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Build it and they may come

Just about everyone who owns a retail outlet has thought about making the move to an online shop front. GAVIN MOFFAT gives some advice to consider when making the move.

Practically everyone in a bricks and mortar business has considered the move to an online shop front. If you haven’t made the move, here are a couple of the items you need to take into consideration?

Strategic fit: Look at your business and decide whether the time, effort, focus and expense is justified in the returns that you will make.

Competitor analysis: Look around. Make a list of the business that you compete with. Have a look and see what they are doing.

Go. No go: You should have sufficient information to decide whether going online is right for you and remember, there is no single right answer. Each business segment, type, and size may have a different answer.

Ecommerce solution provider: You’ve decided that it’s the right path and now you have to look around for a reputable service provider who has a track record of proven online success. Don’t accept second best, it is your brand reputation at stake.

Focus: on marketing a niche product. Define a set of boundaries in which to focus and keep within them. Focus on the needs of your customers and they will return.

Plan and go live: Plan the development and implementation of your web site. Define and implement strategies for your web site. Be realistic about your expectation, include a testing phase and then when the ducks are in a row, go live. Fix your site on the fly.

Automation rules: Automate as many features as you can. Things should happen and you should earn revenue 24X7 with as little human intervention (at least from your side) as possible.

Accept money: ensure that you have all the correct banking relationships in place and you can accept practically every form of payment that a customer wants to use.

Credibility: Too often people believe that online = anonymous. Ooze credibility by providing your physical address, your telephone number and any third party accreditations from bodies that are relevant to your industry.

Privacy: Customers are concerned about what you are going to do with their data. Explain how you will keep the data private and then stick to that.

Eye candy: make you website fit into the 21st century. Use the tools that are available to make your site attractive and up to date, but don’t go wild with bells and whistles. Remember that the functionality of your site will win a customer over 9 times out of 10.

Mine that data: A well-designed web site should produce plenty of data including customer feedback, web site usage and transaction and purchase patterns. Analyse the data to improve sales.

Promotion: Use all avenues to promote the store and specials. Buy Google Ad Words. Use search engine optimisation (SEO). Tell your mother.

Please come back: Give your customer a reason to come back, exactly as you would in the real world. A good special. Great service. Excellent product selection. To their door delivery.

Not every shop belongs online as well as in the shopping mall. If yours does, shouldn’t you be thinking about making the move?

* Follow Gavin Moffat on Twitter on @GavinMoffat

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