So As A Retailer What Are You Doing About It?

This should come as no surprise – your customers are window shopping on Windows.

If the opportunity is there (which is becoming more and more prevalent), they would rather spend their hard-earned money through the Internet, both for price and convenience, than at a bricks and mortar outfit. In 2009, Canadians rang in $15.1B in online sales, compared to $12.8B in 2007 (reference). And this happened during the peak of the global economic recession. Though the stats are not yet in for 2010, it seems very likely that the amount will be even higher.

Yet despite such a vast arena of consumption that continues to grow in leaps and bounds, many small retailers still are not seeing the forest for the trees. Yes, there is a learning curve to the online sales process: website, shopping cart, payment processing system, security program, shipping terms, currency, packaging, delivery service, customer support, and of course marketing (shameless plug). A number of these elements are not necessary when you are running a physical storefront. As an owner/operator you wear plenty of hats already, so the idea of e-commerce can be very daunting. Along with the rise of mobile connectivity and every imaginable app you can think of to help with purchasing decisions, the fear of adoption is compounded exponentially. How do you keep your head above water?

For starters, retailers need to understand that the shopping landscape has changed, and if they DON’T adopt, they WILL fall behind. If they are not prepared to invest in this change, they will see their revenues decline.

What they also need need to recognize is that much of the change that’s required isn’t revolutionary – they would merely be extensions of what you are already doing.

Web Presence

Fundamentals: product and company descriptions, standard sitemap, contact us page, resources

Fundamentals+: e-commerce, customer testimonials, customization/participation for users, SEO, regular updates, site analytics

Customer Service

Fundamentals: email/phone support, on the floor support

Fundamentals+: reviewing forums, blogs, community boards for company impressions, communicating via social media

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Save for possibly SEO and the initial capital to set up a shopping cart system for your website, everything else is pretty low budget and low maintenance. They just need to become routine, and that’s usually the biggest hurdle for more retailers. Wrapping their head around sending out regular Tweets or trolling discussion boards will take time, but should be as habitual as setting the alarm in your store. If you don’t know where and how to get started, ASK SOMEONE. It may be overwhelming at first, but set some small benchmarks and don’t feel you need to arm yourself with every single tactic before moving forward. Like Nike said, Just Do It.

For further reading, check out this article on customers’ progression to online shopping, published by RetailCustomerExperience.com.

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