Based on an article originally published on March 3rd 2015 by Armangio Roggio on www.practicalecommerce.com
Adding an online store may help traditional retailers increase sales and, ultimately, grow and improve. But transitioning from brick and mortar to brick and click will not be without problems.
There are plenty of good reasons for small shops to open ecommerce shops, not the least of which is the continued growth of online shopping and online product discovery.
In fact, according to a survey from Wipro Digital, a research firm in the United States, released in January 2015, about 61 percent of Americans shopped online during the 2014 holiday season, up from just 36 percent for the 2013 Christmas season.
Better prices, convenience, and ease of use are all factors in the growth of online sales, according to the Wipro survey.
When an established retailer with a physical store starts to sell online, there can be a few surprises. Here are seven things you should think about when you add “click” to your physical retail business.
1. Managing Inventory Will Be Difficult
Inventory management for a single, physical store requires a fair amount of work. The store should plan for peak seasons, making certain there will be enough products to sell when customers are ready to buy without over-investing in inventory that is simply gathering dust in the stockroom.
Then there are vendor lead times, terms, minimum orders, and other requirements to manage.
Nearly all of these become more complicated when a store adds one or more additional sales channels. For example, a store could sell out the entire inventory of an item either in-store or online, so that shoppers in the other channel are unhappy.
To help avoid these sorts of issues, consider using an inventory/stock control or integrated EPoS system like Easitill that tracks inventory and sales at both the physical and ecommerce point of sale.
2. Planning Your Online Store Is Like Planning a Physical Store
When adding ecommerce to an existing retail business, think of the online store like a new physical store/location opening.
If you were opening a new, physical retail location, you’d think about how to decorate the store, how to present products, how to attract new customers, how you would staff the shop, how you’d take payments, and much more. It would be similar to preparing a full business plan.
3. You’ll Need a Marketing Strategy
One of the most important parts of ecommerce success is marketing. So when you open an online store, you will need a marketing strategy.
Also, remember that ecommerce marketing includes tactics on your site — like content marketing, product merchandising, and site structure — tactics in free channels including social media, and paid tactics like pay-per-click advertising such as Google Adwords and Google Shopping. You’ll want to know which of these tactics to use, how much to invest in each, and how to determine if your marketing is successful.
4. You’ll Need Compelling Pictures
Roxy is an example of a site with good product photography.
In a physical store, shoppers can pick up an item, feel its texture, and get a sense of the product. Online, products are primarily presented with photographs, so you will need good ones.
In fact, every product you sell online will need at least one good-quality photograph. It may be relatively hard and time consuming to obtain from the product’s manufacturers or distributors but is key to successful selling.
If you want to sell online, you may even need to learn about taking good pictures and processing those pictures for display in your online shop yourself.
Here are some examples of high-quality product photography.
There are many ecommerce platforms that advertise the ability to have a functional ecommerce site up and running in essentially no time for very little money. There is a sense in which these claims are true. But in most cases, the site launched is unlikely to lead you to ecommerce success.
Having a successful ecommerce website takes time, money, or both.
Invest in your website if you want your ecommerce shop to succeed.
6. Shipping Is Expensive
When a customer buys something from a physical store, she picks that item up and carries it out the door.
When a customer buys something online, you will need to ship it to her, and shipping is very expensive. In fact, the cost of packaging and shipping products may be one of the most stunning parts of opening an ecommerce store.
Take time to plan your shipping. Make certain your site provides real shipping estimates. Use shipping or order fulfillment software to help select the right carrier for each package. Also, try to look at shipping on a general basis and not order-by-order. There will likely be times when you lose money on a given order because of the cost of shipping.
If you have a physical store, an alternative to shipping issues is offering a "Click and collect" service. People can order online 24/7 and collect at their convenience. This is another feature offered within the Easitill EPoS system.
7. Be Patient
Building a successful online business takes a lot of time. And adding ecommerce to an existing retail business probably won’t boost sales significantly overnight. Be patient.
