put your information on an easy to find “Contact Us” page.
  • We’ve all been to those websites where it seems absolutely impossible to figure out where to contact support. Don’t be one of those frustrating websites!

Ball 3: Virtual Reality

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Your third ball is all about making the virtual a reality. In other words, you need to make your online and offline experiences totally coherent; your customers who walk into one of your stores should feel like they just ‘stumbled’ across your website and vice versa.

Your offline and online universes should never be separate—they are all part of a consistent whole.

 

Here are some practical examples for your brick and mortar stores:

  • Remind your brick and mortar client of your website by inviting them to use QR codes to locate products online
  • Encourage instore clients to sign up for your social media sites (and use some of the fun hashtags you’ve created).
  • Use the videos your customers have seen online in-store (and vice versa).

And how do you accomplish that same shopping coherence online? It’s easy: give clients control.

In a store, your customers are able to physically move around and touch your products. They can physically transport them to the checkout counter where they manually pay for their purchase. They are in control of their shopping.

The same goes for their online experience.

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You want your client to feel like there are easily picking their purchases and that they are in control of when and how they purchase. They need to be able to pick their shipping times, make potential changes to their order, change their shipping address, and so on…

If they struggle to take control of their shopping experience, their frustration will turn to you as a business. And that’s not what you want.

The key is to make the process as smooth as possible.

Can You Learn To Juggle Both Worlds?

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Absolutely.

Your online and your offline store are going to tell the customer who you are, what you stand for as a business and implicitly show them why they should buy from you.

(If you have doubts as to how to express your identity or your brand, then check out our blog post next week. We’ll be talking about branding online and offline and how important it is to merge the two.)

They key to making sure that you juggle both worlds: always always always treat your client like he just walked through the door.      

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Online Retailers: Is Failure Your Best Friend?

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When it comes to your business, sometimes failure can be a recipe for success.

Failure (or ‘taking a step back’) can come in many forms.

Maybe you’re an entrepreneur who keeps trying idea after idea without any success.

Or you’re a business owner who’s had a successful business for many years but all of the sudden are facing difficulties because you’re not staying at the top of your game.

Or perhaps you’re a new business owner, passionate about your product but ‘thin’ on your understanding of how to launch your brand.

Every type of failure makes way for the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and those of others around you.

One thing is for sure…the best recipe for success is failure—it’s a way of learning what doesn’t work so you can point yourself in the right direction.

Today, we want to look at three retailers who, after taking the time to analyze where they were going wrong and where their peers were mistaken, created successful and vibrant retail businesses.

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Birchbox

The Internet startup craze included many beauty sites that carried a variety of beauty products. Millions of dollars were poured into sites like Reflect.com, Beauty.com and the like.

Almost all of them failed.

Why?

They failed because they all offered up the exact same thing and there was nothing to set them apart from one another.

They lost their radiance faster than a woman in a sauna wearing eyeliner.

The lesson:

  • Be different
  • Stand out
  • Innovate
  • Think about what your customer wants first, rather than the sale

Birchbox watched these ‘failures’ and learned its lessons well. What they did was introduce an innovative sampler makeup and beauty box that was (quite literally) a godsend for women who are perpetually indecisive about their makeup choices, and those just ‘have to’ try every product available before choosing the one that works for them.

Using a reasonably priced subscription plan, Birchbox sends samples of new products to its customers every month. When a customer falls in love with an item, they are invited to ‘upsell’ to the full size item.

The Birchbox concept is a huge success because it is built on a customer need (and a gap in the market), i.e. the desire to ‘sample’ different types of makeup before committing to one brand or type.

 

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Zappos
Buy your shoes online! Zappos is a pretty simple concept. Everyone needs shoes, and everything is sold online nowadays, so Zappos works, and works well.

quote_640-x-640But at the beginning, Zappos future success was anything but obvious. Initially, investors were unconvinced to pour their money into a ‘silly’ online shoe store.

