Forget the old, repetitive and now redundant question on whether you need an online outlet. We’re certainly not going to state the obvious here. The question today is should your online outlet be a window into your store or a door that’s open for business 24/7?
E-tailing is NOT and just in case you missed it – NOT – a suitable option for every business. It used to be a costly venture – but not anymore. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s worth the investment. It may not cost a fortune to launch an e-commerce enabled site, but it takes upkeep, a degree of internet savvy and significant time and attention, as well opening a business up to potential reputation management risks.
Do you have a proven, reliable and dependable web company? The people you work with must be able to lead you through the process of building and executing an e-commerce site and deliver a package that fits your needs, image and customers. It’s not just matter of adding a ‘buy’ button to your site. You need to develop a series of wireframes showing the flow and feel of your site. You need to make sure the technology and platform you’re using is robust and adaptable. This is something your web company should be able to explain and advise you on. You’re a jeweler – not a web developer. Ask questions, they’re the experts, that’s why you’re hiring them.
Do you have a plan on how to direct consumers around your site? How can you direct the attention and clicks of online shoppers? How can you decrease the percentage of ‘abandoned’ shopping carts? Is your site easily navigable? Test, test, and re-test the site. Not just for tech issues, but see how your staff, friends, family and babysitter move around the site. Your site needs to be ‘sticky’. Simply put, you need to keep surfers on your site for as long as possible. The longer they stay- the better the chance they’ll leave with a purchase. Information, content and education are all good add-ons – but you ultimately want to direct the consumers to the product.
Do you have dedicated personnel? You need to make sure you have people that will monitor the site/upload product/ pack/ship and follow up on sales and queries. An unhappy online customer is more likely to post bad reviews about your business, than an unhappy walk-in customer. If someone walks into your store and asks a question – you’d be horrified if your sales team ignored them. The same applies online.
Do you have a way to judge your ROI? Have you determined what makes your online presence a beneficial investment? That doesn’t just mean how many transactions take place – add into the equation how many visitors come to the site? How many people come to your physical location after visiting the site? Email leads? Marketing buzz?
Do you have full vendor co-operation? Do you have an agreement with the brands you carry permitting online sales of their product (not all vendors want or allow their product online).
Do you have security measures in place? Speak to your financial institution to make sure you have all necessary and relevant security features in place when it comes to taking online orders. Credit card fraud is the bane of every online retailer and jewelry is a favorite purchase for fraudsters. You’re not automatically protected if you ship your piece and then discover the transaction is fraudulent. Speak to the credit card companies to see what you need to do to protect yourself.
Next week we examine whether it’s an online ‘Deal Or No Deal’. Groupon, livingsocial.com, deal of the day and more – find out whether these will either help you go big – or go bust.