Are Online Businesses Replacing Storefronts?
Some say storefronts are a thing of the past, while the online business market is exploding with new ideas and products every day. But are online businesses really better than storefronts? Let's explore the different aspects that make each type of business unique.
Opening a business online requires much less investment than a storefront. With an online business, there isn't nearly as much upkeep. There are no utilities or rent to pay, no need to hire a staff to be physically present in-store. There is no need to worry about closing down your store for certain hours.
Online businesses, however, are not without their own costs. Some costs that apply include fees to design a website, purchase a domain name, and market your business. For businesses that sell physical products, you also have to worry about shipping fees. Some of these costs will be a one-time thing, but there may be some costs that are recurring, just like with a storefront.
Both online and storefront businesses have to worry about competition. How do the different business types separate themselves from the rest? Storefronts may require more design-related aspects in display windows or sale signs to draw in customers. Online businesses need to use smart online tactics to differentiate themselves from the millions of stores available online to consumers.
According to The Guardian, “there are more than 800,000 online stores, all vying to attract customers through the gateway of Google.” How do they do this? For online businesses, it all boils down to online tactics like SEO, PPC, and more. This type of business has to be very particular with the execution of these tactics in order to find success.
Once upon a time, you had to train staff on exactly what to say and how to say it to your consumer. Now, with online businesses, you can write your own brand or product message to effectively convey your message. You can control how you want to be perceived and how you want your product to be sold. The internet makes your customer experience more customizable. Using search engine optimization, you can create a plan where customers can find you organically on platforms like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
If an online business does not want to wait for organic traffic to roll in, they can invest more using pay-per-click or PPC. This method of advertising has the business owner pay every time their ad is clicked on.
Are online businesses better than storefronts?
Despite everything we've discussed, there is some conflicting information on this question due to the rise in large online retailers like Amazon and Warby Parker opening storefronts. According to The Guardian, “the trend also reflects the broader industry imperative around 'omnichannel retailing, where merchants aim to provide customers with a seamless experience whether shopping online via desktop or mobile device or at a traditional retail store.”
A storefront will always have the ability to bring something an online store never can, the human touch and connection with the local community. Consumers like being able to ask questions and opinions about products or services they are getting. They enjoy the ability to see and touch a product in person.
On the other hand, there are many things an online business brings to the table that a physical store can't. First and foremost is convenience. Being online ensures that someone can purchase a product whenever and wherever. This becomes even more important to those who may not have the capacity to leave their homes. Furthermore, with an online store, owners can use data analytics straight from their site to track their performance with customers. For example, they can read online reviews to gain insight into what is being done right and where they could make room for improvement.
Ultimately, it all boils down to what a consumer wants from their shopping experience. Do they like the convenience of shopping from wherever they want, or do they prefer to interact more with what they're going to buy?
If there's anything that's certain, it's that online businesses offer many benefits to consumers. If you want to build your online business, contact us today to learn more about how we can help market it.