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Retail + Internet = Ecommerce + Profit

The internet and retail world have been moving together slowly over time; much like the tectonic plates. While some of us have been holding our breaths for the cataclysmic collision; others have been pondering the possible outcome.

The outcome, my dear readers, is the formula in the title!

Now, I don’t profess to be a scientific or mathematical brainiac. The only pie I know is the one that smells dam good straight from the oven and slides into the belly with a satisfying ‘Mmmmm’. But genius or not, I think I’m onto a winner. No. I KNOW I am.

And here’s why:

The humble retailer’s story

Over the last 24 months, traditional retail businesses have been radically adjusting their retail outlets to counteract the changes in the economy. During the good times, less emphasis was placed on price, but since 2008, retailers of all sizes have been evaluating how they can stay profitable AND cut costs.
After trying and failing with the usual techniques since the ‘blip’ (we’ll just call it a blip, as it sounds better), the threat of liquidation has forced businesses to look at options that they never truly considered.

Enter the internet

Over the same 24 months, CG Online HQ have been approached by a number of retailers who are, either looking to move their business online for the first time, or feel that there is more opportunity online and that they have little understanding of how to make their existing online shop work.
This is music to our ears, because when it comes to digital investment, there’s little point in sitting on the fringes. You have to believe in it, invest in it, understand where potential lies, plan for it and implement a strategy to take that potential to its logical conclusion. It this case – retail + internet = ecommerce + profit.

Add in a few statistics

If the figures are correct, online sales will surpass $1.25 trillion in 20131, with roughly 3.5 billion internet users1. China is growing at 130% a year1. Business to consumer trade was $961 billion in 2011 (1).

According to Cisco (2), over 46% of college students buy more online than in person in the US. By 2013 that will be over 50%. That’s half your market you can target with a website.

It’s amazing how a few stats can really make you sit up and take notice, but these do just that. Online growth is HUGE.
So why should I – a humble retailer – invest in ecommerce?

  • Accessibly and international = more sales time
  • Everyone is online and the internet is a more radical version of New York; the city that never sleeps. The internet doesn’t need sleep. It’s publicly open and accessible 24/7.
  • No more 9am-6pm shifts.
  • No more just local sales.
  • Say hello to the world of international trading, which equates to 168 hours of sales time. Compare that to your 40 hours.

Less outgoing, more incoming = profit, profit, profit

Setting up and maintaining a website is cheap as chips compared to a physical store. You pay a yearly domain fee (around €6-20) and instead of rent, you have hosting (around €60 – €350 per year), SSL (if needed) and then your build fees, which really mainly take place at the very beginning.

By the time you make a second design investment, you will already have profited. At that stage it’s then a case of re-investing a proportion of costs to produce more profit. Sounds like a nice cycle to me.

Soft selling = social selling

Social media, blogging, apps and video are the ‘stickies’ of the online world. That means that people love to engage and spend more time online in one session. It also means that we’re interacting more online, asking for advice and help, sharing information, engaging with businesses and looking at their website via various channels. All those streams are like physical streams that meet other streams to form lakes and finally merge into our seas and oceans. In short; lots of little streams lead to the masses. Referrals are proving time and time again as the very best way of pre-empting a sale, which means that spending time TALKING online about your products is only a good thing.

Digital advancements = easy to sell + easy to buy

You gotta love technology. Not when it lets you down and causes you to scream and pull out all your hair….but when it goes inevitably right.
Various e-commerce platforms and numerous plugins and add-ons provide an assortment of options for retailers.

WordPress can be teamed with WP Commerce for a match made in blissful heaven. Integrated content management system makes light work of adding/editing pages, posts, plugins and the like.

A living, breathing example is http://www.yesterdays.ie.

  • You will notice that the most recent products have centre stage on the homepage.
  • Categories are split into primary and secondary (main and sub) for ease of navigation.
  • Sharing buttons and reviews are assigned to each product page.
  • When ordering for the first time you can easily set up an account to save time on re-ordering.
  • Email sign up box help retailers stay in touch with customers. V.important!
  • Social media feeds can be added to provide a social layer and give customers a chance to stay in contact. Good for them and good for you.

Then there’s Opencart, which is an opensource platform. It has an integrated content management system like WordPress, so you can edit as needed.

A living, breathing example is http://www.thesmarttrain.com.

  • This one has a lovely custom video introduction and swooshing arrows to help you navigate the site in three steps. Watch video, sign up to emails and watch a few free videos.
  • We have a few featured videos to draw attention. These can be updated as needed.
  • Again, social media feeds are there for visitors to read and connect.

Shopify is a light-hearted ecommerce platform, designed with newbies in mind. It’s a solid platform to test the ecommerce waters with and nice and simple to create a site on. And the best bit – it’s hosted by them, so no additional costs for you.

An example is http://www.littlecitizensboutique.com/

There are plenty of reasons to hop online or start using a clear-cut strategy to increase performance. A website is always the best place to start as it works as your hub for online activity. Here you can display your products and advertise. A digital strategy will then help formulate a plan based on your key objectives. So, the platforms you list your business, the time spent on each, how you use them, your content strategy, how you monitoring customer behaviour and purchasing patterns – these can all be scoped out and set up to keep your online shop on track.

References
1 Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) www.imrg.org
2 Cisco www.cisco.com [EN

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