Should You Take Your Local Business from Brick-and-Mortar to E-Commerce?
Trends and developments in technology have transformed the way we buy and sell, turning the tides in favor of online shopping for many markets. This has many businesses with solely physical storefronts wondering whether it is more lucrative for them to switch over or stay put.
Brick-and-mortar businesses, or those which have a physical location where customers can interact with their brand and make purchases, have still seen sales growth, with statistics saying that they saw a 6.9% increase between 2019 and 2020.
Online stores, or those who operate through the connectivity of the internet, saw a 14% increase in sales during the same year, suggesting that it may be more lucrative to leverage the world’s growing internet lust.
Since these ‘e-commerce’ companies handle their dealings with potential and current customers remotely, it is important to consider many facets of your market before opting to go fully online.
If you are mulling over whether to remain a brick-and-mortar business or enter the world of e-commerce, consider how your industry will be impacted in the following aspects:
- Industry and Proximity to Target Audience
- Brick and Mortar: If your brick-and-mortar business sells something like landscaping and construction supplies and services to build up your neighborhood, you may want to primarily interact with your own neighbors. In industries that include items that the public may want to scope out for quality and fit with an in-person visit, such as certain types of clothing, you may also want to focus heavily on a physical storefront.
- E-Commerce: Although customers are less likely to take the risk of buying certain items online, most would prefer to compare pricing and features from home before purchasing others. By considering your industry and doing some requisite research, you can ascertain whether people prefer to inspect the quality of your products with their own eyes or typically turn to Google to hunt for the best deal.
- Availability of Resources
- Brick and Mortar: While products or services that have a locational limit or expiration date can still benefit from an online storefront, it is important to think about how feasible a more far-reaching customer base would be. For example, if you sell farm-to-table wagyu beef or other farm-fresh products, shipping will be slightly more complicated and time-crunched. While it may still be lucrative to widen your audience in this case, you may still want to remain primarily a brick-and-mortar business.
- E-Commerce: If you determine that it is in your best interest to take your customer dealings online, it will be easier than ever to manage your inventory. While it may initially seem like a more daunting task to keep track of everything online and ensure you get it out on time and in tact, you will be sailing smoothly in terms of your inventory with less effort on your end with the right business management software solutions.
- Customer Reach and Retention
- Brick and Mortar: While brick-and-mortar businesses may have a more restricted customer reach, they also tend to have a higher rate of customer retention. Interacting with your customers in person and being nearby to their place of living elicits a more neighborly type of trust and loyalty.
Widening your audience by moving to e-commerce is an especially good idea if you are selling global products that are hard to find in local stores and are usually sought through an online search. Outside of this realm, keep in mind that your customer retention rate may fall short of that of your physical storefront—though, that may not matter if you are getting a lot more leads.
- Customer Convenience and Experience
- Brick and Mortar: Many people enjoy the experience of in-person shopping and love the convenience of visiting a store and leaving with a product. Offering the convenience of a physical visit to customers will allow you to be a part of the cherished tradition of group outings. These often include perusing shops in conjunction with dining or drinks.
- E-Commerce: While it does not replace the in-person experience, the ability to shop at any time from home has dawned a new era in online buying. Offering all products from one convenient platform and shipping them directly to consumers’ doors will help you capture more customers in certain industries. Free shipping is a great way to go if it is viable to your bottom line.
- Lead Time and Costs
- Brick and Mortar: When it comes to generating leads and leveraging them into customers, there is little to no extra cost or time involved at a physical storefront. While you will be paying more for the storefront itself, walk-in customers are more likely to leave as a sale since they are immersed in your physical inventory.
- E-Commerce: Although your lead time may be extended significantly, selling online is cheaper overall. Marketing is also a lot more inexpensive, as well as convenient, when you are seeking customers by utilizing the connectivity of the online world.
- Operating Costs
- Brick and Mortar: Brick-and-mortar businesses have higher operating costs than online brands. This includes overhead, maintenance, marketing, and insurance, although international shipping costs will not be incurred and could offset this.
- E-Commerce: Running an online business not only cuts down on operating costs or eliminates some entirely, but it will also take a huge part of your budget away from transportation and allow you to invest it elsewhere, like international shipping.
- After-Sale Services
- Brick and Mortar: Customers of a brick-and-mortar business avoid running into additional complexities when they want to return or replace an item. The ability to speak directly to a sales representative makes it quick and easy to resolve issues or ask any questions they may have about a product or service.
- E-Commerce: After-sale services become more complicated when shipping is involved and face-to-face interaction is not possible. If you go this route, it is best to show your customer care by making communication with your brand easy and highly interactive. To retain customers, foster a sense of community that is as comparable as possible to a physical store.
Whether you decide to make a full or partial transition into e-commerce, remember that the two are not completely exclusive— It is vital to have an online presence in today’s market either way, and an online storefront may still require an office or physical operating unit. Although our society is settling into an era of online shopping experiences, the benefits of brick-and-mortar make it extremely unlikely that it will ever be eliminated entirely.