Date: 20th March 2014
If you are a small independent retailer in a tourist destination, say Wanaka, Queenstown or Christchurch, just imagine that, on a daily basis, you could potentially reach all the customers in the world that have previously shopped at your store.
Remember that great customer from Melbourne/London/LA/Des Moines/Kaitaia that loved your store and would be your best ever customer (if only they lived nearby), perhaps now they can be your best ever on-line customer?
That’s the first of several compelling reasons why small bricks-and-mortar retailers should sell on-line. Here are some more reasons, thanks to Armando Roggio from Practical Ecommerce:
Ecommerce and physical-retail commerce are merging; businesses that exist in shopping centres and malls are expected to be represented online too. But many small brick-and-mortar stores do not yet offer ecommerce.
For those struggling to get online, consider that there are at least four good reasons for small, brick-and-mortar retailers to sell online too, including customer expectations, ease of shopping, the social nature of online shopping, and customer service.
Your Customers Are Already Online
Most consumers are already shopping and searching for products online. If your store isn’t ecommerce enabled, it is behind your competition.
In an April 2013 study, the consulting firm Accenture found that 88 percent of shoppers have looked online for products before deciding to go into a physical store to make a purchase, making “webrooming” significantly more popular that “showrooming.”
Similarly, a 2013 study from Google Think, which focused on 2013 holiday shopping preferences, found that 79 percent of shoppers believed that the Internet, and presumably ecommerce-enabled sites with product catalogues, is the single most useful resource for holiday shopping. If that sort of preference carries over to other times of the year, it would seem that an online retail presence is a must.
Some Items Are Just Easier Online
There are some items that are simply a lot easier to buy and sell online. Just ask Staples, the stationery retailer, which has seen good growth in ecommerce, but is closing 255 stores over the next couple of years.
Some regional items may also be easier to purchase online (for example try to find Rippon wine at the local suburban bottle shop anywhere in the world outside of Central Otago).
Small brick-and-mortar retailers should look at the products they sell and simply ask if some of those items are ripe for ecommerce.
Online Shopping Is Social
There are some who say that when we shop online, we lose something, some kind of a social experience had only from going to a store, walking the aisles, and touching the things we buy before we buy them. There is a sense in which this is true, but online shopping is social too, and as a social experience online shopping has the potential to reach a much larger audience.
One of the best examples of just how social online shopping can be comes from the varied and many boards on Pinterest. For example, search for “wedding” on Pinterest and you will find thousands of ideas, crafts, and — to my point — products that can and are purchased. Pinterest users are sharing the items they want and the items they dream of in a social way online. If a merchant doesn’t have an online catalog, that merchant is missing out.
Finally, consider the opportunity to provide better customer service.
An online store can be a great extension to a retailer’s customer service offering, adding to the customer service already provided in store or over the phone. An online store can offer a frequently-asked-questions section so that shoppers can find solutions even after regular store hours. Some online retailers are even using live chat to answer customer questions and concerns.
Anytime that you can make it easier for shoppers to get information about anything — from inventory levels to return policies — you are helping to improve customer service.