This article is for entrepreneurs and directors who are thinking about introducing an e-commerce Store Into your existing brick-and-mortar business.

It takes you through the process of understanding the areas to consider for the strategic implementation of an e-commerce process in your company. Each step is critical for the successful implementation of an online environment.

ALWAYS PLAN WELL

There are eight main decisions you will need to make when adding e-commerce to your current brick-and-mortar business. Do not make them in isolation. Your first step should be to consider your options within the broader context of your business strategy.

1. Location 

In this instance, the location we are talking about includes page impressions and views. We want to get our message in front of the eyeballs of our potential audience as often as possible and at the right time. You can read more about this here. Without ads / Including ads

2. How To Transact

E-commerce stores use payment gateways to accept payments. This is generally via credit/debit cards, direct EFT, or another provider such as PayPal. Cash or cheque payments are not accepted. If you like, you can accept cryptocurrency tender such as Bitcoin. It’s important to note the costs and legal processes involved within your specific payment gateway. Click to see a few South African gateways.

3. Supply-Chain Process

Supply-chain management is your complete process from planning and coordinating through to scheduling and controlling the buying, manufacturing and delivery of your products/services to your customers. Although this is already in place for your current business process, you need to improve and modify these for your e-commerce store. You can click here to find some ways of improving or rethinking your process. 

4. Omnichannel Structure

You need to connect with clients/shoppers through more than just your website. Your channel of communication could include any combination of the following –  SMSs, email, website, LiveChat, customer-service representative on the phone, or face-to-face. This approach makes your payment process more flexible as you can also advise on direct transfers and cash payments.

5. Marketing

Brick-and-mortar stores tend to use traditional forms of advertising, such as television and radio commercials, print media, brochures, and billboards. In e-commerce, we can use these traditional methods, but our primary focus is on search-engine ads, social media ads and content, search engine optimisation techniques, as well as email and telephonic follow-ups. You can get deeper info and learnings by clicking here. Very Important Use social media to engage your audience, initiate trials and fuse your physical and digital worlds.

6. Personal Customer Relationships

Customers crave instant-gratification, which is easier to offer face-to-face. However, in e-commerce, you are just an email, phone call, or LiveChat away. Make sure you have strict policies for following up and resolving every query. This goes a long way to encourage word-of-mouth promotion from your customers. Use a Customer Relationship Management tool to religiously monitor your team’s feedback and constantly train your team in client relations. This is the one element that can make or break a business that is otherwise managed correctly. To learn a bit more about building personal customer relations Click Here

7. Choose Your Platform Partner

Building an e-commerce store is not difficult, which is both an opportunity and a problem. There are no barriers to entry, which open the market to many unscrupulous/inefficient dealers, and it is difficult to build the value of your company. You have two choices when it comes to an e-commerce partner strategy:

  • Marketplace  – This means you can build your store within a current e-commerce platform (E.g. Takealot, Amazon, etc). Your positive is that you get the benefit of their traffic, delivery, and warehousing. The negative is they will have certain requirements from you such as stock levels, warehousing and marketing budget. Learn more about marketplaces 
  • Independent channels – This is where you build your store within your domain. The negative here is the upfront costs and work involved to set up the fulfilment process. The positives are your brand equity growth, you do not compete against other vendors on the platform, and you can implement drop-shipping, to name a few. Click here to find e-Commerce platform partners

8. Operating Expenses

There is a general belief that e-commerce stores are cheaper to run than brick-and-mortar stores, which is why there are so many continuously opening. However, this is not always the case. In the initial stages, you can do a lot to reduce costs, such as building the site yourself through WordPress or Shopify templates and growing your business with through social sharing, talking to friends, and maintaining a small ad budget.

However, as your shop grows, costs can increase exponentially to include shipping and return expenses, new customer acquisition, losing customers to similar competitors and growing expenditures for increased web-hosting environments and support. This can differ by industry and it is necessary to keep your finger on the pulse of your accounting and client management to ensure you stay ahead of the curve. To learn more about managing your e-commerce accounting books click here.

CONCLUSION

To succeed in multiple channels at the same time is tricky. If your business is a traditional one with a physical location, where you service clients, there may be internal values that are hard to break. How do you protect your distributors and salespeople?

Merging a digital channel into your current process is more efficient than starting up a different division in the company.  The channels should work hand-in-hand. Some ideas for this are to install kiosks on your stores/office that allow clients to have a quicker experience of certain services, or to promote more options for them to choose from. You could allow your sales team to earn a commission from online sales, so they do not feel threatened. Whatever you do, do not force channels to compete against each other; find ways for them to co-exist. 

For further reading on combining your business with an e-commerce channel, click here.