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Online browsing and retail go hand-in-hand nowadays. Surprisingly, reports show 45 percent of small businesses still don’t have a website. One reason for this shocking news is retailers often overestimate the cost of setting up a website. Another reason is they feel that if they create a site, they have to have an ecommerce store and they don’t think online selling would be profitable (or achievable) for their particular business. The reality is, however, that having an online presence of any kind is beneficial, if not expected in this day and age, even if the business owner isn’t ready to sell goods online.
With that said, let’s explore some of the benefits of setting up a retail website and how it can help merchants to improve store profits from Day 1.
Customers look at online reviews to establish trust before they make a purchase. In fact, 84 percent of customers trust online peer reviews as much as recommendations from friends. When customers look for a retail store online but aren’t able to find it, this can lead to them questioning the credibility of the brand and making their final purchase with a competitor. To prevent this, retailers should double-check that their website is listed on Google, Yelp, and registered with the Better Business Bureau.
84 percent of customers trust online peer reviews as much as recommendations from friends.
Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter are where customers get their ideas for future purchases. With 59 percent of global consumers using social media for purchasing inspiration, retailers can miss out on opportunities if they aren’t taking advantage of social commerce. To get in on a piece of the action, store owners can reach customers by making streaming photos of inventory, connecting with micro-influencers in their area, and regularly putting out on-brand content on social media.
It’s no secret that online sales make up a growing portion of retail sales. Although ecommerce still only comprises about one-tenth of retail revenue, that number doesn’t take omnichannel shoppers into account. Online stores can up the value proposition of a retail business. With that said, even retailers who can’t set up an ecommerce store yet can still benefit from having an online catalog for BOPIS, curbside pick-up, or to help customers plan out in-store purchases.
Mobile browsing is a relatively new phenomenon, but it already exceeds desktop and it’s only going to keep growing. Consider that eight out of ten people use their smartphones to interact with local businesses, so there’s no retailer too small to benefit from having a mobile-optimized website. Retailers need to set their stores and their wares up to be found by customers that are looking for goods on their smartphones – which means having a website and optimizing that website for mobile use.
Retailers don’t have to have an ecommerce operation to boost profits by having an online presence. All it takes is a basic website with a store’s phone number, hours of operation, and some high-resolution images for retailers to be able to set up geo-targeting so customers can find them. Websites such as Yelp, Bing, Yahoo can all help retailers gain visibility, however, Google Search still makes up 90 percent of search engine market share.
A website creates an opportunity for retailers to market their products to customers outside the vicinity of their physical store. Once a retailer sets up their website, their business can theoretically be found by customers from all over the country. However, this doesn’t mean that retailers can set up their brand website and wait for customers to come to them… in most cases, it takes quite a bit of research and targeted promotional efforts to gain a national following.
It isn’t always easy for retailers – especially SMB – to know who their target customer actually is. With a website, however, retailers can start understanding their target customer by using the free analytics tools that some companies make available to business owners. By collecting customer data from their website and monitoring ad performance, retailers can learn how to generate traffic (and boost sales) with their target audience.
A loyalty program that only tracks in-store visits will frustrate and confuse today’s customers, who are used to loyalty programs that seamlessly follow them throughout their shopping journey. MultiChannelMerchant reports, “If the rewards structure appears confusing or time-consuming, customers are less likely to participate.” Retailers would be well-advised, then, to create a loyalty campaign that operates across multiple channels and records customer data for future campaigns.
Retailers need the ability to recruit and retain customers to build their business. Since omnichannel customers are arguably the most valuable, they should be at the forefront of every retailer’s customer acquisition strategy. Of course, engaging omnichannel customers starts on social media and through online search ads, and retailers need a strong website to direct customers to in order to reap sales from online customer traffic.
Last but not least, a retailer’s website is their 24/7 storefront. Without one, customers can only shop a brand during the set hours that their store is open, so retailers can miss out on opportunities for sales by relegating their business operations to brick and mortar. A website gives retailers the opportunity to help omnichannel customers find and shop a brand at any time and on any channel… so it’s a must-have for retailers of all sizes who want to be able to compete.
If you’re looking for ways to strengthen your online visibility and increase store traffic – whether online or offline – visit ASD Market Week’s over 100 free educational sessions and learn how to improve your retail business! Begin by registering for ASD for FREE today.
Select images courtesy of pexels.com.