The physical and online retail worlds are merging.
Customers are no longer afraid to buy online, and many have already moved to buying almost everything over the Internet. Moreover, customers begin to understand how online retail works and consider it as a natural part of their shopping experience. Many simply expect their favorite retail outlets to have an online presence too.
I personally couldn’t believe it when on my recent trip to the UK, I realized that my favorite record store–a worldwide music chain–does not operate an online store there (they do have one here in Ireland by the way). These, however, are not the only reasons brick and mortar stores should start selling online. Here are ten more:
The majority of customers already search and shop for products online. They might still frequent a traditional store but many of their purchases happen via the Internet. Moreover, many customers log on to online stores to research products before making a decision to go to a physical store and buy. It makes sense, in many customers’ eyes, that online stores should offer much more information and products than what they could find in their local store. This is called “webrooming”, a version of the popular showrooming (checking products in store to order them online later).
With certain items, customers even prefer to order them online. Consider having to buy some office supplies for your office. Unless your company is based in a close proximity of a office supplies store, driving to the other side of town to pick up few reams of photocopying paper might be too costly and time consuming to make sense. Ordering them online, on the other hand, takes less than a few minutes. And with today’s delivery times, it is possible that you will receive your order within a day or two. The same goes for the selection of items. Did you notice how many electronics stores stock only a limited number of items in their physical stores? If you want to buy an external hard drive for instance, there isn’t much of a choice there. If you look for something very specific, you need to go online. This is often due to space restraints. There is only so much space on a physical shelf. Online, on the other hand, you can store as many items as you want on your digital shelf.
It costs incomparably less to start an online store than open a physical retail outlet. Ecommerce platforms are widely accessible, simple to implement and cost very little a month. Not to mention that quite often you don’t need to stock any additional items apart from what you already have in your brick and mortar store.
Today you can shop online from almost anywhere. All you need is your smartphone or a tablet and Internet access. It is no surprise then that more and more customers turn to what’s called a mobile shopping – using their mobile devices to research products and buy. Having an online retail presence gives you an opportunity to cater to this group of customers also.
Not many customers will want to come down to your store regularly to order the same items. This is especially true for B2B companies. Just think of a business that needs a certain number of copying paper reams each month. In your ecommerce store, you could offer them an option to set up subscription payment and receive their order on the same day each week, month, etc. without having to lift a finger.
Ecommerce offers a chance to provide a much better customer service. From in-depth information your customers can access even outside of your company’s opening hours (instructional videos, FAQs, tutorials on how to use your products and many more) to live chat and other communication tools, you can help your customers make better decisions, get updates on their orders, and more without making them leave their office or home.
You can clear some old or non-moving stock online by pairing it with promotions or upsells, you can offer these products to a wider audience, beyond the people who would normally enter your store.
Similarly, an ecommerce website offers a chance to cross-sell or up-sell your products. For instance, you can specify complimentary products that will be displayed for customers viewing a specific item or products that your website should suggest to someone buying a particular item. Both of these are almost impossible to do in a traditional store, given the amount of variations and staff needed to fulfill this task .
Online stores don’t close at 5pm. Ecommerce sites stay open 24 hours a day, allowing customers to view and purchase products at a time that’s right for them. When selling online, you can also serve those customers who simply can’t make it to your store during opening hours.
Ecommerce is also global. Your traditional store can only cater for customers in your local area. What about people living on the other side of the town, or a different state, or country? They could buy from you too. But what are the chances that they will venture to your store? Online, you have the option to expand your reach as much or as little as you want.