This post is centered around web design and eCommerce in Boston, but most of the points can be useful regardless of where you live. If you do live in Boston, you may benefit more if you read ”Greater Impact in the Bay State” before reading this.
Running a brick and mortar store allows you some customers. The Boston area is rather well populated and there are many high-traffic locations to setup a shop. While I am not condemning the concept of brick and mortar, it does have it’s limitations. Even if your store is on Boylston or Newbury, the potential to grow your business online is still well worth the investment, particularly if you are selling your own brand.
Beginning the process is really not that difficult. Once your main website is setup, it is as easy as adding a store section, talking to your bank about a merchant account, and inputting your products into an easy-to-use interface. Many of the cart systems available will cost between $15-$50 per month and include a lot of functionality. If you have a web designer, you may only have to setup the merchant account with your bank and compile a list of products/pricing. Usually the web designer can do the rest (at least that is how I do it).
Once your store is set up, you now have access the the entire US as a potential market, which is a jump of 4 million people to 300 million people. Because you are online with this new market, your marketing efforts should be online also. So to begin, setup an email capture at checkout and also on other areas of your site and blog. By having a lead generation strategy in place, you will begin to impact your online reach and ultimately your income.
In addition to having an email marketing strategy in place, you should also schedule consistently on social media. Building your social media reach will ultimately help your SEO and get you found on Google more often. But in the short-term, many of your clients will come to your shopping cart via social media, so don’t ignore this powerful tool and post consistently.
After setup, it really isn’t that difficult to manage. Depending on your shopping cart system, you will likely have an easy and code-free interface. Aside from that, you will need to have a consistent shipping schedule and keep track of your inventory. Many companies actually run their store inventory on their online store interface. This is actually a great idea, because now you are not running two sets of inventory and your probability of a stock out is much lower. Keep in mind that some systems only allow you to run online and others will support both online and an in-store POS. Talk to your web designer, marketing agency, or business consultant to figure out which option is best for you.
While the Boston area has about 4 million people, you are likely only reaching a very small fraction of these people with a brick and mortar. By taking your business online, you actually open yourself up to the entire Boston area, because they no longer have to drive to get to your store.
Building a business and realizing growth is often multiple pieces of a puzzle. Adding eCommerce to your marketing plan is a considerable step in the right direction, because of the sheer volume of people that you open your company up to. If you are selling a product or service that can be sold online, consider it. There is a lot of money in eCommerce and you may as well benefit from it … after all, your competition probably is.