Plenty of smaller stores are muddling along with their feet planted firmly in the world of bricks-and-mortar retail.
This is unfortunate, as there’s a lot to gain from making the leap to the digital ecosystem, with minimal expense or effort required to achieve this in the era of user-friendly online ecommerce tools.
Let’s talk about some of the reasons why a website is a basic requirement for mom-and-pop outlets as well as major chains, as well as how you can go about launching one.
The perks of having an online presence
Internet access is essentially ubiquitous, and everyone from kids to octogenarians has a way to get online, along with a laundry list of reasons to use the web frequently throughout the day.
A website is therefore the perfect way to connect with local customers, as well as letting you attract people who are based further afield and might have a need for your products and services.
As you grow your web traffic, your digital storefront will send more people to your bricks and mortar locations, where they will be able to spend their money in the form of cash or via contactless card machines as well as stimulating online sales if you’ve invested in a transactional ecommerce site.
Without an online presence, your business will look like it’s behind the times, and might even seem less trustworthy to prospective customers. Conversely if people can discover your brand beforehand, they’ll be more compelled to come through the door if they’re in the neighborhood. And once they know your brand, utilizing a Shopify subscription app can enable your business to sell products on a recurring basis, further boosting customer engagement and sustaining revenue streams.
How to set up your site
There are a few steps involved in creating a website for your store, as well as tricks to attract and retain customers once it’s ready, including:
1. Picking a platform
There are a number of holistic ecommerce services available right now, including the likes of Shopify, SquareSpace and BigCommerce.
These all-in-one solutions are designed to streamline the creation of online stores for businesses which might not have the in-house knowhow to achieve this on their own.
Some are more user-friendly than others, so test the waters with different platforms and choose one that matches your IT skill level.
Hiring a web designer to build you a bespoke site is also an option, although this will cost significantly more, so won’t suit stores that have a small budget to commit to launching an online presence.
2. Selecting a hosting package
It’s possible to find web hosting close-to-free price, so you won’t have to pay more than you need to for your site to be kept up and running on the infrastructure of a third party provider
Hosting packages vary in cost depending on things like the amount of storage space your site requires, and the number of visitors it receives. For small retail businesses, there’s no need to pay a premium for such services; just make sure the provider you pick has a good reputation.
3. Embracing SEO
Search engine optimization sounds like a complex process, but really it’s about ensuring that your site is as user-friendly and relevant to your customers as possible, because these are elements that search algorithms are good at detecting.
Having a site that loads quickly, is easy to navigate, and features interesting content will get your SEO efforts off to a flying start.
Your site also needs to display correctly on mobile devices, and boast adequate security to keep customers safe when carrying out transactions. These kinds of features will be part and parcel of any ecommerce site building platform you choose, which takes a lot of the legwork out of the process.
4. Thriving on social media
A website isn’t the only thing that a mom-and-pop store needs in the modern age. Being active on social media makes a difference to audience engagement, sales and growth.
Thankfully you don’t need to juggle your presence across every available social platform. In fact it’s better to focus on one or two services so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
Facebook is perhaps the best option for small businesses looking to grow locally. You can use it to share information about your store, post multimedia content to showcase promotions and events, and generally improve the discoverability of both your bricks and mortar locations and your website.
5. Checking in on the competition
Finally, by getting up to speed with the wonders of the web, you won’t just be building a presence for your own business, but also have the opportunity to see what your competitors are up to in the same space.
You don’t want to be left behind as the times march onward and technology integrates itself more comprehensively with day to day life. A website is a great starting point, and one which virtually every small business needs.
While you won’t find that your online presence transforms your business overnight, it will be a sensible investment for your long term prosperity.