Let's be clear. Just opening an account with any online ordering e-commerce platform is NOT a big idea. In fact, increasingly it's becoming the ticket just to get into the game. Too many Dealers view offering Online Ordering as an insurance policy:
I will get an account just in case anyone asks for a custom online store.
This is simply WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! As with any technology, it's not something you should embrace "just in case." Now, and for a brief time in the future, offering a new service such as a custom online stores can be a big differentiator for your business. Soon it will be standard practice to have this in your sales toolbox.
Okay, so you "get" that and even (maybe) agree...somewhat. So what is THE #1 MISTAKE many Dealers make when offering Online Ordering for their customers? It's basic, simple and easy to fix. The #1 MISTAKE is....
Letting the Customer dictate everything. And we mean EVERYTHING! How many products to include; how many customization and color options to offer; and all-too-often, even dictating THE PRICE and how much of a kickback they are to receive. By becoming a "YES" man to everything they request, you minimize the value of what you have to offer, AND you diminish their perception of you / your business. Here's a little secret...this doesn't ONLY relate to online stores.
Offering custom, online stores to your customers presents a unique opportunity to establish new rules of engagement and standards for how you're going to work. In fact, it is your best chance to LEAD and GUIDE your customer to a whole new way of working together. They are looking to YOU to help inform and suggest. After all, they do not know any better than you what works (and what doesn't) with online ordering.
So here are a few suggestions, ideas and processes you can (and should) follow:
STEP 1. PRE-QUALIFY THE SALE
Not every client is ripe and ready for online ordering. While that is changing rapidly, it is still imperative to pre-qualify any customer who wants an online store. The most important criteria to discern upfront is (by far)...how many people will be invited to shop in any online store? Too many dealers invest time, money and effort to set-up an online store, only to have a handful of orders come in. While not the ONLY reason, more often than not the "cause" is, there were simply not enough people to whom the store would be marketed. Be sure to ask upfront the potential size of the audience that will be given the chance to shop. That alone will determine success or failure.
STEP 2. CLEARLY COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS
As with any client, success is pre-determined by the understandings and expectations to which both entities agree upfront. There are many, including timing (when will my store be ready to review and the final the products delivered by example), costs, customer support, etc. The biggest expectation to set upfront is the role your client will play in promoting the online store. Too often online stores are painstakingly designed and launched, only to learn (too late) that the store was not promoted, the link was not sent, or it was buried at the bottom of a lengthy email that was sent out one time. Set clear expectations with your client and get them to commit to promoting the online store. Get into the details as to how (email, on a website, within their social media posts, via the PDF Flyer you create and send) and how often they will promote the store. Otherwise, don't be surprised by a store with few sales.
STEP 3. SIGN A PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT FOR EVERY ONLINE STORE
It may sound like overkill, but dealers who have experienced explosive growth online all learned the hard way...get EVERYTHING in writing. By getting your client to review and agree to the terms and expectations in writing, you will create proof later on regarding the expectations and agreements. Be sure to capture some of the information above (projected number of shoppers, expected sales, how and when the store will be promoted) in this Agreement. It does not have to be extravagant. We've included a sample Agreement below that you can start with. If you'd like your own copy, download your copy here or send us a request: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to specify you would like a copy of our Generic Online Store Agreement:
STEP 4. COMMUNICATE UPDATES AS THE STORE IS OPEN
Once the Online Store is launched, the real work begins. Resist the temptation to sit back and wait. Instead, keep a keen eye on orders. One tip--for every online store you set-up, go into your Store Reports and set-up a Daily Sales Summary Report that is automatically sent to you and your client. Doing so will keep all parties "in the know" in real time. In turn, that can trigger the need to promote the online store again in order to guarantee your sales goals are met.
STEP 5. DO A POST-STORE REVIEW
Take 15 minutes for EVERY online store you set-up and do a simple review with your client. Have Reports available to assess when orders came in, how many "change orders" were needed, and generally where any problems occurred. Look for bottlenecks in the process. Together, identify (and agree to) the areas that can be improved the next time, and the next time. Not doing such a review can empower your client to draw the wrong conclusions, and summarily come to an errant conclusion (online ordering does not work, my Dealer does not know what they're doing, etc.). An investment of 15 minutes doing a Post-Store-Review can (and will) save dozens of hours of wasted time and money down the road. And may save an important client.