I might not have gone to business school, but I did attend the school of hard knocks, where I've learned lessons I've applied to growing my business over the past 26 years. One of the newer skills I've had to learn as the owner of Alto Music is how to adapt to e-commerce and social media. That's the future of our business. Here are some tips on how we go about making the experience of shopping online the same, if not better, than shopping in a traditional retail store:
1. If you're opening a retail business, immediately start an online presence as well.
You need to have both. If you aren't selling everywhere, that means someone else will be selling into your neighborhoods.
2. Start small.
If you're new to selling online, it can be intimidating to think about competing against national retailers. Start small instead. Use social media to target local customers and build up a base that way. Then, as you get more comfortable, expand your territory.
3. Express your personality on Facebook.
Facebook can be a great tool to target certain demographics. But you don't want to use it in a way where you're trying to sell someone all the time. Make your Facebook page more interactive, friendly and fun. That way someone will think of you when they need something.
4. Make sure your customer service measures up.
When you sell online, you have to devote even more energy and resources to providing customer service than even what you do in a retail shop. We have a full-time team that just deals with our online customers. You need to provide people with order information, tracking numbers and, if there's a problem, like something gets damaged during shipping, you need to provide a fast solution for that.
5. Take your time when it comes to growing your online sales.
If you grow too fast, and you screw up a bunch of orders, you'll hurt your business. Before you expand, make sure you have the infrastructure already in place. You need reliable shipping people. You also need a way to keep a sense of order in what could be a dramatic increase in sales. Coordinating logistics between your salespeople and your shipping folks is crucial. Can you handle an additional 50 orders a day? Who will pack those orders or take the phone calls concerning them? All of this has to be figured out before the orders start rolling in! If you don’t, you could get hurt.
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Photo: Christopher Lane
ALTO MUSIC / JON HABER / MEMBER SINCE '02