Understanding where you are to determine where you can go
Let’s have an honest conversation with ourselves. This is important. It is often difficult. Before we begin, let’s start with an analogy.
Let me introduce my friend Bob. Bob is 52 years old. He is overweight but not obese. Bob played baseball and soccer in high school and was pretty good. He plays pickup basketball on Sunday mornings at the church basketball court with guys around his age. He also likes to golf. When he golfs, he almost always takes a cart. Other than that, Bob doesn’t engage in much other physical activity.
Yesterday, Bob called me. He said, “Hi Keegan, I have an idea I want to run by you.”
“Hi Bob, good to talk to you. What’s your idea?”
“I want to run a marathon,” he said.
“Wow! That is a great goal Bob! Tell me more,” I replied.
“I decided I am ready to run a marathon as soon as possible. I am ready to sign up. Can you sign me up for a marathon. I want to run a marathon in 3 weeks,” Bob said.
“Bob, I think running a marathon is a great goal. But, we need to set some goals to get you ready to run a marathon!”
Now, obviously, this is a hypothetical conversation but it highlights the point well. Many retailers call our sales team with a similar line of questioning. After using a cheap, four page website for years, a store decides to engage in ecommerce. Moreover, they want to have one up and running in a month. Yet, many store owners do not realize all the complexity involved in doing ecommerce well. Furthermore, ecommerce is not a commodity, there are a lot of different ways to do ecommerce. Preparation is important for running a marathon or running an ecommerce website.
Websites vary in their level of complexity. I’ve classified retail websites into eight different categories. Each category represents a different level of complexity. This list goes from most complex to least complex. As you read this list try to determine where your business falls in the spectrum.
This website is an ecommerce website with many levels of connection. An omega website has the POS system tied into the website. It also fulfills products from other sources such as dropshippers and manufacturers. The Omega website will offer customers local delivery, shipping and store pickup. An Omega website is connected to marketing platforms like MailChimp, Facebook and Google Ads. Likely, an Omega web presence is linked with online sales channels like Facebook, Amazon and eBay.
An alpha website is almost as complex as the Omega website. This type of site includes connections to multiple inventory sources. It offers customers many delivery and pickup options. An alpha site is also connected to various marketing platforms. It uses plugins to drive sales. This site is almost as robust as an omega site. The difference is that it may have less fulfillment sources and methods or sell on fewer third party marketplaces.
Simple Omnichannel Ecommerce
The simple omnichannel ecommerce website is an extension of the business. In this scenario the store sells the same products online that they sell in their store. The online catalog is a reflection of the in-store inventory. Products are fulfilled from the store. Local delivery and store pickup are available to online shoppers. In some cases, shipping may also be an included feature.
Dropship Ecommerce Website
The catalog on this type of website is fulfilled by a dropship partner. The store collects revenue from online sales but the dropship partner picks, packs and ships the products.
The alternate ecommerce website is when online transactions take place on a third party site. For instance, a hardware store may send traffic back to the co-op’s main website for transactions. Or a dealer may have an ecommerce catalog available from a manufacturer on a separate platform. The retailer links to this catalog site from their main store website. The retailer may earn money through a referral program, revenue share program or directly through the third party site.
Robust Informational Website
The robust informational website has landing pages, and an informational product catalog. The website is regularly updated. Often, a high quality blog is a key component of this type of website. The website has a high ranking in local search results and functions well across different devices. The website reflects the store and drives foot traffic.
Simple Informational Website
The website is static most of the time. This means no one updates the website. It may have a few pages that describe the business. Usually no more than 4-5 pages. The website is clean but offers little visibility in Google searches. The website does not have many landing pages, there is no blog and no product catalog. The landing pages consist of some text, stock images and bullet points.
No Website or Facebook is my website
There is not much information about the store online. Google searches yield little information about the business.
Where to go next
Bob is the simple informational website. A popular option among store owners. But, Bob wants to jump right to the Omega without taking the steps necessary to prepare.
To understand where we’re going, we need to understand where we are in our digital marketing journey. Identify where you are on this spectrum. The difference between where you are and your goal is time, money, expertise and marketing investment. Decide what you’re willing to invest to grow to the next level of website.
Remember, because a store has an Alpha website, it doesn’t mean that it is good. These levels help define what you want out of a website. After you choose, all that matters is the execution. There are such things as bad websites at every level.