For a big eCommerce business that is solely based online, eCommerce is pretty much the whole business. All individuals and departments are not only working full-time on the digital and online aspect of the business (which is basically most of the work), but they also have high expertise in managing the tiny digital details with stunning efficiency.
But what if your business is a brick-and-mortar that wants to go click-and-mortar? A click-and-mortar business is a business that has physical store locations for customers to shop from, along with an eCommerce website that sells their products online as well. You have the business expertise and years of experience in your domain, but neither you or your team are particularly experienced in eCommerce, digital merchandising or online marketing.
How can you create an online store for your company without having to hire an entire department to handle all its and bits of online retail?And is it worth it? for most cases (not all of course, but most) starting an online store is worth it, especially if your target audience lies within the range of 16 and 50 years old. And now more and more people do most of their shopping online.
If you take a closer look, you'll see that within the last 20 years nearly all the big brick-and-mortar brands created an eCommerce website and entered the world of online retail. And it's for a good reason.
According to their report on the retail eCommerce sales in the 3rd quarter in 2018, Census.gov estimated that over 10% of the total retail sales in the U.S. is done through eCommerce stores. And it doesn't stop here, the trend has been growing as more and more customers are becoming more and more familiar with online shopping. If you think 10% is a small number, you need to consider the following. Out of 1,340,207,000,000 USD spent on retail in one quarter in the US, 130,946,000,000 USD were spent in shopping online alone. Yup, that's 130 billion dollars. In one quarter.
Well, if the market is that lucrative, why isn't every single brick-and-mortar shop going online too? Yes, the market is lucrative, the opportunities are virtually limitless and having an eCommerce arm can provide even more opportunities and sometimes more traffic to your brick-and-mortar shop. But let's be honest here. The move isn't that straight-forward. It takes resources and effort to start and maintain an eCommerce store for your brick and mortar business in a seamless way. Just like what you need to open a new branch for your shop.
The website will reflect your brand, and the customers' experience on it needs to be taken care of as well. Unsolved technical problems, customer tickets, shipping problems and unfriendly user interfaces will affect your company's brand. Just like an attractive and functional website, friendly user experience and cooperative online customer support will increase your brand value.
Doing eCommerce the easy way
What we're saying is that although starting an eCommerce website is not a quick way to get more sales, it doesn't need to be that hard either. There's a much easier way to take your shop online and launch your eCommerce store with a fraction of the effort and without most of the hassle, overwhelm and the distraction that comes along with it. It's simple, outsource!
All you need is to know what exactly do you want out of your eCommerce presence. Is all that you want online is eCommerce sales only? or do you want to use it for an integrated online-offline experience for your customers? like placing the order online and picking it up from the brick-and-mortar location, for example.
The next step is to plan and outsource all the heavy lifting to experts. And with millions of businesses and individuals working in the sector of outsourcing services, you can virtually outsource anything. From doing your business's finances to fulfillment. It's all there. And if you're not comfortable working with freelancers, you can hire reliable service companies to do it for you.
What to outsource?
The services that you'll need to run your eCommerce store will vary according to the outcomes that you want out of it. But in general, the following is a checklist with the basic services and tools that you'll need to launch and maintain an eCommerce website on autopilot for your brick-and-mortar business. And since we know more about the Shopify platform, we will consider it for this case. However, the checklist will still be helpful if you chose any other eCommerce platform. It has the basics to get started, but if you want more customized solutions you can outsource specialized companies and individuals for it. But for now, this is enough to get you started on a good basis.
Launching the website
For launching a properly functioning website, you'll need to:
1- Photograph your products: Since you'll display your products digitally, you'll need professionally photographed photos of your products. You can hire a photographer to take care of all the product photography work you need, and give you the photos you need for displaying your products. You can choose one from the Shopify Photography experts here.
- Product photography, in this case, is a one-time hire for the website launching. However, you might need it again every once in a while when adding new products for your website.
2- Setup your shop: You can hire an agency or a freelancer to do all the website setup work for you. This one will take all the hassle of product importing off your shoulders. Including adding the products (and their variations) to your online store and displaying them in a professional way. You can find a list of Shopify setup experts here.
- This is a one-time hire, they'll set up the shop for you and that's it.
3- Hire a Shopify web development expert: A Shopify developer will create your online store's theme (if you didn't like any of Shopify's ready-made themes), will take care of all the website glitches, the theme customization and the website plugins that you'll use for on your website. You can hire either a freelancer or a Shopify development agency.
- Hiring a Shopify development expert (whether an agency or a freelancer) is a long-term thing. Your online store needs regular maintenance and website audits to make sure everything is functioning properly.
Digital Marketing and Design:
When you decide to go digital, you'll need to reach your audience and market your products to them in a completely new environment. Here's what you need to do eCommerce marketing the right way.
1- Digital Marketer: Although the marketing rules are very much the same both online and offline, the tools used and the techniques used for execution are very different from marketing for a brick-and-mortar shop. You can outsource eCommerce marketing to a specialized expert to take care of all the digital advertising, social media maintenance and all other digital marketing aspects for you. You can find a list of expert agencies and individuals here.
- Digital marketing is a long-term thing as well, as you're in a space where at least hundreds of other companies are competing for the attention, time and ultimately orders of the same audience that you're after.
2- Graphic Designer: You'll need some website banners, advertising banners, and social media graphics to complement the digital marketing work. You can find a list of recommended designers and design agencies here.
- This is a long-term thing because you'll constantly need designs for the marketing and advertising work and for changing visuals for your website banners in seasonal campaigns (Black Friday or Christmas for example).
Warehousing and order fulfillment:
The order fulfillment part varies to a huge degree based on your business size, logistics and what are the expected size of online orders. But in most cases, warehousing, inventory management, packaging, and shipping are the biggest time and energy-consuming aspect in starting or maintaining an eCommerce website.
You can outsource all the previous aspects of your online store through fulfillment providers. The provider does all the warehousing, packaging and order fulfillment on your behalf. Taking all this work off your plate. This article on Shopify's official website will guide you through choosing the perfect fulfillment provider along with examples of 6 providers that they recommend.
If the size of your business can accommodate shipping products directly from your stores, you can work with your Shopify development expert to set in place the needed apps and plugins in order to automate the order fulfillment process. It might need an extra store staff to manage and prepare the orders that will be shipped online, or if it's possible for the existing in-store staff to handle it.
Customer Service and finance
For online customer service support and taking care of your eCommerce financial reports, you can hire freelancers with strong profiles and a proven record of previous clients on websites like Upwork, PeoplePerHour and many other platforms.
This way, you can create an eCommerce website for your brick-and-mortar business. Outsourcing more than 90% of the work needed to maintain it. And if your Shopify subscription is on Shopify's premium package Shopify Plus, you can also make use of their special automation platform Shopify Flow to create automatic workflows and automate the process even more.
If you have the resources, you can hire a coordinator to be responsible for coordinating all the previous processes to make sure everything is working in a smooth and seamless way. This will basically automate nearly 100% of the work needed to maintain your shop's eCommerce website. Giving you the time and focus to work on your usual brick-and-mortar business aspects while enjoying the benefits of having an online store-front that's displaying your products 24/7.