14 Apr Taking Your E-Commerce to the Next Level
Special thanks to guest poster Matt Maciel for today’s post about optimizing your e-commerce through the omnichannel experience. Matt is an Account Executive with Retail Success, whose star product is POSIM (POS and Inventory Management). POSIM is specifically designed to handle unique retail experiences, with challenges like those in the crafting industry (think about fabric stores selling fabric by the partial yard!). If you’re interested in hearing more about POSIM you can follow the link included in the article or get in touch with us and we can make introductions.
E-commerce sales hit previously projected 2025 levels ahead of schedule in 2020. It’s not that shoppers don’t want to shop in brick-and-mortar stores; it’s that they want in-store experiences and e-commerce convenience all wrapped up into one integrated, omnichannel set of shopping options. So, what does that mean for crafty retailers? Whether your current business is focused online or off, it’s time to take your e-commerce to the next level.
Customer behavior, re-examined
Let’s cut to the chase. E-commerce was here to stay well before 2020, and many retailers have added and enhanced their online shopping capabilities in recent years. But, while e-commerce was growing steadily, it still represented just 16 percent of retail sales as of 2019. And although it’s tempting to view 2020’s 44 percent spike in online retail sales as an unusual result in a highly unusual year, the smart move is to dig a little deeper to discover what the numbers can tell us about the future.
Here are a few insights behind the e-commerce increases. Before 2020, 9 percent of consumers were regularly mixing online and in-person shopping. A year later, the percentage jumped to 44 percent, with 40 percent reporting they expect to continue their online shopping habits post-pandemic. At the same time, nearly half of customers prefer in-person shopping over e-commerce.
What should we take from these stats? Looking ahead, customer experiences will be less about brick-and-mortar or e-commerce and more about how the experiences work together. In other words, it’s time to get serious about delivering a seamless omnichannel shopping experience for your customers.
What is omnichannel, really?
Many retailers think of their in-store, web, and mobile shopping experiences as separate. This type of multi-channel approach becomes an omnichannel strategy when a retailer stops treating them as distinct channels and starts looking at them like their customers do – as a single experience that allows shoppers to transition easily from one option to another and back again, often all in the process of making a single purchase.
Stepping up your e-commerce capabilities is an essential component in providing the seamless omnichannel experience shoppers are quickly coming to expect. To help you gauge your current e-commerce capabilities and determine your next steps, answer these three questions.
- How well does your website work? (And how much work does it require?)
E-commerce expectations and the technology to meet them are constantly evolving. But most craft business owners’ passion lies in inspiring and interacting with their customers, not website development and maintenance. The good news is you don’t have to be a tech guru to launch an e-commerce site and keep up with the latest online shopping trends.
Online selling platforms, such as Shopify, offer the ability to create, open, and operate an e-commerce store at an affordable price – both in terms of the money and time you invest. And it’s not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Yes, you’ll start with basic design templates, but they’re easy to customize, so the end result reflects your business, brand, and creativity.
- Does your e-commerce integrate with your point-of-sale system? (And vice-versa?)
Setting up an online shopping site is step one. Next, it’s time to streamline its day-to-day operations. The best way to do that is to integrate your e-commerce with your business’s point-of-sale (POS) system. When the two platforms work seamlessly together, you gain one-stop access for a comprehensive view of your business, inventory management, and reporting across your online and offline channels.
A POS system serves as your retail operations center, which makes choosing the right platform a business-critical decision. For craft retailers, inventory management can be a complex task, especially when you are selling both on and offline. Syncing your POS and e-commerce provides essential efficiencies, such as one-click upload of existing inventory, and automation, such as real-time inventory tracking and re-order triggers, across your physical and online stores.
Here’s an example of integrated POS and e-commerce in action. A craft store carries an alpaca blend yarn in 30 different colors. Its POS system includes a style matrix feature that enables the tracking of various styles of a single product and provides the specialized ability to also track details like specific dye lots within the inventory. Then, the POS system exchanges this accurate and detailed information with the store’s e-commerce platform, enabling online shoppers to choose from the 30 different colors, clicking to view the images to pick just the right shade. Finally, when an online purchase is made, the overall inventory count is adjusted in real-time, so the retailer always has an accurate view of what’s in stock, what’s selling well, and what needs to be re-ordered.
- Are you delivering a true omnichannel experience for your customers?
Crafting a holistic shopping experience will be key to business growth in the years ahead. Continuing the yarn example, today’s shoppers are likely to browse your product selection online via their smartphone and visit your brick-and-mortar store to confirm their choice and make an initial purchase. Then, when they need additional yarn to complete their project, they’ll return to your e-commerce site to buy online and choose whether to have their purchase shipped or pick it up in-store.
Optimizing your e-commerce capabilities and integrating your POS system makes meeting and anticipating these customer needs possible. POSIM is a point-of-sale and inventory management system that’s designed to fit the specialized needs of craft retailers. In addition to an e-commerce integration with Shopify, POSIM simplifies sales, inventory management, and reporting so that you’re able to enjoy – and grow – your business. Discover what’s possible with POSIM.