Even before the current COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping was growing fast in Canada. Now, e-commerce is quickly becoming a necessity for Canadian retailers and many B2B companies.
The good news is it’s never been easier for smaller companies to get into e-commerce and reap the many benefits.
Here are four key advantages e-commerce can bring your business.
1. Lower operating costs
It’s inexpensive to set up an e-commerce operation thanks to low-cost platforms. These services make it easy for entrepreneurs to start an online store with everything from an attractive, mobile-friendly site to taking payments to managing inventory and shipping. They can also integrate sales and inventory management between your online and bricks-and-mortar operations.
Of course, there will be lots of details to work out and challenges to overcome, but your upfront investment will be relatively low, especially compared to setting up a physical store.
As you become more successful, you can ramp up your spending to increase your product offerings, do more targeted advertising, create content and eventually build a custom site.
The three founders of From Rachel, a Montreal company that sells funky, high-quality stockings and leggings, used a WordPress platform to launch their online store in 2017 and will soon be launching a new site using Shopify.
Thanks to their cool branding and highly personalized service, partners Carolyne Parent, Alyeska Guillaud and Mélanie Heyberger have tripled sales every year and are now exploring the U.S. market.
2. Track your customers
The beauty of e-commerce is the amount of information you can harvest about your customers thanks to web analytics.
You can track where they come from, where they go on your site and what they buy. You can then use the data to optimize your online store, and readily answer such questions as:
What are my most popular products?
Where do people leave the site?
What design tweaks and promotions generate increased sales?
You can also use many of those insights to boost sales in your physical store.
Web analytics gives you the power to easily track where your site visitors come from, where they go on your site and what they buy.
To see the usefulness of web analytics, consider the example of Flytographer. It's a platform that connects vacationers with professional photographers in more than 200 cities around the world.
To improve sales and create new products, Flytographer constantly studies data generated by its website, online marketing efforts and booking platform. The Victoria-based company “tries to understand how we can remove friction and inject delight” at every customer touch point. The Flytographer team is confident that this activity has directly resulted in sales revenue increases of 20% year-over-year since 2017.
3. Improve your customer experience
While many of your customers may prefer an in-store experience—the ability to touch and try merchandise while getting advice from your staff, this may not always be possible, as evidenced with the current COVID-19 restrictions.
Your site will provide customers with the convenience of 24/7 shopping from anywhere. You can make the experience even better with apps that allow customers to examine your merchandise up close and chat with your staff.
At the same time, you can use your e-commerce capability to improve your in-store experience by arming your employees with smartphones or tablets. They can show shoppers products online as they accompany them through your store and even take orders right on the spot.
Empire Sports, a fast-growing chain of skateboard, snowboard and clothing stores, caters to customers both online and (under normal circumstances) at its10 bricks-and-mortar locations across Quebec.
“There is a fair number of customers who will buy a snowboard online without touching it with their hands, but others won’t do that,” Empire President Philippe Grisé says. “However, we're seeing consumers becoming more and more comfortable with acquiring the technical and comparison information they need from our website, without coming in."
4. Expand your reach
E-commerce allows your company to punch above its weight against much larger competitors and expand your geographic reach beyond your community to your region, the whole country or foreign markets.
The 7 Virtues is a Halifax-based company that makes “peace perfumes” from essential oils imported from rebuilding countries, including Afghanistan, Haiti and Rwanda.
The fragrances sell in seventy Hudson’s Bay as well as seventy Sephora stores in Canada, and President Barbara Stegemann expects to soon expand to Sephora stores across the U.S.
The 7 Virtues also sells to customers in Canada via its online store on a WordPress platform.
“Our online store really complements our bricks-and-mortar presence,” Stegemann says. “You really need to go into the store to figure out what your signature scent is. Then, once you know and you want to replenish, online is the perfect way to save time.”
“It also works the other way. We post articles and have a magazine featuring female role models and when people go online and read these insightful articles on our site, it makes them curious and they visit the stores.”
Interested in how to onboard or improve your e-commerce presence? Contact us to schedule a complimentary discussion.