Why sell online? How retailers can sell more with e-commerce

Selling online is a way to future proof your retail business. Find out why e-commerce is the next big thing and how to start with an online store below.

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Mark Allen
12 min read

For retailers it’s now more important than ever to offer customers with multiple channels to connect with and purchase from your business. In the UK and 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, with e-commerce the obvious choice for businesses who want to grow.

In the following article we cover 11 reasons why selling online is a great opportunity for small to medium sized businesses and retailers, we explain how you can get started with selling online and some top tips and tricks that will help you sell more with your e-commerce stores.

AirPOS e-commerce store

Why sell online? The importance of e-commerce for retailers

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, lets take a look at 10 more reasons why selling online is the right strategy for your business to grow in 2020.

Increase Sales

Whilst 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.

Growth in mobile sales

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.

Most sales start online

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 webstore 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.

Remain Competitive

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.

Sell when you sleep

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 have automated the delivery process, then there is very little for you to manage with your online sales.

Easy to manage

After the initial setup of your online store which is generally a simple process with so many providers available today. 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.

Lower Overheads

If you’ve already got a brick and mortar store then it’s not likely to reduce overheads an awful lot, but online sales will allow you to scale your business faster without the need for extra staff.

If you’re just starting your business then an online store is a great way to save costs on rent, utilities, and even marketing can be cheaper.

Analyse Sales

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.

Improve 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 offering advice on their buying journey. All of these things again should help improve your conversions and ultimately lead to improved sales.

Build Customer Loyalty

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 instore. 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.

Grow your audience

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 sales.

Sell online with mobile

How to sell online with e-commerce

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.

Domain Names

For some providers you’ll need to get a domain name, this will be the website address of your webstore. This isn’t strictly needed for all online webstores, 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 webstore 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:

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

Taking Payments

If you’re starting out with a new business there are a few ways in which you can start when taking payments online, some are fast and simple to get started with. We would 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 above with reasonable transaction fees.

If you have an existing business, we recommend speaking with your payments provider for the best options. We would also recommend integrating your POS software with your online store for the easiest management of stock across both platforms. As mentioned, AirPOS offers this functionality right out of the box with our POS e-commerce built into the point of sale.

Shipping

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:

Yodel

UK Mail

DPD

DHL

CollectPlus

Choose a 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 which can help you get set up your online stores, below we have compiled a list  that are 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.

Shopify

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. Everything you need to get started with an e-commerce store. It’s the most expensive on this list, and generally it’s suited to businesses who are a little more established in the marketplace.

Squarespace

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.

Bigcartel

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.

AirPOS e-commerce

Price: Free with your AirPOS point of sale software

Are you in retail and want to sync your online and offline orders? If so at AirPOS we offer free e-commerce with your point of sale software, even better all your products are automatically added to the webstore when added via the backend fo the POS giving you a simple way to get started.

Our store is super simple to set up, and our team can assist you with the process to get you up and running in no time. You don’t need a domain name to get started either, and we can use your existing products to create the store in no time.

If you’d like to learn more about AirPOS e-commerce click the link, or contact our team so we can help you start selling online today.

Tips and tricks to improve sales

Once you have your webstore setup, here are some simple tips and tricks that will help you promote your e-commerce store and to sell more.

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.

Have good images and text

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.

Offers & Promotions

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 cashflow and revenue.

Marketing

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.

Email newsletter

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 Channels

Social networks are a great way to promote your products and services for free. We suggesting the following:

Facebook

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 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 utlise 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.

Search Engine Optimisation (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, but my suggestion to you would be to create content that relates to the type of clients 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.

Check out the following resources to get started:

SEO for beginners by SEJ

E-commerce SEO by Moz

Ahrefs Blog on all things SEO

Conclusion

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.

If you’d like to learn more about getting started with a point of sale system and e-commerce, schedule a call with our expert team today.