Moving from brick-and-mortar to online retail

The opportunity for online retailers has been growing steadily over the last decade, but now in the post-COVID world, it’s no longer enough to rely on just a brick-and-mortar presence. The pandemic has triggered changes in consumer behaviour that are likely to stick around for some time, maybe forever, and the shift to online shopping is set to keep growing.

If you’re thinking about creating an online ecommerce site for your business, we’ve highlighted some of the key things you’ll need to consider before switching.


Why move your retail store online?


Throughout 2020, we saw the e-commerce market boom. With non-essential retailers forced to close their doors for significant periods of time, consumers had to take their shopping online. This trend has continued into the new year with ONS reporting the highest ever percentage of sales made online in January this year, and a recent study found that 17.2m consumers (a quarter of the UK population) plan to switch to online shopping permanently.

It’s impossible to ignore the opportunities online, and e-commerce offers retailers benefits that brick-and-mortar stores can’t. From opening up new markets to allowing more targeted marketing, moving online is a great way to grow your business and can bring some fantastic benefits.


Benefit 1. Reduced overheads

With an online store there is no need for expensive premises, the list of costs associated with running a physical store is long and ranges from rent to utilities, alarm systems, shop maintenance and even inventory – all of which are likely to be reduced, or even eliminated by taking your store online.

By reducing or eliminating certain overheads you’ll have more flexibility to invest in the things that will really have an impact on your business growth.


Benefit 2. Generate sales 24/7

E-commerce platforms that offer an order and payment solution that is completely automated will allow your customers to shop when it suits them, and businesses owners have the ability to manage their store from anywhere, at any time with no delays in processing or shipping.

According to research from KPMG conducted before the impact of coronavirus, the number one reason people shopped online was because they can shop 24/7. The convenience of being able to shop whenever you want is something that high-street stores will always struggle to offer.


Benefit 3. Wider market opportunities

Not only do online retailers have the ability to reach customers at any time, but they can also reach customers anywhere. The markets that can open up to your business can be huge, not just regionally or even nationally, but globally too.

There are extra complications that come with selling outside of the UK that you will need to carefully consider before exploring wider markets, however, if done right there are potentially huge growth opportunities.


Benefit 4. Better customer insights

Any good e-commerce platform will have tools to establish key insights into your customers, and what their needs might be. From your analytics, you should be able to determine store activity, visitor and customer demographics, website transactions and so much more, all of which can be utilised to help convert your website visitors to sales.

According to research from Marketing Sherpa, a huge 79% of all marketing leads aren’t converted into sales – so making sure you’ve got a solution that gives you the insights you need is key.


Make sure you do your research


If you ever doubted the power of online retail, then hopefully now we’ve firmly established the importance of having an e-commerce website. However, before you start the process of moving your store online, you need to consider three key things;

1 . Customers

2. Competitors

3. Business model


1. Customers

When thinking about your customers you should consider a range of things, for example…

  • Who are your current customers, and will they make the move online?
  • Who are the new customers you want to reach?
  • What are new and existing customers looking for when they shop online?
  • What products are customers likely to purchase online vs in-store?
  • How will customers find your online store?
  • How can you tailor your online store to suit your key customer’s needs?


2. Competitors

It’s a competitive market, so looking at your competitors is key. For example, you should think about…

  • Who are your key competitors and what customers are they targeting?
  • What are they doing well, and what are they not doing so well?
  • What online and offline marketing channels are they using, and which seems to work best for them?
  • What products are they selling, and what products are they not selling? Think about why this might be.


3. Business Model

Then once you’ve got a better idea of the current market, think about how your business model might change now your online…

  • What changes will you need to make to your staff?
  • What delivery options can you offer, and what will be the cost of this for your customers?
  • Do you need an e-commerce website built? (If you already have one, you may need to get your website up to date)
  • Which payments options will you offer, and how easy will they be to integrate with your e-commerce platform? (Tip: Could you consider finance for those bigger items? Start getting to know and understand consumer credit, so you can tell if it’s right for your business)
  • What new technology and systems might you need to invest in?


Tips for moving to an online store


When taking your business online, you’ll have to make a lot of big decisions and there are multiple factors to consider. Every business is different and will have different needs and priorities, so we’ve listed some of our tips to help get you started.


Find the right e-commerce platform


Your first step in your move online will be to choose an e-commerce platform and build a website. Your e-commerce platform will be the foundation of your store and so finding the right one for your business is key, but with so many currently available it’s hard to know where to start.

At DivideBuy, our retailer finance solution integrates with some of the best-known e-commerce platforms including Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce and Craft Commerce to enable your business to offer the best shopping cart payment options. If your business isn’t on one of these platforms, then we can also provide a bespoke solution to integrate with your store.

So, it’s important to do your research, and consider which tools can integrate with your e-commerce platform.


Make the checkout easy (and increase conversions)


Abandoned carts are one of the biggest challenges for retailers, and so ensuring you have a simple checkout process is really important. Giving your shoppers the key information that they might need, in a clear and easy process can have a significant impact on conversion rates.

As part of this, it’s important to consider the payment options you offer. According to CustomerThink, almost 50% of customers who can’t use their preferred method of payment will cancel their order. We know from the retailers that we work with, by offering our interest-free credit solution to their shopping cart, they see an increase in cart value size, as well as an increase in conversions of up to 70%.


Don’t forget about your shipping and delivery options


Taking your store online means you’ll have to consider how you’ll ship products to customers. The introduction of Amazon Prime has had a huge impact on consumer behaviour, and today consumers expect fast and free shipping from every online retailer.

According to Statista, the two most important online delivery factors were ‘Being kept informed’ and ‘Free delivery’. Collect in-store services are also becoming more popular and have increased in usage throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Ideally, you should offer a range of choices to ensure every customer has the option they’re looking for. However, you need to consider what is realistic and manageable for your business.

In today’s world, being online is essential for any ambitious business looking to grow its customer base, and access new markets. As the digital marketplace continues to grow, so will the opportunity for retailers.

If you’re making the move to e-commerce, we can help you achieve your plans with our point-of-sale finance software. Find out how we can help incorporate it into your business by getting in touch today.

Page last updated: 03 September 2021

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