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How do you start selling your store range online 

The pandemic has demonstrated that eCommerce is a must-do channel now. In this blog, I share a real-life use case, but first, let’s look at why you need to take action and start selling directly to your trade or end customers online.  

In-store

You have a portfolio and a great seasonally balanced store range. Promotions supplement this range on a rolling basis. 

You work with Amazon and eBay but they are slowly taking away any contact with your customers, increasing their marketplace and transaction costs. Even worse they buy or parallel market your product. 

The new ‘now’

The pandemic comes along and the retail landscape is changed forever. Non-essential stores have to close, open, close and any kind of sustainable sales is virtually impossible.

Meanwhile, online shopping and home delivery is consistently open and is booming. It’s not difficult to know who the winners are here. Let’s not even mention ‘A’ (Amazon) word! 

Reaction

Of course, it was only natural for some retailers to panic. Mass growth caused systems to collapse, servers to creak. Operations has to peddle as fast as possible just to stay alive. 

Now your stores may be open again but the online proposition isn’t great. You don’t know what customers are doing, and conversion is below par. 

How do you make the digital channel work for you? It’s time to take the first step and start selling your store range online. 

Harmonise 

The fact is there are not many ‘golden products left out there. If you have your own brand product then it’s a little easier but there aren’t many because Amazon already has them or will have them! 

The solution is to harmonise the online and offline proposition creating a seasonally balanced range, with search demand and a competitive price. You need all three of these elements and a few more to guarantee success.  

Real-life use case  

A top 350 multi-national Building Materials business wanted to start selling their store range online. They wanted to launch a B2C web frontage and take their B2B proposition online. The B2C eCommerce brand would be a fixed price proposition and there was a desire to sell the other eight thousand B2B Stock Keeping Units (SKU’s) online with a mixture of fixed price and tiered trade pricing. 

Now, this sounds fairly straightforward for a business with all the resources they had but such scale brings many challengesBusinesses at scale are generally politically charged and have conflicting prioritiesChuck in a few inflated egos, tribal differences and silos and this makes everyday progress glacial! 

But agreeing on an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) range to launch enabled us to go live and prove ‘demand through data’ and progress through the rest of the range. 

  • Logistics

    The logistical and fulfilment challenge meant working with all the major national carriers to move anything from a tap washer through to a 6metre length of fashion board. The problem wasitems selling by the bucket load in stores, such as plasterboard and cementwere not commercially viable to sell in singles. 

Sometimes you just cannot ship a product directly to the customer profitablyso you have to face into it! So, ranges were split into deliverables and launched on the Minimum Viable Product as Click and Reserve’ (which then progressed to become ‘Click and Collect’).  

  • User Experiences

    What was key to the development was the need for two different user experiences. One for the end customer (B2C) and one for the trade customers logging in (B2B). Allowing a clean, simple Click & Collect experience giving all customers absolute assurance that the product would definitely be there when they arrived. 

Showing the in-store stock has so many benefitsnot only for the website but also for the Google shopping inventory, so customers can see you have the stock and its local. This requirement was a top priority as it was essential to provide a positive customer user experience.  

  •  Global operations

    Working across Europe and beyond gave me great insight into the uniqueness of each territory around the world and how solutions could be delivered to overcome barriers. Differing customer behaviours were fascinating.
    It was a very complex initiative in a large, global organisation with a lot of moving parts. There were differing priorities from various parts of the business, and they were used to working in ten-year blocks (of time) as opposed to three weeks sprints 

  • Upskilling people

    Buying and Merchandising naturally focus on the store estate. There needs to be a real cultural shift to put online into all the conversations. Imagine Human Resources looking to upskill a team of fifty professionals so they understand what digital is when they already have a huge team turnover 

Breaking down the disciplines and showing how all the moving parts work together gets buy-in from the team. The triple-digit HD growth gave the team confidence and put online trading on the agenda and into everyday conversations. 

Customer-centric 

My approach has always been that the customer decides the channel and fulfilment route not the Project Manager or Business Analyst. Steering groups led by IT or digital generally take the quickest route from point A to B,  not along a customer’s journey, their user experience or the data. There is no debate, the customer should decide.  

Golden product

Creating Gold, Silver, Bronze levels to your store range and looking for more ‘golden online products’ really sharpens up the buying and merchandising strategies. 

I introduced a product success indicator formula and created a grid system for every SKU to show views, sales and conversion. This split every product into 4 levels, creating a plan for every product online. Always using data takes opinions out of the equation. 

Online only  

Investing in ‘online only’ ranges gives the customers a reason to go online, bolsters sales, increases conversion and gives suppliers confidence you are serious about online. 

Digital teams can sometimes view ‘Click and Collects as their enemy because it goes on stores sales. This always puzzles me as I view this as a real positiveand it gives the ‘head office’ based digital team a link with the stores and retail teams. If the customer wants to collect – encourage it, it’s a great thing! 

Culture change

Range planning takes time, needs really careful consideration and generally cultural change to guarantee success. Fulfilment has become more and more problematic and expensive.  

How things are packed, and what they are packed inis key. So buyer and supplier understanding, end to end, is vital. Upskilling here is vital and all need to be interested in volumetricsaccurate data management and integration so they can input into PIM (Product Information Management). 

Results 

In the Building Materials use case that I included here, results for the Executive board were mixed. What was expected to do well generally didn’t and what was expected to do badly did surprisingly well. 

Volume in-store/branch products are generally consumable, low cost and can be bulky. Unless you are Amazon with your own fleet this isn’t always great for the web. Soby focusing on the ‘Golden product’ methodology we found the nuggets within the store ranges to get the sales volume we needed. 

Add in online-only products and seasonal ranges and there is always an opportunity to find growthsignificantly for the online channel. Securing triple-digit growth, new channel sales and team upskilling were key positive results. 

If you need help with selling your store range online then get in touch, I can help you do it quickly and efficiently.

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Spencer Bell