The question on everyone’s lips: Is e-commerce worth it? The buzz of e-commerce grows every day, as do the eye-catching numbers that come along for the ride. In 2018, e-commerce sales accounted for 11.9% of global retail sales, and 2019 is expected to end with e-commerce sales topping $3.4 billion. Gaining a foothold in this exploding marketplace has quickly evolved from curiosity to requirement for small retailers to maintain long-term success. But how exactly does the rapid growth in e-commerce apply to you? Is e-commerce worth it or should you focus your efforts elsewhere?
Retailers are increasingly in the tricky position of determining whether or not e-commerce is a good fit for their stores. Previously reserved for Big Box retailers, introducing elements of the e-commerce business model is readily available thanks to innovative and scalable POS solutions that offer omni-channel elements. But understanding how omni-channel fits into your operations is only part of the equation. There are a handful of questions that you must ask yourself if you are going to accurately determine how and where e-commerce fits into your business model, and how your customers would embrace the change.
Does the Reach of Your Products Need Expansion to Succeed?
Starting out by asking yourself this question builds the foundation for moving towards or away from an e-commerce model. Building an e-commerce presence will largely depend on the products you are offering. This requires you to develop a mixture of offline and online marketing strategies to give your products and services the visibility they need to stand out from the crowd. That is, however, the trick of this: can you market your services in such a way as to stand out from everyone else?
For instance, a small boutique is selling a specialty goat’s milk soap. An internet search reveals a number of stores selling a similar product. However, when you adjust the search metrics to be a bit more specific, you find only a dozen outlets selling the same scents as you have. Diving in a bit deeper, you realize that you are one of three offering the specific brand of soap you carry, and only one of these is within 100 miles of your shop location. Of these three, you discover that none offer free shipping to your area. These clues provide your answer.
Expanding the reach of its products was definitely beneficial in this case. The niche existed for this business to successfully broaden its brand horizons to reach more customers, while its research indicated that the demand for its product offerings existed outside of the local area. This also provides you with an enhanced ability to improve relationships with your existing customers and present them with new, convenient ways for them to engage with your business.
Can This Improve Customer Engagement and Loyalty?
This key question is the next one on the list and should be considered item “1A” to the top item above. Diving into your customers’ wants and expectations is going to be the pillar that holds up your e-commerce efforts. You must be certain that those most likely to seek your products are doing so using e-commerce. This must include your current customers as well since they will be the ones paying your bills as your product expansion goes into place.
Querying current customers is a good way of gauging their e-commerce interest, and meshing these inputs with their transaction data within your POS solution. This gives you a clear picture around which of your products they are most likely to purchase via an e-commerce platform, as well as getting insights into delivery expectations. They will tell you if they want to pick up items ordered online at your store, or if they have a shipping preference, and will help you understand the reasons behind their choices.
Through this, they present you with a precise picture of what their optimal shopping interaction with you looks like in their minds. The clarity this gives you allows you to better decide if e-commerce is a good strategic fit for you, and to design the architecture to fit your clientele’s anticipated shopping experience to the letter.
How Will This Impact Your Products and Offerings?
Asking “is e-commerce worth it?” means looking at the impact it could have on your products. You may find yourself in a position in which some of your products sell successfully in an online shopping world, but are very mediocre performers in your physical store. Flipping this the other way, how would you address a scenario in which one or two of your strong in-store performers also do well online, but 90% of your in-store best sellers simply do not move in the e-commerce model?
This is another one of those catches, especially in today’s review driven customer experience world. Products were doing well in your store prior to your e-commerce launch start losing sales. Customers that previously purchased these items are asked about it, and the response is due to a lack of online reviews. Suddenly, you have a shelf full of items and more on the way, only because of a weak online presence. So how is e-commerce worth it in this case?
Preventing a scenario such as this requires you to do some in-depth research around the full impact of integrating an e-commerce model into your physical storefront, and may dictate your move in either direction.
Will an E-Commerce Model Affect Staffing and Management?
Moving into the e-commerce world may impact how you manage your staff. Changing hours, updated job requirements, or reallocating to other locations are just some of the ways where implementing an e-commerce strategy may change how you and your staff operates. During the e-commerce discovery process, you will need to identify exactly how the demands on staff will change. Do they need to work fewer or more hours in the store? Are they going to expected to handle more inventory, packing, and shipping duties? Will you need to change staffing functions to include more high-tech based skill sets?
Syncing your staff’s talents and availability with the requirements that e-commerce will drop on your doorstep, and balancing these with in-store staffing needs, will require thought on your part and patience on their part. Determining where and how each individual’s job responsibilities will change, documenting this along the way, and providing in-depth training will make your e-commerce transition much easier as it moves forward. This may also require you to be a little less hands-on in their day-to-day task management for you to answer “is e-commerce worth it?” with confidence.
With POS Technology, Is E-Commerce Worth It?
Equipping yourself with e-commerce capabilities will most likely include introducing omni-channel functionalities into a new or existing POS solution. Leveraging a highly capable technical POS solution will help you in answering these questions, and make your entry into the e-commerce world a successful effort. The information and functionalities contained within your POS solution should make business easier, not more difficult, and be scalable to grow as your business expands.
You do not want to make mistakes when examining the traits of a successful e-commerce effort. Engaging the expertise in the POS field aids in identifying and implementing a flexible solution that is ready to handle e-commerce activities. When you partner with talech for your POS project needs, we devote our time to identify your business challenges and work with you to apply a solution that brings you a concise, omni-channel POS solution. Reach out to us today to sign up for a demo and to learn more about how talech can be your valued POS partner.