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SNEWS Qs: Volusion's Matt Winn says specialty retail need not fear ecommerce

Find out tips on how to successfully implement an ecommerce platform and how to squash your misconceptions about ecommerce.

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The battle between etailers and brick-and-mortar specialty stores can resemble the tale of David and Goliath.

What better way to help David than to equip him with Goliath’s tools? That’s the goal of Volusion, an Austin, Texas-based software company that helps brick-and-mortar retailers build successful online businesses.

The company’s social media guru, Matt Winn, chatted with SNEWS about the opportunities storefronts have online. He aims to to quash misconceptions store owners might have about launching an ecommerce business.

Who are your target clients? Do you work in both the fitness and outdoor industries?
We have a multitude of clients spanning a wide range of sizes and industries. We target small- to medium-sized businesses and empower them to be more successful across the board. The fitness and outdoor industries are an important part of our business, as we provide them the tools to bring their businesses to an online space.

Our software and services are designed to ensure that our outdoor and fitness clients have a platform to showcase their products and their brand in a positive light, and to expand their presence beyond their local area. We’ve also seen a rise in demand and interest for our outdoor retailers — both in the number of visits and the amount of sales they generate for their online stores, which reflects an overall trend for the outdoor industry moving to the ecommerce space.

Where do specialty outdoor and specialty fitness retailers need work when it comes to ecommerce?
Merchandising is a huge opportunity for outdoor and specialty fitness retailers to showcase their products online. Far too often, these retailers simply list their products without showing the benefits of what they have to offer. When it comes to ecommerce, there’s a big push toward demonstrating the value of a product instead of merely describing the offering.

By highlighting a use-case in how a product can make for the ultimate fishing or camping trip, outdoor retailers can move their online presence to the next level. [They can take] advantage of beautiful product photography, empowering product descriptions and overall brand opportunity to make their company more relatable and relevant to their target audiences.

What are some misconceptions brick-and-mortar stores have about ecommerce, and how does Volusion work to address them?
Brick-and-mortar stores often get caught up in the perception that their business presence is limited to their local area. Instead, they should realize that there is an opportunity to reach out, not only to their loyal customers, but to a wide breadth of potential customer that aren’t in their immediate vicinity.

With an online store, brick-and-mortar stores have a vast opportunity to expand their hours to a 24-7 operation, all while appealing to shoppers across the globe. Essentially, brick and mortars often believe that their day-to-day is so busy that they can’t go online — whereas the truth is, they can manage a global presence with just an hour of work a day.

Volusion helps makes this opportunity a reality by providing user-friendly, robust software that enables outdoor retailers to manage their brand, business and livelihood without breaking the bank. Our goal is to empower merchants to think bigger, expand their presence and make a name for themselves without the hassle of managing multiple platforms across the web.

What are some of your most popular services for specialty fitness and outdoor retailers?
Our fitness and outdoor retailers, beyond the appreciation for our all-in-one ecommerce solution, rely heavily on our custom design services. With outdoor retailing, it’s important to solidify and create a brand and reinforce their commitment to their customer base. Because of the need to create a specific and unique brand experience, customers in this space rely on the expertise of a seasoned designer to craft the vision of what a brand could be.

Beyond that, our retailers turn to our online marketing services, such as SEO and PPC to help them stand out from the clutter.

What is your advice to brick-and-mortar stores who want to break into ecommerce but are not sure exactly what to do?
I’d say just go for it. Yes, it can be intimidating to take that step, but the opportunity is large. My advice is to start small and expand beyond that initial step. Once the initial leap is taken, the benefits are exponential. After one begins to sell online, it becomes a fabric of the overall business.

Yes, it takes an effort to list hundreds of products and to establish an online presence, but afterwards, the management aspect becomes easier. And if one doesn’t know what to do, reach out to the experts for guidance and assistance.

How will the new online sales tax law affect your clients?
At this point, the new online sales tax has not gone into effect, so I encourage any online retailers to pursue their digital goals. According to the latest legislation, the new online sales tax will only affect those who have over $1 million in sales, which means that there isn’t much cause for worry among the majority of retailers.

If and when the new online sales tax goes into effect, depend on ecommerce platforms to provide integrations to make the entire process easier. Until then, the idea of an online sales tax is more bark than bite.

What are some other opportunities that retailers might be missing?
Social media is a huge opportunity for fitness and outdoor retailers. It allows them to take advantage of a captive audience to engage with a brand that provides information and details regarding how to further enjoy products.