10 Reasons Why A Small Business Needs an Online Store

According to SurePayroll, 74% of small businesses do not have an online store. Historically, many small businesses have relied on positive word of mouth and their local community to build and sustain their business over the years. 

Positive word of mouth and community support will always be an important factor; however, it is no longer enough on its own to sustain a business. The external environment is changing in terms of consumer demographics, buying habits, government regulations, and technology. It is time to adapt accordingly to remain competitive and relevant in the years to come.

#1 Target Customers Across the Generations

According to the US Census Bureau, by 2020, over 50% of the US population will be generation Y or generation Z. Depending on which generation you are, you will likely take a different path through the sales funnel from awareness, to interest, to decision, to action.  It is essential to develop a medley of traditional and digital marketing strategies to retain current customers and attract new ones.

A survey conducted by JungleScout suggested the following:

  • Generation Z (Born 1997-2002) – 11% shop in-store only & 89% online
  • Millennials (Born 1981-1996) – 9% shop in-store only & 91% online
  • Gen X (Born 1965-1980) – 10% shop in-store only & 90% online
  • Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964) – 19% shop in-store only & 81% online
  • Silent Generation (Born 1925-1964) – 24% shop in-store only & 76% online

Regardless of the survey or data source, all trends indicate an increase in online shopping and a decrease in in-store only shopping for younger generations. As the older generations age, it is essential to reach new, younger markets.

#2 Cater to Evolving Shopping Habits

Why do people choose to shop online instead of in stores? According to KPMG’s Global Online Consumer Report, consumers choose to shop online for:

  • The ability to shop 24/7
  • To compare prices
  • Find online sales and better prices
  • To save time
  • For the convenience of not going out
  • For greater variety and selection
  • Free shipping offers
  • For the convenience of having everything in one place
  • Ability to locate hard to find items
  • Avoiding crowds and checkout lines

More and more people are shopping online each year. According to Oberlo, ecommerce sales are expected to account for 15.5% of retail sales worldwide.  This number is only expected to grow in time. Don’t let your small business be left behind in the dust! By 2040, Nasdaq estimates that 95% of all purchase will be through ecommerce.

#3 Appeal to Knowledgeable Consumers

The consumer journey is no longer simply walking into a store to browse and purchase. Today, consumers are much more knowledgeable  with endless information at the fingertips and have the ability to research on their own. Salesforce estimates that 85% of consumers conduct online research before making a purchase online.

Even through you have a retail store, it is essential that you connect your physical location with the digital world. Be transparent, answer FAQs, and display your products online so that consumers can make an educated purchase decision. If you do not have this information available online, you are likely losing business to the competition.

Furthermore, HubSpot estimates that 81% of consumers trust the advice of friends and family over business advice. This makes social proof, online reviews, and testimonials more important than ever before. If you have an online store, you can encourage customers to not only leave reviews on your business but also specific products.

#4 Be Open 24/7 Regardless of Government Restrictions

Who ever thought the government could restrict physical access to businesses? Welcome to 2020! The COVID-19 pandemic led to complete business closures, especially in Wisconsin where retail establishments where closed for weeks on end.

You never know what regulations or restrictions may be enforced by the government, so it is essential to have a backup plan to continue operations. For many of us, this means a virtual backup plan where we can conduct business while keeping your employees and customers safe.

Sadly, Oberlo predicts that as many as 100,000 brick-and-mortar stores will close in the next five years due to COVID-19.

#5 Expand Your Reach

Your local community is one great source of business, but what if you could reach the entire county, state, country, or world by overcoming geographic limitations?

Ecommerce enables you to expand your reach well beyond your local community, so that you can connect with customers who may never have found your physical location. Furthermore, ecommerce is especially powerful for niche markets.

#6 Lower Operational Costs

An ecommerce store can help you lower operational costs in terms of personnel and real estate. You don’t have to invest in a storefront or pay employees all day long. Rather, you pay for your online storefront technology and services rendered in terms of order fulfillment and customer service. There is so much less wasted time & money involved!

#7 Easily Scale Your Operations

If you need to scale your retail operations, that likely means a new lease, more employees, and tons of hassles in the transition. Finite space makes scaling difficult in physical stores.

It is far easier to start small with just a few products in your online store and scale over time by adding more products. Not only can you scale products, but also orders.

There are no bottlenecks in the checkout line or frustrated customers due to long wait times. You can always build out your online support team, invest in automation, or upgrade technology to scale.

#8 Learn About Your Customer

Ecommerce generates tons of valuable customer data and insights that can be used to improve your marketing and shopping experience. You can use this data to determine which products are most relevant to the consumer, generate product add-on recommendations, and additional product recommendations.

#9 Personalize the Consumer Experience

You can personalize website content to fit the consumers shopping preferences. With segmentation, you can target specific customers who purchased a given product. Based on their preferences, you can show different products, special promotions, etc. Furthermore, upselling and cross selling in the form of add-ons can easily be integrated without any sales pressure.

#10 Remain Competitive & Relevant

Ecommerce is the store of the future. Ecommerce is a competitive space, so you want to start building your foundation today to be relevant and competitive tomorrow. Once you build a foundation, you can start monitoring and leveraging ecommerce trends for continued success. Voice, chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), social media, content marketing, and email marketing are all becoming increasingly important for ecommerce.

Summary

Looking ahead at 2020 and beyond, every small business retailer needs to invest in an online store to remain competitive, relevant, profitable, and open in the future. Recent changes in the external environment have only accelerated and amplified the need for an online store. Invest in a 24/7 store for your business!

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