Chances are, when you opened your store you imagined merchandising, serving your customers, and providing an incredible in-store experience. And then, over the last five years, things really began to shift.
Even before COVID, eCommerce sales were becoming a larger percentage of total retail sales year by year. Customers were shopping online more and more. And 2020 came along and moved that further than anyone could have imagined.
And most brick and mortar retailers showed up and created new ways to engage their customers through eCommerce stores, live selling, and showing up on social more than ever before. We did it because we had to – no one was leaving their house.
And now, the foot traffic is back (yay!!!) but, as you’ve noticed, customers’ habits have changed. That person who was shopping online for 5% of their purchases before is now shopping online for 20% of their purchases.
This tells us two huge things:
- Brick-and-mortar retail isn’t going anywhere. Customers still want that in-store experience and rightfully so. The nay-sayers that said 2020 was going to be the death of the storefront were proved wrong and the retailers with a great experience and great products are here to stay.
- To remain competitive, eCommerce has to be a major part of a successful brick and mortar retailer’s sales strategy.
Assuming you already have an online store (if you don’t, keep reading because this will help you avoid some major mistakes), the question comes down to “How do we increase our online sales?” And then we want to ask, “How do we use eCommerce to also increase our IN-STORE sales?”
Shifting Our Approach
Most of us started brick-and-mortar stores and that is central to our brand.
And that makes sense. The store is where we help people. It’s where we answer questions and guide our customers to what will solve their problems (problems can be as simple as “I need something cute to wear to X”).
Then, we launched online and our site was about the store.
This is the first mistake. Why? Because customers visit our site to solve their problem and if we try to have them “experience” the store via your site, it falls flat because that experience can only happen in-store.
What would that look like? Imagine someone walking into a store and asking for help and we say “oh yes, we’d love to help you. Here are all the ways we can help you!” And they say “Great, let’s do this”, to which we say “great, you’ll just need to visit us 2 miles away and we can help”. We would never do that but how many of us do this with our online stores?
Instead, we want to take a New Retail approach. We go from being a store to being a brand.
The brand has a voice, values, flaws, and is ultimately what has a connection with your customer. The brand is obsessed with serving its customers.
And out of that brand comes an in-store experience, an online experience, a social media experience, and on and on.
Wherever our customers engage us, they get the same feeling and ultimately, all those spaces can serve the customer without having to go to a different channel.
When that customer from before visits the site, we’ve built an online experience fully capable of solving their problem. When they visit our store, we’ve done the same.
Finding The Leaky Bucket
Once we launch online, the first area most people focus on is getting more people to see it.
We get more active on social, we start sending more emails, we might even start doing Facebook ads (all good things).
Sometimes this works but I get on calls almost everyday with retailers doing all these things to little results and we get to dive into why their online sales aren’t where they should be.
It always comes down to one (or 2 or 3) of the three core pillars:
- Getting more people to our site (aka Traffic). Obviously, no one is going to buy things if no one sees it.
- Turning those people into paying customers (aka Conversion). Providing an experience that makes people actually complete their purchase.
- Getting our customers to come back and buy again (aka Retention). It takes a lot of work to get someone to buy, we want those that actually did make a purchase to come back and buy again and again.
Most of the time, people focus on traffic. From improving SEO to upping their social game, getting more traffic can quickly feel like running in circles with little progress and no real explanation of “Why the $*% isn’t this working!?!”
Some double down and get busier than ever in increasing traffic and others throw their hands up and quit. Both of these will not get us closer to where we’re wanting to go – why?
Behind most “traffic” problems is really a “conversion” problem.
If we’re not getting sales from the traffic we already have then it doesn’t make sense to double down on getting even more traffic.
It’s like filling a bucket with holes in the bottom. No matter how much water goes in, it leaks out with no results.
Want to improve your conversion rate? (PS – I put together a free training called “The Conversion Effect” that goes step by step into exactly where to start in fixing this. You can get access to that HERE)
Though we have a bunch of resources on this, here’s the brief version of the major areas to start:
- Site Function – Yep, this is the basics but don’t skip this. Does your site function as it’s supposed to? Do buttons work right? When your customer clicks “Tops”, does it take them to your tops collection or to something else?
- Connection – When your customer visits your site, do they instantly know they are in the right place? We do this by using imagery that our customers see themselves in, people that show a lifestyle they either are or aspire to.
- Showing your “superpower” – You probably do something pretty great for your customers. You are the place to get a cute dress or get great pieces for that upcoming vacation and we want to showcase that clearly. We do this in our navigation, imagery, and copy.
- Service – Do we serve customers online like we would in-store? When someone walks in a store looking for dresses, do we just show them 3 dresses or do we ask a follow up question about the occasion, length, etc.. Start with asking “How do my customers shop and what questions do they ask?” And build that into each section of your site.
There’s more to it (our founder and CEO, Josh Orr, put together a free training, check it out here) but these are the core areas to focus on and will move the needle in your online success.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships
When a tide comes in and rises, all the ships rise with it. As your sales channels improve, they should all improve.
Did you know that when we can get a customer to shop with us in multiple sales channels (like, an in-store shopper also going online) we can improve their lifetime value by up to 30%!
Think about that – if we gain no new customers, we can increase our revenue by 30%.
Why? Because if they feel like shopping in-store, we’re front of mind. They want to shop online, we’re front of mind.
A lot of retailers are nervous that pushing people online will hurt their store sales but we’ve only seen the opposite.
How do we do this? In your email flows, consider sending a thank you email to in-store purchasers and include your new arrivals collection (we love Klaviyo for this!). When someone shops online and they’re within a certain distance, invite them in-store or showcase that you have in-store exclusives.
Our goal is to be a brand that serves customers everywhere and the more places we can be in-front of them, the more likely they are to buy.
As we move into a challenging economy, the retailers that implement these ideas will be poised to thrive and if you’ve made it this far, we have a good feeling you’ll be one of them.
Our encouragement is to grow in curiosity of what your customers respond to and be willing to make changes quickly.
We’d also like to invite you to get one on one help in developing and fully implementing this plan. We offer free 40 minute strategy sessions where we dive into your eCommerce goals and what’s standing in the way of you getting there.
These calls are valuable for successful brick and mortar retailers ready to either launch online for the first time or wanting to take their eCommerce experience to the next level.
They’re not great for retailers who don’t have a great in-store experience or are only looking to give a less-than-great experience online.
These are free but spots are limited. If this sounds like you, grab a time and answer some questions here > streamlineretail.com/schedule.
To your future success.