Online shopping has become an integral part of the post-pandemic era. If you had a business with one or more stores, you probably had to shut your doors during the lockdown. While most brick-and-mortar stores had to close, online stores continued to flourish. Experienced companies got creative and started selling online, on social media, and more.
However, selling online begins with an ecommerce website. During the pandemic, these websites became a vital complement to a physical retail space. Moving forward, online stores will be indispensable for companies, including those that never needed them before. ecommerce is open 24/7 and attracts buyers from anywhere you have the ability to ship to.
An online store doesn’t only expand your potential customer base. It also gives your existing customers an easier shopping option, and it allows them to encourage their friends and family to do the same. ecommerce stores diversify your selling channels, reduce costs, and make it easier to scale your business.
Here’s why your offline business needs an online presence.
Reason #1: It improves your company’s image
This reason alone is enough to start a new website today. It’s a crucial factor, as prospective clients might wonder how serious your business is without a website, blog, or online presence.
Today, companies of all industries and sizes need to establish an online identity. Without one, your potential customers might not take you seriously, and you might lose business to competitors who are active, professional, and effective online.
Reason #2: You’ll provide better customer support
Having an online presence allows you to interact with more customers in real-time. Just having a website isn’t enough — you need to manage it, too. For most brick-and-mortar businesses, there simply isn’t an option to offer 24-hour service to customers.
Your online store can use live chats or contact forms to communicate with your customers. You can also create a space for them to leave reviews, post comments, and ask questions. It’s very important that your customers and prospects are able to get the information they need at any time —and being online is a great way to do that.
Building relationships is part of your job, and one of the best ways to do so is by making customers feel at home while using your site. Online customer support allows you to be quick to respond and apologize, especially if people are experiencing issues.
Communicating with new customers, and especially customers that have complaints can be stressful. Always make sure to stay positive and ask if they have any unanswered questions. Here are some tips for better online customer service:
- Make it easy for people to contact you
- Nurture relationships as much as possible
- Provide upfront access to information
- Be available to help in real-time
- Walk customers from problem to solution
- Invest in your customer service team
- Direct your customers to both offline and online customer experiences
Reason #3: Your employees can work remotely
Brands should utilize multiple distribution channels to better connect with customers. The “bricks-and-clicks” business model means that you operate both on- and offline, and it allows you to be more effective in multiple ways.
Why operate in both spaces? A physical presence helps humanize your brand and offers memorable shopping experiences, while an online presence helps maintain convenience and excellent customer service.
Businesses with a great digital presence can also allow some personnel to work remotely— as long as they have a solid internet connection. This enhanced flexibility boosts productivity, saves time, and increases profits.
Some areas of work may be impossible or difficult to do remotely. That’s why traditional offline businesses can begin small and scale up later to support brand recognition, customer service, marketing efforts, relationship building, and more — and do it all remotely.
Reason #4: You can target both local and global markets
When your business is online, you can market to the masses and increase the number of direct relationships with your customers. You can also effectively target your local market by getting valuable online data.
So, how do you find the right balance between local and global targeting? As your business grows, so must your market. You don’t want to limit yourself from the beginning. That’s why establishing an online presence should be your first step in this journey. A website or an app allows you to access various markets, attract new customers, and have a higher chance of converting more people.
Reason #5: You’ll have lower start-up costs
How much does it cost to establish your brick-and-mortar brand’s online presence? Truthfully, not much. Building an online presence and marketing yourself takes time, but the costs are very low compared to launching an offline business from scratch.
Physical businesses demand high rental costs and several employees, while your selection of goods are always limited by physical space. You can eliminate or reduce those costs by establishing an online channel.
Plus, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on your website or mobile app development. In fact, a good website or app can be quickly made for somewhere between a few hundred to a thousand dollars.
And, if you contact Cin7, we’ll quickly get you an estimate for your true startup costs.
Reason #6: You’ll gain an edge on your competition
The sooner you have an online presence, the more of an edge you can enjoy over your competitors. As the saying goes, “Either you have to be first, or you have to be best.” And being the best is really hard.
When your company is online and your competitors aren’t, you have the chance to dominate. Even if you’re not the first, we highly recommend having an active and growing presence on all major social media platforms. At this point, a website and social media presence is almost mandatory.
