E-commerce was already on the rise well before 2020, and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated this phenomenon. Many businesses that have been accustomed to primarily brick-and-mortar sales are now handling unprecedented volumes of online orders, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.
To help you adapt to this change, we asked 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust for their insights. Below, they share their best advice for companies that are navigating a growth in direct-to-consumer shipping.
1. Hold interactive demos in-store to promote online sales later.
Leverage space with demos and interactive models in conjunction with an online presence. You can operate with less square footage and potentially enhance your customer experience with less inventory in stock but more access to the product. – Dale Gillmore, Quest
2. Evaluate your sales tax obligations.
With an increase in online sales, you need to evaluate your sales tax obligations. Most states that collect sales tax now have laws that create a sales tax obligation in their state based on the number or amount of sales made — an obligation businesses incur simply by selling into their state. Whether utilizing a third party to ship a product or doing it yourself, you may need to look at where you’re collecting sales tax. – Robert Dumas, TaxConnex
3. Set up a strong supply chain.
Have a great supply chain in place to ensure that shipping delays are minimal. No one wants to order a product and then wait a month for it to show up. – David Wescott, Transblue
4. Write clear product descriptions and ensure timely customer support.
Make sure your product descriptions are clear and accurate and that your customer support is timely and comprehensive. Ask yourself, “Would I buy if no one was around to explain it to me?” and “What if there is a problem with my order?” If the answer is “No,” “Maybe” or “I’m not sure,” then go back and improve your merchandising and your support messages. – Russell Harrell, SFB IDEAS – a Strategic Marketing firm
5. Invest in an integrated point-of-sale system.
Most point-of-sale systems now have integration for orders and inventory with the common e-commerce platforms. It is really cost-effective now for a small brick-and-mortar retailer to push online and in-store sales by presenting all their inventory online. Many customers pre-shop online to find what they want in stock and then go to the store or place an order for local pickup. – Matthew Palis, Infront Webworks
6. Look into back-end support software.
Utilize automation and software solutions that have pristine track records and are easy to implement. There is a plethora of back-end support software to alleviate the burden for brick-and-mortar stores entering the e-commerce space — especially when sales have gone from a trickle to a deluge. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
7. Take advantage of your newfound product control.
Once your product goes through traditional supply chains, you’re dependent on a couple of large outlets to sell your products, meaning you’re bound by limited price flexibility and exclusivity agreements. Being D2C means you’re able to control your products through various push/pull marketing methods, including your website and the numerous platforms where you sell (website, email campaigns and social media platforms). – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales
8. Implement an enterprise resource planning system.
To capitalize on emerging direct-to-consumer opportunities and effectively transition to an e-commerce platform, an ERP system should be selected and implemented to help staff deal with order volume, fulfillment requirements and warehousing complexities. Benefits realization planning should also allow employees to recognize this new software’s competitive advantages — with comprehensive training. – Joey Johnsen, Zeevo Group LLC
9. Streamline your backend and fulfillment processes.
Ensure your backend and fulfillment processes are streamlined, as consumers have become used to e-commerce and expect instant fulfillment with shipping to their doorsteps within days. If your backend and shipping take too long, a consumer can get antsy and cancel the order before they receive it. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
10. Understand the e-commerce customer’s journey.
The biggest difference in adapting to an e-commerce mindset is to understand the customer journey and experience. In e-commerce, the customer experience is just as important as making a visitor to your store feel welcome. From packaging to delivery, customer service to return policies — every step of the journey must be thought through with care and precision when you convert to e-commerce. – Paul Weber, EAG Advertising & Marketing