Do I really need an online store?

This is a question that many small and mid-sized businesses (SMB 's for short) are asking these days.   I can only sayAbsolutely!    Now I don 't just say that because I help businesses establish stores online.  I am just repeating what I read.

Alison Paul, US Retail Practice Leader for Deloitte Consulting was recently quoted as saying:"E-commerce is becoming more mainstream, it 's not novel anymore.   Everyone's got a dotcom 

Major department stores are reporting big gains in their sales recently (that 's always good to hear) but the funny thing is that same-store sales make up 15-20% of those increases.   Most of the growth has come from, and continues to come from on-line sales!   In years where economic conditions have taken their toll on everyone, the one shining star in retail has been on-line sales.

Let 's face it, retail sales are not about just selling your products from your stores.   I don 't think there is a retailer out there, from the sole proprietor to the giant department store that doesn 't know about multi-channel sales.   Some do it well, some wish they could get into the game.   Well, now you can.   The internet is the great equalizer in the retail world.   For a relatively small investment, you can extend the reach of your store, through a new channel, that is growing by leaps and bounds.   You don 't need to be a pioneer or a huge organization to play here.   All you need is a website and a different approach to selling.  

Getting a website is a simple activity, so simple that I won 't even go there today (I 'll circle back in a later blog).   What I do want to talk about is the change in the way you approach selling online.   This is the single most difficult thing for a SMB to accept.   Many people approach selling online the same way they approach selling in their store.   They want their website and marketing efforts to being them business, not by getting them orders, but by getting people to call them or come down to their store.   Now as a consumer, why would I go through the trouble of finding a place to buy widgets online and then call a salesman to talk to me so I can go down to the store on the weekend to buy it.   I can go someplace else (most likely the next name on the search engine response page) and order it on the spot.  

Online retail requires a change in your thinking.   For the most part, you are not going to get the opportunity to talk to the customer, so you can 't talk them into a sale.   But there 's a silver lining here, you have a motivated customer serving themselves.   No salesman 's commission and/or salary, no time wasting œjust browsing  types, no staff level problems, no after hour activities and no inventory problems.   When someone wants to buy from you on the web, they want to do the transaction then and there.   If the item is out of stock, you can often order it and ship it to the customer when it 's available.   Try telling a customer standing in front of you that they should come back next week!   What you need to start thinking about is that the customer knows what they want and you can give them the best price (remember, your overhead for this sale is much lower than inside the store).   Yes you need to be able to provide the customer with an education (your website needs to be able to provide value to the browser) but there is no incremental cost to you.   A properly built website can provide that education to many browsers simultaneously all while taking orders from many customers, at no additional cost.   It can do this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.   It never gets a raise, never needs a bonus to motivate it, never calls in sick, never takes a vacation and never quits.   Think about that for a minute.   This is not replacing your business model, it is extending it.   Yes, you will probably not become the next Walmart, but wouldn 't it be nice to become a bigger fish in the same pond?

For some more ideas, take a look around my website and give me a call to discuss how I might help you with your business.

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