Retail businesses have suffered from all manner of restrictions recently. For many, whether B2B or B2C, the pandemic has severely impacted their ability to trade profitably. Now, more than ever, considering adding an ecommerce platform is no longer an option. It is a necessity for many UK companies that sell goods.
Staying in Business Through Lockdowns
According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), just two-fifths of UK companies have less than six months in cash reserves. That would be a worrying situation for any business.
So, it’s unsurprising that ecommerce has become the lockdown saviour for many companies. Trading during the pandemic has presented many challenges – whether that’s from mandatory store closures or having staff off sick or self-isolating. Opening a new online shop – or expanding your online offerings – has been the only way that some companies have been able to bring in a consistent stream of revenue.
The pandemic caused many of us to buy more online. Not only were shops closed for a time, but some people felt unsafe being in close contact with other customers. So online sales increased – particularly for items like food and drink. Back in June, the ONS had reported that, of online operations still open for business, 33% reported that online sales had increased. Companies not selling their products online were missing out on capturing some of this trade.
One business that quickly got online to sell though the pandemic was White Stores. Thanks to the agility of NetSuite and its cloud-based software-as-a-service platform (SaaS), White Stores was able to continue to trade, despite its six showrooms – responsible usually for 40% of its trade – having to close. With NetSuite SuiteCommerce, White Stores could quickly pivot to online sales. When all retail stores were closed at the beginning of the pandemic, the garden furniture marketplace moved entirely online – and White Stores shifted its commerce online too, which enabled it to continue to capture a share of that market.
If you are required to close your physical outlets, selling your goods online may become a necessity. But ecommerce can also be proactive strategic decision, thanks to how the channel has reduced costs.
With a shop, there are overheads like rent, business rates, utility and telecoms bills, insurance, merchandising and salaries that are eliminated or reduced with online selling. Although an online store does have some extra costs associated with it, these are typically far lower than with bricks-and-mortar stores. And the likelihood is that there is less risk in opening an online store than in opening an additional physical shop.
Improving the Customer Experience
For many, the opportunity to shop at leisure is the big draw of ecommerce. They can shop entirely at their own convenience and your shop is always open for them, without the hassle of navigating traffic jams or pushy salespeople.
Ecommerce also allows you to offer a superior customer experience. Best practice in web design would include: having an intuitive design, easily navigable page structure, comprehensive search and filter functionality, and a speedy and simple checkout process.
If you supplement this with some excellent customer service, then you truly are delivering for your customers. Added extras like speedy delivery, a convenient returns process and ready access to staff via online chat can give the level of service that encourages your customers to return again and again. Loyal customers will eventually become advocates for your brand or products. They provide positive reviews and actively promote you, enhancing your own marketing efforts.
If ecommerce is the only channel you’re lacking, then by adding this functionality, you can offer a truly omnichannel experience for your customers. They will have multiple channels to choose from when they buy your products – online, in store, mail order, telesales – and on top of that, you can join those channels to offer a unified and consistent buying experience regardless of the channel they choose.
Adding a new commerce platform allows you to expand your reach. No longer restricted to customers you already know, or those that you target proactively, having an ecommerce store means that you can now be discovered by potential customers.
Offering your products via multiple channels can therefore grow the number of customers that you can serve. You could not only increase your market share, but you could also move into new markets. This might be through offering your products to a different industry or demographic. Or perhaps you could open up to international sales.
With a sales website, you have an opportunity to capture customer details, which you can use to offer precisely targeted marketing communications. You can grow an email list, gather detailed information and analysis about your buyers’ behaviour, and then use that to make targeted offers. These opportunities for upselling and cross-selling can bring in extra revenue that you would otherwise miss out on.
Other functionality like autoresponder email sequences, automated onboarding series, or shopping cart abandonment reminders can ensure your customer reach is timely and productive.
Service Providers Can Benefit Too
It’s not just vendors of goods that can benefit from ecommerce. Depending on what you sell, you may have the option to turn your services into products. This productisation process involves packaging up your services into products you can sell.
Perhaps you can create paid training courses to accompany what you sell, or maybe you’ve provided a bespoke software solution to a client that you can simplify so that it suits a multitude of prospective customers. If you sell professional services of any sort, you could sell bundles of your time or your particular service and sell these in advance as a subscription, to generate recurring revenue.
If you already sell via ecommerce, there are some strategies you can adopt to help you during COVID-19. If you don’t, take a look at NetSuite SuiteCommerce. It provides an ecommerce solution with cloud ERP – for web sales, inventory and order management, and financial and accounting functions. If you would like a free consultation or a quote, or get in touch or book an appointment now to find out how NoBlue can help you with strategies to continue to trade during the pandemic.