How To Save Your Retail Shop By Going Online

Founder of multiple e-commerce stores, the education program eComBuilder, and the first German Shopify Education Partner.

The global retail market is currently facing an unprecedented crisis, with international supply chains shattered and many workers teetering on the edge of unemployment. While the physical retail model was already fading, the effects of the recent pandemic have accelerated the decline of traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Covid-19 has dislocated businesses small and large, and those without an online presence have been left struggling for survival. As someone who helps business owners build e-commerce sites, I’ve seen firsthand how having an online store, or lack of, can impact their business. However, simply having e-commerce ability isn’t enough, and as we continue to witness the downfall of traditional retail, smartly leveraging an online presence could be the difference between folding and thriving.

Create limitless availability.

By operating on a limited working day model, traditional brick-and-mortar businesses are missing out on an incredible opportunity to maximize sales. Though some physical stores like gas stations and a tiny selection of fast-food restaurants have been known to operate around the clock, they are few and far between.

Instead, move your business online to open it up to the public 24 hours a day, all-year-round. With the opportunity to browse your products or services at any time of the day or night, prospective customers are free to place orders or make inquiries at their leisure. Online shopping has been shown to increase after 6 p.m. while most people unwind after normal working hours. This means even if your physical doors are closed at that time, you can follow up on any activity upon your return the day after.

In order to drive traffic to your site during these peak hours, start with an email marketing campaign. Send out emails to your existing customers with incentives to shop during these hours. 

Encourage impulse buys.

By having a website presence, you can capitalize on impulse buying and use various e-commerce strategies to maximize their sales. There are several ways to do this. Conditional free shipping, for example, is a system favored by many retail giants, which you can use, too. By calculating your average order value (AOV), you can implement a threshold on your e-commerce website to allow free shipping for any orders that exceed a certain amount. This tactic encourages shoppers to spend more money before completing checkout, which increases the AOV and as a result, boosts profits.

Additionally, you can utilize scarcity tactics, a method in which you add a countdown or timer to show the proposed limited availability of a product. People have a tendency to give more value to items that are in short supply, so using this approach can increase your conversion rates. Take some time to familiarize yourself with scarcity, urgency and social proof in order to convert the largest amounts of visitors.

While there is certainly a playbook full of specific tactics for encouraging impulse buys in physical stores, those methods simply don’t have the same level of exposure to modern consumers. This means online stores can welcome shoppers at all times of the day and feed into their impulse buying.

Expose your local operation to the global market.

The international potential of online stores is an ever-present, yet often forgotten benefit of e-commerce. It’s the online market that allows retailers to sell to people all over the globe. By moving your business to the web you can immediately open up to an exponentially wider audience, thus providing more opportunities to ride global trends and maximize your sales.

Since websites are not limited by space or location, you can literally welcome thousands of visitors to your online store at any given moment, which generally won’t be possible with a traditional brick-and-mortar store. There’s also the added benefit of leveraging the power of social media and content marketing to drive more traffic to your online store. Both methods are effective and inexpensive ways to get another source of targeted prospects that can be turned into buying customers. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you take on too much too quickly. My tip would be starting out as simple as possible — choose one market or country and begin marketing and selling to it. Once you feel confident enough, move to the next one.

What’s next for retailers?

As technology becomes ever more prominent in our daily lives, it comes as no surprise that e-commerce is having such a big influence on buying habits. While the appeal of physical retail certainly exists, online shopping is undoubtedly taking over with 2.14 billion people expected to buy their goods and services online by 2021.

If the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s the need for retailers to evolve. The surge in online shopping isn’t a temporary change as the consumer market is unlikely to ever return to its pre-pandemic standing. Companies that are looking to establish themselves in the “new normal” of retail must act now to establish or consolidate their online presence. Doing so is key to survival.

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