The benefits of ecommerce for smaller retailers go far beyond simply selling online; your website and online store complement your physical retail presence in a number of ways. It’s not surprising then that some of the most successful online businesses are those who have a small bricks and mortar presence to realise these benefits.
Ecommerce builds the most profitable customer type: the “multi channel” customer
Case studies around the the world are proving the most profitable customer is a “multi channel” customer – someone who utilises both your physical retail presence and your digital presence (website, mobile site) to gather information and purchase.
Large bricks and mortar retailers around the world are developing and enhancing their strategies around this single principle (Directmarketingnews.com: http://www.dmnews.com/walgreens-multichannel-customers-have-three-times-the-value-irce-2011/article/205447).
Tips on how to build “multi channel customers” for small retailers.
“Pick up in store”. A study has proven over 30% of customers who go into a store to pick up their online purchase make another purchase with that retailer. Over 50% of all online orders from Walmart.com are “pick up in store” (Source: “Luring online shoppers offline” NY Times). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like us to help you add ‘pick up in store’ to your website.
Have a monitor (PC) or iPad in your store with your website displayed. This screen does not need to be constantly attended, however, the retail staff should always have it nearby as a sales tool. Smaller retailers suffer from the condition of not being able to afford to hold as much stock as their larger competitors, the way to combat this threat is to have a fuller range online. By having the iPad, the retail employees can show what is on offer that is not seen on shelves.
If your product mix is slightly complicated (electronics) the website becomes a valuable resource for information and takes the reliance off of having technical specialists in store.
Record a name and email address. Every new customer who purchases in store should be asked for a name and email address and asked permission to send information and deals.
Cross pollination. On the website promote in store promotions. In store, promote online promotions. Cross-pollinating each buying channel informs customer’s there is more than one method to interact with the business.
Create a “Content Marketing” plan. All retailers need to think about how to speak to their customers post sale. The lifetime value of a customer is an important consideration and is to be taken seriously.
This does not need to be complicated in the beginning. Start small, start simple. Start with a monthly email campaign and grow from there. The view of these simple campaigns is to drive customers to the site and to the physical store. This communication will facilitate the desired multichannel behaviour.
Free Wi-Fi in store. One of the more common ways to make free Wi-Fi work for the retailer is for the consumer to submit a name and email address and ask for the authority to send information and/or deals.
When the consumer has the free Wi-Fi they are sent to the ecommerce website and presented a coupon on their smartphone for certain products that can only be redeemed in store on the same day to facilitate a sense of urgency. The consumer becomes introduced to the website, and has a reason to purchase in store.
Evolution of buying
Retailers need to embrace the evolution of the consumer-buying journey. Ecommerce websites now play a critical part of all buying journeys. In the US 83% of consumers go online to research before purchasing products in a bricks and mortar location (Source http://internetretailer.com). In New Zealand it’s higher with 94% of Kiwi’s researching online (Source http://ecommerce.org.nz).
The new way of consumer buying creates other benefits of ecommerce for bricks and mortar retailers:
Provides a second chance for the Retailer. Ecommerce provides the opportunity to sell to those who do not initially buy in store. Globally, bricks and mortar converts between 20% to 40% of people who walk through the door (Source: Experian Footfall, world leader in delivering retail insights). If the store has material promoting the website, those who did not purchase in store still have an opportunity to engage with your business online.
Ecommerce brings people in store. For many consumers who go through a methodical information gathering process when researching products, they require more than what a website can offer. Some people need to touch it and feel it in order to complete a sale.
Global pure play (web only) retailers recognise this and are now opening physical bricks and mortar locations. A recent example of this is Zappos.com, the largest online shoe retailer in the world, has opened a Zappos retail outlet in Las Vegas. Closer to home, Shoes of Prey, a very successful online shoe retailer in Australia has done a deal with David Jones to display a selection of their products in store and is branded as the Shoes of Prey selection. In December 2013, Google opened 13 temporary “pop-up” stores in major malls around the US. The purpose of these stores was to be experiential in nature and allow consumers to play with Google’s products.
Broaden your reach with ecommerce. Small retailers can never compete with the physical dominance/footprint of big box retailers. However, online it’s a level playing field and is why ecommerce presents more of an opportunity to small retailers. As long as your delivery channels are reliable and your costs are in line with your competitors, the entire country is open for the opportunity to grow your business.
Smaller retailers have the advantage. Smaller retailers have an advantage over the large bricks and mortar retailers when developing their online channel. Why? When evolving online there is a process of reinvention that occurs. Retailers must learn to adapt their communication methods because the consumer is now in control. They control their own destiny, and if you want to be a part of it, you must communicate their way.
Smaller retailers can be more nimble and reactive to this reinvention process. It took Walmart 10 years to learn and evolve. It’s only in the last five years Walmart has started to truly realise their online potential (Source: Fastcompany.com http://www.fastcompany.com/3002948/walmarts-evolution-big-box-giant-e-commerce-innovator).
The manner in which consumers have evolved in their buying journey has changed exponentially over the last 5 to 7 years. If a retailer’s method of selling is not inline with how consumers want to purchase, growth will be extremely difficult to achieve.
Ecommerce does not cannibalise in store sales. Ecommerce enriches the buying experience and provides the opportunity to acquire new customers you could never properly reach in the first place.
Ecommerce capitalises on the opportunity. Seize it.