You've hit that point where your brick and mortar store is no longer improving its revenues.
You crave growth, but it seems like many customers are more comfortable purchasing online, and you're just not sure about the transition.
Well, we're here to tell you that migrating your physical store to an online platform is one of the easiest processes you're going to encounter as a business owner. Why is this the case? Because the online world is already setup for you to succeed, and since you've already taken on areas like marketing, inventory management and customer service, you're a pro at the really hard stuff.
You may still have some concerns about the whole online business thing, so keep reading to learn more about why it's such a huge advantage to pair an online store with your brick and mortar shop. After that, we'll outline the steps you need to make in order to successfully launch an online store that integrates perfectly with your existing physical business.
What are the Benefits of Selling Online (In Addition to At Your Physical Store)
What many brick and mortar store owners don't realize is that it's much easier to transition to an online store when you have an already established business. Think about it. Your inventory is already there, you have a customer base and you already know what it takes to run a business in terms of marketing, infrastructure and customer relations.
However, some physical store owners still need convincing. The cool part is that there's a good chance you have a leg up on your online competition already. Here are some advantages of having both an online and physical store:
- You can promise a few hour delivery service if a customer is close to your brick and mortar store but wants to buy online.
- Provide a “pick up in store” service.
- Send out localized ads that focus on people in your area, surpassing the marketing efforts of online companies that cater to a wider market.
- You have the chance to cross promote your physical and online stores. Tell people to come into your store for a promotion on your website, or even tell people in-store that they can get a coupon if they shop online with you as well.
- More personalized events are possible with brick and mortar stores, so you can have a product showcase or community barbecue to give people a chance to get their hands on merchandise before buying.
The Steps to Successfully Move Your Brick and Mortar Store Online
Whether you're making a complete migration from physical to online store, or you'd like to complement your current brick and mortar sales with an ecommerce shop, you have a fairly simple process for getting up and running online.
Are you ready? Let's get started:
Step 1: Signup for an Ecommerce Platform
Starting off, you need a platform for managing your website, showcasing your products and accepting payments. Hundreds of solutions are available, but you can generally choose from two types: A commercial out-of-the-box ecommerce website builder or a self-hosted website.
A commercial out-of-the-box system is something like Shopify, Bigcommerce, Volusion or Big Cartel. Each has tools for designing a website quickly, uploading your products, managing search engine optimization and more. Many marketing tools are already included, and you can generally export a copy of your product list to import it into the ecommerce catalog. For beginners, one of these solutions is your best bet, since they offer hosting, domain names, design tools and more, all in one package.
The other option for you is to go with an opensource self-hosted website. This gives you more control, and you can typically scale better, but it may require a little more technical knowledge. For example, you'll have to go out and find your own hosting provider to store your site files. One popular opensource solution for this is Magento, but most beginners go with the WordPress/WooCommerce combination.
Part of this process entails selecting the items you'd like to sell online. So you'd be wise to go through your catalog and start with your best selling options. The goal is to keep your inventory manageable, but also to maintain a solid selection of products on your site. Keep in mind that just because you sell an item in your physical store doesn't mean it must be placed on your ecommerce shop.
Step 2: Signup with a Merchant Account to Collect Online Payments
With systems like Shopify and Bigcommerce, merchant accounts and payment processors are integrated directly into the system. You still have to signup for the third-party account, but it's all done in the platform's dashboard. As for a solution like WooCommerce, you must go to the website of a merchant account, say Authorize.net, and setup your plan. Then, WooCommerce offers a field for you to specify which type of merchant account company you're using.
To clarify, a merchant account is the company that collects your payments and approves them throughout the checkout process. The money gets stored in this account and it goes along with a payment processor to ensure that fraudulent purchases are minimized.
Step 3: Setup Your Online Marketing Strategy
If you've already started marketing through places like social media, email newsletters and search engines, you're on the right track. However, once your online store is launched, you can now start sending traffic to your shop. For example, you may hold a promotion on Facebook that sends people to a certain product page, or you might implement an email subscriber form on the homepage of your website.
Step 4: Consider Going with a Web Based Point of Sale System
You may discover that your current POS integrates well with your online store. If that's the case, you can skip this step. If not, consider signing up for a system like Vend, which brings together your physical and online sales. It works perfectly with Shopify, and you can even integrate with other solutions like Bigcommerce.
Step 5: Try a Solution for Integrated Bookkeeping
You'll want to keep track of all your bills, expenses and transactions in one place, so we recommend opting for the Xero, especially if you go with Shopify. It's a wonderful online bookkeeping solution, and you can connect it with your online store and the Vend program to keep everything in the right place.
Now that you've had a chance to understand what it takes to build an ecommerce store for your brick and mortar shop, drop us a line in the comments to let us know how it's going. If you've already made the transition, share your thoughts!