If the idea of transporting your brick and mortar store online has been tugging at you, now is definitely the time to answer that call. Even if it hasn’t been on the back of your mind, it's still a possibility you should consider very seriously.
Having an online component to your business will profit you both now and in the future. Chances are, your existing customers are already looking for a way to buy your products online. We’ve also found ourselves in the midst of troubling times with the current epidemic. It’s most likely hindering your ability to run physical stores like normal.
Let’s take the unknown out of the equation so you can get excited about this new prospect. If you've been putting it off, now is the time. Not so sure yet?
We'll tackle which platform to sell on by equipping you with the right questions to ask, help guide you step by step through the process of moving online so you can get a secure plan in place, and cover marketing strategies so your sales can grow.
How to Transition Your Physical Store to Online:
Benefits of Selling Online
It’s always a good idea to look at the numbers when considering a business move like starting your online presence.
- In the UK, 51% of consumers said they actually prefer to shop online
- Online shoppers in the UK use the internet for 87% of their retail purchases
- 57% of online shoppers in Europe have bought products from overseas
- 77% of small businesses in the US use social media for key transactions such as customer support, marketing and sales
- Over 79% of Americans have made an online purchase of some kind
- While eCommerce makes up about 5% of omnichannel spending for businesses, it is responsible for 40% of their overall growth
- 92% of people in China have made at least one online purchase
- Japan has the 3rd highest market revenue in the world at about $99 million
In case you need some convincing, there are many benefits to moving your shop online.
- Give your customers the ease of shopping from home or on the go.
- Gain sales outside of your neighborhood - shoppers who wouldn’t normally come across your store can find it online by searching for items you carry.
- Decrease the financial impact of COVID-19. Just because you’ve had to put your physical store on pause doesn’t mean your sales have to take a break as well. Related: Coronavirus and eCommerce (Data Digest)
- No need to worry about the time and cost involved with finding a physical storefront.
- Collect concrete data about shoppers and sales. Use it to create growth and a more enjoyable customer experience.
You Don’t Need a Website to Sell Online
Put your worries to rest with the knowledge that it’s not necessary for you to build a whole website in order to sell your products online.
From basic to intermediate internet skill levels, there's a shopping channel option for you. They set you up with a platform to host your products. And there’s no time to wait! Business you're missing out on in your brick and mortar store, in general and during this crisis, can easily be made up for online.
Social media platforms are also a valuable place to turn. If you've ever used Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram you've probably seen products being sold through that medium. Posts become shoppable letting scrollers buy right off the screen.Here are some of the most frequently chosen channels to sell on:
- Google Shopping - visible to a large audience since your products will appear directly in Google search results
- Facebook - link a shop directly to your Facebook page, lets you connect directly with your followers and customers
- Instagram - create shoppable posts, works well with fashion and apparel
- Ebay - known best for its online auction system
- Amazon - known worldwide as the largest online marketplace. Check out our guide on how to sell on Amazon.
- Rakuten - based in Japan, but available worldwide
You’re probably asking the question “Which platform is right for me?”. Your business is as unique as you are and these platforms aren't one size fits all. That’s why it’s important to equip yourself with the right questions to ask when you do your investigation.
Have these questions handy while you’re scoping out which platform is going to work best for you:
- What is the total cost of ownership?
- how much are you willing to spend monthly- are there any extra costs per transaction?
- Is it easy to install and easy to use?
- take a look at the FAQ’s, test it out a bit if they have a free trial
- How flexible is its front end, or template?
- templates are great, but are you able to customize it if you’d like?
- How many products am I selling, and how many products can the platform host?
- Does it come with support, and if so, during what hours? Is there an extra cost?
- Can it integrate with my existing business systems or third-party integrations I may need, like my current shipping, accounting, and POS systems?
- you want it to fit into your business, not become a hurdle
Online Store Development
Bringing your online store to life is a lot easier than it used to be. So if you have any past anxiety connected, it’s time to unpack it together. We’ll discover the tools available to overcome them. Who knows, you might even begin to enjoy the process!
