How to Move Your Shop to Online-only Successfully
High street retailers are feeling the heat: business rates continue to rise as shoppers spend more time behind screens – and it seems digital is the only way forward.
So, how do you take your offline store and recreate its success online, mitigating whatever risk you can?
Communication is the Critical First Step
Change is unavoidable; a fact we all understand. So, provided you share an open, honest account of why you are making the shift online, people will appreciate you taking the time to communicate your decisions – it demonstrates respect, deepening your relationship with your customers. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to lay the foundations for future interactions.
We did this very recently as we at Oakham Oriental Rugs, took the decision to move our store to online only after over 20 years’ of owning a store. We’ve had a great response from the customers we’ve spoken to, who all understand and support the change in the way we do business.
Once you have explained your reasoning, dive into the benefits of moving online, such as 24-7 availability; free-shipping (if offered); broader product catalogues; perhaps, even better prices with more frequent offers and bundles.
Consider these communications the first step in your fresh marketing strategy; aiming to convert loyal offline customers into digital advocates who will keep sales steady the moment you launch online.
The biggest attraction of online is scalability as you can find new customers anywhere. So, do not hide from the opportunity; redirect spend into new digital marketing channels.
Social media can be a gold mine for growing sales, but a word of warning: do not spread yourself thinly across every platform. Focus solely on the channels that make the most sense to your business and grow your audience there – it is the best way to guarantee a return on your investment.
When it comes to design-led, highly visual industries, mediums such as Instagram are tailor-made for marketing your products. Shoppers look for inspiration both on retailers’ channels as much as through influencer marketing, so creating a portfolio of imagery is important, as is connecting with accounts whose own following matches the demographics of the audience you’d like to reach.
There are plenty of other channels to try with paid advertising offering a lucrative option to those who understand the playing field. However, this can be more expensive. So, when making the transition, either enlist expert support to maximise your efforts or slowly explore the approach until you find a formula that works, only then increasing investment.
Benefit from the Digital Boom
The reality is, the consumer landscape is shifting: Millennials are the biggest shopper segment and quickly becoming the largest spenders – plus, these are digital natives who are more than comfortable with online-only.
And as they move into home-ownership, they are purchasing increasing volumes of furniture and soft furnishings. When it comes to purchasing furniture, however, trends still suggest the majority of purchases are researched online before the buyer makes the final decision in store.
While this indicates there is still value in a brick-and-mortar presence, if retailers can recreate the showroom experience through digital channels – complemented by a simple returns policy (as all successful eCommerce players offer) – there is no reason not to make a success of your shift to digital-only.