E-commerce is taking on the establishment – traditional storefronts – as old traditional brick-and-mortar companies are scrambling to gain a better understanding of online.
It’s a shift that forward-thinking industry insiders saw coming. “It’s not a new story,” says Kit Hickey, co-founder of Ministry of Supply.
“In every industry, the old are slow to act. Startups come in, innovate and move faster – and customers’ standards evolve. In retail, the old guard is clunky and slow-moving and has millions of dollars tied up in inefficient stores…While they’re moving out, e-commerce companies are moving in” (TechCrunch).
Heavy Hitter E-Commerce Startups Seek Offline Profits
For a number of reasons, e-commerce makes sense. Primarily, there is simply less overhead. Without having to maintain a physical storefront, e-commerce businesses can save on typical expenses, like rent and utilities.
However, as some online retailers are finding, a traditional storefront can be “a great driver of sales and profitability.” In fact, if your online business is experiencing sustainable growth, opting not to expand operations offline may cost you dearly in potential profits.
“Amazon, Rent the Runway, and Nastygal are three of the most recent online shopping destinations to make the jump to brick and mortar, but even in pursuing the same end goal, each digital brand as the potential to add unique value with an analogue expansion.” – Salsify
Should we move our online business into a physical storefront?
According to Ripen Ecommerce, 92 percent of U.S. retail sales still take place offline. Refusing to expand to a physical storefront, when the opportunity is ripe, can mean cutting yourself off from a large majority of potential customers.
Analysts at Ripen, in a survey of 1235 American shoppers, found a large variety of reasons as to why people still preferred to shop offline. For instance, 30.8 percent of respondents said they want to see or feel products in person. Another 29.9 percent of survey respondents said they want their items right away. If a brick and mortar location is what your customers want, why argue?
What steps should we take to move our e-commerce business into a physical retail location?
There is no guarantee you will do as well offline as you do online, but conducting the proper research and planning is sure to help set you up for success. In terms of logistics, create a retail business checklist to identify the process from idea to final execution and launch day.
Planning Offline Expansion
While you’re planning offline retail expansion, don’t forget the most important considerations surrounding brick-and-mortar (and e-commerce) success: the right marketing mix, otherwise known as the McCarthy’s marketing mix strategy that encompasses the four P’s—product, price, place and promotion.
Just because your product or service sells successfully online, doesn’t mean it will go over well offline. This is especially true is if your e-commerce store is very niche. Before opening a retail store, ask yourself if there are enough potential customers in the local market to support the business. If not, consider adapting your product line to suit the local market and offering a broader range of products local customers can appreciate.
Is your online price model is still applicable in the offline world? You may find that a physical storefront demand a higher price when compared to your online catalog. This is not uncommon because customers are often willing to pay more for the convenience of getting their product immediately, according to Businatomy. Choosing the optimum price strategy will obviously take some research and experimentation.
In retail, location is everything. Selecting the wrong location for your physical store can mean the difference between success and failure. Check out the demographics of the area, look closely at potential competitors, and don’t be afraid to ask others, with more local knowledge than you, for help.
Marketing a physical business requires different promotional strategies than you may be used to with your e-commerce store. However, many of the same principles you utilize online can work well offline. To get foot traffic into your retail store, Microsoft suggests smart tips like planning a grand opening, promotional events, PR strategies, host a workshop for your target clientele and more.
Expanding your online business offline doesn’t have to be a headache. Viewing your online and offline offering as two unique ventures can help prevent you from making common retail mistakes.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Simon Crompton is an entrepreneur running several online businesses. Currently focusing on his marketing firm, Threecolors.blue, he is also a trained journalist sharing his knowledge via several internet blogs. In his spare time he’s an avid programmer and videographer. Connect with @PermanentStle on Twitter.
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