The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way we sell and buy products. With customers staying at home due to the global lockdown, brick-and-mortar stores have found themselves in dire straits. Thankfully, there is one COVID-proof solution. You have to digitize your store and start selling products online. Naturally, running an eCommerce business is quite a challenge. But if you want to stay afloat, it’s your best and safest bet. With our help, you’ll find out what you can do to turn your stationary store into a successful eCommerce company.
Today, no one doubts that eCommerce is the future. The experts anticipate a collective 3.9 trillion USD in eCommerce sales this year. This means that if you’re not selling online, you’re missing a fantastic opportunity to grow your sales on an unprecedented scale!
Before we switch to the question of the digitization of your store, let’s think for a second, why should you do it? There are at least five good reasons:
- The internet has no boundaries, which means that you can serve customers from all over the world. It’s beyond the reach of any brick-and-mortar store.
- You save money. You don’t have to pay rent (which is usually quite steep) or even have to run a warehouse! Actually, all you need is a website and an eCommerce platform. Cost-wise, the online store is a much better solution.
- You can easily expand your offer. You don’t have to worry about where to keep inventory. Modern outsourcing solutions (we’ll get into that later) allow you to sell as many products as you want!
- You can run many online stores. Here, only your time and budget limit you.
- The internet is a pandemics-proof environment. You don’t have to worry that due to the second attack of COVID-19, you’ll have to shut down your business altogether.
Admittedly, there are some serious arguments behind the thesis that you should digitize your store. Easier said than done? Without a shadow of a doubt! But don’t throw in the towel just yet. You’re about to find out what to do in order to make this process straightforward and well-thought-out.
Start with your budget
First of all, you have to think about money. Most likely, you don’t have enough money to become a second Zalando, but this should not block your actions. Almost every successful online store had humble beginnings. You have to know how much money you can invest in, though. Depending on that, you’ll be able to choose the best services and products within your budget.
Your budget should especially include:
- Building a website with an eCommerce platform
- Product descriptions and pictures (in many instances, a professional photoshoot is necessary)
- Running or outsourcing a warehouse
- Hiring customer service consultants (at the beginning, you can do that yourself to save money)
- Online marketing
We can’t share any numbers with you because they depend on many factors, starting with the country where you want to locate your business. You have to do some research and find out how much money you should invest in building a professional online store.
What about marketing? Especially at the beginning, that’s your chief expenditure. Without marketing, you won’t be able to attract any customers. On the other hand, with well-optimized and efficient marketing campaigns, you can start making money from day one.
much exactly should you invest in marketing? As always, the answer is, it depends. But many experts agree that you should secure at least 7% of your gross revenue on sales and marketing each month.
A ready-made platform or a tailor-made solution?
When building an online store, you have two options:
- You can buy a ready-made, customizable eCommerce platform
- You can build one entirely from scratch
The first option is undoubtedly the cheapest. Many marketing experts recommend it, especially when you’re at the beginning of your journey, and want to invest money in promotion, rather than a platform. A tailor-made solution is recommended to larger stores with non-standard requirements and expectations. It is also said that ready-made platforms can cause some problems with SEO.
Find out what platforms are available in your country and what marketing and SEO possibilities they are offering. Read other users’ opinions and reviews. Try to find some eCommerce experts who can guide you through the entire process. And remember that you can always switch your store’s platform to another or build a new one.
Your online store has to respond to the consumers’ expectations
You have to realize that today, running an online store is a large and difficult project. The times when buying the simplest website template and putting the “buy now!” button on it as a sufficient way of doing business are long gone. Modern stores have to work perfectly and offer many services, like, for instance, express delivery or free returns.
There are dozens of questions you should be aware of and take into account when planning and developing the online store. To make that at least more clear and understandable, we have written an article, “How to build a crisis-proof eCommerce business?”. It tackles all of the crucial questions:
- Marketing strategy
- CX (Customer Experience)
- Performance marketing
- The multichannel marketing campaigns
- Supply chain diversification
- Logistics outsourcing
We encourage you to read it, as it will significantly broaden your knowledge! But your research shouldn’t end here. Read about all these fields of running an online store. The more you know, the more accurate decisions you can make. Don’t listen unwittingly to people who sell these solutions. You will always hear that it’s the perfect fit and the most efficient solution for your store. Gather your own knowledge based on reliable, objective sources.
Omnichannel–the best of both worlds
Omnichannel is an approach that will allow you to scale your business easily. Although it usually refers to marketing campaigns, it can also describe your sales channels. In fact, you don’t have to limit yourself just to offline/online channels. You can easily do both! If your offline store is profitable, there’s no need to shut it down altogether! Many companies operate both online and offline. Many large sales networks work this way, just to mention RTV Euro AGD–a Polish household appliance store. You can find their stores in every large shopping center in Poland, and you can also order products directly from their website.
Take a look at our client’s case study. HubStyle is a Polish fashion company. Just five years ago, they were handling the logistics question themselves, and they were operating almost exclusively online–they had just two offline stores. Today, thanks to cooperation with Omnipack and other adjustments, they managed to optimize their logistic processes. As a result, they now have ten new stationary stores. They have even started a franchise network.
What’s the moral of this story? Once you optimize your work and implement more effective solutions, your store can grow freely, and soon, new opportunities will open up! That’s the beauty of the omnichannel approach–your business can grow with no boundaries.
Don’t ever think of an offline activity as something mediocre. Instead, use your offline experience to maximize your online sales. In fact, many modern entrepreneurs don’t have your knowledge, which gives you a significant advantage.
The logistics issue
Many newly minted entrepreneurs are afraid of logistics. After all, until recently, it wasn’t their concern as customers simply entered into the store, purchased a product, and went home with it. Presently, everything has changed. When running an online store, you’re responsible for packing orders and shipping them to customers. At first, it may sound scary, especially when 100 orders are waiting to be shipped immediately.
Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be scary at all! There are at least four different options you can choose from:
It’s the most straightforward and cheapest model. On the other hand, it’s the most time-consuming one. Simply put, you do all the logistics-related activities all on your own. You have to run a warehouse and have contracts with the courier companies. You are responsible for packing products and shipping them to customers. This option seems quite natural, especially for people who are just starting their adventure with business. As your business grows, you should think of the other three models:
In this model, your store acts only as an intermediary–customers place orders on your website, but the distributor or manufacturer executes all logistical issues (order picking, packaging, delivery). Cost-wise it’s quite convenient, and many stores utilize this strategy. However, you are limited by the distributor’s or manufacturer’s time and resources. If they don’t have a given product in stock, you can’t send it to the customer.
Cross-docking is a similar approach to logistics in which products from the supplier are distributed to a customer or retail chain with little-to-no handling or storage time. Its essence is to collect products from many different suppliers and deliver them to customers. Again, your store is just an intermediary. After the purchase, the goods land in your warehouse, where they are repackaged and then sent to the buyer.
Order fulfillment (logistics outsourcing)
In this model, all logistics processes are delegated to an external operator (logistics center) who stores your goods in their warehouse and packs and sends parcels. The logistics center also performs several additional services–manages returns, completes sets, and packs parcels.
This is what we do at Omnipack. This model allows you to scale your business and concentrate on growing sales. Thanks to contracts with global and local courier companies, we can offer quick and cheap worldwide delivery. And the best news is, with our help, you don’t have to run a warehouse! You can use ours (or even two of them if need be).
If you want to find out more about order fulfillment, we encourage you to read our article about the three-step cross-border strategy.
If you are interested in logistics outsourcing, go to the contact section and give us a call. We will gladly show you all the benefits of this solution.