If you’ve got a physical store, whether it’s a single outlet or a chain of locations, you can’t afford to overlook the importance of having a presence on the web as well. Making this transition is a challenge for those that have yet to do so, but with the help of the following tips you’ll be well on your way to transforming your bricks-and-mortar business into a digital one as well.
Without social media marketing, retailers will struggle to gain momentum as they make the leap to the ecommerce market. This is no longer something that you can leave until later in your digital transformation use case. Having a presence on platforms like Facebook will let you get your name out there, connect with customers in the places they’re most often found online, and also make your brand more searchable on a local basis.
It’s much simpler to set up an online store today, thanks to the wealth of pre-built solutions which offer you a combination of the underlying infrastructure and the customer-facing systems that you’ll need to get up and running quickly.
You can of course take responsibility for building your own platform, although that will leave you in charge of aspects like security, which is likely well outside your wheelhouse. Weighing up existing solutions and choosing the right one for your needs is advised for smaller retailers.
Every website needs a good hosting platform underpinning it, and there’s plenty of competition in this space. There are premium options and bundles, of course, but also inexpensive alternatives and even packages that won’t cost you a penny. Check out the free hosts HostingAdvice recommends to pinpoint the best option.
If you’re already established as a bricks-and-mortar brand, then the first people to use your online store will likely be existing customers that are curious to see how you’re handling the migration to the web. Because of this, you need to look at the in-store customer experience you offer, and find ways to replicate this online.
For example, if you’re known for having attentive employees who are there to help customers with their every need, you might want to offer a live chat function on your site so that the same immediacy of assistance is afforded to visitors.
It also makes sense to keep the look and feel of your site consistent with your real world stores. If your outlets have an old fashioned aesthetic, you want this to be reflected online, without compromising on usability of course.
It’s great to get stuck in with creating a web presence for your retail business yourself, but you also need to appreciate the limits of your knowledge and abilities, and be willing to hire people who know ecommerce inside out when you need them.
You could recruit permanent members of the team to take charge of your web presence, but it’s more straightforward and affordable to outsource certain aspects to agencies and freelancers, at least in the short term.
Social media will only get you so far when it comes to establishing an online presence for your brand. It’s search engines that Google which will funnel more visitors to your site over time, and so optimizing your presence to rank well on results pages is a must.
There are many tenets to search engine optimization (SEO), so you need a plan in place to make the most out of the tweaks and changes you implement. This includes things like having high quality content, earning inbound links from reputable third party sites, and ensuring that your pages load swiftly.
It’s also worth making sure that each of the products you sell is described thoroughly and uniquely, rather than just populating these pages with text you’ve copied over from the manufacturer.
People browse the web from their smartphones more than any other category of device, so your store’s site has to work seamlessly on mobile handsets, not just desktop machines.
The aforementioned pre-built ecommerce solutions should have innate mobile-friendliness, but if you’re designing a standalone site from the ground up, you need to keep this in mind.
There’s no fast way to build a web presence for your bricks-and-mortar store, so don’t expect to see it skyrocket in a short timeframe. The best sites have built up a loyal customer base over time, and are also being perpetually monitored, improved and updated. With the right approach, your ecommerce outlet could eventually cater to customers from further afield, and lead to strong growth for your business.
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