Running a retail business successfully is now about so much more than the store itself. Having a virtual presence, according to this BBC article, is absolutely essential if companies are going to put themselves in a position to compete with their rivals, as proven by the amount of money spent online in the build-up to Christmas. But with technology developing at a rapid rate and customers’ expectations running not far behind, what can businesses do to ensure they are making the right impact online?
Controlling A Company’s Social Media Presence
Whether it’s a small company or an international business, a website’s appearance is one of its most important draws. But in addition to increasingly sleek and sophisticated website designs, another major development in recent years has been the use of social media to build both brand identity and relationships with customers. Although the likes of Twitter have caused some companies issues when less-than-thrilled customers have chosen to air their views loudly and publically, there is no doubting the power of social media when it is harnessed carefully and correctly.
One way companies can do this is to genuinely listen to and respond when appropriate to customer feedback – yes, this can often be reacting to negativity, but it must be done. Business managers would be wise to look upon customer complaints as a spark. Deal with the issue swiftly and any subsequent danger is extinguished. Ignore it and the flames will burn.
Supporting Specialist Suppliers
The worry of being unable to control criticism on social media has perhaps deterred some businesses in niche markets such as rare collectables or art supplies from making the most of what operating online has to offer. However, a business such as http://www.jacksonsart.com, which provides the latter, is able to achieve such positive reviews from customers precisely because they are online. Indeed, at a time of continuing economic uncertainty for retail businesses in particular, establishing a strong online presence can do more than maintain profits — it can boost them dramatically.
Some forward-thinking retailers are even beginning to experiment with combining the online strands of their operation with the physical. There is a range of so-called ‘click and collect’ services emerging on the high street, but that is not all. A number of fashion stores are even beginning to carry lower stock levels but allow customers to try on a sample before using an iPad app to place an order for the actual item – an item which is then delivered directly to the door of the customer. Of course, many will be horrified by this development. After all, isn’t the opportunity to get your hands on a desired product instantaneously one of shopping’s biggest draws?
No End in Sight
But internet shopping’s biggest supporters will tell you that the experience is not about ponderous browsing and lugging around bags — it is about speed and convenience above all else. And as difficult as it can be for businesses to keep up with the ever-changing face of internet shopping, there is no doubt that meeting the demanding needs of today’s online consumers is a must.
Image Attributed to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cokedragon/9047633335/