Guide To Moving From Traditional Retail To E-commerce

The popularity of online shopping has skyrocketed in recent years, particularly during the recent pandemic when in-person shopping experiences were limited or impossible.

But even before this, many business owners were choosing to make the transition from brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce models. There are lots of reasons for this, for example, the expense of running a physical shop and the ability to reach a much wider customer base online.

Not only this, but the digital revolution has made transitioning from a brick-and-mortar shop to an online store much quicker and easier.

If you have yet to make the transition from physical to online stores, you might be thinking about taking the leap this year, even if you intend to keep your shopfront open as well.

But if you’re unsure where to start, this guide is for you.

Below we will look at the steps you need to take to move from traditional retail to an e-commerce model. Read on to find out more.

Build you e-commerce website

The first and most important step to moving online is going to be creating your e-commerce website. There are lots of options when it comes to creating your shop; you can do this yourself or with the help of professional web designers. Which option you choose to go with will very much depend on your budget and technical skills.

If you choose to create the site yourself, then you need to pick which platform you want to use. There are lots of great e-commerce platforms out there, some of which are pretty quick and straightforward to set up. Some of the most popular platforms include Shopify, Wix and Squarespace.

If you don’t wanna do it yourself, then you’ll need to employ the services of a professional web designer, someone who can help make your ideas a reality.

Either way, you need to create an e-commerce store that is easy to use, visually appealing and represents your brand. If you don’t already have a huge amount of branding or if you plan to rebrand ahead of your e-commerce launch, you might also want to consider hiring a professional graphic designer to come up with some beautiful imagery for your company and website.

Create and optimise your product pages

Once your site has been designed and is functional, you need to start creating your product pages. In the early stages, it’s best to focus on select inventory so that you aren’t trying to manage dozens or even hundreds of items at once.

You might wish to narrow this down by choosing your best sellers and the products you love the most. This also presents you with an opportunity to narrow down your target audience and start thinking about the best ways to target them.

As you begin to add products to your website, you need to make sure you’re optimising your pages for conversions. In order to do this, your product page should contain the following elements:

  • Your branding
  • A detailed description of the product
  • Photos of the product
  • Social proof such as customer reviews if you can access these, though this can be harder in the early stages of your business

Select your shipping options

The next thing you need to do when making the transformation from a brick-and-mortar store to an online business is to set up your shipping options. Today’s consumers are fairly impatient and don’t like waiting too long for their goods. However, the last thing you want to do is overpromise on delivery times and end up disappointing your customers.

As such, it’s best to look into shipping rates, find out what customers value and determine which shipping options you can feasibly offer. It’s best to have a variety, and options like next-day delivery are always great but should only be included if you know this is a possibility.

Set up your payment systems

Being able to take payments is one of the most important parts of your e-commerce website. Otherwise, how are you going to make money? So in the early stages, you need to think about which payment system you want to use and integrate this onto your website.

Optimising your payment system by giving several options can also help to reduce the number of people abandoning their basket, which can lead to higher conversion rates. This means you should focus on offering other payment systems outside of credit and debit cards.

Other options you might want to add include electronic gift cards, mobile wallets and popular payment systems such as PayPal or Klarna.

Start to build a buzz

Now your website is ready to go and customers can begin to place orders online, you need to start letting people know about your move. There are several ways you can do this, and one of the best ways is to build a social media presence if you haven’t already.

It’s a good idea to start doing this before you give up your brick-and-mortar store completely if that’s what you intend to do. Choose visual accounts like Instagram, as well as popular platforms like Facebook, to let people know about your new online store.

Again, these profiles should contain your branding, a link to your e-commerce website and give some information about who you are and what you sell. Pictures and hashtags are going to be very important and can help you to reach your target audience on a much wider scale.

You could also put up a sign in-store or hand out cards to customers that let them know you’re moving online. This sign and your cards should contain your branding, website name and the URL of your new e-commerce store. You could also rely on word-of-mouth when it comes to your most loyal repeat customers.

Make sure you translate your in-store experience online

Finally, as many of us know, one of the greatest things about visiting local businesses is the interaction that takes place between staff and customers. Some people can be put off by technology, finding it impersonal and preferring to speak to a person. As such, you need to make sure that your in-store experience translates online.

First and foremost, this means ensuring a good user experience making sure your website is easy to navigate and customers can easily find everything they want. This also means having options for customers to get in contact with you if they have a query or problem.

Again, social media can be a great tool for this. But it also helps to have a live chat window or the ability to submit a query through an online form. If you can, a business phone number also goes a long way as many find it quicker and easier to make a phone call to get the information they need.

You could also include an FAQ page and instructional or helpful videos if you have these available.

And don’t leave customers waiting too long for a response as this can lead to frustration and losing sales.