The pandemic was the last straw. You’d held out until now, but being forced to close your store during lockdown has convinced you to go online. It’s not enough to list on Amazon or add a shopping cart to your website. To succeed online, you need to invest your brick-and-mortar budget online. Here’s everything you need to know.
The Case for Reallocating Budgets
If you’re not convinced of the need to invest in your online store, let us make the case as best we can.
First, reallocating your marketing budget from in-store activities and ads to digital marketing will help to “maintain a level of normalcy with your customers,” says the team at BrandMuscle. A robust online presence can be reassuring and let consumers know you are still in business. In fact, you may find digital efforts, like social media, PPC and digital content, resonate more with consumers as people spend more time online.
More importantly, creating a strong online presence now is the best way to prepare yourself for the future. As design agency PixelUnion points out: “Companies that have already invested in an online sales framework—even if it’s not optimal—are on the starting blocks. They are in the best position to transform to an online-first mindset that will help them not only weather the storm, but also evolve the business for a stronger future.”
A pandemic isn’t the only thing that could close your brick and mortar store in the future, writes Red Stag Fulfillment’s VP of Marketing Jake Rheude. “Smoke from wildfires or an unusual cold spell might keep people from coming out to shop,” he writes. “Natural disasters can cut off travel or damage your building. An online retail store is your insurance against these and other disruptions.”
Focus Advertising on Paid Social and Search
It’s all well and good launching an eCommerce store; the problem is that no one aside from your most loyal customers will find you. Even if consumers look for your store by name on a search engine, Google may not have even indexed it yet, writes retail marketing consultant Armando Roggio. “Thus it’s not enough to open an eCommerce shop,” he says. “Merchants must promote and market it. Marketing for a new eCommerce site should use a retailer’s traditional channels as well as new ones, such as pay-per-click and video ads.”
Paid ads on Google and Facebook are the best channels, says Whitney Blankenship at Omnisend. As cost-per-acquisitions increase, paid ads offer extremely targeted tools that let you dial in on your ideal customer. You can even compete as a smaller brand, she adds. “You can use your size as a strength to offer a very specific offer to a very specific subset of people, something big brands can’t do.”
One brand that continues to find success with Facebook ads, writes Digiday’s Kristina Monllos, is Shapermint. Virtually all (80%) of the brand’s marketing budget is allocated to Facebook ads. Of that amount, up to 40% is spent on Instagram, with the remaining 20% used on digital platforms like Pinterest and YouTube.
There are considerable benefits to PPC ads, writes Eric Sachs, CEO of Sachs Marketing Group. The targeting is exceptional and Google allows you to serve up image-based ads to consumers. That said, revenue generated by PPC ads ends when you stop paying for ads, he notes, which is why investing in SEO is also important.
Consider Customer Service Platforms
Part of running an eCommerce store is handling customer service requests, writes the editorial team at Luxe Digital. You can absolutely do this yourself by listing your phone number and email address on your website. A customer service platform may make the whole process easier, however.
A customer service platform is all but essential if you plan to offer multichannel customer support — and you absolutely should. “The days of limiting customers are gone,” says Laduram Vishnoi, CEO at customer engagement platform Acquire. Whether consumers want to talk on Facebook or live chat, a customer service platform allows you to be there.
It will also allow you to respond faster. That matters more than ever, too. “In an eCommerce world, customers expect service to be quick,” says Roshni Wijayasinha, CMO of insurance technology company Foxquilt. “Leaving a potential customer waiting can make you miss out on a sale, she explains. “Even worse, delaying a response to an angry or confused customer could result in bad PR and a lifelong enemy.”
Invest in an All-in-One Platform
Running an eCommerce operation requires more resources than the typical brick and mortar store owner has at their disposal, says Derek Miller, CMO at Smack Apparel. The best bet is to use an eCommerce platform that offers “turnkey solutions for businesses that want to sell products online.”
Outsourcing your eCommerce also provides a raft of other benefits. It’s much more cost-effective to partner with a platform with existing infrastructure like warehouses and supply chains than to build these functions yourself from scratch. It’s also much less risky and will help you to focus on what you’re best at — your products.
Allocating part of your in-store budget into a comprehensive eCommerce platform will also ensure you deliver the best experience possible to consumers, says Josh Orr, founder of Streamline Retail. It takes a lot to create a website that sells as well as your in-store sales staff, he explains. An eCommerce platform will make sure your eCommerce store:
- Is easy to navigate for a stress-free shopping experience.
- Establishes trust through great design, images and return policies.
- Gives everything consumers need to make a purchase.
- Actually sells your products.
Collect and Be Guided By Data
Whatever you do, make sure your decisions are guided by data, writes Wayne St. Amand, CMO at sales learning platform Allego. Two analytical models should be used by multi-channel brands: marketing mix modeling (MMM) and multi-touch attribution (MTA). Both demonstrate which channels are seeing results, helping store owners to double down on what’s working.
“Marketing mix modelling uses summary level data to measure the effectiveness of both online and offline channels, while accounting for external factors such as interest rates and the time of year,” explains St. Amand. MTA, on the other hand, tracks individual consumer journeys across different channels and devices. Credit can then be assigned to the specific marketing touchpoint that achieves the key performance indicator, he says.
Use the data you collect to influence marketing decisions, writes Tina Eaton at product information management platform Plytix. “One of the most effective ways to market using data is to target specific subsets of your audience with offers that are especially relevant to them. Think offers like free trials, sample products, and coupon codes.”
It’s not just marketing decisions that the most successful online brands use data to inform, says the team at Marketing Evolution. “With the right insights, D2C companies can perfectly sculpt their single, flagship product that defines their entire brand.” Your marketing efforts should actually become a source of data for the future. The more data you collect about your consumers (personal data as well as demographic and other information) the better you can improve marketing campaigns and your eCommerce site going forwards.
Investing in your online presence is essential, but don’t give up on your brick and mortar store entirely. The future of retail is omnichannel, and a physical retail presence is essential for brands who want to offer ship to store and other omnichannel experiences.