As we find ourselves staring into another national lockdown, retailers are again throwing their hands in the air with frustration. No one can doubt the need for the lockdown but as a business owner whose livelihood is reliant on being able to open the front door of their store to the high street, it is not good news.

For some, there may on the surface appear to be no answer to the trouble they are facing but although the pandemic has caused disastrous changes to the world of retail, the changes have been a long time coming. Bricks and mortar retail has been facing decline for several years as people have slowly started the shift toward online shopping. The pandemic has brought this forward by about 5 years, leaving many ill-prepared for the change, but it was a change that has been coming for a while.

The good news is that there is still time to do something about it and prepare not only for now but for the coming future of retail that by all accounts is going to be fundamentally shifted toward being online. The benefits are wide-reaching and for many businesses, the sole reason they have been able to survive up till now is a direct result of their being able to continue to sell online and whilst able, to give customers the option to click and collect.

Here are some of the benefits as we see them and we’re sure, you’ll agree that building a digital home for your business will be an important step in securing the future of the business.

 

  1. Lower overall running costs that also won’t add huge dependencies to the bottom line

By comparison and in most cases, running an online store will cost far less to set up and operate than your traditional brick-and-mortar locations.

There are obviously still costs involved. Website hosting, website domain ownership, digital marketing, payment solutions and potential platform fees (if selling through a platform like Shopify, Etsy or Ebay). You’ll also want to outsource things like website development as well as potentially brand creation, marketing strategy, photography, and copywriting, depending on the maturity of your business.

If your product or business is completely new to the market or this is your first foray into retail, starting out online is a great way to do some test trading in a relatively low-pressure environment, but it could also work as a pop-up for an existing business. Nothing is saying that you need to load your entire product set to a website to get started. Look at things that are new to market or are best sellers or even fall into the category of being able to be packed and shipped quickly.

And if you’re thinking that’s great but I can’t sell my products online, we would ask that you rethink that. If you think back not that many years at all, the idea of a butcher selling meat online or even the idea of buying your glasses online was inconceivable but there are many examples of businesses doing that very successfully. Heck, you can even buy a car totally online!

 

  1. You’ll be removing any kind of geographical limitation

Traditional bricks and mortar store that doesn’t sell any products online is extremely limited geographically. Even if the products are highly desirable and have a large marketing budget, they’ll can still only realistically attract customers from within a certain radius to the location of the store itself. By offering the products online, companies will benefit from being able to reach as wide a geographical area as they like – be that nationally or even globally!

And with the changes that Brexit have brought into the fold, several businesses have stopped shipping into the UK from Europe as a result of changes to requirements for VAT. There are likely businesses in the UK that can fill in the gap left by those businesses, people just need to know that you exist and being in the phone book, even in its new digital form, is not good enough.

 

  1. You’ll be able to be open for business when you like and for however long you like

Almost all online stores will involve totally automated order and payment processing, this enables customers to shop when it suits them. This makes online shopping the ultimate in convenience for both sellers and buyers.

Your customers benefit from being able to browse and shop whenever they like, and you as the business owner don’t have to drop everything to process purchases immediately, just like you’d have to do with a customer physically present in your store. Neither you nor the customer are committed to – or more importantly restricted by – set opening hours.

 

  1. The ultimate flexibility for updates, offers and changes

An online store can be updated as and when you like, at little to no expense, in most cases. Things like adding new product lines, reorganising your catalogue, or setting up a flash sale can be implemented straight away. Social and search pay-per-click campaigns can also be switched on and off in real-time with relative ease.

If you compare this type of activity to a physical shop, you’re most likely going to have to plan in advance for new product releases and sales events; sourcing in-store printed materials, making room on the shop floor to present your new or discounted products, and then there is the advertising, possibly using local publications. There’s a lot of moving parts to manage with a bricks-and-mortar shop, but with a lean, online store, you’re totally in control.

When used together, you’re able to get the offers up and running on the site whilst you’re preparing things in-store and when in lockdown, as we currently are, you’re able to be incredibly agile and compete with what competitors might be doing or even react to demand locally or nationally and capture opportunities as they’re happening.

