OPINION: Claire Franks on generating online sales

Lingerie and swimwear business guru Claire Franks, founder of Intimate Apparel Consultancy, offers her regular insight into lingerie retail, fitting and design.

It is now being reported that multiple retailers on the high street are generating approximately 30% of their overall business from their websites and that internet retail sales now account for over 10% of all retail sales, this is compared to less than 8% three years ago.

If these statistics don’t draw your attention then look at the internet retail boom another way: between October and November 2010 the average weekly internet retail sales grew by a staggering 37.5% while the average weekly value for all retailing grew by a meagre 10.2%.

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While many consumers still want to see, feel and touch the product before purchasing, there’s no denying that a high steet store or boutique is restricted to its nine to five opening hours. Whereas an online boutique is open 24/7.

If you don’t have a website then you can’t benefit from this boom or business when your store is closed. More and more consumers are shopping on the go, on mobile devises and out of shopping hours, so are you missing out?

Even your regular customers can browse your site for the new lines or view up and coming events when away from the office or at their desks. If you do not have a website yet then ask yourself why not and look at when you can start investing in one as, sadly, the future of retail is not focused on bricks and mortar.

Do not think, however, that opening up an online presence can be achieved on a shoe string budget and without additional staffing.

You must look at your website as a separate retail business, an extension or another branch and be aware that the online high street is busier, bigger and more difficult to find, so you must stand out.

Invest in finding a good, experienced web design company that can help you create a strong but simple website design and that can advise you on Social Media Marketing (SMM) and optimisation from the start. Without these building blocks, the business could fail and only generate trade from existing or local customers.

For best optimisation, you will require original content which is basically text, pictures and videos that you produced and first used on your site. This content must not be found anywhere else on the internet. If you are not producing Original Website Content you will be left out of the search engines eventually.

So if you already have a website, how much revenue is it generating? Is it over 25% of your turnover? If not, ask yourself why not. What could be going wrong and what makes a good website stand out from the rest?

The only reason a website exists is to serve a customer who has chosen to visit it and therefore it should provide a productive, memorable and frustration-free experience every time. One that enables a user to get to the product or information that they want as quickly and easily as possible, and this is done by allowing the user to navigate around the site with ease.

Remove any clutter, duplications and anything that confuses your core product message, just as you would on your shop floor. Keep the design simple, as web users have very short attention spans. If the website does not immediately attract your customer and tell them what they want, they will move on in frustration.

Most people will not read beyond a first sentence or a paragraph on the internet. Indeed, it has been reported that the average user only reads 28% of the text on a web page. Therefore, content must be clear, concise and to the point.

Don’t forget what makes your shop special and use this on your site. Offer the right stock in the right time and at the right place and allow the customer to pay and receive their delivery in the cheapest and quickest manner. You know your customer and what she wants, so make sure your website offers and attracts her and tempts her back time and time again.

Think carefully about how you can continue to offer the great service online that you do in your shop. Offer a customer service help number with someone on the end of a phone who is trained in bra fitting and mastectomy and maternity specialised products, knows the stock and can answer any questions and help with any queries. And don’t forget about free deliveries or free returns, you don’t want to give your customers any reason to dump their shopping basket and walk away.

And lastly, ask yourself this: does your site offer something different, something extra or special? Are the content and stock levels updated daily? Are you using the site to promote your events and to educate your customers? Do you have bra fitting videos on the site? And, do you show and discuss body shapes and talk about suitable bra shapes, types and solution products?




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