Online and brick and mortar stores increasingly merging

A lot of people have a negative impression of the Internet but if certain principles are observed – like observing the key essentials of the brick and mortar business – it can be a big boon. Increasingly retailers around the globe are becoming a mixture of brick and mortar and online.

So said Stephen Mallaby, MD of UltiSales Retail Software, a subsidiary of SA’s largest supplier of retail software solutions in SA, the listed UCS Group Ltd.

“The Internet is looked upon by some as a strange and difficult world in which to transact and the dotcom bust at the turn of the century fueled these perceptions as well.  While the Internet does bring with it some challenges, the key to success online is to remember the essentials of brick and mortar business.”

Many aspects and features in online business have counterparts in the brick and mortar world. By understanding and recognizing these similarities – and being able to mesh them  together – a company will find it much easier to offer their customers the best of both worlds.

Mallaby said the retail industry is one industry that is embracing the concept of integrating the brick and mortar and online world’s, offering their customers far more choice – and an easier way of shopping.

Online retail sales are certainly growing. In the USA on-line retail in both the USA and Western Europe is set for a strong period of double-digit growth over the next five years, according to forecasts from Forrester Research.

US on-line retail sales will grow at a 10% compound annual growth rate over the next five years to reach a total of nearly $249 by 2014.

According to Ezine Articles there are a number of useful tips to consider when integrating the worlds of on-line and brick and mortar:

1. Your web site is your store. In a traditional retail store you want a clean well lit location, with an ample selection of merchandise attractively displayed in an inviting fashion. Your web site should do the same. Consider your design – is the site visually appealing, easy to navigate, and stocked with a good selection of reasonably priced merchandise?
2. Your domain name is your address. Commercial Realtors will tell you that retail success depends on three things – “location, location, and location.” Pick a domain name that is both easy to remember, type, and spell! Don’t use unusual or nonstandard spelling. Despite the low cost, avoid using unpopular domain suffixes as your primary address. While you can have up to 63 characters in a domain name, research shows eleven or less is best is still king.
3. Your checkout button is your cash register. In a retail store the cash registers are in a prominent location making it easy for consumers to check out. Do the same in your online store. Cross selling is potentially valuable be careful not to overdo it. A consumer who has to decline offer after offer to proceed through the payment process may grow frustrated and leave. How would you react if you had to refuse a dozen products offered by a retail cashier?
4. You need to bring customers into the store. Too many people think that they can rely on search engines. Very few online businesses can be built on search engine traffic alone. You need to use a mix of advertising and promotion to put the word out and bring the customers in. In a brick and mortar business you wouldn’t rely on people searching for you, and you shouldn’t do it online either.
5. Once you bring someone into your store you want to keep them there. In a retail business you want people who come into your store to actually shop there. It would be foolish to direct them elsewhere as soon as they walk in the door. People surf the web, often ending up far from where they started. That banner ad on your home page may be more interesting than your site, causing you to lose the visitor before they purchase anything.

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Online and brick and mortar stores increasingly merging