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Building Your Pet Brick-and-Mortar Business Online


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Offer a consistent design experience in-store and online.

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Retail has made a science and art of merchandising and capturing a consumer’s attention. 

Consumers are finding products online. They’re thinking about items, looking for details and doing research. These are things that they used to do in-store. In North America, more than 80 percent of the population has accessed the internet, according to one study, and Google, YouTube and Amazon are the first stops we make in the search for products that we need.  

With online giants such as Amazon and Chewy making headlines almost every day, it might feel like there’s too much to do to compete, but, in fact, there are a few simple things that you can do to make sure that you anticipate consumers’ online shopping habits. Are you ready for the shift? 

If you’re a retailer, you know merchandising and how to get a consumer to pay attention to special items when they come in-store. That first impression when a consumer walks into a store is an ever-important moment in establishing trust with the consumer. Your online presence needs to be the same. When a consumer reaches your store, they need to know that they can feel like they can trust you, and they have to have confidence in your product knowledge right away. 

• Be authentic. According to a survey of consumers in the U.S.,  U.K. and Australia conducted by Stackla, a social media content platform and asset manager, 86 percent of people say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support, and 57 percent of respondents indicated that less than half of brand-created content resonates as authentic. Whatever is working in your store, don’t be something different online. This one is tricky, but you don’t want to just show them pictures of your brick-and-mortar store—you need to re-create the feel online, even if you’re not selling and just informing.

• Strive for a consistent brand experience. Your in-store signage, web page and social media should all have the same feel. The in-store experience you deliver is one that makes consumers love coming to the store; your online profile should be the same. The other reason you want to create a consistent feel is that in the digital world, consumers will show up from all different places, angles and time zones. Not all of them will go to your social channels or your home page and work their way around from there. They might do a search and wind up in the middle of your website, so you want to make sure that all of it looks consistent so they can navigate around no matter how they got there. 

• Don’t be shy: Tell them what you want. As you market, don’t get fancy with the asks. When you’re putting out content that informs people of something, inform them. When you’re trying to sell them something, sell it. Online consumers are used to the straight goods. Most of the time, consumers are able to distinguish between consumer-created content and brand-created content. 

• Find out where your customer does their research. Don’t follow the crowds on this one. Facebook and Instagram might be good places to find followers, but the use of these platforms doesn’t always convert into sales. People still do research. Is your online consumer using Google to search for things? What kinds of products are they searching for? In the same way that your geographical store had to put up road signs, signposts and advertising, your online presence needs the same. Don’t invest until you understand where they go to find products and, ultimately, you.

As retailers, your secret weapon is tuning into what your consumers want and how to make them happy. The consumer has changed where they do research, who they listen to and where they make their decisions. Apply your skills to the online world, and you’ll find that there’s a broader audience that you’ll be able to surprise and delight.


As a retail industry expert and co-host of “This Commerce Life” podcast, Phil Chang tracks emerging trends and insights that could impact businesses engaged in commerce. With 20 years of experience under his belt, Chang helps brands and retailers adapt to the new realities of retail and the next generation of commerce. With three kids, he’s more familiar with gen Z than he’d care to admit. A frequent speaker at industry events in Canada and the U.S., across multiple verticals, you’ll find him searching for unique local businesses everywhere he goes.

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