Why Local Merchants Should Sell Products Online (and 5 Tips for Doing So)
Each year, retail experts weigh in on the impact that e-commerce is having on traditional stores. Their current consensus: Local merchants who don’t offer their customers the option of ordering online are missing out on sales.
Indeed, early reports from comScore show that 2012 retail e-commerce spending during the first 44 days of the 2012 holiday season totaled $33.8 billion, up 13 percent from 2011 — and included “the heaviest five-day online shopping period on record,” TechCrunch notes.
So, as they say, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Here are five tips for selling your wares online.
- Cut shipping expenses. Shipping costs can be a major deterrent to ordering online, so consider leveraging this to your advantage. Offer reduced or free shipping to addresses in your area or give customers the option of picking items up at the store.
- Branch out. Trying to establish a market or expand your existing one? Cross-posting your items on sites like Amazon or eBay Local can introduce you to an all-new customer base.
- Price competitively. With “showrooming” on the rise, traditional stores have to compete with online retailers when it comes to price — particularly when items are discounted. According to a study by market researcher ClickIQ, 29 percent of customers who check the online price of a product while in a retail store buy that item online. Some merchants combat showrooming by offering price matching, but the best way to avoid losing customers is to keep your prices competitive.
- Accept in-store returns. Returns remain a huge issue for online shoppers; many retailers will refund the amount of the purchase but not the shipping fees. To solve this, some retailers accept in-store returns along with offering in-store pickup (see #1).
- Run special online promotions. To offset the cost of shipping, some companies offer internet-only deals to encourage customers to buy online vs. in a store. Here’s why: If those customers shop online repeatedly because of the convenience of ordering from home, they may ultimately buy far more than if they had to visit the store to make purchases.