Lessons E-commerce Sites can Learn From Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Back when the dot com industry first debuted, many sensed a game changer. Experts eagerly lauded the revolutionary technology, and were quick to predict the demise and utter destruction of the brick and mortar store. With the benefit of hindsight we now know that the predictions were a bit off, and definitely slower in coming, however, as the shift toward mobile becomes an ever increasing reality, the health and future of brick and mortar retail is once again under inspection.

But today, unlike the eager beavers of the 90’s, experts are a bit more circumspect about pronouncing the ruin of the physical store. Although the world is certainly changing, many retailers have embraced those changes, and successfully incorporated a mobile strategy that allows them to deal with the multi-channel reality that exists.

Let’s face it-storefronts have been around for a while and they definitely know a thing or two about gaining and keeping customers. The good ole brick and mortar store has a lot of tricks and tips its snazzier counterpart, the  e-commerce shop could stand to take note of and incorporate. As more and more users turn to the internet, duly noting and applying the successful strategies of the age old shop can only be a win win for both emerging and established websites

Let’s look and learn

Show Don’t Tell: Nobody knows the power of suggestion like the retail store. For years, savvy retailers used scene setting displays to help them peddle their wares. Magnificently proportioned mannequins teasingly suggest to shoppers that they can look exactly like this should they only purchase the clothing being modeled, and many displays create scenes suggestive of lifestyles that can be achieved with the products being sold. With considerable imagination, successful retailers are experts at showing, and don’t just rely on their selling skills.

The same concept must be applied to any e-commerce website albeit with a different twist. Although screens do not offer the physicality of a 3D window display, the copy of a website can make all the difference. Does your site just rattle off the features of your product? If yes, that’s telling, and telling is-yawn-boring. As the age old marketing mantra goes ‘sell the sizzle, not the steak.’ What customers would like to hear is the benefit they can derive from said product, and how it will help them achieve the lifestyle they are working toward. Only once they are invested, will the specs make any difference at all.

Engage your audience, spin a story, above all-show don’t tell.

Navigation Makes all the Difference: Storefronts are always moving their products – putting things in different order, finding new ways to make them stand out, and making sure that the overall layout of the store flows well and makes sense. If customers don’t walk in and see something that catches their eye instantly, they will leave. Likewise, if they can’t navigate the store easily, they won’t even try.

The same goes for e-commerce stores. If you have an online store, you should always be on the lookout for ways to make your site more appealing, and make sure that as soon as visitors arrive they see something that interests them. Also, ensure that your navigation makes sense, and if at all possible, offer a search function.

Few things kill an e-commerce site faster than an unattractive layout and confusing navigation.

Keep it Personal: Any brick-and-mortar store that becomes successful does so by having a team of well-trained and friendly people who cater to the customers. They make a connection with the customer, answer all their questions with patience, and hopefully, close a sale on a product. That personal touch is what keeps customers coming in, as well as coming back.

This dynamic is a little different in the online world, since you can’t be there to wait on every person who visits your site. But there are definitely things you can do to make a customer’s experience as personal as possible.

One is to have an obvious “Contact” button on your page with an easy-to-use contact form. On top of that, respond to all tickets punctually. Good support goes a long way online.

Another is to use analytics and surveys as often as possible. Analytics will help you learn more about your customers and their needs, while surveys get you real-time suggestions, as well as make your customers know that you truly care about their feelings.

Stay in Touch: Storefronts will often collect names and email addresses in order to send special offers, coupons, and other media that creates continued engagement with their customers. Everything is branded, and so they keep themselves in their customer’s eye constantly.

There is no reason why an online store can’t do the same thing. Send out emails with your logo, and offer incentives for your customers to visit you again.

When it comes down to it, although the world is rapidly changing, the same rather old school strategies still apply. Other than the presence of a building and being face-to-face with your clientele, running an e-commerce website isn’t all that different from running a brick-and-mortar shop. By applying the same principles to your site that makes the best storefronts what they are, you will be far ahead of the competition, and will maintain a large group of regular customers.