Want to move your brick and mortar store online or wants to have an online store parallel to your offline business?
It takes strategic thinking and planning to foresee the possibilities, overcome the challenges, and capitalise on the opportunities. These 12 steps, we believe, will provide a practical guideline for you to move your brick & mortar store online.
Step 01 – Define and Keep SMART Goals
The idea of setting goals is anything but new to the business owners. But SMART goals are somewhat different.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. SMART goals, based on these 5 requirements, are used widely in online commerce.
That’s because SMART goals are data-driven, and data is much easier to acquire in the digital sphere.
Simply stated, moving your goals online is the first step to moving your brick & mortar store online.
Let’s take a look at an example of a SMART goal:
S – Specific
Get detailed and specific with your goals. Don’t define goals like ‘sell more products’ or ‘increase average order value per customer, try these instead:
- Sell 25% more plain white T-shirts by the end of November.
- Increase average order value per customer by 20% over Christmas.
M – Measurable
Make sure you can measure the progress of your goals. Don’t define goals like ‘increase good reviews’, attempt this instead:
- Get an increase of 15% more 4 and 5-star reviews by the end of the year.
- Get a 4-star overall review rating on Trustpilot.
A – Achievable
Be realistic with your goals, especially when you’re just starting up online. Don’t have goals like ‘bring in the same amount of revenue that I had offline’, try this instead:
- Aim for 60% of offline revenue by the end of the year. Then 80% by the end of the next year and begin taking in more revenue in 2 years.
R – Relevant
Prioritise the right goals for your step into e-commerce. Don’t keep goals like ‘increase inventory range by 50%’, try these instead:
- Aim for 2000 page views a month.
- Sell my first 10 products.
- Get my first product review on-site.
T – Time-bound
Always set a deadline for your goals. Don’t set goals like ‘increase traffic to the blog’, try this instead:
- Increase blog traffic by 15% by the end of this month, then by 20% by the end of April.
When it comes to setting SMART goals, data is your best friend. Garner as much data about your store’s online performance as possible; it’s going to let you know exactly what to aim for and exactly how you’re doing.
Step 02: Turn your Buyer Personas into Online Buyer Personas
A classic misguided notion that some sellers cling to is that in converting their brick and mortar to eCommerce they’ll be selling to the same kinds of customers.
Certainly, your staunchly loyal customers would probably have no problem shifting their buying online. But like we said before, having an online store will likely bring you a lot more traffic from customers and places you’ve never even thought possible before.
To gain a firm footing in eCommerce, you must have at least a rough idea of what customers you’ll be attracting online, that is, you need online buyer personas.
Figuring out online buyer personas helps you visualise your different types of digital customer. They’re based on information such as…
- Buying motivations
- Pain points
For instance, let’s say you run a brick-and-mortar fashion store in Sri Lanka. Your typical buyer here might be 18-30 females and live in and around the local area. When your store heads online, your customer base will naturally broaden.
The easiest way to get an idea of how this will come about is to find an online store that sells similar products around your area, and then use their customer base as the foundation for your online personas.
You can get super-valuable information on all the points above from your competitors’ social media pages and online reviews. If they do any email marketing, you can also subscribe to their emails to see how they address their customers.
Remember, all you need at this point is just a general idea for your personas. The further down your eCommerce journey you get, the more information you will have on your customers and the more advanced your buyer personas will become.
Step 03: Pick & Choose your Products
Since the online space is practically limitless compared to physical store space, you may be strongly tempted to move all your inventory online. As we see it, it’s not a very astute choice because inundating your online store with inventory could make it exceedingly difficult for you to organise and feature them online; if you cut corners to accommodate it all there, it wouldn’t make a favourable impression on your shoppers, either.
While you’re learning to swim in the digital marketplace, it’s always best to dip your toes in, rather than dive head-first.
Start by offering just the products that appeal strongest to your online customers. These could be…
- Your top 15 best-selling products.
- Your most lightweight and easy-to-ship products.
- Your most unique products that encourage sharing on social media.
Selecting an absolute maximum of 100 products means that…
- Your online catalogue is not overcrowded and hard to search.
- You don’t have to spend too much time adding product descriptions and images.
- You don’t have to worry about how shipping will work across your catalogue.
Of course, when you’ve established more of your store, you can move the rest of your products online. But at the outset, you must keep things as simple as possible.
Step 04: Select your Platform
It’s never a cakewalk to enter the great digital unknown, but remember, you’re never doing it alone.
eCommerce platforms have been enabling millions of traditional merchants to bring their brick & mortar stores online since the mid-'00s.
Depending on your budget and expectations, you can decide whether to opt for an e-commerce platform or a custom eCommerce site.
If you’re an SME, we’d strongly recommend you ShopOnCloud, a dynamic, innovative and easy-to-use eCommerce Platform that’s highly affordable.
