Brick-and-mortar retailers seem to have a love-hate relationship with eCommerce. Online sellers represent a new faction of competition for the neighborhood store or regional chain. On the other hand, adding an online channel gives retailers new opportunities to grow their businesses.
If you’re undecided about the value that adding an eCommerce channel can offer your business — or if you’ve begun selling online, but aren’t seeing the benefits — weighing the pros and cons of this revenue stream can help you make an informed decision and shape your business strategy.
Become an Omnichannel Powerhouse
Leverage online sales to drive brick and mortar sales.
- Expanded reach: Selling online allows you reach more people anytime, day or night, across the country or even around the world. It may even help you connect with people in your own backyard who are unable to go out to shop or who simply prefer to shop online.
- New services: With an eCommerce website, you can provide your customers with additional conveniences. For example, you can offer Click and Collect/ Buy Online Pickup In Store (BOPIS), enabling your customers to browse your inventory online and then order for convenient in-store pickup. Our 2018 Global Path to Purchase Survey found about half of all shoppers around the world take advantage of this omnichannel opportunity. Additionally, an eCommerce website allows you to easily offer home delivery, advance orders of new products, and quick links to product information that help customers make buying decisions.
- Greater insights into your customer base: eCommerce websites can provide you with a wealth of information on customer browsing and buying habits, which, when combined with in-store data from your point of sale (POS) system or other technologies, will give you a 360-degree view of individual shoppers. This insight enables you to personalize service, tailor promotions, and target offers for greatest effectiveness and greatest return.
- Endless aisle: With the right system, in-store shoppers never have to leave empty-handed because the items they want are out of stock. Managing eCommerce with in-store inventory gives you the ability to locate an item, down to the size and color, in your inventory or supply chain, and have it shipped to the customer, saving the sale.
eCommerce Cons (and How to Avoid Them)
- Software integration issues: If your eCommerce solution doesn’t seamlessly integrate with your enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer databases, point of sale (POS) and other business systems, you’ll waste time with double data entry and an increased chance for errors. Opt for a fully integrated platform that gives you centralized management capabilities and that shares data from all channels across your entire organization.
- Poor inventory visibility: Similarly, if you attempt to manage inventory for your physical locations separately from your online channels, you (and your customers) will lack visibility into available stock. Costs of safety stock and overstocks will be higher as well. Solve this problem by managing inventory with a single stock pool.
- Disjointed shopping experience: Your customers expect consistent shopping experiences, regardless of which channel they choose to engage with your brand. Merchandise, pricing, loyalty rewards — even the look and feel of your physical and online storefronts — should be the same on all channels. Shoppers, virtually all of whom now use multiple channels on their path to purchase, also want the ability to start the shopping journey on one channel and complete it on another. Create seamless shopping experiences that maintain your high standards for customer service and your brand image across all channels.
- Poor mCommerce experience: Many consumers prefer to shop via smartphone; in fact, eMarketer reports that worldwide mCommerce sales reached an estimated $1.357 trillion in 2017, 58.9% of overall eCommerce spending. Furthermore, mCommerce is projected to account for 72.9% of eCommerce by 2021. Make sure your eCommerce website is mobile responsive or you provide an app for convenient mCommerce to capitalize on this growing trend.
Launching an eCommerce channel can mean increased reach, increased sales, and even heavier brick-and-mortar traffic. But you need to avoid the potential downside with the right strategies, the right technology, and the right processes so your business can enjoy maximum benefits.