A Predictable Investment in eCommerce //php get_posflags()?>
Posted on | March 1, 2009
Written by | Ian Griffith
There is ample evidence that the economy is having an impact on retail trade. Retailers across the spectrum describe double-digit declines in sales while profits have been squeezed by the deep discounting used to attract customers. However, in contrast to these harrowing tales, come the reports that wine sales are actually up at retail while the average bottle price has come down.
Certainly in our work with wine stores who sell online, there have been mixed results depending on a store’s product offering and pricing strategy. For retailers without experience online this uncertainty can be crippling. While the Internet can provide access to a broader customer base and new sales, an investment in the current climate needs to have a predictable outcome.
Before investing serious time and money in building an e-commerce website, why not prove the concept by reaching out to customers online. Then you can decide based on experience whether e-commerce is an investment you want to make. An e-commerce website works well as a hub for promotional channels that you use to reach your customers. However, you can still promote your store online while closing the sale over the phone or in the store.
When a new e-commerce website launches, initial momentum often comes from providing an inventory list to the main wine directory sites. Of these directories Wine-Searcher will post an inventory listing without requiring the store has a website. Sending them an Excel file update every week will keep your listing current and avoid frustrating some sophisticated wine buyers. WineZap requires that stores have a basic site where they can refer a shopper. But again, a file containing the products you want to promote can be listed at no charge.
Beginning an online newsletter is the next step to conducting your business online. A plain text message is sufficient to communicate with customers about the value you provide, and doesn’t compromise your credibility like a cheap website. If you have the discipline to compose a regular and compelling message to your customers, you will be ahead of the competition.
The key to a successful e-mail newsletter is crafting a message that your customers look forward to reading. You need to find a balance between promotion and storytelling that mirrors the shopping experience in your store. If you hammer them for sales, then your e-mails will end up deleted, filtered or flagged as spam.
Some stores choose to start with a simple brochure site to satisfy curious shoppers who want to know whether you are legitimate. While this should be a low maintenance option, a simple site should, at a minimum, be able to collect e-mail addresses for your newsletter.
Testing the waters by listing your inventory with the wine directories, and launching an e-mail newsletter, will give you experience selling online and provide a context for a decision on whether to go with e-commerce. Eventually customers will pester you to build a site, but in uncertain times using this “proof of concept” makes the investment in a website much more predictable.