Adding Clicks to Your Bricks: Tips for Taking Your Retail Business Online

Establishing a strong retail business can be challenging, but once you have solidified a brick-and-mortar base, adding e-commerce to the mix is a natural next step. These quick tips will guide you to online success as your business grows.

1. First thing’s first

74% of adult smartphone owners ages 18 and older say they use their phone to get directions or other information based on their current location. Are they finding you? Before even thinking about an e-commerce site, let’s stop cover a few things to check off your to-do list first.  The overwhelming majority of purchases still happen in-store and it’ll be that way for the foreseeable future, so make sure you make it easy for shoppers to discover your physical store… where most of your revenue will still come from after you start selling online.

Location, location, location

Make sure you are easily found. These are all steps you can take even before having a website or e-commerce store, and this article gives step-by-step instructions to help you.

  • Create a Google Places listing
  • Create a Google+ profile and Google+ Local listing
  • Claim your Facebook Places Page
  • Create or claim your business listing on Foursquare
  • Claim your Yahoo! Local listing
  • Claim your business page on Yelp

A bare bones website

Now, it’s time to get a website up and running. But this doesn’t mean you have to set up an online store already. It’s okay to start slow, but you have to start somewhere. At the very least, this starting point is a fast and easy way for shoppers to find you and tell them about your store.

  • Set up a domain name using GoDaddy or a similar service.
  • Get web hosting (via a service such as HostGator). When it comes to the company that keeps your store alive, this is imperative. Your business will be relying heavily on this third-party hosting company.
  • Set up your email using your domain name. By establishing an email address such as [email protected] (as opposed to an address like [email protected]), you significantly increase credibility as a retailer. You can get free email through HostGator, but Google Apps for Business is another great option if you don’t mind spending $5/user per month.
  • Let’s start small… Get one page up on your website that, at the very least, includes your address, phone number and email address.

2. Sell through another channel before your e-commerce store is open

Here’s another quick win… After you’ve made sure shoppers can find you and before jumping into a lengthy process of launching your online store, give your shoppers the ability to buy from you from their phones from the comfort of their home, yes, without an e-commerce site. You can offer your customers an engaging mobile shopping app in a matter of hours with ShoppinPal. This way, shoppers nearby can discover your store, browse your inventory and make purchases using the retail app, taking advantage of an additional sales channel while you’re building your e-commerce store and setting the stage for your online store’s debut.

3. It’s time to build your online store

Okay, so you’ve completed the quick and easy steps, and now it’s time to dig in and get your hands dirty and do some heavy lifting to get your online store up and running. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but these pointers should give you a good head start.

  • Choose your e-commerce platform
  • Add items to your online store. This step can take some time, so use these tips to be prepared and be efficient during this exercise.
    • Do you have high quality images of your items? If not, you may want to invest in a good camera in order to make your products shine.
    • Do you have product descriptions of the items? This can be one of the most time consuming exercises for a successful online store. Be sure you write original, descriptive, and lively product details for each and every item. After all, it’s not just the convenience that drives shoppers to buy online, but also the wealth of product information to help them with purchase decisions.
    • Is your inventory frequently changing? If so, the ongoing management can be very time consuming and pose an additional challenge in retail sales online. Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time managing these product listings yourself, or delegate this task to a team member that will be your point person for the online store.
  • Optimize the checkout experience so that your shoppers have the least amount of clicks possible to buy from you. The last thing you want to see on your online store’s dashboard is tons of abandoned carts.
  • Speaking of abandoned carts, be sure to set up automatic abandoned cart recovery emails so shoppers can easily revisit their cart and complete their purchase if they happen to get lost in the Wrold Wide Web before they actually buy something.
  • Just as you do in your store, make customer service a top priority online as well. Aim to deliver a site that is both aesthetically pleasing, thoughtfully functional and easy to find contact information.

4. Make your e-Ccmmerce store Google-friendly

Getting your store up and running is only half the battle. Now, it’s time for the never-ending efforts to optimize your site and your product listings so that shoppers find you online instead of your competitors.

  • Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to choose appropriate keywords to boost your company’s online presence as well as the visibility of each and every item you sell.
  • Link to other websites and vice versa. This will give your site greater visibility in Google Search results and via other companies.
    Frequently update content. Make sure to stay on top of new and changing trends that may affect the content on your site.
  • Submit your site manually to search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Bing) and optimize SEO rankings.
    Using manufacturer or distributor product descriptions on your simply won’t cut it. How many retailers do you think take the easy way out and copy and paste? You need unique product descriptions and keyword rich image names that set you apart from the others and give you the best opportunity to be found online.

5. Engage and build community with social media

Now it’s time to attract visitors to your online store by engaging with shoppers online where they hang out while telling them a bit about your store and products while you’re at it.

  • Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social platforms to your best advantage.
  • Whichever platform you choose, be sure to add buttons on your website encouraging people to follow, like, and connect with your company and your products.
  • Consider setting up the ability to sell through Facebook. Shopify and Volusion also make this very easy.

6. Don’t stop there

Having a great online presence is a continuous effort, and it takes an all-around approach utilizing various channels and techniques to see the most value.

  • Don’t forget to use newsletters (via email subscriptions) to update your customers and advertise new products, deals and sales. If you don’t currently use an email marketing solution, MailChimp is hard to beat.
  • Once you have optimized your site, blogging is a great means of keeping it that way. Search engines love original, organic content, and one of the most effective ways of keeping your site fresh and search engine-friendly is to incorporate a blog on your site. This also provides a great way to engage with and solicit feedback from your customers.
  • Finally, Google Analytics provides insight into how people find and use your website. This will help your business gain valuable knowledge of customer behavior and further, will help you make educated decisions on how you will improve your online retail presence.

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