 

  1. You’re getting access to incredible sets of analytics you might not have been able to capture before

Online stores (and indeed most websites) enable you to access a wealth of useful information. Things such as:

  • What times of the day/week/month your website is most popular?
  • How long people are spending on your website and how many pages they’re visiting during their visit
  • Where your visits are coming from (e.g, search, social media, paid advertising, etc.)
  • Geographically where your site is most popular
  • Which products and pages are the most popular?
  • What times of the day/week/month you receive the most enquiries/orders
  • The types of device that people are using to visit your site (desktop, mobile or tablet)

You can also setup goals that will give you an indication of how effective elements of the website might be. For instance, creating a goal to see whenever someone clicks on a phone number or completes a contact form lets you know people are getting in touch and where they’re doing it from.

This information can be used to enhance your marketing strategy and gives you a real picture of who your customers are. It enables you to target individuals with similar tastes and habits more efficiently, building your customer base and furthering your reach and even gives you information about your product set and open potential gaps you may have. Using tools like Google Analytics are invaluable to any company with a website – e-commerce or otherwise!

 

  1. Like we said before, there are virtually no limitations to what you can sell online

Regardless of what you specialise in, there is almost always a way to offer what you sell online. Whether you sell a physical product, virtual products like ebooks or music, courses, services, or consultancy, chances are there’s a way you can process orders and payments electronically, even if you need to physically deliver the service being sold.

The digital web presence will take the place of the in-store point of sale software, during the transaction phase and can even integrate with it so that it shares the information and stock levels meaning it can be managed in a single location. The type of product you sell should not be a barrier to creating an eCommerce website.

And if you sell something that can be automatically and digitally delivered like an ebook or online course, the added bonus is that you can leave it to work in the background with minimal input. These types of products are great for creating a reoccurring revenue stream for the business.

Another added benefit is the ability to create a subscription service much as Amazon has done with its subscribe and save. There are hundreds of examples where this is their primary business model and others like Gillette and Grind who have offered convenience to their customers by dropping products through their customer’s letterboxes regularly and created a stream of revenue which has for all intense and purposes has been sold once via a concerted marketing effort and now continues to deliver revenue into the business, supplementing their other business activity.

In almost all cases, it is more cost-effective to sell to an existing customer than it is to try and acquire new ones. The website makes it easier for customers to manage their subscriptions and you can get on with working on your business.

 

  1. Do you sell a niche product? You should already be online.

If your product is in any way unconventional or niche, selling online may be the most effective way to do business and it will definitely support your existing bricks and mortar business. When people are looking for something unusual or specific, and to be perfectly honest nowadays almost anything at all, they look online first rather than by walking up and down a high street.

There is a strong possibility that certain niche products could overlap well with the needs of specialist communities which are already highly active online. Engaging with these groups in the place they ‘hang out’, pointing them in the right direction toward your digital shopfront, may prove beneficial when done correctly.

Hopefully, you can now see the overwhelming benefits that taking your business online can bring for you. It won’t be a silver bullet with a guarantee for success but ignoring it and choosing to ‘bury your head in the sand’ may just be a death nail.

 

We’re here to help

We’ve been building digital experiences for a long time and we pride ourselves on making them beautifully simple.

We unlock your trading potential, creating and supporting beautifully simple sites that are functionally rich and continually perform way above expectations.

Our clients enjoy seamless access to the best analysts, experts and technical resources in the sector. We’re proud of what we do and we’re incredibly good at it (and it’s not just us saying that).

Our Experience team works with clients every day to test their sites and work to create a better conversion rate for them.

We’ve got specialist teams that advise and then action Design, UX & UI for your digital storefront. We’ve also got geniuses to work with you on how to drive brand engagement, solicit positive sentiment, strengthen your content marketing, SEO & PPC.

Reach out to us and we can discuss how we can help you move with the shift change, maximise the opportunity and support you and help make sure that your business lives long into the future. No matter your size or specific industry vertical, our mission is to see you succeed.