If you have are thinking of starting— or actually running— a store, I’m sure you made up your mind about one important detail at the beginning, whether it’s an online store?, a brick and mortar store, or both. In a past podcast I even chatted with someone about going from brick-and-mortar to online.
That got me thinking. What if someone who was planning to open a physical store had the mindset of cutting corners like some people do when starting an online shop? When we had our marketing firm, we worked with firms in the retail space, from small physical stores to sprawling malls. And they always took our advice because they recognized the importance of a good marketing and sales plan.
Plan Your Online Store as if You Were Planning a Brick-and- Mortar Shop
I’m going to keep this down to the basics here.
Building Your Store
If you are a large retailer, it’s likely you are looking to lease an existing spot. But if you are building a store from scratch, you have some serious decisions to make. Even though your neighbor Joe is pretty good at building dog houses, you wouldn’t ask him to help you build your new store. And you wouldn’t just open the yellow pages and blindly select an architect and contractor. They need to understand every nuance from electricity and plumbing to final construction.
Choosing a developer for you online store site is just as important. They must know how to deal with all the unique parts of an eCommerce site.
Design the Site with Care
Let’s take a look at a couple of simple examples. First, you want your site to look professional. If you were walking down the street looking for a bookstore and you ran across a shop that was rundown, had cracks in the window, mismatched colors and a front door that was slightly warped, you might have second thoughts entering it. Even if the inside was incredible, as a first-time visitor, you might be reluctant.
And what about moving around in the store? Can customers find things quickly? Your online store’s site navigation needs to be just as easy. You wouldn’t stock the products haphazardly or place confusing signs in your physical store. Don’t do in in the digital space.
The Needed Tools and Supplies
Some store owners get frustrated when they have to buy another plugin. Let’s say you have a physical store and with it your inventory, shelving, cash registers, signage, and assorted other stuff. You find that there are other smaller things here and there that are essential to running your store. Because your customers are right there, you can’t say, Oh, let’s wait to get shelves. We’ll just pile stuff on the floor for now.
This is how some online store owners think. That plugin that is going to make their life easier, and their customers buying experience better? We’ll put it on the “to be purchased” list and slide by until then. Don’t make that mistake.
We probably know how critical this piece this is. But when it’s online, sometimes we are tempted to cut back. With a physical shop, security is huge. That front door should be locked tightly, with something other than a flimsy twist-turn knob, right? And security cameras to keep extra eyes on your store. Because the last thing you want intruders or creating havoc.
So you need to take the security of your online store just as as seriously. Do your research and find the most reliable hosting solution you can.
If you have a brick-and-mortar shop and it needs repairs, you don’t think twice. That cracked window is fixed. The unreliable janitorial service is replaced. If the security alarm quits, you don’t say, oh,I’ll get to that next week. And the list goes on and on.
So it goes with your online store. Keep your themes, plugins, and WordPress installs updated. This stuff needs to be done. But unfortunately, much of it is still ignored.
Physical stores in the U.S. must abide by accessibility laws. I’m no expert, but I’m sure the U.S. isn’t the only one. Can you imagine if you were wheelchair-bound and the escalator was the only way to get to the children’s clothing department on the second floor?
Even if are no laws in the online space, you are losing a chunk of customers by not making your store accessible to people with disabilities. Don’t ignore the needs of this population.
Think Physical, Act Digital
I’m hoping I’ve offered a few thought-provoking insights as you think about your online store—or a potential client’s. All the pieces of hosting, development, design, maintenance, etc. are as critical to any online store as they are to the brick-and-mortar shop. Don’t cut yourself short and regret it later.