Museum Monday: E-tail Shouldn't Be an Afterthought
Updated: May 17
E-commerce and E-tail is something that Matilda and I pay a lot of attention to. First, we don't have a brick-and-mortar store, and currently we're on Etsy and Amazon. And second, when researching museums to carry our Rosie gear, we always look at the online store.
It would be an understatement to say that we're often shocked at what we find. Okay, we're not really shocked. We understand the kind of pressure you face: budget, staffing, and limited time. Disappointed is a better descriptor of our feelings.
But even if you have a small budget, don't have anyone on staff to develop the e-store, and are far too busy making your museum store look fabulous, you can (and should) find the dollars, talent and creativity to give your online store more than a second thought.
Consider that in 2020, more than 2 billion people bought something online and spent more than $4.2 trillion. There's nothing "future" about e-commerce, and there's every reason that museum stores like yours should have their piece of the pie. Your products are:
Out of the ordinary, often unique
And often treasured by the recipient
Think of it this way. You've already done the hard part. You've come up with merchandise that museum visitors love to bring home. Now your job is to make it as much fun and as easy to shop your online store as it is to shop at the museum. After all, museums are destinations, not someplace that a shopper just pops into on a trip downtown. You're bringing the museum to them...you need to make it something they look forward to receiving from you.
Here are a few thoughts.
Focus on the Content
Fortunately, e-commerce platforms have come a long way since 2007 when we first began. Not only is it easy and affordable to get started, it's even easy to transfer your current store to a new platform and give it a dynamite makeover.
There are several web platforms to consider today, such as Wix, Shopify, Weebly, BigCommerce, Squarespace and more. The nice thing about these platforms is they manage the behind-the-scenes technical stuff. They make sure the site is up-to-date and that apps are compatible with the updates. Believe me, that's a big help.
Best of all, a website platform allows you and your team to focus on what really matters to you--the content: merchandise, photos and product write-ups.
More Than a Store...It's an Experience
If you read much about website marketing, you'll come across the term "customer experience." That's what everyone is looking for. They want both that wow-factor and ease of use and navigation.
So if you're going to rethink your store, spend time considering what will make it special. Why will people enjoy visiting? What will make them buy...and come back and buy more?
Build a List
I know you've heard the phrase, build it and they will come. Welp, it doesn't really work that way. Just think of how many websites and shopping options people have.
The solution is to put your store in front of your shoppers. Build a list. Make it easy for visitors to sign up, and give them an incentive: Free t-shirt with next order, $5 off coupon, 15% off first order. Even the opportunity to receive your newsletter and discover some exclusive items not in your online store may be enough of an incentive.
With a list, you can get to your customers with news, special offers, discounts, sales, etc. And make them feel like insiders--give them some behind-the-scenes scoop on the gift shop or the museum.
Emails Need a Call to Action
When you're sending your emails out to your list, remember that you are in the selling business. That's your ultimate goal for reaching out. But don't think that fact is obvious to your customers. They need what's known in the business as "a call to action." Tell them to click the button or follow the link to buy now while you still have items in stock. Well you get the idea. You do need to lead people to shop.
Reward Shoppers and Friends of the Museum
Perhaps your museum has a friends program that gives them special discounts in the museum store. But are you doing anything to make them feel the rewards and benefits of their status through your online shop?
You'll need to think this through. How can you make them feel special? It's sort of like the issue above of customer experience. You want their reward to be good enough that they WANT to shop with you. For example, we make original fabric ornaments. We can also do custom ornaments to the specifications of the museum. Maybe you have something unique you could offer. Find out how your vendors can help you do something original for your best shoppers and friends of the museum.
So have some fun. Put a challenge out to your staff. And come up with a dynamite web store that will draw more business.