How to get your business online in 4 simple steps
Now that you’re ready, let’s jump right in. This is how you get your business online in 4 simple steps.
Step #1: Set up your ecommerce website
Setting up your ecommerce website is not as complex as it used to be. You can easily do it yourself, or you can pay someone to help. First, choose a domain name (for the website’s URL). If you want to do business internationally, it’s a good idea to buy a “.com” domain name.
You’ll also need to use an ecommerce platform, and the one you choose depends on what you need. We partner with some of the best ecommerce platforms that make the process fast and simple: Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, and WooCommerce.
Shopify is great because it has themed templates to select, and you can make a great-looking website in minutes. If you need any additional help building your website, no problem. Simply go to https://experts.shopify.com for a directory of professional website builders.
Another good practice is to look for other ecommerce websites from similar businesses. You can share those examples with a professional of your choice and tell them to imitate the look, feel, and function of the website.
Step #2: Upload your products and prepare to sell
Your online store is where many of your customers will first encounter your products. Make sure your products have good descriptions, accurate sizing, and excellent product images.
If you sell apparel, it’s worth noting that it sells better when customers see it being worn. You should also provide text that includes details you can’t see in the image. Make sure to use a decent camera and find a good space with a clean background.
Product images on a white background are great, or you can try to obtain high-quality images from your suppliers. Also, make sure you’re ready to ship your products. Our partners StarShipIt, ShipStation, and others will help make this process seamless.
Step #3: Make your logo and create your brand
It’s time to make your website’s logo. Modern logos are simple to produce on your own, but if you’re feeling “design-challenged,” it isn’t hard to get help from professionals via gig sites like Fiverr and Upwork. Alongside a logo, you should consider some basic branding, too. It’s important for a brand to have a consistent message and experience.
It’s also essential to set up some basic web pages from day one. There should be “About Us,” “Shipping Information,” “Contact Us,” and “Returns Policy” pages. You’ll also want to promote your physical store’s location and opening hours.
Making these pages tells your customers about your brand. Who are you, and what are your values? More than ever before, consumers base their purchasing decisions at least partially on whether or not a company aligns with their values.
A final tip: never let perfection get in the way of a web store launch. The key is getting online fast. You can always update and improve your website as you move forward.
Step #4: Promote your online shop
If you have a healthy customer database, you should try to contact them via email, phone, and mail. Sending emails and branded postcards is a good way to personalize your website’s launch.
You can also use social media networks to promote your online store. For instance, if you are on Instagram, you can create a post and tell customers that they’ll be entered into a raffle for store credit by tagging three friends.
Marketing is about getting creative and thinking outside the box to raise awareness. For instance, it doesn’t hurt to try to get an article published by the local newspaper or news. You can also advertise your new online store at your existing physical store.The more exposure, the better.
Post-launch, you should send a monthly email to customers. We recommend using Mailchimp to send bulk emails with mobile-friendly layouts and solid branding. Mailchimp also helps manage your unsubscribe list. That way, you’re not sending unwanted emails.
Finally, digital marketing plays a crucial role, and it includes:
- Paid advertising like Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
- SEO, which increases the chance for your website to appear in Google search results and help potential customers find you.
- Content marketing, like writing blogs and adding helpful web pages to help attract potential customers.
- Social media presence, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and even Twitter.
Step #5. Get your automated Inventory Management software
If you’ve followed all these steps, you’re almost there! Your offline business has an online presence, but it won’t run smoothly until you have your automated Inventory Management Software.
Properly managing inventory can either make or break your business, so it’s crucial to have insight into your stock levels at any given time. With the right inventory software, decision-makers can manage their inventory effectively and cheaply.
Cin7 is great because it offers a suite of tools to track inventory in multiple locations. You can determine reorder points, manage stock, and cycle counts. Plus, you’ll be able to find the right balance between demand and supply across your entire organization with our demand planning and distribution requirements planning features.
These solutions are a perfect fit for businesses of any size.
See what Cin7 can do for you
Keeping track of your inventory and understanding your sales data is vital to making a multichannel business a success. Cin7 can integrate your ecommerce and brick-and-mortar businesses in one easy system. You’ll be able to manage your inventory and ship without an issue — as long as you have the right tools.
Remember, our team is always here to help — and we’d love to show you exactly how today.
Why wait? Book your demo now.