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5 ways to merge your online store with your offline business

As shopping trends have shifted rapidly over the last few years, many retailers find that they’ve been treating their online store and their brick and mortar store like two separate businesses. As each store grows in different ways, they often seem to grow separately, requiring different kinds of upkeep and attention. However, there are more and more ways emerging to help you sync your online and offline stores – so you can merge both sides of your business and have them work together.

For example, many retailers have complained about showrooming – or the tendency of customers to come into their store to look at items only to leave and buy them online. With good integration and a savvy staff, you can help change this trend in your store and get more sales for your efforts. This article will cover more about that and other integration strategies in just a moment. But first, what does it take to bring your online and offline stores together?

Many eCommerce platforms offer either built-in or optional POS syncing between your online and your retail location. For example, Magento is one of the most versatile platforms out there. It offers one of the widest varieties of custom applications to choose from to fully sync your online and offline stores. Depending on which eCommerce platform you use, you’ll have different options. This article will review some of the ways integrating your online and offline presence can help your business as well as share some ideas for making the transition easier and profitable. But since every business and eCommerce platform is unique, there is no cookie-cutter approach. If you’re interested in finding out more about how to specifically integrate your online and offline store, ioVista can help you find the best method for you.

Not only can integrating your online and brick and mortar stores help you make more sales, but it will also help make managing your business much easier. For example, merging your online and offline stores can only help you manage your inventory more efficiently.

Inventory Management:

With the right integrated POS and inventory management system, you can easily sync your online merchandise with your in-store inventory. Since you’ll be able to see all of your inventory information in one spot, this can help you get a better overview of your merchandise and even help you adjust the way you sell or order your products. This integration makes it easier to notice trends or make sure your stocking enough of your most popular items. Not only that, when your inventory is managed from one spot, you can also manage how you sell it from one spot.

Sales and CC Management:

Once you sync your online and offline stores, you’ll also have all your facts and figures in one convenient place. Rather than looking at online sales and offline sales separately, you’ll get a bigger picture of how your business is doing day to day, week to week and so on. You’ll also be able to sync sales and promotions between both stores. When you offer a coupon or a special, you’ll have more options when it comes to sharing them. You can make exclusive sales online or in your store – or you can make sure no matter how your customer shops with you, they’ll know they’re getting the best deal. Not only that, integrating your online site and retail store also helps you get more customer data.

Customer Management:

You’ve probably been in a store that asks you for your email address. If you’re not doing this already, this is something to consider. On the surface, this is email acquisition plain and simple. This is great for sending out coupons, updates, specials and any information you want your customers to know. But when you integrate your online and offline stores, this can also be a way to track the ways your customers shop with you. With the right system in place, you can know when your customers buy something at your store and when they choose to buy online. This can be very valuable information to have when devising new marketing strategies. Big retailers are using this technology in other ways as well.

Creative Integration:

When you can gather more data and have your online and offline stores work together, you can use this ability to make your customers happy AND get more sales in the process. For example, Macy’s offers to print or email customers their receipts at their brick and mortar locations. This can help save receipt paper for them and create a convenience for the customer. Another twist on this is what Lowe’s does. Lowe’s will keep an online record of items their customers purchase – in store or online. This encourages repeat buying because customers know that Lowe’s will “remember” important things for them like the color pain they used in their kitchen or the model of lawnmower they bought if they ever need parts. When your online and offline store have the ability to sync, you can get creative and find ways to use them together just like Lowes, Macy’s and others.

Making the best of both worlds:

Once your online and offline stores are merged, one of the first steps towards success will be making sure your sales staff knows how to use this to provide even better customer service. Some retailers, like Party City, for example, allow access to their website within their stores. This allows their customers to order items they couldn’t find in the store, on Party City’s website. This convenience helps Party City keep those sales that might’ve gone to another party shop down the street or another online retailer.

Another way this can be used is to allow your staff to place online orders for customers, from your website. This is one of the ways to help make showrooming work for you. Let’s say something you sell comes in a variety of colors but you only have blue and red at your brick and mortar location. You could offer to order the green color online for your customer right on the spot. Sure, they might do this when they go home but having the ability to make that offer then and there will help you get more sales. This works especially well if you sweeten the deal by offering free shipping or in-store pickup. In-store pickup is becoming an increasingly popular option.

Big retailers like Target, Best Buy and Walmart are using their online and offline integration to get more customers into their stores by offering in-store pick up for items ordered online. Customers love the convenience of shopping online but almost no one likes waiting for their items to ship. Offering in-store pick up for local customers gives them a reason to order from you AND come into your store. Not only do customers get to skip the wait of shipping but they also know as soon as you send them a confirmation that you have what they want in stock and that you’re holding it especially for them. Plus this increases the chance that they’ll buy something else once they get to your store.

Online and offline stores offer customers different benefits. When you combine the two, you’re helping to create the best possible shopping experience with your business. With so much competition out there, providing the best customer service requires more creativity now than ever before. By merging your online and offline stores completely, you give yourself more ways to serve your customers and keep your business running smoothly.

For more information on how to get your business fully integrated, send us an email or give us a call.

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