While restrictions on personal freedoms introduced by many governments in response to COVID19 have divided many of us, at least one thing is simple to agree on - online retail performance is up, while overall economic spending is down. Business owners who move their operations online can maximise revenues and increase their chances of surviving the global downturn caused by COVID controls. Let’s explore some of the key decisions that retailers in particular need to consider through this process.
Online Retail Comes of Age
Internet technology and online shopping have come a long way in the last 20 years – almost anyone can access efficient tools to allow them to set up shop on the web for very little cost. We also have extensive digital marketing, distribution, delivery and customer support services available to be tapped into in most parts of the world too.
With so many options available and with competition continually ramping up, it is essential to make sure you are using the right approach and strategy for growth. Currently, a small number of online shop service providers are used by the majority of online retail businesses, with Woo Commerce (based on Wordpress) and Shopify leading the pack. In understanding these two online shop systems we can also get a good overview of many of the other available options too, since they tend to share similarities to one or both of them.
Shopify is one of the internet’s best known service providers for online retail, allowing anyone to create a professional quality online shop with relative ease. Shopify’s profits have skyrocketed in 2020, in direct response to commerce moving online and entrepreneurs following suit. As Bloomberg recently reported, in just the third fiscal quarter of 2020, Shopify’s level of sales effectively doubled!
While this trend may be unnerving for businesses who have not yet moved their services online or who believe that they cannot do so, the reality is that many who do take the plunge into online retail never regret their decision and go on to thrive. Success in life often means adapting to change and turning challenges into opportunities – you may find that now is the perfect time to experiment with opening online sales channels!
Existing online retailers shouldn’t sit around idly either – the greater the supply and demand for online services, the greater the competition and so the greater the need becomes to optimise and promote your business in order to sustain success.
Selling to the sellers
While Shopify’s explosive performance is an excellent signal for motivating a plan to invest in online retail for your business, there’s no need to stick only to Shopify as a sales platform as there are numerous other options available. While Shopify does excel at providing a ‘one stop shop’ (pun intended) for retailers and offers a wide variety of useful tools for a relatively low cost, it is also possible to equal or even beat them using alternative solutions.
WooCommerce on Wordpress, for example, provides similar features to Shopify but has the added benefit of enabling you to fully host your own shop and retain unfiltered and unlimited access to all of the data that your store generates, plus it’s sourcecode. Being able to fully control the code that your shop/website is based on is essential if you intend to develop customised features or wish to guarantee the highest levels of privacy for your customers (or yourself). Owning your code also ensures that your business is not dependent on a third party service provider whose agenda may at some point diverge from your best interests or even go out of business.
Wix, along with Webflow and many other online development platforms also include ever evolving eCommerce solutions too and since the needs of each project are unique, it can help to research into all of these options before deciding on which platform to use. We highly recommend speaking to our team of consultants before settling on a solution for your business, as choosing the wrong platform can be a costly mistake that is difficult and time consuming to correct further down the line.
In addition to creating an engaging and efficient online sales solution for your business (aka ‘a nice website’), you will also need to think about how your services or products will be delivered to your customers. While some businesses can use audio/video to remotely connect with their customers in place of physical contact, the majority of online commerce will require products to be delivered to customer homes.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be Jeff Bezos at Amazon to make use of efficient, modern delivery systems and a variety of companies offer fulfilment services which store your products in their own warehouses, ready to be delivered by them at high speed. This ensures that your business stands a good chance of competing with the Amazons of the world, while also meaning that you don’t need to rent your own storage space too. Typically, these services provide software that can be linked up to most online shop systems and once everything is configured, your business will be much closer to effortless daily success!
The Future of Business Promotion
As more and more projects spring up online, we also have access to ever new ways to promote our projects to the desired audience. Digital marketing is essential for modern businesses looking to gain new customers, improve sales and increase their market share – so be prepared to set aside a sizeable amount of budget to cover the cost. Marketing, however, needs to be thought of as an investment rather than a cost and a well designed marketing strategy will carefully ensure consistent return on investment (ROI) for every Pound, Dollar, Euro or Bitcoin spent!
A variety of approaches exist for online marketing, including paid advertising on existing websites, through to social promotion strategies, search engine optimisation (SEO) and Email campaigns (plus more besides). In general it is advisable to work with as many of these as you can afford, however, the specific strategy that works best for your needs will be reached through a combination of analysis, research, experimentation and constant monitoring. Some of these approaches generate results quickly and some are longer term but will lead to consistent value generation over time, so it is essential to understand the fine points before setting out a strategy and committing budget.
You can explore the detailed information on specific digital marketing services on the Crucial Web site and by all means get in touch if you have questions or need any help. There is always a way for you to grow online, regardless of your budget – the key is in making the right decisions at the right time to meet your own unique needs.
We’re Growing Your Way
Crucial Web help our clients to better understand their business needs, to develop strategies for sustainable and ethical growth and also to implement a variety of forms of digital marketing processes. We specialise in providing decentralised solutions, including delivering and optimising custom online retail systems that allow full retention of data privacy without compromising features or performance.
We are able to help grow your business to the next level – whether that’s your first ever sales target or an expansion to full enterprise level. If you are looking for help reaching that elusive first page of Google search results, you need to give your sales performance a major boost or are just starting out and are full of questions, we’re here to share our experience and work with you towards ever new levels of success!
Thanks for reading and please do pass this article on with your friends and colleagues if you found it useful.
Wishing you well,
The Crucial Web Team