It’s important to realize that when you create an e-commerce site, you’re not unlocking the golden door. The riches of multiple civilizations will not necessarily be yours. The site needs to be promoted, and orders fulfilled in a way that delights customers, and sets you up for further orders.
Here’s a primer in how to promote your business and create a customer experience that guarantees repeat business.
Promoting Your Business
The first order of business with promoting your business is to divide customers into two groups: existing customers and potential customers.
Existing Retail Customers
You can and should promote e-commerce to your existing retail customers. The way to start is to look at all the ways you connect with retail customers now, and simply add e-commerce reminders to the mix.
- Billboards? Add your web address. Radio ads? Add a discount code for anyone who hears the ad, for greater tracking of the effectiveness of your spots.
- Do you hand out “buckslips” — one-third-page pieces of paper that talk about your business, with information on hours, specials, and more? Add your website address; feature web-only deals.
- Do you send out catalogs or mailings every spring? Include the web address for faster sales — and more of them.
- Are you on social media? Use your Facebook posts or Pinterest pins to drive people to your website. Offer them web-only specials.
- Do you have an email newsletter? Send people to your website right away to place orders.
- Incentivize referrals; have a spot on your online order form that lets people tell you how they found out about you. If it’s the name of an existing customer, give them a small reward for every person they refer who actually places an order.
These are just some of the ways you can promote your e-commerce operation to your existing customers.
New Retail Customers
Some of the tactics mentioned previously, like outdoor advertising, can also work with new customers. However, one of the best ways of reaching new customers with your e-commerce business is through search.
One of the benefits of adding e-commerce to your business should be that your business will show up higher in Google search rankings for common searches like “greenhouses near me” or “where can I buy flowers?” It’s important you search for terms like these before and after you implement an e-commerce solution to look for changes.
Because e-commerce requires you to add so much more material to your existing website (assuming you have one), you should also start to rank higher for specific plant-related terms, and other search terms related to your business.
(Give it time, though. This isn’t an overnight thing. Wait a week or two minimum before judging how your rankings have changed.)
Much of what you do from a promotional standpoint will be based on what you know about your customers and how they behave. If you don’t know how your customers behave, or if you don’t have any customers yet, there are some low-risk ways for you to experiment, and find out who your customers are.
One thing that’s constant, regardless of whether your customer is new or returning: The better the customer experience you give them, the more likely they will order again — and not only order again, but promote your business to friends. That stage is marketing nirvana because your customers are actually doing the heavy lifting of marketing and promotion for you.
There will be bumps in the road as you implement an e-commerce platform. But if you keep your customers and their experience top-of-mind, you should come out of the process in a better position than when you started.
The experts at Clarity Connect have been helping horticulture business promote their e-commerce operations for many years. Your CC representative will have more thoughts on how you can attract new customers.
Once you get to a point where you have orders coming in, the next challenge is order fulfillment. How will you ship plants to the people who have ordered them?
Shipping is a key phase in the overall customer experience; if a customer quickly receives a healthy plant that’s been thoughtfully packaged, it’s a major win for your business; if they don’t, you may need to engage in damage control.
Before you even decide to make the leap into e-commerce you should have an understanding of how you will pull, package and ship orders to your customers — and how you will factor those costs into your overall profitability picture.
The experts at Arbré Technologies can visit your operation, review your shipping processes, and make suggestions on how to use RFID data in this phase of the operation, to ensure that the right plant is being shipped to the right person.
Both Arbré and Clarity Connect can also connect you with resources that can help you package plants safely for shipping, so that customers receive healthy stock quickly and are delighted with their purchase.
Measuring Your Success
This leads into the last and arguably the most important phase of your ecommerce operation: measuring your business’ performance. What are the key numbers you should be tracking — and if they turn sour, how long do you wait before making corrections?
The dynamics of a retail storefront may be significantly different than that of an e-commerce operation. It’s important to be able to distinguish the differences, and measure performance differently.
It’s tempting to want to make quick corrections if the numbers don’t look exactly as they should, but it’s a better idea to take a breath and dive into the numbers, to understand why things are the way they are.
Also, realize that one week’s sales data does not make a trend. One month’s data might make a trend. It actually takes several months’ worth of data before you can safely say things are trending in a certain direction.
Finally, realize that correlation does not equal causation. Just because your walk-in traffic fell 10% the week you implemented an e-commerce platform does not mean the platform caused the drop in foot traffic. Look at your online customers. Are they local? Are they already in your database? Ask your walk-in customers whether they’re familiar with your online store.
In general, businesses change direction for more than one reason. Resist the temptation to say “A caused B.”
The final requirement with e-commerce is the need to continually think ahead. As with any other phase of your business, you need to be looking 12 to 18 months down the road and trying to anticipate what comes next. It will be hard with a fledgling e-commerce operation, but it can be done.
Your Arbre Technologies and Clarity Connect representatives can help you set long-term goals for your e-commerce operation. They’re valuable resource for evaluating and planning next steps for your business.