Are you thinking of starting a retail business? Do you already have a brick and mortar store and have been thinking of making a switch to ecommerce? Operating an online-only store has many advantages, and if you can learn the fundamentals of online marketing for retail, it can be a very fulfilling and liberating endeavour. Let’s consider some of the advantages of trading purely online:
1. The obvious: saving of costs associated with running a brick-and-mortar store
As far back as 2007, the cost of starting a small retail store was estimated around $100,000 by Forbes. Setting up an ecommerce store costs a fraction of this amount.
2. Easy to expand your reach and customer base
The savings from starting an ecommerce store can be invested in online marketing and advertising to extend your reach across the country or even internationally. This will open up many new markets for expansion.
3. Fewer logistical issues with shipping from warehouse to store
Without a physical location, you don’t have to worry about maintaining separate inventory in your store and your warehouse. You can streamline fulfillment to ensure that all your orders get processed straight from the warehouse and get shipped to your customers.
If you have the right ecommerce platform, it can also track your inventory across multiple warehouses to ensure that you’re always looking at accurate data and are able to actually deliver the items that appear on your website.
4. Leveraging partnerships with third party fulfillment providers
There are a number of third party fulfillment agencies, including Amazon, who can handle the entire order processing side of your business so you can focus on just maintaining your online store and customer service. While this might reduce your margins a little bit, the amount of time and hassle it saves you could be well worth the cost for many retailers.
5. Easy to expand product categories without having to expand the physical store
Traditionally, expanding your product catalog meant expanding the physical space of your store to accommodate more products for display. With ecommerce, that’s as easy as creating new product categories and pages, which often doesn’t cost you anything if your ecommerce platform allows creating these pages without coding.
6. 24x7 operations become infinitely easier and more profitable
Keeping a retail outlet open 24x7 comes with huge overheads, including paying extra for evening and night shifts. That expense, however, isn’t likely to bring a large volume of customers late in the night. Shopping online at night, however, is a lot easier for customers and doesn’t cost you anything extra.
7. Flexibility with pricing, promotions, and discounts
Changing price on physical items is a lot harder than doing it on your ecommerce store. Rather than physically print or paste new price labels on the inventory, you can simply change the price in your online system and have it reflect on the store instantaneously. You can also reverse the promotion after the scheduled number of days without worrying about being left with inventory that wasn’t sold and needs relabeling or put on a flash sale to get rid of it at low margins.
8. Your marketing can be focused on bringing customers at one place: your online store
This is an advantage over businesses that have both physical and online storefronts. For those businesses, all the marketing efforts are fragmented locally and globally. You need to market to your local community to bring them to the storefront and market to a global audience to buy online. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it could be detrimental if you don’t have the resources and funds to pull it off. Having an online-only presence lets you focus on just one task: bringing visitors to your store online.
9. Flexibility with payment methods
eCommerce stores have a lot more flexibility in payment options, which includes online-only methods such as PayPal. This greatly reduces friction when your customers are trying to buy your product: a good thing to aim for when trying to increase sales.
10. Flexibility to run your business from home
You could literally sit in your pajamas all day and rake in thousands of dollars in sales if your online setup is running well. If you are the type who likes going to an office, you can have a small office too – which would be a lot cheaper than having an entire storefront – with a small support staff to ensure things go on smoothly.
eCommerce has levelled the playing field for small retailers and made it possible for them to have global operations just like large brands. I personally know a former small eBay retailer who has now created a successful global ecommerce operation, as well as entrepreneurial individuals who have launched online stores selling high-quality niche products to supplement their incomes from their day jobs. Whatever your retail objectives are, ecommerce can provide a way for you to accomplish them.