There are oft-unspoken advantages of running a brick-and-mortar store. For one, you can meet your customers and talk to them, getting to know them outside the data they create. For another, you attract casual browsers, who meander around your store and pick up items they weren’t initially intending to buy. Owning a physical location is not completely outdated and obsolete — yet.
In 2017, US consumers alone spent more than $453.46 billion on retail purchases over the web, which was a growth of 16% over the previous year. If that growth happens again — which is likely and then some — 2018 could see nearly $529.01 billion changing hands. That doesn’t even account for global consumers. One analytics firm calculates that the average ecommerce company generates $6.5 million in revenue after just three years of operation. After learning this, you have to ask yourself: Are you missing something by lacking an online store for your existing brick-and-mortar?
The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding yes. In the digital age, shoppers behave much differently than they did when brick-and-mortars were the only option. As you begin to take steps to establish a virtual merchant, you should learn why having one is so important for your overall business strategy.
Shoppers research before they buy
Not too long ago, consumers only knew what their retailers told them. They relied heavily on staff recommendations or displayed descriptions of products, and most were forced to make purchases to determine more about quality and suitability.
Those days are gone. Now, more than 88% of consumers perform online research before making any purchase, online or in-store. That means they are searching for certain products, reading and watching reviews and comparing other retailers’ prices — all outside of your brick-and-mortar store.
By building an online front for your store, you can continue to control what your customers learn about your products and where they ultimately buy. Using strong SEO tactics, you can be among the first links in web searches for your items, and compete with larger online retailers by offering free pick-up for purchases at local locations. Even if you don’t create a buying portal, it is a good idea to make a website for your store to grab the attention of online researchers and provide a location where they can evaluate your products.
eCommerce is growing at an alarming rate
Retail in general is booming, and this is due, in large, to online retail. eCommerce claims roughly 13% of all retail sales, and is responsible for over 49% of the growth in this sector. Though brick-and-mortar stores are doing well, it seems that online stores are doing just as well — if not better.
Whilst rates of online consumerism are exploding in the US, that trend is carrying around the globe. With online spending in the hundreds of billions, global spending over the web is easily in the trillions. Experts predict that number could reach over $4.5 trillion by 2021, and the sooner you establish your online presence, the sooner you can get a slice of that pie.
Digital stores have dozens of benefits
You fought to build your brick-and-mortar into the institution it is today — but your store will be improved, not disassembled, by an online addition. Some advantages that of digital retail include:
- Accessibility. Anyone from around the globe (or at least around the country) can visit your store at any time of the day to make a purchase.
- Flexibility. You can update your online store with new products as often as you like; it could even be a place to test potential new offerings with your audience.
- Visibility. It’s easy to link your online store in social media posts, banner ads and other marketing messages online, increasing the numbers of consumers who will see your wares.
- Low cost. Admittedly, you will expend money to build your online merchant space, but considering the improved income opportunities, the costs are relatively low.
Of course, there are a number of advantages you already have over your online-only competition; for example, customers inherently have more trust in physical locations than they do in online stores. By augmenting the power of your brick-and-mortar with a virtual merchant, you can accomplish even more.