Advice on taking a brick-&-mortar retail store 'online'

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Advice on taking a brick-&-mortar retail store 'online'

Postby m021478 » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:16 pm

For over 30 years, my In-Laws have run a family owned lighting retail store in a New York City Suburb. Don't let that first sentence mislead you into thinking that they are small potatoes... their annual gross profit margin is about $10 million in sales.

They have never had any sort of online presence whatsoever, and they have just now committed themselves to taking the plunge once and for all. The only problem is, they haven't got the slightest idea of where to even begin (nor do I).

None of them are very web savvy, though they are savvy enough to understand that the consumer market in their suburban neighborhood isn't squat compared with the reach and sales potential they could have online.

They aren't planning on closing their brick-&-mortar retail store, rather they are simply looking to have some sort of e-Commerce system developed so that they could sell their existing product online.

What I believe they need at this point is to find a company that specializes in bringing all of the various pieces of the puzzle together - website design & development, marketing & promotion, stock/inventory, payment processing, order fulfillment, etc, etc...

The complexity of what will be needed is such that I can only assume there are companies that specialize in helping to bring retails stores like theirs online for the first time, or am I mistaken?

If my assumption is correct, then I would be sincerely grateful if someone could please throw out a couple names of some reputable companies that might fit the bill... or at least point me in the right direction so that I can help guide them down the right roads.

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Re: Advice on taking a brick-&-mortar retail store 'online'

Postby DoingHomework » Fri Jul 16, 2010 7:58 pm

I'd say that for a company doing a volume like that, a professional job is both affordable and necessary. I would not be surprised if they spent $50k having a decent web storefront built to supplement their existing store. $100k or more might be needed to do a good job and it could take over a million if they wanted something tightly integrated to any existing ERP systems. Even $1,000,000 is only 10% of revenue for a year so that is not a lot to invest in expansion.

I would definitely suggest talking with 6-12 large regional and national firms with experience at this to see what they can offer and at what price. You will find that ongoing support and customization will also be a significant cost.

This can certainly be done by a small company or even a single programmer. But when you think big picture and integration with existing business systems this will eliminate most small firms.

I'd also suggest you look at the market. Lighting is definitely a national market but it is also one where people like to see what they are buying firsthand. You should make a realistic survey of the market before pulling the trigger. There are also competitors out there!

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