Your shop is doing well, but your sales are still limited to those customers who walk in your front door. Is it time to open an online store to supplement the sales from your shop?
In today’s Internet-savvy marketplace, even small stores are adding an online component. It is easier than ever for even the very smallest shops to go online.
This post explores the pros and cons of opening an online store so that you can decide whether an ecommerce site right for your business. We will also provide some tips to make starting your own online store easier.
4 Benefits to Having an Online Store
There are some excellent reasons for you to supplement your retail business with an online
- Low start-up costs. It costs far less to open an e-commerce website than it would cost to open another physical branch of your shop. There are also many low cost e-commerce templates available if you want to design a website, or you can offer products through an existing site like Shopify or Etsy.
- Expanded market. By opening an ecommerce store, you expand your market reach. With an online store, you have the potential to reach customers outside of your geographic area. You may even be able to reach international customers through your online site.
- Taps into a growing trend. According to recent figures from the eMarketer, North American ecommerce sales grew 13.9% in 2012. Online sales are expected to increase even more in 2014–a trend that is echoed in international markets as well.
- Customer convenience. Customers like the convenience of shopping online and after hours from their own homes. Even local customers may make additional online purchases.
As compelling as these reasons for having an online store may be, it is also important to consider the drawbacks of having an ecommerce site.
4 Drawbacks to Having an Online Store
Running an online store is not without challenges. Here are a few of them:
- Time. It takes a lot of time to run an ecommerce site. If you are also running a brick and mortar location, you may also need to hire someone to oversee your ecommerce activities. They can also deal with returns and customer questions. (If you do hire someone, ShiftPlanning is there to help you plan their schedule.)
- Advertising costs. Just like with any other business venture, you need to advertise an ecommerce site. Advertising can be expensive. The main goal of your advertising will be to drive traffic to your site. To do that you may need advice from an SEO specialist.
- Inventory. Once your online store gets going, you need to stock additional inventory so that you have items available to ship whenever they are ordered. This means you need storage space. If you sell perishable items, spoilage could also be a concern.
- Shipping costs. If you stock large or heavy items, shipping costs may affect whether or not you make an online sale. Shop around to get the best deals. Some storage facilities offer shipping services as well as storage space.
3 Tips to Get Your Online Store Started
After weighing the pros and cons, have you decided to set up an online site for your retail business? If so, here are a few helpful tips to get you started:
- Start Small. Rather than offering everything you sell online, start out by offering your most popular items. As interest grows, you can add additional items to your online offerings.
- Test Your Idea. Before setting up an ecommerce site, find out whether there is enough online interest in your products. One way to do this is to check Google Trends to see if anyone searches for products like what you offer.
- Offer detailed descriptions. Photos of your products help, but you also need complete written product descriptions. Since the online customer cannot come into the store to touch each item, you need to provide enough information online to help them make their purchase decision.
Have you already added an ecommerce site to your brick and mortar retail business? ShiftPlanning would like to hear about it. Leave us a comment below.