Transforming your brick and mortar store into a click and mortar business could be a very profitable and wise decision for your business in 2011. The introduction of the internet and eCommerce has drastically affected the way our society shops, and thus the way businesses need to operate. An online store can open up without ever having a physical location and pose a real threat to many traditional brick and mortar stores. Should you turn your brick and mortar business into a click and mortar store to compete?
A click and mortar is defined as "A type of business model that includes both online and offline operations, which typically include a website and a physical store. A click-and-mortar company can offer customers the benefits of fast, online transactions or traditional, face-to-face service." Additional benefits of click and mortar stores are seen in increased distribution channels and a checkout clerk that never sleeps. You can sell your products 24 hours a day and 7 days a week without ever paying a sales clerk to man the cash register.
You should consider several qualifications before rushing into the online world of eCommerce:
1. Have a Website / Willing to Pay Marketplace Fees The most basic qualification of operating a click and mortar business is the presence of a website and a shopping cart. If you do not have a website or a shopping cart, you should consider getting started selling online by selling through marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon. The only problem with marketplaces like eBay and Amazon are the fees associated with product listings and after purchase sales. These fees can reach astronomical levels, leaving your ROI slaughtered. You can avoid these fees by operating your own online store by establishing a website and shopping cart. Make your online store found via organic search engine traffic through keyword strategies for eCommerce search engine optimization .
2. Inventory / Willing to Drop Ship at Higher Rates A valid concern for many businesses interested in getting into the eCommerce business is available inventory. Selling online creates a potential problem of having your products unavailable offline. The simple answer to this concern is to set limits to the number of items you allow to be sold online. Almost all eCommerce solutions allow you to control the inventory of your products. An alternate solution to controlling your product distribution is to find a drop shipper that ships products related to the ones you sale in your store. The downside to drop shipping is the increase in price you will pay for both their inventory and shipping systems.
3. Shipping Department / Willing to Drive to Post Office Logistics of shipping and managing product distribution will be the first hurdle you will face when becoming a legit eCommerce business. It is easy to handle 2 -3 orders a day, but what will you do when you get to 75 – 200 orders a day? Shipping and logistics comes much more of a concern. Thankfully, the increase in revenue created from 75 – 200 new orders every day will leave you with some extra money to hire a shipping manager to help process, pack and ship online orders. Most business just getting started will be fine without a shipping department and can either drive to the Post Office to ship online orders or schedule a shipping company to come and pickup packages from your place of business.
4. Technology Resource / Willing to Learn. An often overlooked piece to a successful online business is an employee that is technologically efficient. This employee doesn’t have to be an eCommerce guru, but should be knowledgeable enough tell you the difference between Google Web and Google Product Search and how to get your website to show up on each. Your technological resource should preferably have some background with eCommerce, know how to setup and operate an online shopping cart and understand how to send data feeds to marketplaces. If you either do not have the capitol or availability of a technology efficient employee, then you need to have an eagerness to learn. There are abundant resources available online and shopping carts such as Shopify that make it extremely easy to get started.
5. Marketing Resource / Willing to Engage. Online marketing for your eCommerce store and products should be a high priority for establishing a successful click and mortar store. Just like your brick and mortar store, your online store needs advertisement in order to survive. Thankfully inbound marketing for eCommerce is a very good solution for increasing both your store and products visibility online. You should consider hiring an employee or intern that qualifies for what HubSpot Founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah refer to as a “Digital Native”. These types of employees can have dramatic effects on your business and can really propel your profit growth. If you do not have the capital or availability of a marketing resource, then you need have a willingness to engage in online marketing. HubSpot offers a wide breadth of knowledge and resources to help you market your online and offline stores very effectively.
6. Tenacity / Willing to Set Long Term Vision of Business Growth vs. Store Growth. Launching a new online business is similar to opening a new brick and mortar business. You will not achieve overnight success with your new online store. You will not sell 100 products the first day of your store being live. You may not sell 100 products within the first month of opening your online store. But you will be successful if you have the tenacity to see the online business grow and succeed. Like starting a new business, it takes time and effort to grow an online store to prosperity. However, the prosperity of selling 100 products online a day in addition to your brick and mortar sales can be very lucrative and worthwhile. Set a long-term vision for your business growth, not your store growth. Selling just 1 product online a day, week or even month is helping your business grow. Don’t forget that.