If you’re starting a business or already have a traditional brick and mortar store, you may be wondering what the benefits are of selling online or, commonly known as e-commerce.
What Is the Definition of E-Commerce
E-Commerce stands for electronic commerce, it refers to the activity of buying and selling goods and services electronically, usually over the internet. It generally involves a transfer of funds between the buyer and seller. E-Commerce transactions can occur between various entities, for example; business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business. This gives ample opportunities for many to participate in e-commerce.
- Low Start-Up Costs
One of the biggest advantages of setting up an online store is the low cost involved. Starting a new business used to mean having to find and set up retail, office, and warehouse spaces, outfitting them to specifications to accommodate design, plumbing, electricity, telephone and internet connectivity, installing storefront and signage, etc. That’s quite a lot of costs before you even sell anything, not to mention the ongoing costs.
Setting up an e-commerce store generally involves website set up and design, adding products, a monthly fee, and depending on what you’re selling, you may need a warehouse space. After that, it’s advisable to engage in some form digital marketing such as SEO or SEM to ensure your products are visible to search engines and to maximise sales.
- Analytics & Targeted Marketing
Often, one of the benefits of going online or digital is the amount of data you can receive from various analytics tools. Things like where your visitors are geographically located, what pages they looked at the most, whether they came from Facebook or Google and much more. As you can imagine, this information is super helpful for knowing what products people are searching for and how to align marketing campaigns towards them.
- Customer Reach
With an online store you have the potential to reach customers worldwide (depending on how far you want to deliver to of course). Anyone with an internet capable device, such as a smart phone, tablet, laptop or PC, has the ability to view your store and make a purchase. As we know, the popularity of mobile devices continues to rise, which means having an online store is like putting a virtual shop in a significant number of pockets. This eliminates the need to travel to a physical store, making it much more convenient for shoppers and in turn boosting sales.
- Quick and Easy Updates
Once your store is set up, it’s easy to log in and manage products. This gives you the flexibility to add, remove, and update products as needed.
- Easy Communication with Customers
You might be wondering how you might answer any customer questions if you’re not meeting them face to face in store. Typically, you’ll list your business phone number and have a contact form on your website to allow visitors to get in touch with you. It’s also good practice to be active on social media and answer any enquiries that come in through those channels. There’s also ‘Live Chat’ plugins that can work extremely well to solve customer problems and get them to complete the purchase without waiting for a response.
- Online Retail is Growing Faster than Brick and Mortar
A poll in the U.S. by The Wall Street Journal showed that shoppers are changing their habits by preferring to shop online versus going to a brick and mortar store, with the exception of groceries. The poll showed that brick and mortar sales dropped by 20% and that these purchases only accounted for 22% of their shopping. One thing’s for sure, online retail is on the rise, and it doesn’t look like it will be slowing down anytime soon. In Australia, online shopping continues to grow each year. In fact, in 2017, we broke the world record for the most consecutive quarters of growth – 104 quarters without recession. For more information about the growth of e-commerce in Australia, see Inside Australian Online Shopping 2017 by Australia Post.
- Save on Warehousing & Storage
Another advantage of an online store is the ability to ship directly from your supplier to your customer. Depending on your supplier, you may need to add a few days to the delivery time, but that’s still better than losing the sale altogether. If a customer walks into a brick and mortar store and the item they want is out of stock, it’s likely they’ll go elsewhere. This means that brick and mortar stores need to hold more varieties to prevent the loss of sales, which leads to increased warehouse and storage costs.
- Scalability – Easily Expand your Business Horizontally & Vertically
As an e-retailer, the choice is yours whether to employ the one-stop shop model and sell a variety of products (horizontal marketing), such as Amazon or focus on specific categories such as JB Hi-Fi (vertical marketing). With online marketing tools, you can promote it how you like and even have multiple web shops, some for horizontal marketing and some for vertical marketing.
- Safe & Secure Shopping
One of the biggest concerns around online shopping is security and whether it’s safe to enter credit card information online. Here at e-CBD, we use Shopify as our e-commerce platform of choice, and one of the reasons for this is the security measures included. All Shopify stores use end-to-end encryption using SSL certificates (link to ssl article), meaning any information that a user inputs such as credit card details or an email address is protected and cannot be seen by anyone.
Another advantage of the Shopify platform is the choice of payment gateways (idea for another article), there’s PayPal, ePay, eWay, WorldPay, and many more (https://www.shopify.com.au/payment-gateways/australia). These payment gateways allow customers to checkout with their credit or debit card directly from your online store, or offsite (another idea for article) (for example, using a PayPal account) safely and securely.
In conclusion, the biggest reason that online stores are so effective is the convenience they provide to customers and the relatively low cost of start-up vs a traditional brick and mortar store. You’ll save on fit out and the ongoing costs of having a retail store while maximising exposure on the internet.