You've probably heard people say that online shopping will be the death of brick and mortar stores. But if the past few years have proved anything, it's that we as shoppers crave "experiences" when spending our dollars.
That said, online sales are still a big piece of the puzzle, and if you are wondering how, or if, you should try to capture more share of your customer's wallet via eCommerce, then this article is for you.
We've partnered with Josh Orr, founder and CEO of Capital Commerce, an eCommerce agency that helps brick and mortar retailers gain traction in their online stores, to help give you the right points to consider when thinking about what your online presence should, or could, be.
Q: Josh, what drew you to this business of helping retailers build their online presence?
I’ve been in retail my entire life and have always loved the “magic” of in-store retail. Once I saw the power that eCommerce could have in the brick and mortar world, I knew it was where I wanted to make an impact.
Josh Orr, founder and CEO of Capital Commerce
Q: What do you see for the future of brick and mortar independent retail stores?
Brick and mortar has been through a lot of change in the last ten years. For so long, there were many that predicted the “death of storefronts” but I think the pandemic showed that to be far from true.
"People crave experiences, they actually want the connection that comes from being face to face."
On the other hand, shopping habits have shifted. Someone that bought maybe 5% of their things online in 2019 is now getting 15-20% of their goods online. This opens up a new challenge for storefronts to make sure those online purchases are happening with them and not a competitor with a better online experience.
Interestingly enough, we found that if a storefront can get a customer to also buy online, their lifetime value goes up by around 30%. When they want to shop in-store, they are loyal to their local store and when they want to shop online, they can apply the same loyalty.
Q: What goes into building a successful e-commerce brand?
Building a strong brand is one of the most important pieces of online success but it’s one that many struggle to do. The best place to start isn’t even with the “online” brand, but the brand itself, regardless of the sales channel. In my content, I teach a framework called the “V’s of a Strong Brand” and defining these is a great starting place.
First, there’s the obvious one: Visuals. This is your logo, fonts, colors, and other visual elements of who you are. Defining these is incredibly important but it’s not where “brand” stops.
Next we get to your brand “Voice”. This is how the brand communicates. From the tone of voice to the nuances in how you communicate. Is the brand funny, serious, snarky, cute, or is it very professional? Capturing this will impact your site copy, emails, social post, and even how your sales associates talk with your customers.
Once these are defined, we want to understand the brand “Value Proposition”. This is what you do for your customer, and more specifically what you do better than anyone else. We like to call this your “superpower”.
When we combine all of these, we’re able to build an eCommerce experience that offers the same feeling of the storefront and is able to serve them in a similar way. It’s not about selling products (though we want to do that too), it’s about the impact you have on your customers lives.
Q: When you start talking with a store owner about their eCommerce approach, what are the first things you want to know about their business?
The first thing I want to know about a potential client is what they actually want out of their business. Does the owner actually want to have an online store or did an “expert” tell them it’s something they had to do and they feel pressured into it? Ultimately, we want to help people reach the goals they have for themselves and I want those goals to align with where we can help.
Next, I’m asking questions to understand their “superpower” - the thing they do best, the “magic” that makes their in-store experience so great. Then, we’ll talk through their online experience and see how those things come through online. Many stores know they do something more than “sell products”, they solve their customers' problems and many times do even more than that (For example, a home décor business helps their customer create an inviting home they feel confident entertaining in.)
"When it comes to online, many brands just 'sell products' - the magic of the in-store experience just isn’t there. This tells us if we have room to help them close that gap."
Lastly, I want to see if there is actually the capacity to grow online sales. Managing a storefront takes a lot of time and energy and adding in a new sales channel can take a lot of work. For most brands that do this well, it is the owner creating systems to delegate things like keeping up with the merchandising of the site to entering new inventory and fulfilling orders.
Q: What advice do you have for retailers wanting to improve their online presence?
Your online experience should live up to your brand, which is likely seen best in your in-store experience. A great place to start is by looking at your first impression. In-store, we greet them in a certain way so they feel like they’re in the right place and we ask great questions to guide them in their purchase. Online, this looks a bit different but we can look at why we do what we do in-store and bring that intention online.
For the greeting, think about the feeling you want your visitors to feel when they enter the store. One of the easiest ways to bring a similar feeling online is through imagery and copy on your hero image (the big image at the top) that resonates with your customer. Instead of a picture of our store, consider having lifestyle imagery that showcases what the brand does best and copy around your current brand focus.
For the questions you’re asking, your navigation (top menu) can do the same thing. People shop in different ways and a good navigation can accommodate all of them. This means simplifying the categories we’re adding, letting people shop by brand or style, and showcasing curated collections that showcase what you do best.
Q: What advice do you have to help retailers improve their overall business?
There are so many things to “improve” a retail business and the hardest thing to do - although possibly the most impactful - is choosing which things to say “No!” to. So many times, our efforts get pulled in so many directions that we’re busier than ever but not making the impact (or money) we know we should.
This means that we choose to say “no” to a lot of good ideas to really focus on the great ideas that are going to move the needle. The power of prioritization is the most significant move any entrepreneur, in and out of retail, can learn.
The future of brick and mortar is bright, and when a store is fully ready to pair their unique in-store brand experience with an amazing online experience, they will be poised to see more growth than ever before.
Interested in learning more from Josh and his team?
Don't forget to follow Josh and his team on social media, or contact Capital Commerce directly.