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Retailer Ecommerce 101: The Playbook For Taking Your Brick-and-Mortar Store Digital

by Allen Burt
March 12, 2015

Successful stores – physical stores that you can actually walk into – are in trouble. They’ve made the best of their current situation: sales are good, customer satisfaction is up, their brick-and-mortar store is humming along, but where do they go from here? How can the company continue to grow?

retail to ecommerce H&M

Image courtesy hm.com

It took international Swedish fashion brand H&M 13 years (!) to launch their U.S. ecommerce site. They pinned their tardiness on addressing any possible bugs that could  appear once their site was launched. They wanted to build their shopping platform correctly from the beginning.

A noble effort (technologically speaking), but H&M sure did wait a while before getting in the ecommerce game. All brands considering opening up this channel for their company need to pay attention to the growth of shopping online. Let’s look at some figures:

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently published their estimation of ecommerce sales here in the U.S. for 2014. Total ecommerce sales last year were estimated at $304.9 billion, an increase of 15.4 percent (±2.3%) from 2013. (View Census report here.)

Online shopping continues to grow and it’s not going to stop.

Haven’t you noticed? Remember Christmas 2013 and the huge UPS / FedEx fiasco? That’s a direct product of ecommerce growth. Jeff Jordan, partner at billion dollar VC firm, Andreesen Horowitz, claims,

“We’re in the midst of a profound structural shift from physical to digital retail […] It’s happening faster than I could have imagined.”

Time is of the essence. Brick-and-mortar retailers wanting to launch an online store should absolutely get in the game now. In order to make it easier, We’re giving you a Playbook for Digital Retail. It’s  a summary of a few practical tactics that will help you dive in and optimize your business revenue.

Stack Your Ecommerce Development Team

ecommerce platform Spree Commerce

Image courtesy SpreeCommerce

The first step in initiating development is designating your team. When hiring a team, you need to vet them for at least three requirements :

  • What platform will you use?
    Your designated project manager from your design firm should absolutely consult you on platform choice. This could be the element that the success of your ecommerce hinges upon. Choosing the right platform can save you headaches as you scale and your business operations become more complex. Here at Blue Stout, We recommend Spree Commerce. Check this article out to read more about choosing the right ecommerce platform for your business.
  • What is their mobile strategy?
    After asking your development team about their platform choice, you’ll want to feel confident that their approach to mobile optimization is on-point with your online store. For example, if you have many products with multiple SKUs, you’ll want to make sure they focus extra attention on the UX for your mobile product pages. Small UX changes can mean a difference of millions in increased revenue. Check out this example of a UX design change that resulted in a $300 million increase in annual revenue.
  • Make sure they integrate your marketing team.
    Approaching online sales should undoubtedly be an initiative heavily combined with your marketing strategies. Why? Many platforms integrate with a number of marketing applications to feed you results of campaigns and track user behavior. By including your marketing team in this process from the beginning, you can build your store with a focus on marketing and measure your marketing efforts more accurately from Day 1.

Build An Offense

Offensive business strategies are often characterized as aggressive because, well, they are. They employ tactics that are all-in and sometimes risky. Though your brick-and-mortar store may not employ an aggressive strategy, it could be worth considering benefits of building a strong offense for your ecommerce platform.

An easy offensive play is to make your customers an offer they can’t resist. There are a number of different incentives you can use, but in balancing those with what your business can realistically handle, you can easily make strides to elbowing out your competition.

ecommerce platform design free shipping birchbox

Image courtesy Birchbox

For example, offering free shipping immediately increases sales and could be an easy offensive play for you to run. (Read more about why free shipping is your company’s best untapped marketing resource here.) Alternatively, an easier strategy for brand new online stores could be to offer a freebie or discount to the customer with their first online purchase.

Both of the above plays are good, but one of the best offensive strategies in ecommerce is giving your customer the best experience possible. This isn’t just good practice: it can actually increase your revenue.

Receiptful, a handy receipt application you can integrate with your platform, makes sending receipts to your customers quite easy. The founder, Adii Pienaar, recently tweeted some insight from his company’s analysis of a receipt being an extended level of customer service and interaction:

$0.27 is a solid amount of revenue for something generated after a sale! By deploying initiatives like a super-charged receipt that engage your customer post-purchase, you’re providing an excellent level of customer service and increasing the lifetime value of your customer by upselling them on more or better products.

Defense Is The Best Offense

If an offensive business strategy is aggressive, then how can a defensive strategy be characterized? Normally, businesses employing a defensive strategy may be considered “reactionary” or “protective.” Both of these can apply to ecommerce, but for the purposes of our playbook, we’re going to look at the more “protective” approach.

To defend against competition in a digital world, your platform must be strong – it should stand on a firm foundation. It should be a pleasant virtual “place” for your customer to shop, and should be easy to access from any platform or device they choose (mobile, tablet, desktop).

This leads us to the best defensive play for your business: optimize your UX.

This is a great move to make with the rise of omni-channel retailing, a term coined for the phenomenon of when a consumer expects their retail experience to be conducted seamlessly over various channels (ex. ordering something online and returning it to a physical location).

To be successful, your online store needs to adapt to this customer expectation. By addressing details like your page load time and checkout process, you can reduce the amount of customers abandoning their carts. Be sure to address in the initial consultation with your firm, because having a poorly performing UX could be the sales-equivalent of having your physical store closed for one, full day.

Want More Actionable Tactics For Your Business?

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Allen Burt Allen Burt is the CEO & Founder of Blue Stout. A design and development agency that builds applications to power commerce and drive user engagement. Follow him on Twitter.