Monday, February 3, 2014

Social Business - New Retail

Opening an online store can be a protracted nightmare. At least if the experiences of an increasing amount of novice retailers are anything to go by. Here's one example of how one woman overcame design dramas and geek speak to profit from her experience.

Susan had been in retail for about a decade, founding a successful suburban store on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia. She had style and friendliness and her shop was well located with plenty of parking. Weekend trade was brisk and busy, which made Monday and Tuesday her functional weekend when she opened late and put on staff.
Credit: Sofiaperesoa via Wikimedia Commons

Increasingly she picked up loyal customers who kept asking if they could shop online when new things arrived. She had some success in Facebook likes, though it stopped there. Susan was aware of the retailing trends moving online. She remembers being struck by how many billion dollars her countrymen were spending on online as a wakeup call.

She had a website, yet it was little more than a brochure, map and telephone listing. Being a bit of a perfectionist she hesitated at first, knowing that to set up an online store required thoughtful planning and needed to reflect the look and feel of her physical boutique. Her perceptions were right!

She had her graphic designer sketch up a fresh look, it didn't quiet fit. They tried several times and after many weeks reluctantly came up with a design based around her other favourite online stores.
Next step was to engage with her website host, asking them to "make it happen". She received quotes and questions in various forms, but most of all she felt uncomfortable dealing in terms she didn't know much about. Payment gateways, shopping cart engines, search category listings, postage calculations, terms and conditions and web ready design all became part of the conversation. She sent the design and was told it was not 'web ready' and would have to be done again. Her favourite fonts were not suited to the web either. All would have to be reworked. Ahh...

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and at last an online store was ready to launch when disaster struck. Her website and online shop hosts merged with another company and she lost her contact. Worse they took the site down due to an accidental billing irregularity. Ahhhhh...
Weeks of phone and email battles ended in her moving the website and online store to another company that salvaged most of the previous work and simplified the billing systems.
The new online company was calm and factual, always keeping her expectations reasonable and her plans on target. She reckons it's cost her 120 hours of work and about $15,000 cash, something she thinks she could almost halve a second time around. Interestingly that's about what it cost to do the first fit out of her physical store.

Her online store is now a functioning and attractive system that is steadily attracting leads and sales. She writes a brief monthly newsletter, utilises Google Adwords advertising, FaceBook posts, a regular blog with Twitter and Instagram feeds. All of which keeps the social conversation going and does drive people back to her stores, both online and the beautiful shop front business.
The way things are tracking it would have paid for itself in 6 months despite being a real headache. Everything is not perfect, she relies on receiving monthly reports with suggestions from her trusted online partner OI. The future does look bright however. Her store is turning into a valuable business asset with increasingly healthy cash flows attached. Susan's business nightmares are about other things now. Her online store's a pleasant dream :) zzzz.

'Susan' is a pseudonym. She's a customer of OI: organise internet - Organise Internet has been helping build profitable online businesses since 2002. OI is a certified Google Partner and a member of NORA - National Online Retail Association of Australia.

OI: Organise Internet is holding an exclusive event dubbed 'New Retail - how to thrive selling online' Guest key note speaker is Paul Greenberg, co-founder of DealsDirect and Chair if NORA - supporting speaker Danis Tandiono Certified Google Adwords expert. 9am, March 3, 2014 in Gosford.

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