Monthly Archives March 2020

Tips to Increase Online Sales for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

According to Digital Commerce 360’s analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data, the percentage of total retail sales made online compared to in-store rose from 6.4% in 2010 to 16.0% in 2019. With businesses being forced to close their doors to the public during the current COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no doubt online sales will continue to trend upward.

While the younger generations were already living exceedingly online lifestyles, the steps consumers must take to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy is forcing people of all ages and outlooks to rethink how they live – and how they buy.

For retailers and many other business owners, now is the time to re-imagine how your business can maintain a stream of revenue to survive this changing dynamic – if you haven’t already. Investment in your online strategies is a major piece of the puzzle. Here are some tips for retailers on how to grow online sales while their brick-and-mortar stores remain closed: 

Minimize Required Steps 

If you’ve spent time researching online purchasing, you’ve probably heard the term “the checkout cart is where sales go to die.” Every extra click, every redirection, and every new page that a customer has to maneuver through up until the point they click “Confirm Purchase” is another opportunity for them to change their mind.

The easier you make it for a potential customer to navigate from “I want this item,” to “I’ve purchased this item,” the better. Remove the hurdles, make the checkout process as simple and streamlined as possible, and you’ll get more impulse buys and fewer checkout carts abandoned.

Focus On Clear Calls-to-Action  

Speaking of carts – the “Add to Cart” button on your product page is about as direct as you can get with a Call-to-Action – but you shouldn’t stop there. Contact pages and live chat portals, “learn more” dropdowns and email newsletter opt-ins – these are all examples of softer Call-to-Action buttons that will increase engagement on your website and lead to more sales over time.

While your process should be as streamlined as possible, you also need to provide your customers with plenty of opportunities to interact with and learn more about you and your products. The more positive contact they have, the more likely they are to buy.

Implement Cart Recommendations

Cross-selling is important. It leads to higher customer satisfaction and increased exposure to your products. When selling online, cross-selling can become even easier with the use of in-cart recommendations. When a customer adds something to their cart, make sure they also see related and suggested items. This can be as simple as side dishes for a restaurant taking online orders, offering item bundles, or even suggesting larger sizes of products.

By suggesting great related items for your customers, you not only increase your sales but you may even remind them or clue them into other necessities that they hadn’t even considered when purchasing the product in the first place.

Don’t Let One Sale Be the End

If you’re selling a product online, there is most likely some sort of contact information being shared from your customer to you – usually an email address at the very least. While you need to pay close attention to the anti-spam laws that apply to you, simple order confirmations don’t need to be the end of the conversation.

Sending out coupons, product suggestions and newsletters to happy customers can be an excellent way to bring them back to you for future sales. While you need to be tactful, if you play your cards right, the customer will be very appreciative of your outreach. And a happy customer is one that will buy from you again and again.

 Don’t Give Up Hope

According to Harvard Business Review, a Chinese cosmetics company called Lin Qingxuan was forced to close 40% of its brick-and-mortar locations during the crisis, including all of its locations in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak. Despite these closures, Lin Qingxuan redeployed its 100+ beauty advisors affected by the store closures into online markets, using digital tools such as WeChat to engage customers.

As a result, its sales in Wuhan achieved 200% growth compared to the prior year’s.

This isn’t to claim you’re going to double your sales simply by offering your products online. But Lin Qingxuan is an excellent example of the power of online sales and the benefits of being agile and flexible when it comes to how you do business.

Enabling Your Employees to Work From Home

Last fall, a study conducted by Owl Labs projected that nearly half the U.S. workforce would be working remotely for at least a portion of their week by 2025. The rise of remote work across the world compared to even five years ago has been climbing a pretty smooth slope.  But with the rapid spread of the Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) shutting down work facilities, transit and childcare, that slope has turned into a spike.

With lock-downs and self-imposed quarantine rapidly becoming the standard response to try to limit the spread of the virus, remote work is becoming the new normal. Here are some tips for employers on how to make sure your employees are setup and prepared so they can do their work just as effectively at home as they do from the office:

Clearly Communicate Accountability Guidelines:

Trust in your workforce is paramount, but the key to developing an appropriate and effective remote work policy that ensures productivity and efficiency is in the planning.

Clearly communicate your remote work policies, have employees sign-off on these policies, and be vigilant in setting and maintaining your expectations. Also make it clear when, where and how employees are expected to track their work. Accountability is key on both sides of the arrangement.

Use Communication and Collaboration Tools:

Cloud-based and mobile-friendly technologies are the norm for remote workers. While remote-working has several benefits, a lack of the right equipment and tools can lead to inefficiency, isolation and a collapse in communication. Here are some great tools for everything from project management to workforce communication:

SharePoint: SharePoint is a web-based collaborative platform that is directly integrated with Microsoft Office. Its primary use is as a highly configurable document management and storage system. If you have multiple employees accessing the same files or spreadsheets that need to be updated from multiple sources – SharePoint is a great solution.

Google Drive: Team members can view and edit presentations, spreadsheets, documents and work forms all from the same platform with Google Drive. It also offers limited free storage, making it a cheaper solution for smaller teams.

Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams is a communication and collaboration platform that combines workplace chat, video meetings, file storage and app integration all into one place. It ties in with your Outlook email and calendar and also works with SharePoint storage. Teams is an excellent communication tool if your team is already using other Microsoft Office programs.

Slack: Slack is a program used all over the world to increase productivity and communication. It integrates with hundreds of different apps, and it enables you to archive and index emails, messages and other information to make them easily searchable. Instant messaging, voice and video calls, and screen sharing making Slack another great option for a collaboration-focused communication tool.

Think About Phones:

If you already provide your employees with mobile phones, they can likely use those for calls for the time being. But if you don’t provide employees with their own phones, you need to put a plan in place so your staff isn’t racking up massive long distance and data fees. Whether that’s simple research into adequate long distance plans and reimbursement, a VoIP solution or directly purchasing mobile phones from your telecom vendor, you need to weigh your options.  Also – do some research into the steps your vendors are taking to reduce the impact of this pandemic on your workers. Many vendors are waiving long distance and data fees to support their customers. Take advantage of these while you can to help keep your costs as low as possible.

Another thing to keep in mind: with the influx of people working from home, cell phone networks are going to begin being flooded and connection will deteriorate. Do you have an adequate line of communication open with your vendor if problems arise and your staff can’t make the calls they need to? You need to find out now before the issue arises. 

Be Wary of Bad Internet:

Are your employees sending files, spreadsheets and info back and forth? Are you using a communications platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams that requires a stable internet connection? Do you need to make video or conference calls to clients or customers?

Even in today’s hyper-connected world, plenty of people struggle with poor, patchy and slow internet connections at home. Adding an entire work setup to an already struggling home connection can be a recipe for disaster.

Setting up Wi-Fi signal boosters, limiting bandwidth-hogging apps, swapping to a new DNS server and troubleshooting your hardware are all things you and your employees need to consider if their connection at home isn’t as stable as it needs to be to remain efficient.

Keep Lines of Communication Open:

These are trying times for everyone – from the business owner to the brand new employee. The most important thing you can do as an employer is to keep lines of communication open. Make sure employees have a clear path forward to getting the information and instruction they need – whether from you, your managers, or their co-workers. Encourage questions, collaborate on brainstorming, be understanding of the unique needs and situations of your employees, and above all, be safe!