If your confidence doesn’t lay with your internet skills then a more simple, user friendly eCommerce platform might be best for you. We've noticed the biggest interest in Shopify, BigCommerce, and Prestashop with retailers, so they're a great place to start. You'll also be able to integrate them directly with DataFeedWatch to optimize your feed with ease.
There are many benefits in deciding to start your eCommerce journey:
- Control exactly how much you’re spending on online advertising by setting a daily budget.
- Control where your budget is being spent by adding custom labels to your feed optimization.
- Gain knowledge and skills like how to utilize social media.
- Expand your business beyond the walls of your physical store and reach buyers who wouldn’t have come across your shop otherwise.
- Design your shop’s look without having to code. Ecommerce platforms generally have templates for you to choose from so you don’t have to hire a web designer.
- Get support from experts when you get stuck. Most eCommerce platforms have handy help centers and a live team for you to contact.
Where to Start and How to Transfer your Brick and Mortar Shop to Online
1. Make a plan
Create a plan of action to serve as your roadmap for this journey. Include elements such as:
- Any new equipment you’ll need (eg. packaging supplies if you’ll be shipping yourself)
- How to divide the workload. Are you going it alone or with a team?
- Taking quality photos of your products. Will you go the DIY route or hire a photographer?
- Goals for growth in customer base and sales
- Timeline for when you want to go live
2. Prepare marketing strategy
Creating a marketing strategy for your online store may require a shift in thinking from your brick and mortar shop. First start with your overall goals so you have a clear picture of what you'd like to accomplish. Next, it's time to think about who your target audience is. Most likely it will be the people who are coming to your shop already. Pick a marketing channel where you're mostly likely to come across them.
3. Choose a platform
You’ve done your research and gotten answers to all your questions. Now is the time to declare your chosen eCommerce platform! Fully set up your account, get familiar with the layout and learn the basics.
4. Estimate budget
Total up the costs of monthly advertising, shipping and packaging, monthly eCommerce subscription/fees, etc. Look for any jobs you’re able to perform on your own to cut costs. For example, it is possible for you to do the packaging and shipping yourself instead of outsourcing it? Boost your social media presence to maximize free exposure. You can increase the possibility of your store being shared by posting interesting and creative content related to your products.
5. Product selection
Which products are you going to sell online? It’s best to focus on your bestsellers and items that you’ve noticed getting a lot of requests for. That way you can tailor to a wider consumer base and not waste time or energy on products that aren’t going to make you much profit anyway. You can always add more as you go along.
6. Supplier selection and order fulfillment
Do you already have a stock of your products and an established source or will you need to go with a new supplier? If choosing a new supplier, take some points into consideration like cost, convenience, quality, safety, social responsibility and service.
You’ll also need to decide how you will fulfill orders, or more simply, the process of getting the products to your shoppers. Are you running a small business and can manage all the shipping yourself? If that’s not possible, you may need to hire a fulfillment service to carry out the orders for you.Return to top of page or Download the Ultimate google Merchant Center Handbook
Marketing to Increase Your Online Sales
Marketing is the crux of selling your products online. It influences how you’ll be perceived at the time of buyers choosing between you and your competition, or if they’ll even find you in the first place. Good marketing can get you a higher click through rate and lead to more sales.
The goal is to entice the shopper while instilling confidence in them that you're going to deliver high quality products. Build a great online reputation with ratings and customer reviews to encourage even more growth.
Make the most out of your online ads by optimising the data linked to your products. Ads shown are generally tailored to shoppers interests (on social media and websites, for example) or how closely your products match the keywords searched. Each channel has different product feed requirements. Using data feed optimization tools like DataFeedWatch can help take the guesswork out since the requirements will be listed. Map out your data feed thoroughly to maximize your efforts. Doing things like choosing the right product category for all your products can make a big difference.
This is where you get to see your optimizing efforts pay off. Your feed will be working behind the scenes to show your online ads to people at the right times. Now you just need to decide which channel you’d like to advertise on. Typically you’ll pay per click and be able to set your daily budget.
