Edwin Meijer founder of Garden Connect – the provider of online marketing services to over 150 garden centres since 2002 ? explains how to get started with your web shop.
A lot of retailers complain about the online competition nowadays.
Companies like Amazon are generating huge revenues in the UK and that revenue has to come from somewhere: brick and mortar stores like yours. Joining them by opening a web shop yourself sounds like a good solution, but is it really the best way forward?
To start, most people are inexperienced with e-commerce and do feel that it?s quite easy to set up a web shop. It?s easy to buy an off the shelf web shop for a few pounds a month, but will it help to grow your business?
Before opening a web shop, my first question is always: ?What do you want to achieve?? Do you want to generate online sales? Or are you going to use your web shop to showcase your products but with the focus still on offline sales?
Not surprisingly, the last pick is the most effective one for most independent garden centres who lack the expertise of e-commerce.
If you also opt for ?Click & Collect? you avoid the hassle of logistics as well. We?re managing over 50 web shops with Garden Connect and less than half of them are fully focusing on online sales.
Setting up a web shop should, especially in the first period, be an addition to your garden centre and not a replacement.
If you think you can beat the Amazons of this world from day one on their playing field, then good luck.
Opening a web shop allows you to showcase to your customers the products you have in stock. You will be surprised by how many of your customers don?t know you?re also selling product X.
Do you know exactly what your local Tesco is selling? Most customers are orientating online to decide where to buy offline.
Having a web shop attracts them to your business during this early stage of the purchase cycle.
After figuring out the goal the next question arises: where to start? Normally it?s easy to pick a product niche your centre is well known for.
Your exclusive range of garden furniture, wide range of garden tools or your home grown roses. Focusing on a niche helps to understand how your web shop works.
It?s also too ambitious to go from scratch to a web shop with over 10,000 products so try to avoid that gap.
There are always more web shops failing than succeeding and the technical side of it is definitely one of the reasons why. You should at least check if your webshop provider:
- Has built similar web shops in the past (you never ever want to be a guinea pig!)
- Has knowledge of conversion optimisation (that?s something different than search engine optimisation)
- Is not providing you with just a web shop but helping you to define your goals and strategies.
Keeping the technical side in mind is important, but eventually your web shop is the car you have in order to get from A to B and you?re still the one driving it.
You can lose direction with a Ferrari just as easy as with a Lada.
We often get feedback from garden centres with a web shop who say that the number of sales is disappointing.
That?s absolutely true for almost every web shop whether we talk with garden centres in Ireland, the UK, Belgium or the Netherlands.
So don?t worry, you?re in good company! You have to remind yourself that your web shop is built to strengthen your business and not to generate sales.
It?s an important addition to your marketing efforts ? and it can be a very effective one.