The race is on. Brick and mortar companies are rapidly shifting to multi-channel markets primarily through e-commerce sites targeting customers locally, regionally and nationally. E-commerce is not eliminating brick and mortar stores but opening up new venues or other ways to sell products and services.
In the process these companies are eliminating ineffective traditional marketing and using search optimization and search marketing instead. These companies are searching for online solutions that automate the buying process and create 24/7 sales.
The relationship of online sales to offline sales is becoming more blurred and more complicated. For some products, especially high consideration products like automobiles, consumers research online to learn what they need to know and then purchase offline.
Other products are researched offline and bought online; this is a strong trend that many specialty stores are now seeing. The consumer will get the ‘look and feel’ of a product and then buy it cheaper online.
Many of these specialty stores are finding it increasingly difficult to remain competitive as their cost of sales is greater than e-commerce stores.
Flexible entrepreneurs are now using their offline presence to drive online sales. Others are using their online presence to drive offline sales. Many companies are now doing both.
Companies now have these new options thanks to search technology and especially “local search”. Companies can now target local, regional and global prospects and customers by using organic and pay-per-click marketing campaigns.
The initial beneficiaries of this new technology are those companies using local search; geocentric local search technology has now made it much easier to market across a region instead of just a locale. Many brick and mortar stores are finding innovative ways to leverage search technology to boost their brick and mortar products and services.
For 25 years Mike Fine ran Fineline Screen Printing before expanding into Cheapfasttees. Mike had been doing business only locally because marketing outside his immediate area was prohibitively expensive.
Using search technology and his existing screen printing facility, Mike now offers a discounted volume product he can sell throughout the United States. It all began as Mike’s local market stagnated he began looking at ways to utilize the excess capacity of his equipment.
“When I looked at my equipment over a 24 hour period I found that most of the equipment wasn’t being used most of the time,” said Mike, “and since I was paying for it all of the time, it occurred to me that it wouldn’t cost me more to use it more and expand my sales through an e-commerce website. Cheapfasttees was the natural business evolution for me.”
Many companies already have a good infrastructure in place with fully operational phone and computer systems. Only minor changes in inventory tracking and bookkeeping are needed to accommodate new online business.
Strangely the biggest challenges many of these companies face is psychological.
E-commerce and search marketing have advanced so quickly many companies have found the necessary mental adjustments difficult and at times impossible. E-commerce requires some degree of computer sophistication but the biggest challenge is implementing effective search marketing campaign strategies.
This requires a change of mindset or a ‘shift in the Gestalt’ as managers and owners are faced with the new realities of search marketing. Search marketing must be developed and implemented internally and old style managers often resist taking on these new tasks.
But many entrepreneurs now realize that if they don’t take control of their search marketing strategy their competitors will and beat them to it. This is because the markets are unforgiving of those that decide search marketing is optional.
Even local businesses are discovering they are losing business to competitors that are able to run effective local search marketing campaigns.
“It’s simply a matter of being found by those that are ready to buy,” says Mike of Cheapfasttees.