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In Data We Trust, Vol. 4

The Small Shop Shuffle: Converting Digital Sales Into Foot Traffic

Jeff Bezos saw it before the rest of us, mere mortals.  His visionary instinct fundamentally changed consumer behavior globally, setting new standards for digital sales and significantly accelerating the adoption of online shopping. I mean, raise your hand if you do not enjoy the leisure and pleasures of Amazon Prime.

Adding to this already enduring trend, the COVID-19 pandemic sealed the e-deal, driving more and more consumers to their screens for their various consumer urges and impulses. According to a survey conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards digital commerce and changed online shopping habits in a way that is expected to have enduring effects. Beyond the convenience of the digital experience, we need to dig deeper to understand its impact on shopping behavior and why it matters. Nowadays, nearly half of US shoppers rely on user-generated content like ratings and reviews to inform their purchasing decisions, which only further highlights something we already know: Social proof in the digital shopping experience is crucial (Fit Small Business)​. This has huge implications for the retail industry, and the cannabis industry is no exception to this digital frenzy with platforms like Dispense, Dutchie, Jane, Leafly, Tymber (via BLAZE), Sweed, and Weedmaps at the forefront of facilitating online sales.

You may be thinking “But my small business can’t compete with these giants.” Understandable, but don’t turn the page just yet; there is hope. True, it’s an uphill battle for local stores to enter and compete in the national online marketplace, but good news: You don’t need to! What you can and should do instead is develop an e-comm strategy that helps you beat out your local competition. Now, let’s seize that opportunity by jumping on the e-train.

Editor’s Note: This is Volume 4 in our four-part series on data for small businesses. Click here for Volume 3. 

You should see your e-comm opportunity not just as an additional source of revenue but also as an additional source of traffic to your storefront.

Know Your Place: Stay Local and Do You

Once again, we turned back to our data science guru, Dr. Gaby Pogge, and pinned her down for the goods, asking her point blank, how a small business can implement an e-commerce store effectively.

“E-comm offers an opportunity to extend your inbound methods for driving traffic to your website. Doing this effectively means establishing a localized, targeted online presence in your surrounding areas. You should see your e-comm opportunity not just as an additional source of revenue but also as an additional source of traffic to your storefront.” Sure, shipping orders (when financially feasible) can cater to a broad range of customer segments and preferences. But, as Dr. Pogge notes, for small businesses a shipping-only e-comm model actually works against a localized, inbound sales strategy.

Assuming you’re not trying to shutter the doors of your storefront, you need your e-comm store to drive more foot traffic to your physical locations in addition to facilitating online purchases.

“You need your online store and physical storefront to work hand-in-hand, not compete against each other,” Dr. Pogge explains. “To get the most out of your e-comm store, consider offering an option to place orders online but pick up purchases in-store.” As many of our readers can confirm, this model for fulfilling online orders became popular during the pandemic – and continues to persist.

For people who prefer to peek at their options before walking in, e-comm stores offer a chance for them to think about what they like, see pricing, and figure out any questions they might have before going “live shopping.” Although shipping is (generally) hassle-free for consumers, it lacks the personalized experiences that have long been central to transactions in this industry. Not to mention, have you ever tried to deal with UPS customer service over the phone? Of course, you have—and you know what a nightmare it can be. That’s a drag for your operations, but a boon for your local appeal.  At Dr. Pogge’s behest, let’s pause here for a moment to think about why this in-store pickup option for online orders has persisted in our return to (relative) normality post-pandemic. What added benefits might consumers experience when they follow up an online order with an in-store pickup at your physical location? Maybe that looks something like expert staff advice, opportunities for customers to touch before they buy, promotional deals, personalized offerings, or simply “good vibes.” Whatever it is that sets your store apart from the others, your website and web store should clearly demonstrate these added benefits to your potential customers.

“Leverage the enduring drive for human connection—especially in this industry—is your strategy,” Dr. Pogge says. “Once consumers put a foot in your store, you can work your good old magic.” And there’s your opportunity for the upsell. Customers who walk in to pick up online orders are 100% more likely to make additional, unplanned purchases than customers who choose to ship to home—purely because they have the opportunity to do so. Offering in-store pickup allows you to capture sales that otherwise would not occur with a purely online model.

