How do you sell when you don’t have a shop window?












This week’s GOFISH blog is brought to you by our GOFISH supporter, Deborah Betteridge:

How do you sell when you don’t have a shop window?

So, you’ve got an idea to bring to market. You know you can make, or source it. Suppliers are on board. You have researched your target market. You have a Business Plan in place. With all this sorted, now it’s time to take it to your potential customers, but without your own shop, or market stall, what are your marketing options?

You will know yourself, as you walk through a town centre, market or mall your attention is drawn by eye catching shop windows and the products placed there – whether you enter the shop, or not, is known as the capture rate, the percentage of passers-by that are lured into the shop, and one of the biggest factors is the window display. These windows are not accidentally put together – there is an art, or practice, to window display. The number of customers entering the shop is recorded as footfall. And without a shop to enter, we need to engage this number by other means.

Today, we are talking about what to do if you don’t have access to a shop window, so we’ll park display for another time – although if you want to find out more here is a good infographic from Retail Next – The Art of Window Displays. Now, you have your product, you decided (when constructing your business and marketing plan against multichannel retailing) to sell direct to consumers, you don’t have an offline outlet (bricks and mortar shop), so what channels remain open to you?

Direct to Consumer

Once you have decided to market via Direct to Consumer (DTC) sites, you will need to ensure you have the back-end functionality to support both the customer and your business needs.

The right solutions for finance (banking, invoicing and payment), inventory (stock storage and supply), logistics (timings, packaging, postage or collection) and marketing (communication and engagement) will be essential to ensure the customer experience is the best it can possibly be during their journey with you. Get your back-end operations and front-end customer experience aligned and test them throughout to ensure they are robust.

You need to sell – where your customer buys, do your homework and select what is right for all parties. It’s no longer a case of building e-commerce into your own website or setting up an Amazon shop. There are plenty of solutions available to you, Mobile Apps and other online channels are constantly evolving and expanding across new social media platforms. Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram all now offer consumers the option to purchase.

Research from McKinsey has shown that consumers use up to 12 different channels and devices when shopping before they ‘add to cart’ or basket.

Google has also identified that the majority of the buying process takes place before customers even discover your brand or visit your website – they call this the “Zero moment of truth” (ZMOT) referring to the timeframe a potential customer researches a product before deciding to purchase.

If you decide on multiple online channels, you will need to consider inventory controls – the last thing you need is for three customers to order the last item of stock at the same time, resulting in a poor customer experience. Remember the old adage – a satisfied customer tells three friends; a dissatisfied customer tells 10? Well, that has changed with social media and reviews, a 2008 book by Pete Blackshaw recalculates this somewhat! (A satisfied customer tells three friends, an angry customer tells 3,000!)

An inventory management system (IMS) will help you to:
1. Streamline fulfilment processes to procure, organise, ship, and arrive promptly at a customer’s preferred delivery address.
2. Help you prepare for any unexpected spikes in sales or seasonality.
3. Avoid inventory shortages when products are sold simultaneously across multiple channels.
Check out Capterra for a view of the best IMS software packages suitable for your needs. Many organisations integrate inventory management with an order management system (OMS) to pull all sales data together so you can manage it all in one place. Some software combines the two, for example NetSuite, Sage and OrderWise to name but a few.

The online approach

OK, so product, plans and back-end functionality sorted, it’s on the front-end. As said before you need to be where your customers can find you. Whether you go for one main ecommerce site or more, you will still need to promote where your customer can buy across multiple touchpoints. Think about their journey, how many handoffs, or click throughs they will complete to make that purchase – keep it as simple and straightforward as possible.

Here are a few examples to consider:

E-commerce website – add e-commerce functionality to your website – build your own shop now page and manage it via your website provider. Wix, Shopify, WordPress Squarespace and WooCommerce all have templates and themes amongst their self-build offerings. Personally, I like WordPress and find them easy to use.

Mobile Apps – There are numerous apps where you can sell your products, here is The Balances top selection. This article provides information on the top eight selling apps for 2020, including, Letgo, eBay, Facebook, and Nextdoor for local sales.

Seller Profiles on other Retail sites – You can set up a seller profile by following the simple steps on your chosen platform(s). For example on Amazon, there are 20 product categories to select from, different price plans (yes, there is a monthly or per product sold cost), then you need your contact information, bank details, verification and away you go.

An eBay Shop is a central shopping destination where customers can learn about you and your business and browse your products through a customisable shopfront. Setting yourself up as a business on eBay, may be your preference – here is a link to all the information you need.

On Facebook, you can now add a shop page, but there are terms and conditions you need to agree to called Merchant Terms when you add a shop. Your shop will appear on your Facebook Page for your customers to see after you’ve added at least one product and it gets approved. Make sure you read and understand all terms and conditions for any of the platforms or software you select. As you can see there are various options, and you need to make sure it is the right choice for you – and your customers.

The next step, regardless of platforms chosen, is promotion.

With any promotion and communication be sure to adhere to the latest data protection and communication guidelines – Data Protection Act 2018 and the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR).

Depending on your marketing plan, which should include a communication calendar/plan, you will know where your need to promote your business and products to reach your potential and existing customers.

For your customer engagement you should include a series of posts via social media (organic or paid for ads), emails, both service and marketing (which must be separate under PECR), product instructions (if applicable), reorder leaflets (included in packaging), flyers, promotional videos, instruction videos, offers, newsletters, blogs/vlogs, and product or service updates.

If you go down the sponsored or paid for social media posts, be sure to target them to your audience correctly. Select your area (if you only offer local collection or delivery), customer demographics (age, gender and interests), set your budget and timescales at the beginning. Start small as you can always extend the budget and timescales to suit – and edit the ad/post if you feel it is going well.

And remember, with your ecommerce pages and your communications (your virtual shop windows if you will) you have the same timescale to get your customer attention, just as if they were walking past your shop window. So about 30 seconds to a minute to really reel them in. So, make sure you follow the AIDA model for customer journeys.

Awareness – Make sure they are aware of who you are or what you do/sell/produce
Interest – Get them interested, be eye catching, have value for money, fulfil a need
Desire – Leave them wanting to buy your product or do business with you, have good offers
Action – make sure there is always a way to complete the engagement with a call to action – whether it’s a sale, upgrade, re purchase, cross sell, contact you or sign up to newsletter.

So not having a bricks and mortar shop – or shop window, really shouldn’t slow you down in this digital age. And in the unprecedented times we find ourselves in under the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, you should have time to set yourselves up online. Bearing in mind that potential customers are also spending longer online at the moment and visiting shops outside of the essentials is limited until further notice.

I hope you found this interesting and informative, stay safe, stay well and good luck with your online selling!