eCommerce, with more than $500 billion in U.S. sales in 2014, and $2 trillion predicted globally for 2016, has become dominant in the retail sector. While the sheer scale of online business can seem daunting for new entrants, smart and simple choices can help make an impact on customers.
Before a retailer makes its first foray into online sales, or “e-tailing,” they must evaluate if the store is prepared to take that step and ensure the core business is on solid ground.
A brand may be over-reaching if it hopes for immediate success or a quick cash infusion from an eCommerce site. Once financials are in order, owners need to know what they plan to sell, how they plan to source and sustain that inventory, and how those choices will interact with brick-and-mortar operations.
Front-facing and customer-base issues also need to be taken into consideration. A store needs to know the target demographic, where that demographic congregates online, and how competition stacks up in the market niche.
Building and launching an actual website are the easiest parts of the process, in many ways. A variety of platforms and web development partners, such as Magento, Shopify, WordPress and Modern Retail, are available to help a business design and host its online storefront. Since most specialty retailers begin their online business by selling from their brick-and-mortar inventories, seeking out a real-time Cloud POS and retail inventory management system that will integrate with the eCommerce site will make inventory reconciliation between site and stores a seamless process.
The best providers of retail management software offer systems so robust and versatile that many businesses integrate them into their overall operations, both off and online. Tech solutions like mobile apps and increased interoperability between systems are also necessary when choosing a Cloud POS and retail inventory management system provider.
Smart research allows a company to trust that the mechanics of its site are in good hands. This assurance lets decision makers devote attention to more subjective storefront issues.
With online-storefront foundations in place, it’s time to consider branding, customer interactions and service. To succeed, an eCommerce portal needs to accomplish three tasks: draw in customers, present a compelling pitch for the brand’s unique voice and value, and convert those visits into sales. All three factors depend upon smart choices from company owners and a clear understanding of what the target demographic seeks from its favorite stores.
It’s a truism in business that finding a new customer is more difficult and expensive than holding onto an existing one. Likewise, an online store needs to retain its customers and encourage their loyalty to the brand. The simplest steps are often the most effective. Site features like ship-to-store convenience, an active newsletter, robust customer loyalty programs and a savvy social media presence have big impacts on retention rates and repeat sales, ensuring a positive outlook for future growth.