Not to be defeated by the naysayers, Nick Swinmurn (Zappos’s owner) decided to prove his point.

He photographed shoes in the store and posted them online.

When he made a sale, he simply went out and BOUGHT the shoes at full retail value. And sent them along to his new customer.

Obviously, earning 0 profit—and even ending up in the red.

But this little money wasting experiment proved that there was a market for an online shoe store. And

Zappos was born.

The lesson:

  • Even if it means losing money, sometimes an exercise like the Zappos one is necessary to get the necessary investor interest and funding necessary for the next step.
  • The ‘experts’ (i.e. investors!) are important but they don’t always know everything. Don’t let anyone shoot down your ideas.
  • Sometimes the simplest ideas are the strongest. (The Zappos shoe kingdom is a perfect example)

Failure doesn’t necessarily beget failure. It can more often than not beget successes. Through failure we learn lessons about what works and doesn’t work; nowhere is that more important than in the fast moving online retailing arena.

As students of online retailing successes and failures, the team at ShopOnMain can really help you move your brand and products ahead in a BIG WAY. Why not check out what we have on offer for your store here?

 

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Spanx

No retailer on the planet celebrates failure more than Sara Blakely, the billionaire owner of Spanx.  Blakely, who created Spanx when she realized there was a huge gap on the market for body shaping undergarments, was quite literally raised on the concept of failure.

At the dinner table, her father famously asked her and her brother every night, “How did you fail today” and was disappointed when they couldn’t think of anything. For him, failure is not a weakness but an inevitable (and positive) outcome of constructive risk taking.

And Blakely obviously took her father’s failure philosophy to heart as she stumbled her way to billionaire-dom.  Here are some of the obstacles she had to overcome on her way to creating her Spanx kingdom:

  • Zero experience in the hosiery industry
  • No business education at all
  • A tiny budget of $5,000
  • No staff (initially she did everything from marketing and PR to shipping and handling)
  • An industry full of naysayers (“I must have heard the word ‘no’ a thousand times”) that didn’t want to manufacture or sell her idea

The Lesson:

  • Failure frequently and fast—you and your business will learn great lessons from your ‘mistakes’
  • If you do everything ‘right’ all the time, you are probably playing it too safe
  • Never be afraid of failure—embrace it as a much-needed tool for course correction.

Spanx now sells over 200 products in 11,500 department stores, boutiques and online shops in 40 countries. And Blakely is one of the world’s youngest billionaires.

Failure seems to work just fine for her.   Maybe it’s time to dust off our old notions of failure (i.e. that it is something to be avoided at all costs) and start realizing that to fail is ever so ironically an essential ingredient for success.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Online Shopping: Is It Better To Buy From Smaller or Larger Vendors?

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Image2aAs we all know, the Internet has everything available to you at the click of a finger.

You want that novelty Star Wars paraphernalia? There’s a website for that.

How about that state of the art popcorn machine you’ve always wanted for “Family Movie Night”? Yep, there’s also a website for that.

Anything you’ve ever wanted to purchase is so easily available. The question is when you’re whipping out your credit card, who should you be buying from? A large, well-known vendor? Or maybe a small ecommerce website that has just launched?

Should You Stick to the Giants or Buy From Smaller Businesses?

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The beauty of the Internet is you get to look at all competitors large and small at pretty much the same time. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying from a small vendor as opposed to a corporate giant….

The Pros of Going For The Big Guy:

• Selection. Bigger merchants can carry bigger inventories, which means a lot more to choose from. We’ve all seen how wonderful (and overwhelming!) a selection a retail giant like Costco can have!
• Price. Smaller vendors are just unable to offer the same low prices as their larger competitors. Unfortunately, the burden lies on the small business to convince you that its products and services are superior despite their small budget.
• Convenience & Structure. E-commerce giants like Amazon offer their customers tons of conveniences like 1-click checkout, storage for music and movies and more. Shopping with them is as easy as apple pie. Clients have come to expect that these stores have a streamlined process in order to make their purchase go as fast as possible.
• Trust. Larger retailers have a well-known reputation. You know when you buy from Amazon that you will get your product in pristine condition. Not so sure when you opt for a smaller retailer. You’re also able to relax while paying online because of the trust you have in the company (Curious as to how you can make sure your wallet stays safe online? Keep an eye out for our article on the do’s and don’ts of buying online, coming soon on our blog).

