82% of people in the UK & Ireland have purchased online in the last year. If your business is not online, it’s missing out on an incredible opportunity to sell more.
For retailers, it’s now more important than ever to offer customers multiple channels to connect with and purchase from your business.
In the UK & Ireland growth for e-commerce sales in the retail sector is growing faster than any other sales channel with 12.4% growth year on year. This trend isn’t set to stop anytime soon with growth in both internet connectivity and the number of consumers with mobile devices that can browse the web.
If you’re a retailer it’s time to take a step back and consider how you sell, creating an omnichannel selling experience is going to be the future of retail, and having an e-commerce store is one important tool needed to make that happen.
Thankfully, it’s never been easier, more affordable, and requires zero coding skills to get online in the 21st century.
In the following guide, we look at 11 reasons why retailers need to start selling online, what you need to get started with an e-commerce site and we provide you with our top tips and tricks that will help you sell more with your e-commerce site.
11 reasons why your business needs to sell online
Year on year e-commerce sales are increasing, with sales predicted to reach over 4 trillion in 2020. Shoppers in the UK and Ireland spend on average £1383 per year via online shopping with the UK leading the way for the percentage of online sales. That’s just one of the many reasons why you as a retail business should be selling online.
As it gets easier and easier to build and launch your own e-commerce store, let’s take a look at 10 more reasons why selling online is the right strategy for your business to grow in 2020.
1. Online sales are growing
Whilst the growth of retail sales in traditional brick and mortar stores has slowed significantly over the past few years, online retail sales have increased steadily, growing by 12.7% in the UK year on year from July 2018 to 2019. This has been a common trend over the past decade with online retail sales in the UK for small businesses increasing by 337% between 2012 to 2017.
As generation Z begins to have more buying power (and more mobile connectivity) this trend is set to continue. If you haven’t got an online store already, now’s the time to capitalise.
We’ve seen customers who have been traditional retailers get online in the past year, and some of them are now generating more revenue online than they are in store.
2. More people are getting online
With the number of mobile users currently at 5.1 billion and growing, mobile e-commerce sales are predicted to reach $2.91 Trillion in 2020. As mobile devices get cheaper, and more people are connected online, the number of potential customers increases.
Creating an online store that works on mobile devices is incredibly important. At AirPOS our e-commerce store works across any device so you can maximise your sales.
Mobile sales are also becoming easier as the number of mobile payment options increases for users with the likes Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Pay and Amazon pay paving the way for quick and painless mobile transactions.
3. Customers are starting the sales cycle online first
With 87% of people starting the sales process online before they buy a product, it’s important to have a web presence where they can check out your product options, read reviews and even ask questions before they buy.
Even if potential customers don’t purchase online, having a website can increase your physical store’s presence and there is a chance these same customers might come into your physical store to buy your products.
4. To maintain a competitive advantage
When customers compare products they generally go online. If your competitors offer an online store, they have a competitive advantage over your business.
64% of buyers spend 10 minutes or more online researching before buying. Make sure to stay competitive by having an online presence so you can be front of mind when customers are making their buying decisions.
5. To have a 24/7 sales channel
There is no other channel that will let you sell 24 hours 7 days a week with little to no extra cost.
Having an e-commerce store gives you the possibility to sell even when you sleep or are on holiday.
If you can automate the delivery process, then this process gets even easier.
6. It’s never been easier to set up an e-commerce site
With the release of no-code website builders, setting up an e-commerce site has never been easier.
You can simply drag and drop the “blocks” you want to build a page, and you can start selling online in no time.
Online stores are easy to maintain and manage, you only need to update your site if you have new products or you are discontinuing old ones.
Otherwise, you should just check in once a day to process your orders, and to make sure the site is still up and running.
7. It can increase profit margins
Selling online doesn’t require a full-time staff member, so you can increase your sales without increasing your overheads.
This means your profit margins will increase as your online sales grow.
8. You get better data
With an e-commerce store, you have analytics right at your fingertips, this gives you the opportunity to review your business sales; understand what is selling and what is not. This can help you plan and forecast your stock. Analysis can also let you understand what products to place in your physical store to improve your sales.
With digital analytics, you can take it a step further and learn more about the types of customers who are purchasing from you, their locations, demographics etc. You can use tools like Google analytics, Facebooks audience insights, and even better, it’s completely free.
