How to maximise the potential of your business website

By now, many small retail businesses are aware of the benefits of having an online presence to promote their brand and products. However, simply setting up a website that offers almost identical products and services to a business's existing physical store may not be the best way to generate additional income.

In the online realm, consumers have a whole world of stores they can explore with just a few clicks of their mouse, compared to the limited number of physical stores on offer at a retail strip or a shopping centre. Online shoppers have access to a myriad of options when choosing clothing or products, meaning businesses need to be savvy to stay ahead of the competition.

Small retailers, in particular, may find it a challenge to provide a diverse range of options, particularly if they already have a comprehensive website and a small budget.

Here are some ways your small business can maximise the potential of their websites by offering customers something special and different to their physical stores.

Online promotions

Promotions can be one-off, occur weekly or even monthly to encourage shoppers to return to the website frequently.
The promotions do not have to be extravagant and can be as simple as offering shoppers an 'exclusive' first-look at new products before they are available in stores, either through an email coupon or a personalised newsletter.

This can do wonders for customer loyalty as the ability to gain access to products ahead of others can make customers feel like they have additional privileges over the ordinary shopper.

The website can also be used to advertise products that are difficult to sell in stores because of limited availability or simply because of low demand. This can include last season's clothes, older models or products in an unpopular colour or style.

This is an extremely cost-effective way to promote a small number of items and recoup costs at the same time without the heavy discounting usually seen in stores.

Retail business can also use their website to offer products only available to shoppers who visit the website. This method is particularly beneficial for large or bulky products as it serves as a way to save money on the shipping of products from storage facilities to different stores.

Online shoppers already expect to pay for the postage and handling of goods, thus shipping directly from a warehouse to their homes can reduce your business costs by a significant amount.

Product launches

Offering products online can also serve as a cheap platform for launching new products, as businesses can test the popularity and success of the product before fully integrating it as part of their permanent line.

This method also reduces the need to hire more employees, as the features and benefits of a product can be easily explained on a website. While this may be more difficult for businesses that rely on customer interaction to close a deal, such as insurance or financial services firms, this works for the majority of retail and wholesale businesses.

A good idea is to provide an online demonstration in video format, with contact details easily available to visitors that may be interested in knowing more about the product.

This can help prevent losing money on staff training if the product proves unsuccessful. This can also save much needed funds if businesses are considering expanding their range in the future as they can promote and offer more products without actually increasing floor space in stores, thus saving money on rent.

These are a number of ways your business can capitalise on your website to generate more income- all it takes is some planning to make sure your service is unique and offers something different to what physical stores have.

This way, your e-commerce strategy can complement your bricks and mortar operations, with both working together to generate two income streams without significantly increasing costs.

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