Perform keyword research. Using a tool like Google Keyword Planner, you can get a general idea of how many searches there are per month for the keywords you’d like to target for your page. Perform keyword research annually because sometimes keyword popularity changes over time and terms once used are no longer popular. While you may think “blue widgets” is the best term, it may not be. You may find “blue scrapbooking widgets” is more specific to your category page. The term “blue widgets” may be too broad. Find the most appropriate keyword(s) for your page. Make a list from 1 to 7 in popularity for each category, specific to the products you sell.
Use your top keyword for the URL page. If the keyword that received the most searches was “blue scrapbooking widgets” I would use that term in the URL of the category page, such as http://www.abc.com/blue-scrapbooking-widgets.html. Be careful of the length, however: search engines often truncate the URL display at 75 characters and appear to pass less keyword value in longer URLs. If you’re page is already ranking well, skip this step. If you already have a page established and it is not performing well, create a new page and do a 301 redirect to alert the search engines of the change.
Use the exact keyword in the page title. There is a high correlation between use of your keyword in your page title and the search ranking. When search engines rank your page for a keyword, the page title tag is the most important place it should appear. This also is the text often used for the blue links found in the search engine results. I tend to use just one keyword per page title (plus my company name to help with brand recognition). This keyword should match the URL you created in step 2.
Keep page titles short. Page titles should be around 55 characters, as the new Google redesign cuts off longer ones. You want your full title to show — keep titles short and sweet.
Create content for your page. The search engines love pages with readable content. Even if your page is just products, you should aim to write at least 50 words, if not more, per page. This content should be unique and not be found anywhere else on your site. Write for your shoppers, not the search engines. Give shoppers information they can use: tips, tricks, and helpful data about the product.
Exact use of keyword in content. Use the exact keyword in your content at least once. Use it in the beginning of your content, in your first sentence. You can also use the keyword list you generated in step 1 and incorporate variations of your main keyword in your content. But be careful not to overuse your keywords – too many could be seen as keyword stuffing, which can be penalized.
Use meta descriptions. While meta descriptions do not influence rankings, those descriptions are often (but not always) used as the text below the blue link in search engine results. This text should be compelling enough to make users click on your link. This is the sales pitch, in other words. This one-to-two sentence pitch should be 150 to 160 characters, but not more or it can be cut off or changed by the search engines if it is not relevant.
Use your keyword in the meta description. If you use your main keyword in the meta description, it is more likely the engines will use your snippet in the results pages. You can use a variation of it, too, if it fits in the flow of the sentence. Users will likely see your keyword in bold, which increases your visibility on the results page.
Keywords in alt image tags. Do you have an image on your category page? Make sure you use a keyword in the image’s alt tag. It can help rank that image in image search results.
Links are important. Too many links on your page will dilute your link juice to other pages. You don’t want links pointing to outside sources either. You want to keep your visitors shopping on your site.
With these few simple steps, you can start working on a page or two on your website and monitor your results.
The month of March has plenty of opportunities for content marketers to create topical and useful content that might ultimately attract new customers and additional sales.
Content marketing is the act of creating content — articles, videos, podcasts, or other posts — and distributing that content with the aim of engaging customers and making more sales.
In March 2015, consider creating content: related to St. Patrick’s Day; how not to do something; on Pinterest; about an observance; or related to spring.
1. St. Patrick’s Day: March 17
From the content marketer’s perspective, St. Patrick’s Day offers almost limitless opportunities to share useful, interesting, or entertaining articles, posts, and videos. This means that regardless of what segment a business serves, it is possible to promote around this holiday.
Here are some examples.
Imagine an online retailer that sells used or rare books. This store could tell the real story of St. Patrick, perhaps, as an article on its blog or even in a short video published on YouTube and shared on social media. The article could discuss the circumstances of St. Patrick’s birth and his life. The article might reference rare historical books, which the merchant happens to sell.
A search for “St. Patrick’s Day” on Williams-Sonoma’s website returns 16 recipes for traditional Irish food.
An online store that sells kitchen supplies could create a different sort of content around St. Patrick’s Day, publishing several articles describing how to make traditional Irish meals. In fact, this is exactly what Williams-Sonoma has done. The store’s site has 16 recipes that show up when you search for St. Patrick’s Day, including one for corned beef and cabbage. The recipe, by the way, has been pinned on Pinterest nearly a thousand times.
