Small business owners are very proud of their physical locations, and rightly so. Through countless hours of hard work, maybe some extensive renovation, and a lot of sweat and tears, these stores represent not only the owner’s dedication but also their hopes for the future. But there’s uncertainty there, too. Is the location good enough to draw people in? Will people like the atmosphere and what products are being sold? How will we keep people coming back for more? How will we help people find us? The answer could be surprising: an e-commerce website.
It may seem like a “duh” answer, especially in the Information Age where 75% of people shop online for a $517 billion chunk of the total retail pie, but there are a surprising number of business owners who are resistant to the idea of setting up an e-commerce website for their customers. While online shopping is still only about 16% of total retail sales, it’s still in the billions, and for many small businesses, an e-commerce website is a fantastic tool for marketing, building customer relationships, brand awareness, and diversifying your revenue streams. Let’s take a look at some compelling reasons to get your e-commerce site up and running smoothly and quickly.
E-commerce Sites Aren’t Hard
It’s far easier than setting up a brick-and-mortar store, that’s for sure. Two of the most popular website platforms, WordPress and Squarespace, make for incredibly easy e-commerce site setup, and those are just a couple. If you’re not sure about the technical aspects of setting up a great e-commerce site, there are also website developers who charge competitive rates for initial development and setup. They can make the site tick along so all you have to worry about is filling the avalanche of orders you’re sure to have sliding in soon. An e-commerce site can be simple to set up with the right knowledge or outsourcing, and goes a long way towards supplementing your revenue on a rainy day when no one is out shopping in person. You can have a cup of tea and know your bottom line won’t take a huge hit because of things outside of your control.
Your Shop is OPEN!
While you enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep, someone three states over in a different time zone with a penchant for late-night shopping could be loading their shopping cart with your products. Your shop is always open, accommodating a variety of schedules, habits, and time zones, so you’re making money for your business without even trying. Not only that, but your well-designed website is a chance for your business to leave a good impression on a customer so they may come back again. All because you have an e-commerce site set up just waiting for them to find your business. The customer gets to shop in the comfort of their pajamas, your business makes money, and you get to introduce a newcomer to your incredible brand. Everybody wins.
People shopping on your site can do so at their leisure, where you provide all the information they could need to answer any questions they may have without the added pressure of a salesperson pushing them. The anonymity of online shopping appeals to a lot of people, but that’s not all. They can more easily find how your products match their needs when they do online searches because your site also has fantastic marketing content, right? We also live in the age of instant gratification. The knowledge that the item they’ve purchased from you is on its way is enticing to shoppers, particularly if they aren’t in the mood to put on their shoes, crate the dog, get in the car and drive to your brick-and-mortar location, and then drive home. A few minutes and clicks, and their shopping is done. They can go back to binge-watching Blown Away on Netflix. This is also a bonus for you if your shop’s location is difficult to find, tucked behind a large restaurant, or traffic doesn’t bring in a lot of walk-ins.
On a day-to-day basis, you’re essentially running two stores, the brick-and-mortar version and the online version. The physical location needs someone there to make sure the shelves are neat and tidy, to run the register, to answer the phone, and answer customer questions. You’re perfectly capable of multitasking, but sometimes, things don’t always run smoothly. If you get stuck on the phone with a vendor, you’re not going to miss a sale in the online shop because a customer has a question and can’t wait another 20 minutes on their lunch hour for you to get off the phone, so they leave empty handed. In fact, the profit from your e-commerce store may allow you to hire an extra person in the physical store so you can deal with the backside of the business without interrupting the customer shopping experience.
Greater Access to Data
Samantha likes to shop at 10 p.m., browses several books from your shelves before settling on two she will purchase, and you know she’ll be back every Tuesday because she’s finished the ones she bought last week. You know she reads non-fiction, science-fiction and high fantasy, and the occasional romance if the characters are compelling enough. She really likes her travel books, and you know from her spending frequency that in June every year, she takes two weeks off to go somewhere exotic.
You’ve never spoken to Samantha, but you know this because of her browsing habits, and her summer hiatus is kind of an intuitive leap in logic based on what she reads. You also know where she lives, that she likes to bake thanks to her extensive cookbook collection she’s purchased from you, and that maybe she’s dabbling in writing a book of her own, if the how-to books she bought three months ago are any indication. You can get a great sense of who your customers are by what they buy, when they buy them, and how much research they do on each product before adding them to the cart.
These are things you can’t learn in a brick-and-mortar store without being creepy and following customers aisle-to-aisle to observe them or spending money on beacon marketing. Having the clerk ask about habits and such at checkout is an invasion that shoppers won’t tolerate in person. But these habits are passively shared with businesses through an e-commerce site. Because it’s gently acquired data, you’re able to extrapolate much more information about shopping behaviors over your entire demographic by looking at patterns and trends you simply couldn’t access in person. These personalized shopping tendencies give you far more insight to develop marketing strategies that will match your customer base’s behaviors. It’s sitting on a virtual gold mine.
These are just some of the reasons to open an e-commerce site for your business to sell your wares online. There are more opportunities to run promotions, entice people to your site through social media, connect with customers in a digital way that can’t be achieved the same way in person. The list of reasons goes on and on. While online shopping may never surpass that of in-person shopping, more than $500 billion in market share is nothing to scoff at. In fact, the combination of a physical and digital location could solidify your brand’s success for years and even decades to come.
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