Everyone needs to realize just how damn lucky we are to live in this digital era. You can literally start an ecommerce business as a side hustle during the evenings until it turns into a full-time gig. Our parents didn’t have this luxury. When they came home from work, they couldn’t launch an online shop. They physically had to open one.
Statistics show the growth of online shopping and ecommerce sales are staggering. According to SmartInsights.com, the total average ecommerce spend per customer, per year, in the U.S. is estimated to be $1,800. Yet ecommerce sales account for just 8 percent of total retail sales in the U.S. There is still a lot of room for growth when it comes to ecommerce.
While starting an ecommerce business seems like a sound business model, there is a lot of synergy between a brick-and-mortar store and an ecommerce shop. According to Retail Touch Points, ecommerce and brick come together to create a seamless omnichannel experience. This makes perfect sense, as 72 percent of young customers researched their options online before actually making it to a store. Two-thirds of customers have made purchases in the past six months that have included multiple channels.
Even though tech savvy folks are fortunate to be able to easily start an ecommerce store, we can learn something from our parents and grandparent’s playbook with a brick and mortal skill set.
Getting my hands dirty.
During the day, I run a digital marketing agency, The Media Captain. During the evening, I focus on the ecommerce store my family and I built together, DermWarehouse.
I’m fortunate to be able to see what works well for my clients when it comes to selling online and then executing this for our ecommerce skincare store. I also have the luxury of running test campaigns that might be too risky for a client but with my own ecommerce shop, if the idea works, I can carry this over to a client campaign.
Lowering our cost per conversion.
Our main channel of selling skincare products is through our website, DermWarehouse.com. We launched our site less than four months ago, and while we are steadily growing every single month (again, thanks to Google shopping ads, retargeting ads, and the fact that we started focusing on our SEO a year before our site launched), we have started to realize how important it is to diversify in order to grow bigger, faster. Therefore, we also began to rely on the brick and mortar approach.
The first step we took was to utilize my dad. This business was made possible by the fact that my father is a dermatologist, thus enabling us to sell these professional strength dermatology products in the first place. He has been selling a few skincare brands in his office in Columbus for many years. My sister and I knew we could sell thousands of the products online and ship them throughout the country, which is exactly what we have done.
I knew that after I fainted during the first health video I was exposed to in 5th grade, the medical field was not for me! Fortunately, though, I have still found a way to finagle my way into his business
We purchased a Square credit card processing system, which we set up in his office and hooked up to our website. What this means is that not only can my dad refer his patients to our website to purchase one of the thousand plus products we sell, he can take their order and payment for a product on our site straight from his office. I still can’t get over the fact that we can take a credit card through an iPhone or on an iPad. It’s so simple!
So now, we have a trusted doctor with more than 30 years of experience sending people to our site to purchase their products. This is giving us a storefront presence in addition to an online presence. It also lowers our cost per acquisition since we don’t have to pay for the advertising expense to acquire a customer. It is very cool to look at our Google Analytics traffic increase since my dad is handing out business cards for our site in the Columbus market!
You don’t have to open your own space and take on rent to sell your product at a brick and mortar store. If the product you sell has a connection with a boutique shop in your local market, and you offer the store owner a percentage of the sale or a small payment for renting out a table at their store, this is a great — and cheap — alternative to grow your brand.
Once we saw that selling the products at the dermatology practice was a success, we realized that this could be huge for us, not only in terms of new customers, but also in terms of brand recognition and word of mouth from a trusted source. We knew that we needed other experts with wide networks to start recommending the products we sell on our site. We created an ad on Indeed.com looking for estheticians, who are trained and licensed beauticians. We interviewed many women and built relationships with a few of them. We purchased Squares for them and set up a commission based system where they would earn money for any sales that they make through our site. This word of mouth from our estheticians to their clients — advice from an expert — is invaluable. Now, we have an online presence, a store presence and a referral system. Diversification phase two, check. The best part about all of this is that it’s likely that these patients and clients will turn into repeat customers for us, once they see the level of service that our website offers.
Next up in for us in diversification phase three is opening an Amazon store, though we’ll follow up with more details on that in a later article.
What’s old is new again.
There are so many ways that you can diversify your ecommerce business, yet so many people just rely on traditional digital outlets while forgetting about the old-school approach that worked for our parents. The key is a combination of the two, which will create amazing synergy while ensuring that you are really covering all your bases.