Step 05: Pick your Domain Name
This step is deceptively simple. But you must think long and hard before you decide on your domain name.
Your domain name will essentially constitute your store’s identity online. It’s what appears in the address bar of shoppers’ browsers when they’re in your store.
It’s tempting to just use your business’ usual name, which can keep the flow of your accumulated brand identity, but getting your digital store noticed online means that you need a name that’s quite search-friendly.
A search-friendly name has two audiences:
- Your customers – Customers love short, catchy names that are easy to remember. Many of these customers will be typing this name into their search bar, so keep it simple!
- Google – Google likes domain names that are clear for online searchers. Having a name that matches the keyword that your customers will be searching for is a big tick in Google’s books.
Coming up with a domain name that appeals to both man and machine can (and should!) be a thought-provoking process. Take time and mull it over.
Step 06: Set Up Payment
There’s a certain checklist to attend to after selecting your eCommerce Platform. Nearly at the top of this list is setting up payments for your new online store.
All eCommerce payments go through a payment gateway. Payment gateways such as PayPal, Stripe and Visa are vital tools that securely transfer transactional information between you and your customer.
However, there are certain disadvantages when using a mandatory payment gateway. The biggest of these is the fact that they cost you money for every sale that takes place in your store.
Even if you may not get how the payment gateways function, you’ll still have to have one set up for yours and it’ll be a piece of cake to set it up.
Step 07: Set up Shipping
Why many brick and mortar store owners baulk at moving online is because of the conundrum of shipping.
Let’s face the fact: shipping can be both complicated and expensive.
Still, it’s one of the hits you’ve got to take if you intend to take your brick-and-mortar store online.
As a rule of thumb, make your shipping policy simple and clear. Simplify the delivery process as much as possible and be crystal clear with your customers about shipping costs and times. Also, you can offer free shipping (this may work where you deliver normal products locally and the shipping cost is almost negligible), get an order tracking app and opt for a fulfilment partner.
Step 08: Build the Essential Pages
Where this is out of your depth, you can hire a professional eCommerce Solutions Company or an expert freelancer to design and develop your eCommerce web pages. Essentially you need a homepage, product pages, collection pages, shipping & return page, and about us page for a fair launch.
However, with ShopOnCloud you can continue to add your pages and manage them easily or seek our help.
Step 09: Configure Google Analytics or other alternatives to it
As we stated earlier, all of your goals and decisions online must be backed by data. The data you gather about your site and your customers' interactions are going to be hugely influential on the direction of your online store.
So, naturally, you’re going to want to set up this data collection system before you draw a single customer.
First, where do you get that data? Google Analytics is by far the most popular, but there are other alternatives to choose from.
Any website tracking system provides you with these critical data points:
- How your customers find your site.
- Your most popular landing pages.
- How many visitors buy something on your site
- How much your customers spend on average each during a visit
With the exact numbers that Google Analytics and other like-minded software provide you with, you’ll be well-informed about the steps you should be taking to expand your store.
Step 10: Set up your Email Marketing
Whereas brick and mortar shops tend to bank largely on word-of-mouth for spreading news, one of the most effective ways for online shops to get their message out is through email.
Instead of hoping that news spreads far enough, email allows you to send out targeted messages to your subscribers and measure how effective each message has been in bringing those subscribers to your store.
Getting email addresses in the first place, though, can take some time and patience.
Step 11: Compose a Classy ‘Coming Soon’ Landing Page
A ‘coming soon page is a type of landing page, which is a specialised page that draws in visitors and converts them with a single call-to-action.
You can use a ‘coming soon page to collect email addresses. That’s the call-to-action that you want first and foremost when you’re taking a brick & mortar store online.
Again, using discounts to cajole these email addresses from your visitors on your ‘coming soon page is a great way to start.
In addition to gathering email addresses, there are other important benefits that a coming soon page yields.
- To test your brand voice – Many traditional (offline) business operators don’t consider what tone of voice they will use with their customers when they move online. You can test a landing page many times before your store launch, so you can see which tone of voice appeals and converts the best. Knowing what works helps you decide on a voice for the rest of your store.
- To get your crowd excited – There’s nothing that builds curiosity and excitement about a new online store quite like a well-designed ‘coming soon page. A good Coming Soon page is to your online store what a good trailer is to a film. Get your copy, your images and your design right, and you could have potential customers counting down the days until you open.
Step 12: Be Mobile-Friendly
You’re most unlikely to open a cash-only brick and mortar store nowadays, just as you certainly wouldn’t open a desktop-only store online.
It’s long been held that shopping on mobile devices (or mCommerce) is the future, but the future is becoming the present exceedingly fast.
According to Simicart, mCommerce has been enjoying a 33.8% YoY increase and still does in 2021, reaching a value of $3.56 trillion this year.
Therefore it is important to subscribe to an eCommerce service that provides you with a fully responsive eCommerce website that can be accessed across devices from mobile phones to tabs and laptops.