Changing consumers' shopping habits is not easy. Convincing purchasers to buy online when they've gone to a store all their lives is difficult, but do it right and it's well worth it. Look at the revolutionary changes made in the book industry in the last several years. In the first quarter of 2012, ebooks outsold hard copies for the first time ever, and this is just eight years after the first ereader was introduced (and five years after the Kindle). It took time to warm consumers to the idea, though, and it took some adapting on the e-readers' part (for example, introducing the ability to share books on a Kindle).
When I joined doggyloot in its attempt to revolutionize the pet industry by moving sales online, I knew it wouldn't be simple – PetSmart, the largest pet retailer, earned less than 1 percent of its revenue from online sales in 2011. There was room for someone new in the industry, but something needed to be done differently.
In the two years since it launched, doggyloot has become the No. 1 ecommerce site for the discovery of pet products and it’s still growing. Here are some tips for changing customers' shopping habits from in store to online:
- Build a great product. Your website should be easy to use and hassle-free – if it's confusing and convoluted just to buy something, consumers will stick with their old routines.
- Make it more convenient than what consumers are doing now. A subscription service to keep always-needed products in stock, free shipping; benefits like these are great ways to incentivize consumers to change their habits burden-free.
- Online stores can solve the problems of brick-and-mortar stores. In stores, there are thousands of products to choose from and there's no way of knowing what other customers think of them. Online, you can handpick products to show only the best ones to customers, making the discovery process a lot easier.
- Capitalize on your customers' passions. If your customers love your product or business, nothing could be better for you. In doggyloot's case, our customers are so passionate about their dogs that we've been able to build a Facebook fanbase of over 80k and a very successful refer-a-friend program.
Jeff Eckerling is an experienced e-commerce executive and entrepreneur. He joined doggyloot as the CEO in May 2012. Before joining doggyloot, Eckerling was the CEO and Co-Founder of BonVoyou, a flash-sale travel site acquired by HauteLook (acquired by Nordstrom). Prior to BonVoyou, Eckerling was part of the pre-launch team at Orbitz and spend nine years in a variety of managerial roles.