The number of brick-and-mortar retail stores closing their doors for good broke a a 20-year record according to the latest Kleiner Perkins Mary Meeker Internet Trends report. Surprisingly, this report also found that Amazon — one of the internet’s most well-known online retailers — was bucking the trend and opening physical storefronts. (Amazon’s bid to purchase the grocery giant Whole Foods has been in the news a lot lately.)
If you own a brick-and-mortar store, much of the information in this report wasn’t a big surprise.
Despite the doom and gloom of the report, Warby Parker and Bonobos Guide Shops were highlighted as beacons of hope. The Report showed how the two brands embraced digital as an addition to their offline businesses and were thriving as a result.
No more excuses. Now is the time to take your offline business online.
Walmart, the world’s largest offline retailer, was also getting aggressive online, posting a 63% year-over-year ecommerce revenue growth.
The bottom-line? No more delays. No more excuses. Now is the time to take your offline business online.
How to Take the First Step
Navigating the internet as a digital business and figuring out how to connect with consumers in the virtual world can be a daunting prospect to brick-and-mortar business owners.
It can be scary venturing into the unknown. But keep calm. Don’t panic. Just pick the digital marketing options that best fits with what you know of your existing customers’ buying habits and communication preferences. If you don’t know this information about your customers, just ask them! Use their responses to map out your next course of action.
To help you get started adding digital elements to your offline store, here are some methods to try.
Get Your Business on Social Media Channels
One of the easiest first steps for taking your business online is to set up a social media presence. The right social media channels depend on your business. As a rule of thumb, LinkedIn is a great starting point for B2B businesses, and Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are great social media channels for B2C products and services. Twitter straddles the two.
Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform, with 2.01 billion monthly active users and 1.32 billion daily active users. It’s easy to set up a Facebook business page and you can tag products as you post updates to help boost sales.
Instagram (owned by Facebook) is also becoming more and more popular as a business social media channel. TechCrunch editor-at-large, Josh Constine, notes that Instagram has actually speeded up its growth this year — meaning it is becoming even more popular. In business terms, this means that your customers are likely on Facebook and Instagram, so it makes sense for you to be on these channels, too.
Pinterest has also gone to great lengths in the last 12 months to up its business offerings. You can set up a Pinterest board and sell via Promoted Pins (images that link to a specific product for sale on your site.). It also has a number of free tools for business users that make getting started quick and easy -– you can get up and running on Pinterest in just 15 seconds.
If this is your first foray into an online presence, the thought of having to find a web developer, have a site built and maintain it might seem like a big ask. Consider setting up a Shopify store instead as a more attainable compromise. Shopify describes itself as, “A complete ecommerce solution that allows you to set up an online store to sell your goods. It lets you organize your products, customize your storefront, accept credit card payments, track and respond to orders — all with a few clicks of the mouse.”
You don’t need programming or design skills to set up a Shopify store. The service provides readymade templates to get you up and running quickly – but you can also customize as needed. There’s a platform for handling orders and taking payments too.
Want to find out more? Read HostingAdvice.com’s ‘What is Shopify?’ FAQs.
Shopify Ecommerce Platform
Google My Business (GMB)
If you are a local business, such as a hairdresser, veterinarian, bar, yoga studio, mechanic or grocery store and want to get online, Google My Business can help you become more visible to local search users in your local area. By registering and claiming your business on Google My Business, you can provide some basic information, like your business address, telephone number and opening hours. Claiming your GMB listing gets you a shot at appearing on local Google Search results and Google Maps.
You don’t need your own website to have a Google My Business Listing so it’s a quick and easy option if you’re just dipping a toe into online visibility for the first time.
To get started, just go to Google My Business and click start now. The wizard will walk you through the process of registering your information.
Content Marketing and Guest Blogging
According to research conducted by Havas Group, 84% of people expect brands to produce content. You don’t need to have your own website to create content and share it with the world – you can do so by taking up any guest blogging opportunities that come your way. If you are approached by a site, a local newspaper, a blogger or brand with an invitation to contribute an article, a comment or a thought, use this opportunity to share your expertise and knowledge with an online audience.
84% of people expect brands to produce content
You can also go out and look for opportunities rather than wait for them to come to you. RocketMill’s Rowena Heal has some advice if you are looking to tap into the power of other people’s online presence and guest blog for them in her article about identifying and approaching influencers.
Local Citations/Online Business Directories
Local citations are also a very useful and worthwhile step in the transition from offline to online. A citation is a mention of your business on the web and includes any combination of your business name, address, zip code and web address.
Local citations are important for local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – meaning your business can appear higher up in the search engine results page when someone searches for a company like yours in your local area. BrightLocal has more than 1,600 local citation sites in our database, and we can handle the process of building local citations for you, helping you to become more easily found online.
Let Us Know What You Think
Which of these options for taking your offline business online will you try first? Are there any you used when you first set out to conquer the web with your brick-and-mortar brand. Share your experiences with us in the comments – we’d love to hear from you.