Even if your brick & mortar store is already generating a lot of sales, there’s good reason to consider adding an online component. 79 percent of American shop online, with 15 percent saying that they purchase something online every week and 71 percent of worldwide online shoppers believe they’ll get a better deal online than in brick & mortar stores.
This article will focus on creative ways to start an online shop that will complement your brick and mortar store. These unconventional approaches will spark your customers’ curiosity, drive engagement, and boost sales. Your one-of-a-kind strategy will also separate you from your competitors and establish your brand as an industry trendsetter.
How to Take Your Store Online
Before you can come up with an all-original idea, you need to set the foundation for adding an online store.
Any online store must have the following:
- Domain name – This the name of your website and your URL (e.g. wikipedia.org, wordpress.com, etc.). It should be something that’s easy for customers to remember, and ideally a .com domain.
- Web host – This is the service that enables your website to be accessible online. GoDaddy, HostGator, and DreamHost are all examples of companies that can host your website. Many web hosts also sell domain names.
- Website builder – A website builder will help you create and design the different pages on your website. Options range from very easy drag-and-drop builders like Weebly to more complicated but powerful platforms like Squarespace and WordPress.
- Shopping cart – You’ll need shopping cart software to enable customers to put items in their cart and checkout.
- Payment gateway – This is a system that enables you to accept credit cards and allows your customers to input sensitive credit card information on a secure page.
While you need each of these things to have an online store, you don’t necessarily need to purchase each independently. For instance, Weebly and Squarespace both include shopping cart and payment gateway add-ons. Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce are full-scale shopping cart platforms that let you manage inventory, purchases, returns, and more.
Get these basics in order, and then look at our suggestions below to come up with your own unconventional website.
5 Creative Approaches to Adding an Online Store
1. Use Your Brick & Mortar Store as a “Showroom”, But Sell Online
Online shopping offers convenience, while shopping in-store lets customers see, feel, and try out items. You can offer the best of both worlds by using your brick & mortar store as a “showroom” and selling your products or services online. With this setup, customers can visit your store to test drive your products. They can then whip out their mobile devices or use in-store kiosks to place an order.
Customers won’t be walking out of your store with any merchandise, but the products will be delivered to their doorstep a day or two later. Following this model, menswear e-tailer Bonobos has “guideshops” where shoppers can consult with employees to find the right size, color, fit, and fabric. Casper Mattresses also does something similar. The online company started setting up brick & mortar stores throughout the country where shoppers can “book a nap”, but most of the sales are still done on their website.
This concept offers many interesting opportunities that can drive sales. Instead of having shelves occupy space, you can dedicate certain areas for interactive experiences. For example, you can set up a spot in your store where customers can test power tools, take selfies, or even play games. Your store sells experience instead of products, and the transactions happen seamlessly online.
2. Accept Custom Orders Online
Around 4 in 10 shoppers are interested in personalized products, so enabling customers to place personalized orders can help you generate more sales. One way to do this is to sell all of your merchandise in-store, but dedicate your website to custom orders.
Retailers such as Nike offer custom-made products online. Source: Calio.org
This strategy can be particularly effective during the holiday season when there’s a surge in demand for personalized items for gift giving.
Offer the following to help customers create their own custom products:
- A blank canvass (e.g. shirt, shoes, etc) that customers can personalize
- An assortment of color and/or size options
- Materials to build the product around
- Images or designs to put on the product
Your customers can mix and match designs, materials, and colors to come up with an item that suits their preferences. NikeiD is a popular website where sneakerheads can create custom shoes. Build-A-Bear allows kids to build a personalized stuffed toy.
3. Launch A Make-Your-Own-Offer Site
You might be losing countless sales every day in your brick & mortar store if your shoppers think your prices are too high or can’t afford what you are charging. While prices posted in-store are final, you can be more flexible online. Have a website where customers can name their own price on certain merchandise. This can be instrumental in expanding your customer base.
Have customers place bids on your items Source: Heaven’s Gate Home and Garden
Enable shoppers to bid on items like eBay. If the bid falls within a certain margin, the item is sold. Otherwise, the bid is sent to an administrator for approval, and those shoppers are notified if their offer is accepted. Many retailers attest that this strategy drives sales, especially if shoppers order multiple items. Websites like Greentoe and Heaven’s Gate Home and Garden have found success using this strategy.
In order to make a bid, require customers to provide their email address. That way, you can send follow up updates and promotions. Even if the strategy doesn’t generate tons of revenues, it turns your website into a lead capturing machine.
4. Create A Sale Alert Website
97 percent of shoppers try to find deals when they shop, and 7 in 10 shoppers believe that they will get better deals online than in the store. So a website dedicated to alerting customers when an item of choice goes on sale is likely to get a lot of visitors. Instead of selling directly, you can feature your products online. Shoppers can click on a product they like and receive a notification when the price drops. Then, they can find the nearest store location to purchase the item.
Create a website exclusive for sale alerts Source: ShopStyle.com
For this strategy to be effective, customers should not have to wait so long that they forget that they’ve signed up for a sale notification. Consider waiting for 10 – 20 people to sign up for an alert on a product, and then put it on sale. From there, you can perform additional testings to find the most optimum waiting time. Websites like ShopStyle rely on sending sales alerts to customers to drive sales.
5. Run a Pre-Order Website
As a retailer, you place orders in advance to your suppliers, which means you already know what you’ll be selling weeks or months from now. You can leverage this information by creating a website solely for items that you’ll be selling in the future that customers can pre-order. Many customers enjoy the treasure hunt experience, and this is something that you can satisfy by featuring products that are not yet available in-store.
Tech and gaming industries have been leveraging the pre-order approach. Source: Apple
Gadget and gaming sellers have been using this strategy for years, and it appears to be working. 1 in 5 gamers pre-order video games on a regular basis.
To encourage customers to commit, you can throw in sweeteners like discount coupons which can be redeemed on their next visit. You can also guarantee a lower price for pre-orders, a strategy used and advertised by large e-commerce stores, including Amazon. Furthermore, you can add a functionality that shows the number of users who pre-ordered the same item. Demand creates a sense of urgency and encourages shoppers to complete their purchase.
To top it all off, implementing a pre-order website is very simple. You only need a landing page or a one-page website for each product that goes on pre-order.
You don’t have to be like everyone else if you plan to add an online store to your brick & mortar store. You can add an interesting twist, such as accepting custom orders or pre-orders on your website or transforming your store into a “showroom”. With a little bit of imagination, you can come up with an unconventional online approach that will boost sales and establish your brand as a trendsetter.