Can ecommerce help to save a struggling high street? by @metakinetic for #IndieRetail

We are all aware of the battle high street retailers are undergoing at the moment. All you have to do is walk down your local high street and see the remains of shops that once were. Sadly, this is often more apparent with the independent retailers, not only are they having the fight the recession but also tackle larger chains that have corporate backing. But there is a lifeline for the dying high street…ecommerce. Yes, that’s right this is the equivalent of pumping adrenalin into your blood, giving you a new sign of life. So what can ecommerce do for you?

Cheap as Chips

Ok so it’s not literally the same price as a bag of chips, but creating an ecommerce site is not as expensive as you may think. And, getting the right specialist to create your ecommerce site will allow you to tailor-make what you want from your system rather than paying for a generic one that may seem cheap at first, but have hidden charges later down the line. Remember you’re already a retailer; you have both the infrastructure and suppliers in place, decreasing the start-up costs dramatically.

Shooting Yourself in the Foot? …Not Likely.

By having your own ecommerce system you are not creating another competitor for your store, in fact ecommerce can increase your in-store conversion. By having features such as ‘click and collect’ and check stock, it drives traffic to your store. Your customers are making a conscious decision to visit your store with the intention of buying rather than just browsing. In turn, no delivery charge or wait for your customers – great for today’s culture of ‘now’. Advanced ecommerce technologies are rapidly becoming more accessible to all and these kind of features are no longer just a luxury of the big players

Promoting the fact that you have a physical store on your ecommerce website helps to produce an aspect level of authority and trust, creating confidence amongst your customers who will feel safe using your ecommerce website knowing that there is a point of contact in your retail store.

More importantly, your brand awareness will grow. Creating awareness of your business is key to success and having an ecommerce website gives you a digital presence, increasing the reach of your business and providing access to a much larger target audience than you will find on the high street.

Body Building your Brand

Following the theme of awareness, you can build upon your brand awareness and perception of your brand by your target audience. By forming relationships with your customers they are more likely to want to be associated with your brand. Creating an identity around your brand enables you to appeal to your audience. In ecommerce creating this relationship with your customers can be easy. Marketing channels such as social media enable you to engage your audience, create interest and potentially increase conversion rates. Visualise each follower or friend as a muscle of your brand’s body, without careful care and attention that relationship is weak. By exercising your brand body, by engaging through social media, you will help your brand to become strong.  See it as training to confront the recession. And remember, like working out, it’s harder to build than it is to lose, so don’t miss too many workouts!

Bull’s Eye

It’s all about the aim; you cannot hit the bull’s eye if you’re facing in the wrong direction.  Not that I’m saying you are off target completely. High street stores tend to only have access to a target audience in a particular radius. Ecommerce broadens that radius. Rather than focusing on what may only be a target audience that falls within a 10 mile radius, making your products available online will give you a national or even global target audience. Having both will effectively increase the size of the Bull’s Eye for your business.

Don’t need to be the cheapest, but be the best?

Your high street store strengthens your ecommerce offering. Effectively you are creating a chain between the two increasing your credibility. Your credibility carries potential opportunities for your business. By providing impressive service, product range and knowledge as well as personality you don’t have to compete so much on the price.

It’s not Rocket Science

You don’t have to be a professor to incorporate ecommerce to your business. Ecommerce systems are designed to be user friendly for you, with many having easy-to-use WYSIWYG editors to make managing your website simple, even with no technical knowledge.  With the right ecommerce agency, you should also be able to call upon their advice whenever you need it, meaning that help is never far away.  Remember you have the product knowledge already, all you’re doing is taking it to the digital world.

Round up

So, to sum it up, ecommerce is not the Holy Grail. But it is a really useful tool to give your high street store an additional level of security during the recession and beyond. It’s not necessarily expensive, builds your brand & expands your target audience, and has the potential to significantly increase your retail business’ turnover. Most importantly, you don’t need to be an expert in ecommerce to use it.

Some Final Tips

When choosing your ecommerce specialists find one that will:

  • Explain to you about your ecommerce system
  • Hand-holding and customer care; make sure you choose an agency that is able to give you the support and care you need, not only during the design and build process, but once the system is live too.
  • Can they provide training? Every new system will require a level of training, so make sure it’s included in the price. Is there any use having a system you don’t know how to use?
  • Good track record, it’s really important that the agency you choose has a demonstrable track record. Check out who they’ve worked with, whether they delivered results, if they have references. It’s worth taking the time to do your homework at this stage.

Your solution should be:

  • Tailored for the needs of your business – don’t try and fit a square peg in a round hole. It won’t fit.
  • Scalable, make sure your ecommerce solution can grow with your business. You don’t want to restrict your growth and equally, you don’t want to pay for a new solution a couple of years down the line.
    • Give you full control whist still being flexible, are you able to change banners, tabs and links as your business develops with different offers and events?  Make sure you’re not restricted on what you can change otherwise you could end up with a hefty bill every time you need to add or change your content.
    • Beware of open source solutions. They may seem to be, but seldom are they ever really free. Hidden charges and costs often become apparent later, and even when they don’t cheap isn’t always the best solution. Think about return on investment, rather than cost

This blog was provided by Emily Ridley  from http://www.metakinetic.com/

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About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email champion@retailchampion.co.uk.
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