The Digital Business Kit for Retailers
Retailers will understand the different technology and strategies that can assist their retail businesses to begin or improve selling their products and/or services online. [printfriendly]
Steps to establishing online sales (simplified)
How you sell online will vary based on your products, whether you are a product or service provider, and if own your own inventory or not. Deciding what kind of online sales methods you want to use will also be influenced by the following questions. Do you already sell products? If you don’t already have products, do you want to get in the business of creating and or storing products? Do you have a website?
- If you already have a website or need to create one, make sure the design mimics the look and feel of your store. When choosing a web platform, make sure it can provide all the features you need OR that it is compatible with the 3rd party providers of these features, such as: shopping cart, merchant account, inventory display, etc. If you don’t want a website, you can sell indirectly.
- Choose the right shopping cart software platform. You have an established brand – now you need a software powerful enough to keep the promises your brand makes to your customers. Of course, it’s great to have it at small business pricing. Do a little research to find out which features make the most sense for your business. Find one with plenty of software integrations through partners. Excellent customer service is a plus. A long-standing reputation in the eCommerce community is another bonus.
- Sync your stock and accounting program for both your existing sales process (e.g. in-store) and online sales. If you’re already using software to organise and track your products, you’ll want to sync your stock between your stores. That way, you’ll avoid a lot of time spent on manual input and avoid issues that can occur from maintaining separate inventories. Accounting software presents a similar situation. Luckily, some of the most prominent eCommerce software programs include ways to directly sync these types of platforms.
- Promote your new website in-store and through marketing channels. Once you’re up and running, the next step is to get the word out. You already have an in-person audience. Use them to spread the news through flyers, posters, mailings and the like. Or, if you already maintain an email list, make sure to direct subscribers to the new online store. Social media is another emerging method for spreading the word through networks of customers.
Order fulfilment: In your planning for online sales, don’t forget what happens AFTER you get money for selling a product. You need to get the product to your customer. Order fulfilment can be a key element in how scalable your online selling eSolution is, and there are several main models for delivery.
Physical: This product type is arguably the most complicated as it needs to come from an inventory (yours or someone else’s), be packaged and labelled for shipping, and physically shipped to the customer using mail or courier services. You need to factor-in the additional costs of shipping and handling, including storage, purchase (wholesale cost) and administration hours of managing these processes.
Electronic: Typically the process of fulfilment involves payment processing, automated email to customers with a link to the product to download and sometimes with a unique access product key. The cost and administrative time necessary to fulfil an electronic order is very small, and many times the shipping process for electronic products can be fully automated.
The order fulfilment for services is generally directly related to the service type.
One-on-one: This type of service implies that once the order is placed, a staff person will contact the customer to fulfil the service, or a username/login may have been generated at time of sale which the customer will use to login to. If an online scheduling application is present, this makes the process more efficient as well. One-on-one services may be delivered virtually or in person.
Tourism: The client books a tour online and has selected a date and paid for the trip. An email goes out to the client with all of the trip details and instruction on how to redeem the service (in this case where to show up for the trip and what to bring, etc.).
Freelance website development: The customer purchases development of a website through online market (e.g. Elance) and partial payment is collected. Then the freelancer discusses the website requirements with the client via VOIP or online chat, and then builds the website and loads it online for the client. Once the work is completed and accepted, the remainder of the fee is paid.
Software-as-Service: The customer creates an account in the service-provider platform online and buys the service (one-time fee, subscription, license, etc.) that typically automatically grants the customer access to the range of service features to which they have subscribed for an agreed period of time. An email receipt will be sent automatically to the customer. Subscriptions and licenses may be automatically renewed with payments collected, or reminders may be sent to notify the customer prior to subscription expiration, so that they can renew.
Optimising online sales
Optimise online sales: How to convert lookers to purchasers! Just because you offer an online shopping cart doesn’t mean people will buy. As you are developing your website, online store, and messaging, there are strategies and best practices to consider. Common practices to encourage online sales include:
- Professional easy-to-navigate website or eStore.
- Use of images and multi-media content to promote better search results and customer engagement.
- Clear demonstration of the product.
- Show how the product solves a problem and is of value to the customer.
- Support customers in self-identifying themselves using and needing/participating in the product or service.
- Include strong action statements.
- Incentives, such as time limitations or coupon codes.
- Engagement methods, such as news sign-ups.
- Word-of-mouth tactics, such as rating links, testimonials and social media.
- Review and rating system and use of 3rd party review sites.
- Easy-to-use check-out process with minimal “clicks”.
- Obvious contact information, including email, phone number and hours of operation.
- Demonstrate the sale environment is secure with 3rd party certification logos.
- Up-sell to more products.