Using this data you can figure new product ideas and you can use your online store to test them before you bring in stock to a physical store.
9. It improves customer experience
Your customers want to be served where it’s comfortable for them. Offering both online and in-store sales gives the customer the options they want when making a purchase.
Having an online presence also allows you to collect customer details so you can communicate with them more easily. You can communicate via email, live messaging, and create a content strategy that answers questions they might be having, or offers advice on their buying journey. All of these things again should help improve your conversions and ultimately lead to improved sales.
10. To create more loyal customers
Research from Bain & Company found that a 5% increase in customer retention can account for an increase in profits of up to 75%. Use digital marketing to drive customers to your web store and promote new products or services. Having an online store also allows them to purchase now whilst they are still feeling excited about your offers, rather than waiting and coming into the store.
With a good point of sale system and online store, you can offer customers loyalty points to redeem against purchases both online and in-store. This is a really effective way of giving back to your customers, but it also increases customer retention and sales.
Selling online can increase customer loyalty in other ways too, for example, customers can easily browse your full product or service range online, read reviews and ask you questions about them.
It also offers them the convenience of buying from you in the comfort of their own home.
11. You can grow your audience overnight
With online shopping you can grow the size of your audience from local to a global one, so you’re no longer limited to those who come through your doors.
With cheap online marketing with the likes of Facebook and Instagram, search engine optimization (which is free with a good content strategy), and pay per click advertising from Google you can reach a highly targeted audience all over the world.
For small businesses we would recommend using Facebook and Instagram to generate customers as they offer you hyper-targeted advertising that is segmented based on the audience you choose, giving you a higher chance of finding interested customers, and hopefully increasing your sales.
What do you need to start selling online?
Selling online has never been easier with many platforms offering simple ways to build and set up your store quickly. You’ll need a few things to get started selling online which we cover in this section including choosing a platform, domain names and some tips and tricks to help you sell more products online.
A domain name
For some providers you’ll need to get a domain name, this will be the website address of your website. This isn’t strictly needed for all online websites, so check with the provider you choose when setting up to find out if you need one. With AirPOS we offer you the option to use a custom website URL or your own domain name as the URL, so technically a domain name isn’t required.
If the provider you choose does require that you have a custom domain name, then look at the following providers for easy to use and cheap domain names:
- Google Domains is good and they also offer free domain privacy
- Namecheap is another highly-regarded registrar
- GoDaddy is very popular and also easy to use
There are a host of other domain name providers out there, but the above have been tried and tested and are relatively easy to use.
A few tips when choosing a domain name:
- keep it short and simple if possible
- Use your brand name
- Keep it relevant to the industry you’re selling in
- Don’t use numbers, “text speak,” or hyphens
- Don’t use special characters
- Don’t use confusing or hard to spell words
A payment processor
Choosing the right payment processor is a pretty important decision when selling online, you could save hundreds if not thousands by getting better payment rates for online sales.
If you’re a new retailer, your choices are a little more limited, but the rates are still pretty affordable, considering a reduction in other overheads.
We recommend PayPal, Square or Stripe for simple payment options that are quick and easy to set up, and they already integrate with all the platforms we recommended with reasonable transaction fees.
Like in-store payments, the higher your turnover, the more leverage you have to negotiate good transaction rates.
For a full review of the best online payment providers, read this post.
Choose your shipping partners
Unless you’re selling digital goods, you’ll need to work with shipping to send your products out to customers. Normally it’s best to have real-time shipping rates so that you’re not losing out on the shipping fees. You can encourage customers to spend more by offering free shipping over a certain spend, increasing the cart value, a win-win for everyone.
Some of the most popular delivery providers in the UK and Ireland include:
Choose an e-commerce platform
Choosing a platform can be difficult, the best advice I can give would be to not get overwhelmed, choose one and run with it, as you evolve you can always move to another platform.
There are a number of popular platforms that can help you get set up your online stores, below we have compiled a list that is perfect for retailers. If you’re an AirPOS customer, or you want to integrate your point of sale with your e-commerce platform, then scroll down to read more about AirPOS’s e-commerce platform that’s free with our point of sale software.
Price: Monthly plans start at $29 USD plus transaction fees.
