Branching out from physical to online retail? Here are the first things to think about

Julian Byrne - Monday, August 17, 2020

Amid all of the unwanted interruption and uncertainty that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to businesses that operate solely from ‘high street’ brick-and-mortar premises, we can well understand you wanting to build greater resilience for your firm in this strange new world.

One of the most obvious steps in that regard would probably be launching an ecommerce presence for your brand, even if you have no plans to leave the high street just yet.

But if that’s an operation your business is undergoing or thinking of undergoing, what are the key factors that you need to consider or may be at risk of overlooking?

Brick-and-mortar and online selling are very different worlds!

Hopefully, your brand won’t be under any illusions about the size of the challenge of adding an online sales arm to its high-street offering; it’s not something you can just introduce once and then largely forget about.

Regardless, it’s well worth underlining once more, how profoundly physical and online retail differ. If you’re in a brick-and-mortar store, you can pick up a product in your hands, look at it from different angles, and feel its weight. You can also scrutinise physical details that may not be obvious from the kind of imagery you see in a manufacturer’s brochure or on the pages of an online store.

An ecommerce store, of course, can’t offer these advantages, or certainly not to the same extent. Then, there’s the fact that a physical location can serve as its own form of marketing, with potential customers perhaps constantly driving or walking past it and making a mental note to investigate it if they find themselves requiring related services in the future.

Don’t underestimate what’s involved in making the transition

Whatever your brand happens to sell – clothing, kitchen utensils, art supplies, electrical appliances or something different altogether – there are very significant differences between selling those goods online and offline.

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business selling on the web for the first time, you might therefore underestimate the sheer energy, time and money investment needed to prepare and keep track of such aspects of your online store as its product images, product descriptions and inventory.

Consider, for instance, the images that you use on your product pages. Your brick-and-mortar store obviously doesn’t need to bother with these when it can literally show the item hanging from a hook. But when it comes to online selling, you’ll need at least one photograph, and probably ideally several, in order to give the prospective purchaser a vaguely equivalent experience.

And yes, while you might be able to obtain many usable product photos from the manufacturer or distributor, and upload them to your site, even this process can be more time-consuming than you initially imagine. Picture yourself repeating this task over and over again for literally hundreds or thousands of items, and it could all quickly become overwhelming.

Similar can be said for such key processes as sourcing or devising product descriptions, managing your ecommerce store’s inventory, and marketing it through both traditional and more recent online and digital channels, the latter including the likes of Pay Per Click and video advertising.

Allow us to help you to embrace this exciting new chapter

Notwithstanding all of our advice above, entering the world of online retail as a previously predominantly ‘high street’ brand shouldn’t be something to be scared of. It does, though, necessitate the best preparation, as we would be pleased to assist you with here at Piranha Designs.

Enquire now about such services as ecommerce website design and search engine marketing provided by our team, and you can soon be in a position to get so much more out of the e-tail possibilities that the post-COVID-19 era will represent.

Could a loyalty scheme help to cement your online store’s COVID-19 gains?

Julian Byrne - Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Such is the immensely disruptive nature of a pandemic like the one we have faced over the last few months, that almost no one can claim COVID-19 has been a “good” thing for them overall.

One positive that ecommerce store owners certainly weren’t expecting at the start of the year, however, was a massive jump in the proportion of e-tail sales as part of overall retail sales, due to lockdown restrictions having forced many more people to make purchases from home.

Hopefully, your own online outlet will have effectively capitalised on the jump in overall demand for ecommerce sites’ services, with the consequence of rising sales.

But as the previous lockdown rules gradually loosen and more people are afforded the luxury of shopping at brick-and-mortar stores again, how can your e-tail store consolidate the gains it has made since March?

One short answer to that question is... by introducing a loyalty scheme.

Why are loyalty programs such a great idea anyway?

Sometimes referred to as ‘VIP’ or ‘rewards’ schemes, or even ‘loyalty programs’, loyalty schemes take many forms on ecommerce sites.

However, the broad benefits of such schemes for both the business itself and its customers are well-defined. A VIP scheme could help your store to boost customer lifetime value (CLV or CLTV), which is a measure of the net profit that can be predicted for a given customer over the entire duration of your relationship with them.

Customers who properly engage with loyalty programs are also, of course, more engaged and loyal customers in general with the brands running these schemes. Your own loyalty club members are likelier to read the marketing emails you send them, and to ‘like’ and share your brand’s social media posts.

Then, there’s the not-insignificant matter of all of the data you can gather from the customers who participate in your VIP scheme. This could enable you to develop a better understanding of how your target audience behaves in general, and how you could better reach them with the right products, prices and marketing messages.

A truly great loyalty or VIP scheme goes well beyond the basics

So, what does a good loyalty scheme consist of? Well, first of all, it should offer something of value to the customer from the moment they join as a member or participant. That might be a discount straight away, or perhaps a gift, or extra loyalty points just for signing up.

Whatever you offer at this stage, make sure it’s exclusively obtainable by those joining your loyalty program, rather than just a duplication of an offer you might already present to those subscribing to your emails, for example.

From there, various other features or quirks may be added to your store’s loyalty scheme to help to make it really interesting, with the exact ones you choose dependent on your business’s sector, preferences and needs.

Some online stores, for instance, might throw in additional bonuses for customers who carry out certain actions like answering a survey or installing an app.

Maybe you might also present VIP shoppers with a voucher or extra loyalty points on their birthdays, or introduce a referral element, whereby the loyalty club member is rewarded if they refer someone to the site who goes on to make a purchase from your store.

Or what about rewarding points for other one-off activities like your customers posting images of your store’s products and how they use them with your social media hashtag? The promise of exclusive content can also be a powerful enticement for those who are unsure of whether to become a loyalty member of your site.

There are so many ways to get loyalty schemes ‘right’

The above is naturally not an exhaustive rundown of all of the possibilities for your store’s loyalty scheme; nonetheless, it should give you a sense of some of the intriguing ways you could experiment and mix things up when launching a rewards program.

A well-executed loyalty program can do so much to better market your ecommerce store’s offerings, heighten engagement and boost sales. However, it is also just one of the many aspects of your e-tail business that you will need to focus on getting right for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

For an in-depth discussion about your online business’s aspirations and needs with regard to website design, SEO and PPC marketing, and so many more areas of specialism of ours, don’t hesitate to enquire to the Piranha Designs team in Gibraltar, London or Edinburgh today. 

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