Nearly all businesses now need an online presence to succeed and grow. The number of people that shop online continues to grow. If you have a retail store, market store or sell at craft fairs you and your customers want to be able to continue to connect with your business after they buy from you – your physical store will become more and more about personal experience and showcasing what you can do. An online presence widens your potential market and enables you to sell outside of your local area so you can compete with online stores. For example if you have a gift shop in a tourist area you can then continue to sell to your customers who just visit you whilst in that area and they in turn can recommend you to their friends. You can capture more business from busy Mum’s who can’t always get in to shop and end up buying elsewhere online.
An online presence does not have to be a website – it can be social media in the form of Instagram, Facebook Store, Etsy or Not on the High Street . Modern marketing is all about the social connection and trust. The modern retailer needs to make these social connections . It is important with every sale that you get where possible an email address so that you can continue to market to the customer after their purchase – as an incentive to do this you can offer a voucher off their next purchase. ‘A thank you for your custom’ email with the voucher and then a link to your online store front will then encourage future business. Many of the big successful retailers do this and for good reason. Have a think about places you like to shop and ask yourself why – what are they doing differently and how could we mimic this or improve on it? Take a look at their social media, blogs and email communications for ideas.
The quality of the communication that you have with your customer is so important as you can’t sell to them all the time – sharing relevant and interesting articles or cute/funny images/quotes, asking for their feedback on new product ranges , important dates to remember ie Mother’s Day or offering new services are all reason to make contact as well as sharing new product information, competitions and special promotions. There are many great email easy to use marketing tools – many of them free or very low cost for smaller mailing lists take a look at Mailchimp as an example.
As a minimum make sure you have a Facebook business page as we have many successful customers that only sell on Facebook and Ebay without the expense of a website.Their advertising is good value and easy to understand. Once you have established yourself by all means get a website and then use your email and social media to drive traffic to it.
The beauty of selling online is that you can promote a much wider range of products – its one of the reason many of our pack sizes are in two’s so that our retailers can stock a much wider range of products. One pitfall we do see with online businesses is selling items they do not physically have or do not update their listings regularily and then find they can not get the product any longer when it sells. You can normally tell if an item sells or gets a lot of interest within 48 hours you need to then buy a larger quantity – this way you sell more through much quicker and have stock of the right products.
Do not focus on being the cheapest – you need to be competitive but you can bundle items together, add value by including the item into a gift hamper etc look at your shipping costs – use an shipping aggregator like Parcel Monkey so that you can offer the similar pricing to the larger retail businesses. Competing on price usually on goes one way!
Payment method is also another big factor in your success as customers need to be able to pay simply and quickly. The quickest way is to use Paypal as most people these days are familiar with this , there are also many other payment providers that you can use that have an easy online console. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) also have discounted rates with merchant service providers for their members and some great advise and support .
Do your research, think about how you can make it as easy as possible for customers to buy from you and keep communicating!