Although with every passing year, the realization that one can not only survive, but also thrive solely on the basis of an online ecommerce business, is gaining impetus among online business owners, owning and operating a ‘real’, offline store still holds its own value. We have not (yet) entered a virtual age so drastic for offline stores to become obsolete, but at the same time, it has become an absolute prerogative for an offline store owner to have an online presence. So how does one go about merging the physical and virtual world together? The inner workings of the physical store and the virtual store differ drastically, though there are places where they coincide. To attain maximum efficiency out of your outfit, it is necessary that you carefully evaluate this online-offline relationship and lay down processes that bring out the best of both worlds.
Online and offline stores, both have their own place in the commercial market. It is important, as a first step, to recognize the advantages and limitations of both. A physical store is the traditional choice for a business operator. While a physical store gives you the opportunity to be able to actually ‘sell’ a product to your customer, it limits your geographical and demographical range while increasing your display and rental costs. An online store is more impersonal and extremely competitive, but this competition is negated by the fact that your target market size increases many fold, in the online world. Working with both online and offline stores requires a few adjustments to your business practices. Let us look at 3 major issues you can improve on to make your online-offline business a success.
Working Online-Offline Together
1. Synthesize Your Technology
You may have different philosophies for the basic functions of your online and offline stores, but in the end, they serve the same purpose – selling your product. So, even though you might want to segregate the day to day marketing and operational procedures for each, they should both stem from the same root. This root can be an interactive inventory management system like Browntape. In Browntape, you can list and treat your physical store along the same lines as your multiple online stores. All your sales, from all your channels, both offline and online, will reflect in your final tally. The inventory will come from one source for all your channels and the profits will be reflected in one column. Thus, it is better to treat the system like a tree with each channel, offline or online, as its branch. Here are a few ways with which you can integrate your online and offline channels using technology.
Listing all your stores, offline or online, on Browntape. Browntape recognizes both offline and online stores as channels, and funnels all the transactions from each into one database.
Printing invoices for offline and online orders through the same POS system.
Distributing inventory to offline and online channels through a single system.
Combining mail order delivery for online and offline stores.
Issuing a common purchase order for online and offline stores.
2. Bridge the Gap Between Offline and Online
A few years ago, the idea of online sales was in its inertia phase, with people preferring to see the goods they were buying. The situation has turned upside-down now. A typical customer prefers buying from the comfort of his/her home. We prefer to read the reviews of other customers, see the seller rating, discuss the product online and make impartial comparisons while buying a product. If the offline store has to survive in a situation like this, it has to make a few changes in its operation. The business owner can incorporate many of the above-stated features in his/her offline store to make a hybrid shopping experience for the customer. Other ways of bridging the gap are, allowing customers to pick up online orders from your offline store, letting customers scan the product QR code to read online reviews, etc.
3. Offline-Online Marketing
You can combine both your offline and online forums to compliment each other in terms of marketing strategy. By understanding the mechanics of offline and online marketing, you can make the most of your business. If, during the course of your analysis you realize that your online revenue stream is much larger than the offline one during a certain time period, you can employ methods like discounts or free gifts on online purchases and market them through your offline store. Another way is to give out offer codes on the next purchase only to the customers who visited the offline store. An important thing to do is collect the online details like email addresses of your offline customers too, and add them to your customer database. This way, a one-time, primarily offline customer becomes an online asset.
These were some tips on effectively managing your online and offline stores. For any queries or more information, get in touch with Browntape. We are leading manufacturers of multi channel inventory management systems, and we understand the Indian ecommerce market. Let’s make your online business a success!