When I launched my fashion retail business back in 1982, I had no idea of the new direction technology would allow it to take in later years.
Starting off as a single boutique store in Brighton selling women‘s fashion imported from Italy, I relied very much on making an impression locally, and captivating visitors from further afield with my products and customer service.
I first got a taste of long-distance customer base when I began a mail-order arm of the store to keep my non-local customers in the loop, and it was a great success.
With the emergence of ecommerce, the mail-order part of the business has evolved with the help of our company website, and the business stepped up to a new level.
Business has been revolutionised in a huge way by the widespread use of technology. Although I launched the Box2 website in 2000, the last decade or so has been the really progressive era.
In this time, smartphones and other devices have become commonplace, with 54 per cent of online purchases being made from mobile devices in December 2016. In 2017 alone, the UK ecommerce market is projected to be worth a staggering £67.38 billion, which is a growth of 11.5 per cent from the previous year.
This goes to show that any business that is not already taking advantage of the online market is lagging behind, and losing out on a great deal. However, if you are going to claim your slice of this lucrative pie, you need to know what you‘re doing and put yourself in a strong position.
Starting with a decent website through which products can be browsed and orders placed, it is important that your customer is considered throughout. It may help you to browse the websites of a few well-renowned companies that you know or like the feel of to get some ideas as to how a professionally constructed website looks and operates. It should be eye-catching but not gaudy, neat and polished-looking, and most importantly, easy to navigate and use. Customers are hard to please, and they will drop you like a hot rock if they struggle to find what they need or the buying process is too long and complex.
With more than half of your income being mobile-based, you need to build a decent mobile-optimised website too – an important step that some retailers forget. Full websites are a nightmare to navigate from a mobile phone, and nobody wants to browse and order from a retailer on such an impractical platform. A mobile-optimised site will be stripped of all embellishment and give customers a simplified version of the site that is built with simple selection and ordering in mind. A site suitable for use on a mobile device is crucial to making the most of your online business.
The design and function of your websites is such an important part of making ecommerce work for your business, that you may want to invest in the services of a professional web designer, as they will be familiar with the pitfalls common to the design of retail websites. If you are going to make an internet success of your company, it is essential that it be built for the customer.
Once you have a reliable platform to direct your customers to, it is time to attract as many of them as possible. Advertising is very important, and will play a central role in drawing customers, but a lot of time, money and effort can be wasted by placing the wrong adverts in the wrong locations. This is where market research is very useful, and can give you an idea of what your target customer will respond to best.
Familiarising yourself with search engine optimisation will also be integral to your success, as it will help boost your website up the search engine results, and make browsers more likely to find you and become your customer. Making sure that everything is being aimed in the right direction is crucial to making your ecommerce website the success it has the potential to be.
Nicky Felix is the founder and owner of Box2, a Brighton-based fashion retailer of items and accessories in sizes 12-34.