There is little getting away from the fact that 2020 has not been the year that we expected it to be. A lot of stores and businesses have had to shut their doors due to the restrictions in place because of the pandemic. This has led to a lot of companies to rethink the way that they go about selling products. Company owners that may have never considered going online before now feel like they have no choice but to reinvent their business.
There are a lot of benefits that are associated with setting up an e-commerce store in 2021. Whether you currently run a traditional brick-and-mortar store or you’re yet to start your business and you’re exploring opportunities, there is no denying that the online world offers a whole host of benefits. With that being said, we are going to explore these advantages in further depth below.
E-commerce vs traditional shops
To explore this matter in full depth, we’re going to take a look at some of the key elements of selling products, and we will compare the online experience to the traditional experience. While there are many advantages of selling online, retail stores, of course, have their benefits too. After all, they would not be in existence if they did not offer anything for the consumer or the business. However, we can see that there is a massive shift to online selling and a lot of e-commerce advantages, and when you compare the two, it is not hard to see why this shift is happening.
There is only one place to begin when it comes to the comparison of e-stores and traditional shops in 2021, and this is with opening hours. One of the main benefits associated with selling online is the fact that your e-store will never shut. People can shop at a time that is convenient for you, including out of work hours when they are feeling more relaxed and in the mood to browse. This can lead to more feedback, engagement, and ultimately, sales.
Of course, the fact that e-stores are open 24 hours per day holds an even greater advantage when you consider the impact of the pandemic. Prior to 2020, we probably never thought we would see the day whereby businesses spent the majority of the year shut and we needed to social distance from friends and loved ones. However, 2020 has shown us that anything is possible. A lot of businesses have suffered grave consequences due to the pandemic, as governmental restrictions have meant that they need to change the way they operate and, in some cases, shut their doors altogether. The online world, however, has thrived during this difficult period. Online stores have not had to shut. Moreover, a lot of customers who would traditionally buy in-store have moved to make online purchases because they are worried about coming into contact with other people and contracting the virus. All of this has meant that it makes more sense than ever before to start selling online.
Ultimately, when you are selling online, you are going to have a much greater window of opportunity to make sales. The vast majority of retail businesses tend to keep to the traditional nine-to-five working hours, although some may keep their doors open for a few hours in the evening. This means the window of opportunity to make sales is severely restricted.
The interaction between potential customers and your products
Another area that needs to be considered in the battle between an e-commerce store and a traditional store is the interaction that your customer has with your products. In regards to traditional retail stores, customers have the ability to pick up items, compare them side-by-side, try them on, and have a more overall hands-on experience.
While traditional stores do offer this personal, hands-on experience, there are a few disadvantages to keep in mind. One of the main drawbacks in this regard is that it is impossible for businesses to keep all of their stock in-store, and so you may not be able to get your hands on the item you are interested in. Plus, these advantages are not offered as much with bulk items, as it’s just not feasible to lift heavy items and compare them alongside one and other.
Needless to say, you can’t physically touch a product when it comes to shopping online. However, a lot of businesses are taking plenty of steps to bridge this gap. This includes the likes of 360-degree image viewing, video demos, and high-quality product photography. All of these approaches give the consumer the opportunity to view the product in as much detail as possible without being able to actually touch it.
A lot of clothing stores have also capitalised on this by showing their clothes on different sized people, so buyers get a realistic idea of the fit of the clothing. They also take product videos, so people can see what the clothing looks like in motion, as images can often be deceiving.
The start-up costs are much lower when setting up an online store
There is no denying that one of the main benefits that are associated with online selling is that it is a lot cheaper to set-up. All you need is an Internet connection, a compatible device, the right software for building your website, a web host, and a domain name.
The costs associated with this are much lower when compared to the expenses associated with setting up your own retail store. You would need to pay for rent, utility bills, staff members, security systems, Point of Sale systems, and much more.
During a period whereby a lot of the country is struggling financially, it makes sense to go for the solution that is more economically viable, and that is exactly the case when it comes to setting up a store online.
Receiving the products
Another element that needs to be considered when it comes to comparing e-stores with traditional retail stores is the delivery of the products. In a traditional environment, shoppers make their purchase and they take their item away with them. There is no denying that this is the quicker option of the two. Of course, if the item is heavy and bulky, you may need to arrange for it to be delivered.
With e-commerce, you do need to wait for the product to be delivered. However, the vast majority of companies today provide free shipping, so if you offer this to your customers they are not going to feel like they are missing out by purchasing online. In fact, the shipping options that are available today are extensive, with customers able to pick delivery slots that are convenient for them.
Locating products is much easier when it comes to e-stores, and this is why a lot of customers, and consequently businesses, are feeling the benefits of more stores being set-up online.
With traditional retail stores, the products need to be in-store. If the product is not in stock, this can be frustrating for the consumer. A member of your team may then need to make a few calls to find out where the item is available and whether it can be ordered in. This can end up making the buying process very long-winded for the consumer.
With an e-store, you can make the use of powerful algorithms and tools to make sure that the stock is always up-to-date. This makes it much easier for the customer to find what they need. Plus, all they need to do is add in some search terms on your website to find the product that they are looking for. This makes the experience a lot more seamless and enjoyable for the consumer. It also makes it a lot more beneficial for you, as it is easy for you to manage your inventory and keep on top of orders and stock levels.
You can deliver great customer service online
Another reason why e-commerce is taking off, especially as we move into 2021, is because you can provide customers with the help and service they need. In the past, businesses were sceptical about moving to e-commerce because they feared losing that personal touch and how this would impact their business. However, the likes of live chat and other software features mean that you can be there for your customers 24/7, delivering a high level of customer service they need.
Advice if you’re looking to branch into e-commerce
As you can see, there are a lot of benefits that are associated with selling online, and so it is no surprise that you may be interested in going down this route. To make sure that your venture into online selling is a success, we have a few tips to help you out.
First of all, you need to make sure that your digital storefront is appealing. Not only should it be impressive to look at, but navigation needs to make sense too. There is nothing worse than landing on a website and struggling to find the products you’re looking for. Your storefront needs to work intuitively and it needs to be an apt reflection of your brand.
Take the time to choose a platform with care. There are a lot of different options out there, including Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce, and much more. All of these platforms offer a whole host of different features, so it is imperative to take the time to think about what really matters to your business and then make your decision based on this. You do have the option of building your own CMS, yet this is incredibly expensive and something that we do not recommend for beginners.
In addition to this, you need to ensure that you weave search engine optimisation into your store. Your product listings should be optimized for the search engine result pages. Customers are not going to be able to purchase from you if all of your products are buried underneath products from your competition.
Search engine optimisation is not a one-time-thing. You can’t simply add some keywords to your website and then forget about it. You need to ensure that you keep working on your site so that you can move up the Google result pages.
Building reviews online is also critical when it comes to running an online store. If you do not receive good feedback, try not to panic. Instead, look for ways to rectify it. Reach out to the consumer to try and find a resolution. Even if you cannot find a resolution and the customer remains unsatisfied, the fact that you have gone to the effort to try and resolve the issue will reflect well on your online store.
Finally, don’t forget about customer service. Make sure your contact details are evident and that your business is easy to get in touch with. If you are able to, you should think about offering live chat to your customers via your site.