Beyond immediate revenue generation, whether online or in-store, e-comm also offers opportunities to boost both customer retention and the insights you can gain about your customers. A loyalty program enables you to collect much more detailed customer data than POS systems typically offer, beyond the product IDs associated with specific sale values and times. “Understanding your customers’ shopping preferences is critical to informing your marketing and sales strategy and allows you to create personalized experiences and offerings for them.”

In a previous article, we discussed the importance of tracking and measuring website performance and how you can do that with Google Analytics. Integrating your website’s performance metrics with actual sales data is crucial—otherwise, how can you know if your web strategy is actually paying off? Fortunately, Google Analytics offers a user-friendly way to achieve this with both free and paid accounts.

Particularly important to the current discussion, you can use Google Analytics to track both your website performance and your e-commerce store performance simultaneously. Integrating e-commerce operations allows for a more holistic view of business performance, linking website activity directly to sales outcomes. This is particularly valuable for businesses that traditionally operate offline, as it provides a clearer picture of the online channel’s contribution to overall sales, and again, it gives you a better picture of your customers’ buying habits.

“By marrying e-commerce with digital marketing efforts, businesses can establish a feedback loop where sales data informs online content and engagement strategies, which in turn, influence broader sales tactics,” Dr. Pogge adds. “This synergy ensures that the e-commerce platform is not just a sales channel but a vital part of the strategic business ecosystem, enhancing competitiveness in the digital marketplace.”

You need your online store and physical storefront to work hand-in-hand, not compete against each other

From Analog to Neophyte

You might be wondering how to implement all this, especially if you’re pressed for time and not particularly tech-savvy. Starting from scratch might seem daunting, but here are some achievable steps to set you on the right track using Google Analytics. To fully leverage Google Analytics, incorporating Google Tag Manager (GTM) is essential. GTM allows you to track user behaviors or “events” on your site, some of which Google Analytics tracks automatically. However, GTM’s real power lies in its ability to monitor custom events that Google doesn’t automatically track, giving you deeper insights into user interactions.

Now, let’s get a little deeper into the weeds for the wonks out there. If you haven’t yet, setting up a GA4 account to monitor your website’s activity is a step you can’t skip. If you’re still using Universal Analytics (GA3), remember that it stopped tracking data in October 2023. It is critical to make the switch to GA4 as soon as possible to avoid losing historical data. For folks who are new to these tools, starting with Google Tag Manager is advisable. Resources like Measure School offer updated video tutorials for 2024 that break down the setup process into simple, manageable steps. Loves Data is another excellent resource, providing comprehensive insights into all things GA4, including helpful YouTube tutorials that guide you through each stage.

The setup process involves a few key steps: creating a Google Analytics account, setting up a GA4 property within your account, establishing a Google Tag Manager account, and configuring the container you’ll use for GA4 installation. Then, you’ll use GTM to tag and track desired web behaviors. Lastly, you’ll need to verify that the GA4 web tracking is correctly set up through GTM. By following these steps, you’ll be on your way to effectively tying your website’s performance to your e-commerce store’s sales, providing a solid foundation for your digital marketing strategy—which can translate into increased foot traffic. Boom. Full circle.

Leverage the enduring drive for human connection—especially in this industry—is your strategy. Once consumers put a foot in your store, you can work your good old magic.

Digital sales to foot traffic

The Takeaways

Navigating the e-commerce landscape for your cannabis accessory business can indeed seem daunting, especially when tech isn’t your forte. If diving into Google Analytics and Tag Manager feels like venturing into a digital jungle, remember, professional help is just a gig away. Hiring a freelancer to set up and manage your e-commerce analytics can be surprisingly affordable, and hey, who knows? Maybe your tech-savvy nephew could do it in his sleep. Gen-Z might break down at the thought of an eight-hour shift but put them in front of a computer screen and they’ll go all night. Plus, you might even be able to unload some of that worthless crypto they talked you into as payment. Win/win.

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