Shopify offers hundreds of templates to build your online store. You can use your own domain, store customer information, and it has powerful analytics built-in.
With the release of Shopify 2.0 themes, it’s never been easier to start a Shopify store.
We’ve even created a Shopify integration directly with AirPOS, so you can sell online and in-store, managing everything in one place.
Price: Monthly plans start at $18 USD plus transaction fees
Squarespace offers an easy drag and drop builder allowing you to create a website and e-commerce store in one. Again it’s very similar to Shopify, it offers analytics, lead generation and marketing tools in one. A great starter option for most retailers.
Price: Monthly plans start at $9.99 USD for up to 25 products
Bigcartel is great for sellers that offer unique or handmade products. Its pricing is different from the others as it depends on the number of products that you’re selling. They also offer lots of free themes which you can modify yourself. Just like the others, it offers a suite of tools to analyse sales, offer promotions and more.
If you’d like to learn more about why Shopify is the best e-commerce system for retail, read this article.
Tips and tricks to improve sales
Once you have your website set up, here are some simple tips and tricks that will help you promote your e-commerce store and to sell more.
Add reviews to build trust
According to search engine land, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 72% of them say positive reviews and testimonials make them trust a business more. With testimonials able to increase conversions by up to 34% it’s a no brainer to add them to your e-commerce site.
If you haven’t got reviews, ask existing customers to leave reviews on your new site. If you’re starting out, ask any customers to leave reviews, this way longer-term your site will perform better.
Make sure your images are high quality
When creating products, make sure to include high-quality images and add relevant titles and descriptions. The more information you share about products the higher your conversion rates. If you can add FAQ’s to products this will also help with sales and it will mean having to communicate less with customers to close sales.
Offer live chat
Adding live chat can be a great way to speak to customers and to close sales. You can use the Facebook free live chat to get started. If you are selling services or higher ticket items, we would highly recommend it. Just make sure you set expectations to potential customers about response times when adding chat to your site, otherwise, it can lead to frustrations.
Try offers & promotions in exchange for emails
There are lots of ways to increase conversion on your site, a few simple methods include offering free shipping when purchasing certain products, offering loyalty points for repeat customers (this can also encourage brand loyalty and repeat purchases) and offering discounts or sales at different times of the year to increase cash flow and revenue.
Use digital marketing to get instant traction
Having a website is one thing, but having customers find it is also. You’ll want to use a few different channels to share your new website to get the impact you’re looking for when starting out.
If you have an existing newsletter, make sure to send a message to your customers and notify them that you’ve launched a new site. If you really want to kick things off with a bang, offer them free shipping, or a discount off their first purchase.
Social networks are a great way to promote your products and services for free. We suggest the following:
If you haven’t already done so, set up a Facebook business page, this way you can gain followers and promote your business and website. If you have an existing Facebook business page, share your new website with them.
Add your Facebook pixel to your website this way you can start learning more about people who come to your site. It also allows you to set up Facebook ads which can be a really effective way of driving traffic to your website with relatively low costs.
Instagram & Pinterest
If you have great imagery, Instagram and Pinterest are your best friends. Build a board in Pinterest with your products and link back to your site, it’s a very powerful tool for gaining free organic traffic. With Instagram utilise stories, Instagram Live, and post great images of your products, customers, and more. This is a great way of breathing life into your brand and of course for driving traffic to your e-commerce store.
Optimise your site for SEO
With SEO you can generate free traffic which is compounding over time. There are many great resources out there that will help you understand more about SEO.
One of the best ways to get organic traffic is to write content for your readers. It should relate to the types of goods you sell and speak to the kind of customers you want to attract.
If you’re selling mountain bikes, then talk about mountain bikes, comparisons, the best trails, mountain biking trips etc, anything that relates to your product and gets the interest of potential customers. The best part about SEO is that it’s free.
Some additional resources we recommend to get started with SEO:
With e-commerce growing faster than other sales channels, now is the perfect time for small retailers to jump on board. With generation Z beginning to earn disposable income, and the number of mobile devices increasing, small businesses should aim to use e-commerce as a means to grow their business in an affordable manner.
Using tools like AirPOS point of sale and e-commerce offers retailers a simple way to get set up with an online store in no time and it offers a solution to the difficulty of syncing stock between physical and online sales.