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Moving from brick and mortar to an online presence

Moving from brick and mortar to an online presenceā€

The future of brick-and-mortar stores is becoming a hybrid of traditional and digital, and the current health crisis is hastening the digital experience. The e-commerce industry and digital brands went into overdrive as stay-at-home orders poured in and only essential businesses could remain open, with some others gradually opening with restrictions.

Brick-and-mortar retailers traditionally offer their customers face-to-face products and services in a storefront, giving them a distinct advantage over only e-commerce businesses. A physical location gives a retailer insight into their customers’ preferences and allows them to focus on providing a customer-centered experience.

In 2022, providing a digital experience to your customers is more important than simply adding an online shopping cart. Of course, an e-commerce system is essential, but today we must think beyond the cart and concentrate on your customers’ purchasing channels.

Knowing your customers buying channels:

We’ve seen a shift in the last decade, with customers spending more time on mobile devices than desktop computers, and more time on their favorite social channels than browsing the internet. In today’s global marketplace, knowing where and how to speak to your customers is critical.

(Image credit: Statista

A decade ago, e-commerce was an expensive endeavor with only one point of entry, your website. Today’s online presence focuses on social marketing and sales funnels rather than just offering products and a shopping cart. Selling products on social networks like Facebook and Instagram, as well as marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, is no longer optional. As we move into the next decade, it is expected that social advertisements will be more appealing to the next generation of shoppers than traditional TV advertisements. According to Statista, 49 percent of people aged 18 to 29 reported purchasing something after seeing a social media ad for it in 2017.

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Top 5 reasons to use a multiple virtual storefront approach:

Creating multiple virtual storefronts within social networks and marketplaces generates multiple digital revenue streams while also providing your customers with a personalized experience.

  • Global Brand Reach: By providing multiple virtual points of entry, you can broaden your customer and brand reach globally.
  • Reach out to your customers where they are: social selling virtually places your products in their hands.
  • Extend and diversify your marketing: The ability to customize your message across multiple networks allows you to target your customer marketing.
  • Communication and feedback: Directly communicate with current and prospective customers. Customers expect companies to provide customer service through their social media channels, and 90% of social media users have used social media to communicate with a business.
  • Data and analytics: Finding a customer base on social media helps you build your online community, gauge the popularity of products, and identify customers based on common data points.

Choosing an e-commerce platform for your brick-and-mortar shop:

Hundreds of e-commerce software solutions are available today, ranging from open source projects to enterprise-level software. With sites like Shopify and website builders like Squarespace, the latest trend in e-commerce solutions comes from the Software as a Service (SaaS) market. These SaaS providers provide an all-in-one solution, but they lack the customization and open source code found in e-commerce shopping carts such as WooCommerce for WordPress. Moving to one of these proprietary SaaS platforms may also be difficult and costly if you already have a website.

Fortunately, hybrid solutions are available to install a SaaS e-commerce platform on an existing site or in your preferred CMS. Ecwid, an e-commerce platform for small businesses, is one such platform. Ecwid provides the best of both worlds by providing a full SaaS e-commerce solution as well as plugins for the most popular content management systems. This hybrid solution enables you to share and sell products on any platform, including your website, social media, Amazon.com, and virtually anywhere a Javascript code can be embedded!

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While much could be written about selling on social media, today we’ll focus on e-commerce solutions that can be used regardless of where you choose to sell, whether it’s your website, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon.com, or even eBay!

WooCommerce for WordPress:

(Image Credit: WooCommerce)

What began as a WordPress shopping cart plugin has evolved into the company’s signature shopping cart. Automattic Inc, the parent company of WordPress, purchased WooCommerceNotable WooCommerce Features: in 2015. Since the acquisition, the team has concentrated on maintaining the product’s viability in the ever-changing software market. WooCommerce is now a simple and powerful e-commerce system with scalable features that can assist you at every stage of your digital journey.

Notable WooCommerce Features:

  • Ease of use as a WordPress Plugin that is open source and free right out of the box
  • Plugin-enabled features (Multi-Channel Sales, Subscriptions, Billing, etc.)
  • WordPress developer-friendly with REST API
  • Mobile app
  • WordPress Community Assistance

WPToolkit for cPanel allows you to launch a fully configured WordPress website with Woocommerce in minutes. WPToolkit simplifies the process of creating a safe and secure online shopping cart website.

Ecwid:

(Image Credit: Ecwid)

Ecwid is one of many success stories in the Open Source World. Ruslan Fazlyevin, the CEO of Ecwid, created the first open-source PHP-based shopping cart, X-Cart, in 2000. Following the success of X-Cart, Ruslan recognized the need for an “add-on store builder” for SMBs and launched Ecwid, his SaaS commercial offering, in 2009.

Notable Ecwid Features:

  • To begin, there is no cost.
  • Anywhere You Can Sell (Create an Ecwid store once and easily sync and sell across a website, social media, marketplaces such as Amazon, and in-person.)
  • Simple marketing tools
  • Control everything from a single dashboard

Magento:

(Image Credit: Wikimedia

Magento is another e-commerce solution that has gone through the startup phase before being acquired by one of the world’s largest software companies, Adobe. Magento has undergone numerous changes over the course of its existence. Beginning as an open source e-commerce platform, it evolved into the enterprise-level e-commerce platform of choice before becoming the Adobe small to enterprise-level e-commerce product.

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Notable Features:

  • Small Businesses Can Afford an Enterprise-Level Solution
  • SMB to Enterprise Scalability

Launching your new online e-commerce presence:

Once you’ve decided on your e-commerce platform, selling channels, and inventory, it’s time to go live. Choosing the right hosting is critical, and there are a few things to consider if you are adding e-commerce to your website.

  • Scalability: Select a web host that allows you to easily expand. A Virtual Private Server provides scalability at an affordable price. If you must begin with shared hosting due to financial constraints, find out if the web host offers free migrations to VPS as your online presence grows.
  • Security: Even if you do not accept credit cards through a third-party payment gateway (Paypal, Stripe, etc.), your website is still vulnerable to hackers. In our recent blog post, Keeping your CMS safe and secure, we discussed security.
  • cPanel: It is critical to have a solid hosting management solution in place to manage your server requirements.

We hope this helps you succeed in transitioning your brick-and-mortar store to an online presence. Please let us know if you have any feedback or comments. We are here to assist in any way we can.

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