For brick and mortar IBDs looking to scale and grow sales, nothing is more effective than expanding online. However, rest assured, this does not mean shutting up your High Street shop. Instead, you can use your online presence to grow your business overall and help sustain your ‘real life’ store. Indeed, with eCommerce, you can have your cake and eat it, too. We find out how.

What are the benefits of eCommerce?

eCommerce has the potential to move an IBD onto the sales superhighway. As a brick and mortar business, it’s just not possible to reach an infinite number of people; your own physicality restricts you. However, the moment you go online, the gloves are off, and anything is yours for the taking.

An eComm presence can deliver:

Higher reach

There’s no such thing as borders or boundaries online. Launch your eShop and expose your business to a literally infinitely sized market.

More awareness

With increased reach comes a growth in awareness. Various new virtual touchpoints (social media, SEO, paid advertising) provide opportunities to share and communicate your brand; get your message out where and how you want.

Leveraging third-party marketing and expertise

Depending on where you set up online (which platform you select), you may be able to leverage bigger marketing spends and broader expertise that comes from, for example, niche marketplaces.

What do you need to be successful in eComm?

eCommerce doesn’t re-write the book when it comes to retail; it just reiterates and perhaps even amplifies all the basics. All the fundamentals of real-life retail success remain in the online world. eComm doesn’t have to be daunting, and it certainly doesn’t need to over-complicate things. To be successful in eComms, you need: 

Great customer service

Informative, courteous, clear and prompt communications are key. Respond to emails, social media messages, texts or calls in a timely manner. Wow the customer with pleasant service and be willing to help them at every step of the way.

Connection to your POS

We’ll talk about this further below, but ensuring your eShop can connect to your POS will be crucial to fast, simple success online. It will save you a small fortune in time and resources. Just be sure that your POS is in tip-top order, current and accurate. If it’s not, all those mistakes will just populate over to your eShop.

Fast dispatch

Typically, IBDs that go online want to grow their customer reach. This means targeting customers who may not be within driving distance to your physical store. Ensure you have a reliable, fast and efficient dispatch service in play before you start selling online.

You probably thought we were going to suggest successful eComm means successful online marketing, right? Well, yes, it does. However, the onus doesn’t have to fall on you. As we’ve already mentioned, depending on the platform you choose, you may well be able to leverage third-party SEO expertise and online advertising budgets. More on this below.

How to set up your business with eComm –
start with your Point of Sale

Let’s assume that you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into your POS, and you’re pleased with its performance. This is great news because it’s going to be your entry ramp onto this online superhighway!

Provided you plan to set up an eShop either with a marketplace like BikeExchange or a third-party provider like Shopify (or both), then you can avail of a nifty feature called an API. This is essentially a bridge that will link your POS to your new eShop. It allows all the product listings to flow instantly and effortlessly, replicating themselves online and serving as a virtual mirror image of your POS. Too easy.

Transforming your business with eCommerce – what are the options?

  1. Bespoke – a site built for you
  2. Third-party web builder such as Shopify
  3. Online marketplace – either generalist (Amazon, Facebook)
  4. or niche (BikeExchange)

Let’s consider the pros and cons for all:

Bespoke eShop

  • Get exactly what you’re after 
  • Unique – you won’t look like anyone else
  • Extremely costly 
  • Requires a reasonably sound level of online knowledge so that you can adequately brief and manage the web builder 
  • Responsibility for marketing (SEO/Google spend) falls on your shoulders 
  • You may need an API built from scratch so this site ‘talks’ to your POS

Online shop provider

  • eShop templates, also known as themes, help keep costs down 
  • Troubleshooting can often be easy enough – forums document experiences from people who have already ‘been there, done that’ 
  • Relatively cost-friendly 
  • Potential for you to execute a lot of the build and design if you already have a basic understanding 
  • Plenty of plug-ins for flexibility/ added benefits and features 
  • API with your POS is usually available
  • Every theme has restrictions – you can’t pick and choose the best from all. It’s a case of inheriting all its beauty as well as its worts 
  • Your eShop risks looking homogenous – like everyone else who has chosen that theme 
  • Theme changes often lie with the original designer, not the platform provider
  • Onboarding is rarely 1:1 
  • Support teams are unlikely to operate 24/7, and some may not even have phone support, meaning you will be reliant on self-help videos and trouble-shooting in forums

Generalist marketplace

  • Shipping rates and warehouse/distribution are often negotiated on your behalf
  • Customer awareness is already high – visitors are flooding these markets  
  • Removes red tape – accounting/reporting run by the platform 
  • API with your POS is usually available
  • With size comes power and the ability to call all the shots – you’re a drop in the ocean 
  • Refunds/returns/customer complaints often weigh in favour of the consumer as opposed to the e-tailer 
  • Beware of high commissions and/or merchant fees 
  • People may be flooding the market, sure, but they might be shopping for a vacuum cleaner, dress jewellery or organic nuts. Bikes might not be on their radar at all

Niche marketplace (BikeExchange)

  • Superior cycling industry knowledge (reflected in SEO strategy and digital marketing) 
  • API with your POS is available 
  • Huge marketplace investment in building and maintaining new bike databases every year 
  • Highly competitive and fully transparent fees  
  • Ability to set up an independent eShop that also plugs into the marketplace  
  • Tailored and 1:1 onboarding 
  • Dedicated ongoing customer service 
  • Specialist industry knowledge 
  • Niche target market (shopping for everything bike) 
  • Removes red tape – accounting/reporting run by the platform
  • You need to stay on your game to compete, but surely this is, in fact, a pro, not a con…?!

Your IBD quite possibly spent a vast amount of time and money in getting your POS up and running. Taking the next step to expand online doesn’t have to be nearly as arduous or expensive. Indeed, it should actually be eyebrow-raising cost-effective and straightforward! It certainly is that with BikeExchange. If you’re about to expand your business online, contact our eCommerce experts. We know how to get your business onto the sales superhighway.