We are excited to introduce contributing writer Emily Thompson, owner of online store Almanac Supply Co. and co-host of top-rated podcast Being Boss. As part of our commitment to guiding our customers through the changing retail landscape, Faire is partnering with Emily on a three-part series highlighting online strategies for retailers.
For many years, I’ve championed traditional brick-and-mortar businesses in embracing the opportunities found in e-commerce. I strive to convince shop owners that prioritizing “getting online” is worth the effort.
Alas, I never anticipated a scenario quite like this, but we’re here whether we like it or not – and I’m excited to show you the way, because expanding your business into the economy of the internet allows you to bolster your business in some incredible ways.
In the first post of this three-part series, I want to share why online strategies are necessary for your brick-and-mortar store.
Online strategies are accessible to new and established businesses.
Because you don’t have to be one or the other; you don’t have to be an online player or a local staple. It’s not us versus them. I believe that the way of the future of retail (that has already gotten started), is in finding a blend of a business being fluent both offline and online.
And I’m not talking about having a Facebook page for your store or sharing your products on Instagram. I’m talking about having a full online strategy that gives you the opportunity to make just as much money in your online shop (if not more) by selling all across the country or the world, just as you run your storefront and know your local market like the back of your shopkeeper hand.
Being both online and offline builds a stronger business with greater opportunity.
In this new way of running retail, online supports offline, and offline supports online. It’s two sides of the same business that work together to build a stronger whole.
Let me paint a picture: a tourist strolls into your store while hanging around town and finds a couple of items they love. But, because they’re mindful of their travel budget they only grab an item or two before heading on. A month later, they haven’t forgotten those items that they left behind (don’t we all have some of those?) and they visit your online store to finally scratch that itch. They couldn’t support you fully before, but they certainly can later, and they become a loyal, repeat customer, even from afar.
Alternatively, your store’s thoughtful social media feed has attracted a new admirer from across the country. They browse your site and maybe purchase an item or two, but let’s be honest – scrolling a site is not the same as visiting a store in real life, and they know that. When their next vacation comes up their desire to visit your store influences their plans – they’re travelling close enough to include a day trip just to visit your shop.
A strong online presence will make your store a destination, and you better bet that when a visitor comes from across the country to finally browse your shelves in real life, they’re going to be ready to buy every item that catches their eye. (And then they’ll pick things up online when they get home when they run out of room in their luggage!)
Going online makes you more viable, even in challenging times.
Having an online presence does not diminish the quality of your brick-and-mortar experience – it will make it more accessible to more people. It will also give you a further reach and ability to serve a much larger audience, and not just during your shop hours, but around the clock.
It will also help you when times get tough, because one aspect of your business is a back-up plan to the other. When your website goes down because of server issues half-way across the country or when social media algorithms change, you still have your storefront operating during business-as-usual, giving you a leg-up on your online-only competitors. Alternatively, when a pandemic wipes out your ability to open your doors, your customers can still shop your fully stocked e-commerce website.
And, as we all know, none of those scenarios are hypothetical. And a great example of a very traditional brick-and-mortar, local-staple kind of company that has embraced online business is Powell Books, the world’s largest independent book store, based in Portland, Oregon. Due the COVID-19 pandemic, Powell’s Books was forced to temporarily close their five locations, but was able to retain almost half their staff as they moved easily into fulfilling the flood of online orders. Being both online and offline has helped them weather this unpredictable storm.
Success online doesn’t just happen, it requires strategy.
Unless you’ve been blessed with the most premier real estate on Main Street, every shopkeep understands that “if you build it, they will come” is not the best tactic for running a retail business. Just as your shop takes strategy and hard work, so does your online presence. But, just like your store, with the right tools, anything is possible.
Join me as I come back soon with more info on those tools to help you embrace the opportunities of taking your business online.
Emily Thompson is a long-time business coach and creative warrior, helping retailers, makers, coaches, and designers develop an online business model and grow their creative business. She is the co-host of top-ranked podcast Being Boss, as well as the founder of Almanac Supply Co., a retail business that makes and curates products that help people connect with nature.