Mastercard reported that U.S. retail sales grew at 5.1 percent this holiday season -- the best in years! It is largely attributed to an ever-growing weapon by physical stores: the Internet.
With online sales outpacing in-store sales, more brick and mortar businesses are adopting the philosophy “if you can’t beat’em, join’em” when it comes to e-commerce. January is the perfect time for your business to create or refresh its online presence.
It’s no longer online vs offline -- it’s both!
eBay and Zappos are among a growing list of e-tailers building physical stores. The strategy, called Online-to-Offline or 020, aims to drive e-tail shoppers to the nearest physical store to make a purchase.
Why would e-tailers do this? A major drawback of online shopping is shoppers cannot experience products like they do in physical stores. While many shoppers utilize online stores as their primary shopping destination, they still prefer physical stores where they can try out products before buying them. This is even true for millennials, 70% of which prefer to shop in stores even though they spend 7.5 hours online daily.
020 is proof that physical retail remains vital – even for those already boasting a thriving digital presence. E-tailers need brick and mortar locations to serve as customer experience centers.
The takeaway for brick and mortar stores is 020 works equally well in reverse (Offline to Online). Adding e-commerce will boost physical store sales. Customers can search your site for product information and inspiration before visiting you in-person to make an in-store purchase or pick up an online ordered item.
Explore opportunities beyond your website
Amazon gave brick and mortar stores another reason to get online. It reported that more than 50 percent of the items it sold this holiday season came from small and medium-size businesses. That’s largely due to the e-tail giant’s launch of Amazon Storefronts in September, which makes it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to sell products directly through Amazon.
Google searches on mobile phones are how most people find you today. Mastering Search Engine Optimization (SEO) drives potential customers to your website and increases your chances of showing up on Google Search and Google Maps. For example, optimizing your business listing for searches containing the phrase “near me” so mobile users can find you amongst local retailers.Google is continually tweaking its search algorithm, so use the New Year to dust off your SEO skills. If your business is just now launching, use Google’s SEO Starter Guide.
Meet your customers in the middle
The future of shopping is a hybrid offline/online experience. There will always be something special about entering a store — feeling the materials, smelling aromas, getting complimentary cookies or glass of champagne, and interacting with helpful employees that know your name; but physical stores need more than foot traffic alone.
Make it your New Year’s resolution to build your e-commerce presence. By meeting shoppers online and introducing them to your store and merchandise, you will attract new customers that have the option of buying from you, both in-store and online.
Heartland offers you best in class solutions to easily manage payments -- including a full-service eCommerce platform that allows you to set up an online merchant portal for ordering, selling products and collecting consumer payments. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.