Okay, so we know the demand is there. Now, how do you prepare for it? How can you set up your retail business to win on the Internet? For many, this is a scary proposition. There are lots of horror stories out there about failed Internet 토토사이트 추천, runaway expenses, and confusing techno-speak that have many retailers thinking that they can never succeed online. While there are no guarantees that your Internet retail business will succeed, the odds are more in your favor than you think. Typically the initial investment can be small, and there are more resources available to you today than ever before. It is no longer difficult to link your Web site to your point-of-sale system, and aside from a few start-up costs, you can be in business relatively quickly.
Before I launch into the exact steps that you would take to set up your retail business properly on the Internet, let me make sure I prepare you for the road ahead. Opening a store on the Internet has some similarities to opening another brick-and-mortar store.
It’s true that you don’t pay rent for an Internet retail business. Nor do you pay for fixtures, utilities, or any other physical elements that you had to buy when you put your brick-and-mortar store there. Further, when you first open your Internet retail business, you don’t need to buy more inventory (until things take off) and while there is some personnel expense (Web designers, integrators, and possibly marketers), it’s not as costly as hiring store managers, sales staff, cashiers, and stock personnel.
There are two areas that you will have to be prepared to invest in. The first is the creation of the Web site. Your Web site has to be professionally designed and must contain vital features to interest your customers. These features are discussed in detail below. Your Web site’s look and construction are direct reflections of your store name and personality. Just as you took time to perfect your brick-and-mortar store’s looks, you must do the same for your Internet retail store. Take the time to establish the right color scheme, layout, photography, and presentation of the site.
The second area that you will have to invest in is advertising. Be prepared to spend far more on advertising on the Internet than you do for your brick-and-mortar store. At first, this makes many retailers roll their eyes and not want to proceed, but keep in mind that your total expenses for an Internet retail business should be far less than a brick-and- mortar store. As such, although the advertising can be costly, the benefits should outweigh this.
There is one last thing to consider before we get into the actual steps of getting your retail business online. Some portion of your expenses in creating the Web site should be attributed to your brick-and-mortar store. Research now confirms that many customers will go to your site, look around, and if pleased will then visit your store. You will therefore make sales at the brick-and-mortar store based upon the visit to the Web site. This can be difficult to quantify, but it must be considered. Asking customers, “How did you hear about us?” or “What made you come in today?” may help you quantify the effect of the Web site on brick-and-mortar sales.
Building the Perfect Beast
There are literally billions of Web sites on the Internet today. Certainly there have been great developments in the area of Web design over the past few years. Some of these developments are meaningful for retailers, some are not. Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff.
First, there is a vital rule of thumb to remember. Web sites have two audiences: people who can and will buy from you, and search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN. The latter send out programs (called spiders or sometimes bots) that will “read” your site and report back to the search engines, what they believe to be the topic(s) of your site. These programs collect data that tells the search engines where to rank you when someone searches for something that your store might carry. But these programs have limitations: They cannot watch video and they cannot look at pictures. As such, you need to make sure that your site has more than just pretty pictures or great video. The search engines need to read the text that you have on your site in order to figure out who and what you are. Sites that are all flash animation and graphics have a tough time getting noticed by search engines.
This means that your site must be balanced, through all the pages, for both buyers and the search engines. So many retailers tell me that they want their site to be “clean,” which usually means free of a lot of busy text or images. From a design or aesthetic sense, I agree. However, the most popular sites on the Internet right now are very, very busy. They are loaded with lots of choices for consumers to click on, and tons of descriptive text. The Internet is a different place and has different rules.
This is probably due to the short attention spans that exist online. Per survey, a Web site has somewhere between 5 and 20 seconds to grab the interest of a visitor. If it doesn’t, that visitor will go somewhere else.