Image2cAnd their smaller counterparts have some pretty strong competitive advantages.

The Pros of Shopping Small:

• Stellar customer service. Small businesses tend to be obsessed with personal service. They don’t have thousands of procedures, or, worse, automated customer service functions. They care about you as an individual customer. If you have a problem, they’ll be quick to address your concern.
• Unique products. Instead of mass-market merchandise, you’re more likely to find artisanal works, one-of-a-kind products and personalized goods. Not only that, but since smaller vendors tend to have more flexibility, they’ll be more likely to cater to your individual needs. Do you need a specially made blanket for your baby? Shop small and you can get exactly what you were looking for.
• Better quality. Smaller vendors tend to focus on specific products. Therefore they focus on making sure that their products are the best they can be. This can come in all kinds of forms… either better material, an emphasis on providing environment-friendly products, or even a more innovative product. Unfortunately, this excellent quality tends to come with a price tag.
• New Jobs. According to the Small Business Administration, 63% of new jobs have been created by small business between 1993 and mid 2013. By supporting small business, you are allowing people to create new and fulfilling jobs across the US.

The Ultimate Online Shopping Experience-Only You Can Decide

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At the end of the day, smaller vendors are not perfect.

But they’re working at it.

If you’re a true shopper at heart and you’re craving to discover what’s new and happening out there, give small vendors a chance. Not only will you be helping millions across the US support themselves and their families, but you’ll also be encouraging the Internet to be a place of variety and innovation when it comes to shopping.

If you’re interested in the optimal shopping experience, come check out our website to see how we at ShopOnMain can rock your shopping world.
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Online Retailers: Turning Your Frustration Into Success

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It’s no secret: running a business can drive anyone mad.

Between setting up your operations, choosing which products to sell, and defining your ideal customer, you’re constantly learning and answering new questions.

It can be tough to always be making sure you’re up to speed.

And moving your business online can be just as frustrating.

Well first, we at ShopOnMain believe it’s important to understand that you’re not alone—lots of questions are par for the course when you are making the transition to becoming an online retailer.

And the most pressing issue facing each new online retailer is simple: how can I ensure I make a profit on my new online venture?

Like many before you, you already have your brick and mortar store up and running. The issue now is how do you take your limited resources and create an online presence that makes you money.

 

Putting It All Together

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The big question is…. How do you put it all together in a way that gets you cash now?

When it comes to setting up your online presence, it’s a bit like being at a beautiful brunch buffet table with an empty stomach. There are so many options but you’re just so starving you grab whatever comes first. Before you know it, you’re full before you’ve even gotten to the good stuff.

In other words, setting up your online presence is an arduous process with so many options that we sometimes grab what’s easiest and most convenient. But that’s not always the best approach….

In today’s blog post, we’re going to focus on the most important things to keep you on the straight and narrow when you enter the online world. While we can’t wave a magic wand and create your perfect website for you, here are what we call the Three Ps that you should consider when looking to reduce your Frustration Factor.

 

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Your platform will determine so much—from your popularity to your profitability.
The first thing you’ll need to think about is whether you keep your website simple or set up shop on an ecommerce website like Amazon.

Here are the ‘pros’ of going solo:

• You get the chance to really develop your brand. You can show your customer exactly who you are and what is important to you.
• Your products get the front seat.
• You manage your customer experience from A to Z.

