Read on to lean all the benefits of ecommerce stores over a standard traditional one.
For many decades and generations, traditional stores have been one of the most popular outlets for businesses when it comes to distributing products and services to local and out-of-town customers.
But in the age of the internet, where everything is available online around-the-clock, and next-day – even same-day – delivery has become a reality, have the benefits of eCommerce websites already eclipsed that of the humble store?
Selling online may not work for everyone, and in some cases it may be advantageous to have both a website and walk-in premises. But for now, we’re going to keep things simple, with a main focus on exploring the numerous benefits of eCommerce…
1. Set-Up & Running Costs
If you’re serious about earning a living online, don’t expect items like web hosting and eCommerce platforms to fetch for absolutely zilch. What you can certainly expect, however, is that selling online should be a whole lot cheaper than running a traditional store.
Regarding the latter, you’ll have much more costly outgoings that will include rent, insurance and utility bills. There’s also the uncertainty looming overhead of what may happen when your lease expires.
In terms of customer reach and sales potential, the benefits of an eCommerce website are fairly obvious; unlike a physical store, which is mostly limited to local footfall (and occasional out-of-towners), a website can receive both local and global traffic.
2. Opening Hours
A major drawback of traditional stores is the fact that opening and closing times – since human staff require sleep! – will always exist. While this isn’t a frustration for everyone, it often is for 9-5 workers who have to wait till the weekend to pay their visit.
When it comes to eCommerce websites – which can function largely without humans – opening times are non-existent. Since a website doesn’t need to ever sleep, take a lunch break, or go on vacation, these digital stores can serve customers, processing payments 24/7.
3. Stock Storage
Regarding stock storage, whether you run a traditional or eCommerce business, you will obviously need an ample-sized, secure space. With a traditional store, there should be room enough, but when it comes to eCommerce, you may need to seek out a storage facility container.
But we’re just talking in general terms, because it all depends on what it is you’re selling – and whether or not those products actually require any space at all! For example, you may be in the business of consulting or selling digital services or software; in which case, storage needn’t be a concern.
4. Walk-In Customers
To stand the best chance of receiving high volumes of walk-in customers, it often pays to have a physical store located within a bustling area, such as a shopping mall or town centre. But landlords weren’t born yesterday, and therefore tend to charge higher rent for these desirable premises.
You could advertise in a local paper or online, of course, but the same issue of walk-in traffic remains; even if you find a way to cheaply reach your target audience, you’re still limited to local ‘real life’ customers. There’s a chance you could receive business from out-of-towners, but poor proximity will always be an issue for these folks.
With an eCommerce website, so long as you’re actively trying to build a social media and search engine presence (using SEO, email marketing, and other promotional practices), you can open your ‘doors’ much wider, not just to local traffic, but effectively to traffic from anywhere in the world.
5. Time Demands
Traditional stores have to be manned at all times – an inescapable fact. This means that during a store’s opening hours, at least one person – whether it’s you or a member of staff – will have to be present, both to serve and process payments, and for security reasons.
The big issue is that, while this can feel totally fine when the store is filled with customers, it can become frustratingly tedious, time-demanding, and needlessly costly (especially if you employ staff or an individual to run the store when you’re not around).
Online businesses do of course require some human input, including maintenance, updates, and the shipping of orders, etc, but your time could be spent a whole lot more productively, enabling you to get on with other important tasks during periods of lower traffic and sales.
6. Marketing Channels
There are several different ways to promote a traditional store, such as through social media, newspaper ads and flyers, etc. But since your audience is limited to local and bordering footfall, the juice may not always be worth the squeeze.
While it is possible to create a mailing list, this can be trickier at real life checkouts where impatience often gets the better of customers (unless, that is, you are able to tempt them with a decent incentive, such as a loyalty card, future discount, or some other kind of perk).
On the eCommerce side, there are numerous ways to promote a business website. The best part is that much can be done for very little – or at no cost at all. Implementing great SEO can help boost your search engine rankings, as can other promotional strategies such as guest blogging and budget influencer marketing.
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7. Niche Products & Services
With traditional stores, owners usually feel fairly restricted when it comes to the type of products or services that can be displayed on shelves/advertised in windows. This is because the tastes and sensibilities of local customers (both known and perceived) tend to have a heavy impact.
It’s understandable, of course; a store’s shelf space is limited, and by replacing some common items with others that are niche, unusual, or notably more expensive, an owner could run the risk of alienating and losing certain customers who are not fond of change.
With a business website, however, since you can have unlimited ‘shelf space’ and a significantly larger audience, there’s no need to make any kind of sacrifice when it comes to stock selection; you can place new, exciting and obscure items right alongside your regulars, opening the door to a more diverse audience and increased sales.
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