You can use text ads, shopping ads (with photos) or display ads (appear on websites). You’ll need to set up a Google Merchant account to get started. When advertising with Google, you’ll also need to decide if you’d like to focus on impressions (how many times your ad is viewed), conversion (action done by someone) or clicks. Then you can place a bid on how much you’re willing to pay each time one of these things happens.
Pros - You have the possibility to reach a wide audience, especially using both text ads and shopping ads
Cons - Competitors may rank higher on the search results pages than you, reducing your visibility
You may also find interesting: Optimize Google Ads Conversions
Set up an ad campaign on Facebook to become visible when users are scrolling.
Pros - Easy to set up, user friendly if you also have a Facebook Business page, easy to integrate with Instagram
Cons - Targets user’s general interests rather than a product they’re searching for at the moment
Advertise on Amazon with ads that show up in search results and product pages both on and off the site.
Pros - Since you're just starting out and your brand may not be well-known yet, you can take advantage of Amazon's trusted reputation. You'll be selling right alongside household name brands which will help you to gain the trust of online shoppers.
Cons - Setting up your ads might be a bit more difficult than on other platforms.
Search Engine Optimization is vital to your growth. It’s a process of getting unpaid, natural ranking on search engines, like Google for example. This is your placement on the search page without paying for clicks.
Appearing high on in the organic section of the search results instills confidence in the shopper that you are a reputable online shop.You can track your organic SEO success by tracking your CTR (click through rate), or how many times someone searched for a product related to your shop and clicked on your link.
A healthy product feed directly affects how your ads will perform. The more optimized your feed is, the more relevant your products will be to a shopper's search keywords. That means a higher possibility of sales for you! There are some key areas you can focus on to make sure your ads stand out against your competitors.
Product titles can make or break your ad campaign. Depending on where you're advertising you can optimize the titles differently.
For example, if you're selling on Google then it’s important to include the brand in the title (in most cases it should be the first word shown). You can use the 'Combine' feature to take specific words from your feed and add them together to create the perfect title.
With Facebook on the other hand, you don't need to add the brand directly to the title. Instead you can simply add it to the 'Brand' field in your product feed.
Your product images should be attractive, showcase the product design, feel and aesthetic of your company. Consider hiring a professional photographer or go a DIY route with your mobile phone.
Depending on the platform you’re advertising on, different kinds of images will work better. A requirement for Google Shopping ads is for the item to be on a neutral background without text, while lifestyle photos work better for social platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
You can experiment with different types of images to see which perform best with your ads.
- If you've had to suddenly halt the operation of your physical store, now is the time to act fast and set up your online shop. It’s not as difficult as it used to be! And now you have been equipped with all the tools to make it a success.
- An online store will give your shoppers a more convenient way to purchase from you and will enable your sales to increase.
- Maybe the thought of having to create a whole website from scratch was stopping you before, but that shouldn’t be the case now. Use a third party eCommerce platform to host your products. Ask the right questions and you’ll easily find the best fit for you.
- Make your game plan with as much detail as possible. Write down the process from beginning to end and use it as the map for your journey. Some of the details may change, but it’s best to be prepared.
- Put some elbow grease into your marketing strategy. Perfect your product titles, descriptions and create beautiful images to set your products apart from the rest. Create your ads, spending budget and a plan for getting organic traffic.
Whether you’ve found yourself in a position where you’re not able to conduct business in a physical shop or you’re ready to expand your business, now is the time to kick start your online store.
Spend some time putting together an action plan, research which tools will best integrate with your plan, and set up your marketing strategy. You have the advantage that the whole process has become a lot more do-it-yourself friendly over the years.
Shoppers are buying from their mobile devices and use the internet to gather information about items they’re interested in, so why not get your business into the mix? Resources abound to ensure your transition online will be successful.
Learn about the impact of COVID-19 and how to adjust your strategy:
- Hard-Fought Battle - How Coronavirus Impacts eCommerce. [UPDATED]
- 5 Tips to Increase Sales After the COVID-19 Pandemic
- 4 ways to advertise for free during the COVID-19 pandemic
- How Big Brands Reacted to the COVID-19 Pandemic
- COVID-19: 7 Shopping Channels Offering Discounts to Retailers