Here are the ‘cons’:

• Developing a website can be super expensive.
• Trust is a factor. From the get go, you have to ‘prove’ that you are trustworthy at all levels—from your product to your customer service.
• Getting traffic to your site is a never-ending challenge.
It is important to point out that an online platform like Amazon solves all of these negatives. They make it easy to get your online retailing presence up, they enjoy trust in spades and they have millions coming to their site every single day.

Amazon makes everything easy from customer service, shipping, and getting your products online. But as in all decisions in life, there is a trade-off. The biggest issue you will have in partnering with Amazon is a branding one. Never forget that when you partner with Amazon, clients will be buying with Amazon and not with you.

The good news is there are other alternatives out there. For example, ShopOnMain is a brand new platform that offers the benefits of Amazon while still building YOUR brand. To find out what we can do for you, check us out here.

 

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The second ‘P’ stands for people.

Specifically your client. Without a happy client, you will not have a happy business.

You probably have a ton of experience dealing with your customers in your brick and mortar store. You’ve learned the importance of excellent customer service. You’re dedicated to those who take the time to shop at your store.

But how does the whole customer experience work online?

Many retailers view their online customer as a ‘whole new monster’…

But is that really true?

Here’s the secret: To achieve trust and a loyal clientele, you need to apply the SAME tried and true principles you do to your brick and mortar store.

Here are some of the Key Principles:

Be fair. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Put yourself in their shoes and do what you would expect from a professional company.
Be honest. You should have a zero policy against any kind of deceit. No faulty products. No misleading discounts. You’re a great business and you should be proud of what you offer and be absolutely fully transparent with your customers.
Be personal. Refer to them by their name, and keep things light. These are people, not numbers, and they should be treated as such. Remember you’re often communicating with words only, written words at that, so be very careful how you word everything so the customer feel comfortable. Make your words ‘smile.’
Be accessible. Communicate efficiently and quickly. Don’t make someone wait a week for an answer. Chances are, that customer is long gone by now. On that same note, if a customer is requesting something a bit different than what you offer, can you make it happen? That extra bit of effort you put into that request will be a huge difference. Don’t be rigid. This may even open up something new for you if the demand is high enough.

 

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Getting your online pricing ‘just right’ is tough.

Price too low, and your product might be looked at as cheap and having no value. You also might find it difficult to cover your own expenses and make an actual profit. It’s obvious that discount pricing can be a great way to attract clients. But it must be used with care. Between endless coupons, rebates, and seasonal pricings, your clientele may end up branding you as a bargain retailer which is not necessarily the image you’re looking for.

Price too high, and people will turn to your competitor in a flash. At best, you’d attract an upper scale market, but is that the only demographic you wish to attract? Are you excluding other potential customers this way?

In the end, your pricing will depend greatly on the ideal client you seek to attract. If you want to target the bargain hunter, then you need to slash prices in a variety of ways. If instead, you are looking to attract a more upscale audience, premium pricing could solidify your exclusive positioning.

 

Don’t Binge At the Internet Buffet

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Instead of eating everything on the buffet, think about judiciously picking the dish that’s right for you. Considering the three P’s (platform, people and price) is a good way to start.

Having an online retail store is the future of shopping. We are on the forefront of changing how people shop and how people grow their online business presence. Our platform will help ensure profitability by helping you with your platform, deliver superior products and services at the right price. Why not join us today and become part of a tribe of online savvy (and successful!) retailers.

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5 Totally Terrifying Traps of Online Retailing

 

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.

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Here are the 5 biggest traps:

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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.

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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:

  1. 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?
  2. How can you extend your brick and mortar retailing experience to an online one so the client always feels ‘at home’ ?
  3. 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.

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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.

These things don’t just ‘fall’ from the sky; you need to ensure that your online presence will meet all these expectations…and more.

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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.

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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”.

Which is precisely why we have created ShopOnMain, a new, bright online retail platform that has been created to put you–the retailer–in the forefront along with your client’s experience.  

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.

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