Even for Smaller Retailers, Just Having a Website Isn’t Enough Anymore
Your customers are being picked off. One by one. Sometimes right when they’re standing in your store. In fact, your beautiful displays could be a showroom for some online store’s products. There’s a new trend, called showrooming, where customers will go into stores and check out products in person. Then, they go home, go online and find the best price.
Amazon has taken things a step further. They have an app for customers to download on their mobile device that allows them to scan the SKU code in your store and get the Amazon price right there to compare. Now, Amazon is opening distribution centers in top markets that will carry the top items for that market. This will allow them to make same day delivery – eliminating another advantage your store has – immediacy.
The internet is a mall. It’s what customers want, with no hard floors.
We still believe in bricks and mortar for most retailers. But the reality is that shopping itself has completely changed. Not only is much of it happening online, but much of it is going mobile.
Consider this: the majority of U.S. citizens now use the internet. And that’s not just teenagers. In the 30-49 year old bracket, 91% are online. Nearly 80% of the 50-64 year old crowd is there. And predictably, 97% of the 18-29 year olds are there – according to the latest Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project figures.
Usage is going up, too. Nearly 70% of people spend more than an hour online daily. Around 80% are searching for goods and services. Whatever stage of the buying cycle they’re in, they’re doing a chunk of it online. Both your site and retail marketing need to take that into account.
And talk about going mobile: more than 60% of internet users own smart phones, and that’s increasing every year. It’s a hand-held computer that goes wherever you go. Pretty soon everybody’s going to have one, further cementing today’s reality of changed shopping phenomena. And that’s not even including what's happening with tablets like the iPad.
So, what do you do?
The numbers confirm that people are looking for product and service information. Your site has to provide it, preferably in picture, video and text. That way, no matter how your customer likes to receive their information, you have it on your site. People search for info online, you need to provide it with a functional, content-rich site. Adding fresh content to it on a regular basis, will help keep it relevant and showing up in searches.
As more and more consumers are accessing the web via mobile devices, you need to make sure your site is mobile friendly. Having a mobile version of your site is preferable. But if you can’t do that, make sure you have made your site as mobile friendly as possible. For one thing, don’t use a lot of Flash-based programming – it won’t show up on iPhones and iPads. And keep everything simple and clear.
If you can, make it an eCommerce site, so you have a storefront on cyber Main Street where, if they see something they want they can buy it right away. You can offer to ship or let them come into your store and pick it up. Or, if it’s a big purchase, like furniture, figure out how they can set up delivery with an easy form to fill out or a simple call to someone who just sets up deliveries.
But, as you create a site that works in tandem with your physical store remember: no matter what bells and whistles you put on your site, it will hurt you if it doesn’t reflect your company’s brand. Make sure the online and offline company feels like the same store. Your unique brand and all it promises is something the online retailers can’t take away from you.