As a consultant for a "click-and-mortar" retail store in the DFW area, I was hired to analyze the challenges of their eCommerce and online marketing department and provide solutions. I found partners, SaaS applications, marketing and online content and workflow solutions that integrated the customer's needs with the company's goals. The majority of SBM's revenue came from in-store traffic, with the website acting as a catalog. However, they wanted to expand their current online reach, and therefore my expertise was sought to lay the foundation of online success. To date, the online store has seen a rise of 300% in sales revenue, 150% increase in web traffic and 6x growth in conversion rate. Here is a blueprint to our online success, which had much more to do with offline processes (like fufilment) that one would think:


1. Evaluate Current Systems and Solutions Against Current and Future Goals

OMS vs Current POS vs CRM

Do I need an OMS (order management system) to replace the current older POS system? We aren't working with a simple system or a large budget so this process is a slow pull as we find the right set of solutions for us. Meanwhile, I created workflows using simple software solutions that did not break the bank.

Do I need a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to better track follow-ups? We do not have a robust outside sales force right now and we will need that to grow, so I am making sure CMS integrations already exist with all new POS evaluations.

Is what we actually need a robust ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or MRP (Manufacturing Resource Planning) to help us manage distribution, inventory, accounts, supply chain, HR, etc? What a great help that would be, but we are not ready yet. We have to ensure major growth is possible first, then we can upgrade and streamline the system.

eCommerce  Platform and APIs needed

Do we need to update the website and evaluate possible platform switch? This was an immediate goal, due to several factors including poor SEO. I did all the research, it took me two months and several hours of demos and weeks of trials to come up with the right platform for us. I hired an SEO company to help us oversee the switch. They did not do their part due to a misunderstanding about our new platform, and I failed to understand the errors until it was too late. It was a mess. Don't be like 2015 Cara. I can help.

How fast can we set up an API between our current POS and our new eCommerce platform to eliminate double-entry and effectively track inventory to sell easily across multiple sales channels? As it turns out, not nearly fast enough, so we are dropping that angle and evaluating new POS SaaS partners. The current POS, although a good all-in-one solution for large inventories and user seats with time clocks and PO management, really falls short on reporting and current business needs.

MAPs and Marketing Channel Evaluation

Do I need a MAP (marketing automation program) to help me engage with my audience in a scalable way as we grow our opted-in contact base via landing page sign-up forms? This was a definite YES. I cannot clone myself, unfortunately, or work 24-7.

Are there social and sales channels we are not using that fit our business model? Are there any not suited to our business that we continue to waste energy on now? We were not effectively leveraging Pinterest, a truly perfect social community for us. We now get the bulk of our referral traffic from Pinterest and do very well with our ad campaigns there. Also, we needed less Twitter without a targeted campaign, so we scaled that back until we are ready to use it effectively. New sales channel evaluations on Houzz, eBay, Amazon, Wayfair, etc. are ongoing and very exciting.

2. Evaluate Current Policies and Find Working Solutions

Shipping and Returns

Should we roll shipping costs into operational costs and determine shipping to be FREE to increase online sales? What are the pros and cons to that model? It would take us to the next level in sales, BUT our merchandise is extremely heavy and must ship LTL. The nuance here is tricky--you need to sell more online in order to justify free shipping but we don't convert 90% of our carts due to shipping costs. Luckily, we were able to set up an LTL Freight real-time shipping rates engine on our eCommerce website with ShipperHQ, reducing calls for shipping quotes and eliminating guesstimated national shipping rates.

Customer Service and Current Reviews

How do we conduct ourselves when our customers experience pain points and how is that reflected in our online reviews? There was an incredible (and normal) disconnect between how our management team saw the way they handled customer complaints and the story our online reviews and scores told. We had to balance this idea of "what is fair" and consider big financial losses with the very real issue of our customers not feeling heard or properly informed and therefore taking to the review sites with anger. Will we sometimes be taken advantage of? Yes. That is the nature of the retail business. How far we want it to hurt us is IN OUR HANDS, however.

Loyalty Programs and Future Reviews

Do we have a way to recognize repeat customers and reward them and win their business for next time? Can we supply a homeowner with incentives to use our store for their next project, be it months or years from now? Can we capture Reviews before they become online complaints? There was not anything in place to capture that customer data and use it. So we partnered with SignPost and will be rolling out SMS and email-based promotions and review gathering services Q12017. This will also help us get solid reviews from our brick and mortar customers and catch complaints at the very beginning of the issue.


How about you? What are your pain points? Where do need to calibrate your business to achieve your goals?

Do software interfaces fill you with dread, rather than happiness that you basically hired a robot to clone yourself for a few hundred a month? I speak your language and that robot's, too, and I'd be happy to introduce you. Have you explored email automation beyond just transactional? I can help brainstorm content that will bring all the customers to the yard so you can sort them out.

Many eCommerce platforms, email and lead generation marketing solutions, etc., pay for themselves in a few months. CRMs, OMS, and the like tend to pay you back in happier human capital, less frustration, and lower turnover.

With companies like Klaviyo, HubSpot, WishPond, MailChimp & Campaign Monitor you (or I) can set up customer winback, browse abandonment and other flow and nurture campaigns once, just to get you started. Then you can knock out the other fifty to-do items on your list today.