Here the content marketing idea is simply to find a way to relate the industry you serve to St. Patrick’s Day.
2. Make a How-not-to Video
How-to articles and videos make for premiere content because they are inherently useful and engaging. In fact, good how-to content encourages reciprocity, wherein potential customers feel like you’ve given them something of value and, in a sense, they need to give you something in return.
In March, try turning how-to on its head and produce a how-not-to video. The idea is similar in that you’re going to offer potential customers something of value only now that value will be entertainment not utility (or perhaps both).
As an example, consider watching Mehdi Sadaghdar’s YouTube video, “How NOT to Make an Electric Guitar.” The video is not entirely safe for work thanks to the language used in it, but it is a good example of a how-not-to video, with more than 2 million views.
Art’s Cyclery, a brick-and-click retailer of bicycle parts and accessories, has a “How (Not) To: Lube Your Bike” video, which is, perhaps, a more utilitarian example of the genre, but still good content with more than 19,600 views on YouTube at the time of writing.
3. Start a New Pin Board
Pinterest is a powerful platform for sharing products and product related content.
“Each month, customers engage with our pins hundreds of thousands of times, generating millions of impressions and significant site traffic and demand,” said Bryan Galipeau, Nordstrom’s social media manager, in a Pinterest case study.
“Our goal is to inspire customers — in the way they shop, share, and pin,” Galipeau said. “One of the things we love most about Pinterest is that customers can get inspired and take an action on their own terms. In many ways, it’s the world’s largest wish list.”
Nordstrom is a master of pinning.
Small and mid-sized online retailers can take a play, if you will, from Nordstrom’s playbook, and start a new pin board in March. One of Nordstrom’s most popular boards is titled “Our Favorite Things.” It features high quality product images that are very similar to the sorts of photos many retailers are probably using on their sites.
Consider starting your own favorite things board and try to pin 300 great images in March.
4. ‘March is’ Article
Depending on who one asks, March is:
National Nutrition Month,
Red Cross Month,
Social Worker’s Month,
Women’s History Month,
Ethics Awareness Month,
Help Someone See Month,
Honor Society Awareness Month,
Humorists Are Artists Month,
International Listening Awareness Month,
International Mirth Month,
Irish-American Heritage Month,
Music in Our Schools Month,
National Collision Awareness Month,
National Craft Month,
National Kite Month,
Play the Recorder Month,
Poison Prevention Awareness Month,
National Frozen Food Month,
Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month,
Credit Education Month,
Employee Spirit Month,
International Ideas Month,
National Cheerleading Safety Month
In fact, this is only a small sample of the month-long observances in March. Nearly any marketer, regardless of segment, can find some topic for interesting and entertaining content. Here are some example titles.
“7 Reasons National Nutrition Month Matters to Your Kids”
“The 19 Best Resources for National Red Cross Month”
“A Manager’s Guide to Social Worker’s Month”
“7 Podcasts About Women’s History Month”
“Don’t Get Soaked During Umbrella Month”
“35 Heart-stopping Recipes for Peanut Month”
“11 Ways Noodle Month Can Help You Be a Better Person”
Pick a “month” that makes sense for your business, and find an interesting angle. If you need help with title ideas, check out Portent’s Content Idea Generator.
5. First Day of Spring: March 20
The vernal equinox, or first day of spring, brings warmer temperatures, longer days, and new growth. It is also an opportunity for content marketers to publish articles or videos related to the changing season.
Here again, the products a store offers can guide the sort of content it publishes. As an example, an online retailer selling art might want to create a video similar to Porch’s “How to Hang a Wall Gallery,” showing folks how to decorate a wall for spring.
As another example, Gurney’s Seed and Nursery, which sells seeds online, recently published a blog post about “Starting a Vegetable Garden,” which is just the sort of thing that new Gurney customers might like to know about in the spring.
Finally, clothing retailers might think about publishing spring fashion tips and trends.
With the new season come new opportunities for useful, entertaining, and engaging content.