Growth is central to the success and survival of any business. If you’re running your own small business, this is especially true. For a merchant just getting their business off the ground, one of the toughest challenges is going from the point where you’re fighting for every sale like your livelihood depends on it (because it does) to the point where the business takes off under its own momentum. Introducing an online component to your store can make all the difference.
Navigating the early stages of migrating your brick-and-mortar store to an e-commerce website can seem overwhelming, so we’re going to caution that not everybody should just rush out and open an online store. Ensuring that your physical location is solid can go a long way to setting you up for success in the online market. On the flipside, starting a web store while still establishing a physical location could be taking on too many tasks all at once.
In any industry, exposing your business to a wider audience is a key element of growth, and adding an online element may be the best way to do it. For merchants looking to add an e-commerce component to their physical business, here are some questions you’ll want to answer before launching your online store:
Do you have time?
Don’t open an online business just because all the cool kids are doing it. If you’re already putting in 50, 60, or 70 hours per week operating your store, don’t add to that. But if your brick-and-mortar location is getting steady, reliable traffic and turning over enough money to be stable and profitable without taking up all of your time, you can look into e-commerce as the next step.
Can you afford it?
It’s true that an online store has only a fraction of the overhead of a physical store, but there are still hidden costs to investigate. Delivery is the biggest one, so the type of product you sell is of prime importance in making this decision. Taxes, inventory, IT support, and packaging must also be budgeted for.
Do people want it?
Again, the type of product you sell is of utmost importance, as are the demographics of your target market. 64% of people still prefer to shop in-store, but they’re happy to shop online if and when it’s more convenient. Is your target market going to want to shop online? Is your product something that people are comfortable ordering from the internet?
What is your ROI?
The failure rate of online stores in their first two years is almost 50%. It’s a definite must for you to calculate whether or not you will be able to turn a decent profit during this period. Consider your brand awareness level, the size of your social media following, and the amount of non-local web traffic you receive to help you identify whether there is a demand for your products online.
Can you process online payments?
Compared to accepting payments in person, online payments are a different ballgame. Security concerns are certainly a factor in why people prefer to shop in person, but there are also costs and marketing concerns associated with payment processing. Ideally, to limit checkout friction and put customer security concerns at ease, merchants offering direct credit card processing through their own website will see better conversion rates.
E-commerce is one of the fundamentals of long-term growth in any industry. Expanding your business online can grow your customer base beyond your local area, allow for 24/7/365 sales and lower your overhead costs.
The keys elements to ensuring your e-commerce venture is a successful one are to establish a solid fulfillment strategy, to offer great customer service in as many formats as possible (via phone, SMS, chat, social media, etc.), and to provide a secure, reliable and frictionless way to pay. And once you get past the initial investment of launching an e-commerce operation, there is only growth ahead. Web stores are extremely scalable, so while your brick-and-mortar location may be limited by the size of a building, your online sales can keep on growing.
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