So how do I know if I am ready to sell online? Much of this holiday season has been about the changing consumer patterns.Malls are quieter, store lines are shorter, and Amazon is gaining ground every day. This significant shift in consumer behavior has left many retailers wondering if they are ready to make the leap to sell online.
So how do we know if we are ready?
- Engage with your customers
We believe the first place to start is your customers. Have you noticed a change in your customers specifically. While the news may be doom and gloom for traditional retailers as a whole, this may not be the case for your business specifically.
For our lemonade stand owner, he might turn on CNBC every morning to hear about another mall closing, but how are his sales in November compared to November 2016. Consumers are still shopping. So the first question is are your company’s sales shifting?
If your sales have decreased recently, the next question is if your customers are shopping online, or is there another factor involved. This question may require some creativity in order to engage you’re your customers.
We have seen retailers being creative with the use of online customer surveys through sites like Survey Monkey. Even if your response rate is 5-10%, that is 5-10% feedback that you wouldn’t have otherwise received without additional cost. Your response rate may increase through the use of a discount for customers who are willing to take a survey.
We have also seen more formal customer information gathering, such as a focus group, or a loyal customer event. Gathering your customers and making them involved in your store’s progress may help gage if these customers would buy more in an online retail environment.
- Eliminate the fear
So many times we look at online retail shopping as our enemy. The online marketplace is the monster in the corner eating away at our revenue and profits until there is nothing left. But as the quote goes – if you can’t beat em’ join em’.
If done the right way, selling online does not necessarily mean fewer in store sales. In reality, there will always be the percentage of your customer base that prefers to shop in-person.
That being said, there are a growing number of consumers that prefer the convenience of online shopping. By having an online presence, you are appealing to both consumers.
This doesn’t mean your store will disappear. It just means you may have some customers who prefer the convenience of shopping online. If you are able to keep your customer service offerings, or add a personal touch to your online sales, you can remind your customers that you are available in-person as well as online.
- Finding the platform that works for you
Online retailing does not have to mean giving up your margins. We have all heard the horror stories of selling through amazon and other retailers who demand the lowest price in order to gain market share. But in recent years there are other platforms that allow you to sell online on your own terms. You are still charged a percentage for the service, but you have the ability to create an online store that is consistent with your vision and brand. We recommend using shopify as a great online platform for selling online through your own website.
- To get big you have to start small
Even if the goal is to dominate the online retail environment in your area, we recommend starting small. There will be many questions to figure out when you first begin selling online, so it is a good idea to offer a few products first, before adding the entire store.
A few questions to consider when getting started:
- Shipping fees – will you charge more than the shipping cost. i.e. flat $15 rate vs. actual shipping costs based on location?
- Expedited fees – some retailers charge a ‘rush fee’ as well as expedited shipping.
- What is the time-frame for fulfillment – if someone orders at 4pm today, when is the earliest they would be able to receive your product?
- Leave room for changes – in your online store, allow yourself the ability to make changes after 15-30 days.
- Ask for email address – for all online customers, ask for email address as part of check-out. This email address will become your customer database, and will be a great tool for future promotions and sales.
We believe selling online can be a great supplement to your current business. The Largo Group offers online retailing consultations as part of our monthly accounting platform. Please email us to setup a free consultation today!