Why You Should Treat Your eCommerce Site Like a Brick and Mortar Store

Gian Genovesi

ecommerce vs brick and mortar.pngWe have worked with a lot of organizations that create their eCommerce site without realizing how much work it will take to make the site successful. In fact, one way to describe the amount of effort required for establishing an eCommerce site is to compare it to its brick and mortar counterpart.

Launching an eCommerce site has a lot in common with opening a retail store. Just as you wouldn’t open a shop without doing the necessary preparations, you shouldn’t dive into an eCommerce project without understanding what it will entail. To set expectations for your eCommerce site launch, consider it like opening a retail store.

Step One: Planning to Open

Before launching any sort of store, your organization needs to complete appropriate preparations, such as defining your shopper personas, figuring out a location, identifying target markets, establishing a store layout, and defining your product catalog. For example, we had a client who was opening a new retail location to expand on their four existing brick and mortar stores. Their first steps in opening this new store involved market research on who their ideal customer was, their personas, and what location they needed to be in to target that audience. In other words, they had to find their corner of the market.

When launching an eCommerce site, those same steps need to be taken. Simply putting your products online won’t drive success; your organization needs to figure out who you’re selling to and where to find them. The best way to do this is to name a store manager.

Just like a retail store has a manager to get the store ready for opening, there needs to be someone in charge of the eCommerce site. The eCommerce manager is responsible for the success of the site and must be the champion within the organization. An eCommerce site is not a “set it and forget it” endeavor, and anyone who thinks their site will succeed while unattended is wrong. The eCommerce manager should increase visibility of the project within the organization, get alignment from team members, and promote the new site within the company.

There are some aspects of an eCommerce site that will differ from a brick and mortar store, however. There are back office functions and supply chain issues that won’t occur with a retail store, as well as technology considerations that need to be squared away before your site launches. Be sure to have answers to the following questions:

  • What’s your return policy?
  • How are you protecting your site and customers from fraud?
  • Who handles payments? What methods will you accept?
  • How will item fulfillment work? What about restocking?

Assigning an eCommerce manager whose sole responsibility is to maintain the site will help your organization get these details in place before launching your eCommerce site. 

Step Two: Driving Traffic

Once you have the details of your site in place, you need to focus on driving traffic. How would you attract people to a retail location? How would you ensure you’re attracting the right people? Will they buy or just browse? 

Some retailers will mail out catalogs, put fliers in the newspaper, buy ad space, or even have someone standing at a busy intersection with signs announcing the store’s grand opening. On the eCommerce side, you can drive traffic by optimizing your SEO, market to searchers, appeal to the sales team to spread the word, and even advertise in store if your organization has brick and mortar locations.

If your target shoppers don’t know your store has opened, then they can’t shop there. So, while the advertising methods may be different, the principle behind them is the same: if you open a store and don’t advertise it, then did you really open a store at all?

Step Three: Enticing Customers to Buy

So, you’ve got the right customers coming to your site; how do you entice them to buy? Converting browsers into shoppers comes down to making them feel comfortable in your store. If you are targeting the right personas and have tailored your store to them, your potential customers will have confidence in your product as well as the shopping experience.

This feeling of confidence applies to the online realm as well, but there is more to it than making your site appropriate for your audience. Ratings and reviews of your site’s offerings reflect not just on the product but your site as well. Additionally, be sure to help your customers find the product they want quickly and with as few clicks as possible by implementing easy search functions and faceted navigation. These fundamentals, when paired with advertising and marketing ventures, will encourage browsers to become customers.

Step Four: Increasing Average Order Value

Of course you want your customers to buy, but you also want them to add in that item that they just didn’t know they needed. How many times have you seen a candy bar in line at the store and tossed it into your order just because? Those impulse purchases up by the register are just one way stores try to increase a shopper’s order value.

You can incentivize your shoppers to add one more thing to their cart using a few different methods. Whether it’s a buy two, get one free campaign, product bundling, cross-sells, upsells, or displaying related items, there are plenty of options to encourage your online customers to add to their order.

Step Five: Customer Lifetime Value

So, you’ve launched your site, driven the right traffic to it, enticed customers to buy, and increased average order values. Great! But, once you’ve had a customer purchase from you, how do you encourage them to come back?

First and foremost, your customer needs to have enjoyed shopping with you in order to come back. That means ensuring your site has a clean, elegant shopping experience that makes them comfortable giving you their payment information. Trust is a huge issue with online shoppers, and making your site a reliable destination is one of the most important ways to encourage customers to come back.

Loyalty programs are a great resource for online and physical stores alike. Having shoppers accumulate points that they can cash in for discounts, or even offering private sales for loyalty club members are nice perks that shoppers respond to. 

Another option is to use email to connect with customers. Newsletters that keep people up to date on offerings or sales, resupply emails for current customers, discounts for shoppers you haven’t seen in a while, or alerts when a high-demand item is back in stock are great ways to remind your customer that they enjoyed shopping with you and they should do it again soon.

By following these tips, you will be well on your way to establishing a successful eCommerce site.

Do you need help or advice on an eCommerce project? Contact our certified team.

Download 5 Questions to ask yourself before starting an eCommerce project.

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