With online sales continuing to grow by around 17% per month for the past few years and the high street at an all time low, you would be forgiven for thinking that a move from eCommerce to a real world shop front is misguided if not foolhardy. Yet, there is a small but growing trend for doing just that.
Catalogue retailers Boden and Joe Brown have both expanded their offerings to high street outlets. And even the Amazon behemoth has acquired the Whole Foods chain in the USA, to offer checkout-free grocery shopping, while making its intention to open yet more physical outlets clear.
With a dwindling high street there are bargains to be had for any eCommerce outfit that feels the time could be right. It’s an opportunity to deepen customer relationships and offer a more immersive relationship with your brand. But of course it is also not cheap and fairly high-risk compared to online trading. Here are 4 tips for a smoother transition.
Establish market need
An online audience is very different to local. According to CB Insights, approximately 42 percent of startups fail due to no market need for their business, which can extend to your local area as well. If your online audience is a very narrow niche, then you will have to work very hard to get them to come to your store as a destination. For a wider audience group, passing trade is more important. Stand outside your shortlist of potential stores and count the proportion of your potential customers that walk pass. Get a clipboard and interview a sample to confirm whether your hunch is right. Don’t leave it to chance, do the research.
Learn from your online analytics
The advantage of moving from clicks to bricks is that you should have learned a massive amount about your customers and their preferences. ECommerce teaches you how to operate efficiently before taking on the financial risk of rent and retail employees. Plus, you get to hone in on what’s really going to drive traffic from your customer base, which is going to be the most valuable component for winning new business in your store.
When analysing your site with the intentions of opening a storefront, a smart idea is to parse your data and marketing objectives by which will be beneficial to your storefront. For example, things like UX and web design would fall under “eCommerce” while types of sales promotions would go under broader marketing objectives. Additionally, online can also be a great place to learn more about branding, including colour schemes and typefaces that your target customers prefer and the language and voice that’s better received.
Give yourself some runway
If your eCommerce business is well established and bringing in a steady income, then that will obviously also provide a solid financial foundation for your new business. If you need a loan or investment for your new phase, your track record should provide reassurance to potential supporters. Physical stores are not cheap, when you consider paying rent, rates, shop fitting, licensing, staff and of course stock. According to ShopKeep, the average cost of starting a brick and mortar store comes in at around £77,000.
Establish a digital marketing presence
Finally, although you already have a digital presence for your brand and business, establishing one for your storefront is an entirely different ball game. While a lot of your social marketing will most likely be through Instagram and Facebook, the biggest change you’ll face is utilizing SEO as a means to bringing people in with through search. As noted by Junto Digital, approximately 93 percent of online experiences begin with search, which goes to show how important a factor this is in the online experience. And although you might have some SEO built up through your blog, local SEO is a very different beast.
Social media accounts for just 3% of real store traffic according to moz.com. The most important factor in local search these days is Google My Business and customer reviews. Make sure that you fully populate your Google My Business page, and make it as fresh and appealing as you can, with posts, photos, videos and courteous responses to customer comments or reviews.
It won’t be easy, but building from an eCommerce test-bed is a much stronger start on the road to having your own retail store.