The global economy is currently flooded with uncertainty and doubt. And with the fear of COVID-19 continuing to spread and impact most aspects of our daily lives, personal choices and government issued orders to stay home and self-isolate have put small businesses in a rough position. Many of these offer some fantastic products; however, with both federal and state social distancing mandates in place, consumers aren’t able to shop at brick-and-mortar stores, nor do many want to venture into public at all, putting smaller retailers in a tight spot. Luckily the rise of online marketplaces, distribution services, website designers, etc. have led to a recent surge in the e-commerce space. It’s easier than ever before to develop an online presence. Below are some top reasons why struggling businesses should make the transition into e-commerce during these uncertain economic times.
5 Reasons to Make the Jump into E-Commerce
1. Cash Flow
Except for occasional maintenance, websites are always open for business, 24/7/365. Right now, many small businesses around the world are shut down and don’t know for how long. These business owners are forced to make tough decisions and they have limited cash flow. An online marketplace may easily solve this problem because it allows for more regular cash flow during times of volatility. Whether it’s COVID-19 related, a natural disaster or something completely different, unexpected shutdowns can put a lot of stress on a business. E-commerce provides a baseline safety net for times when a brick-and-mortar storefront can’t generate the revenue it typically would.
2. Brand Building
Brick-and-mortar stores rely heavily on foot traffic and word-of-mouth referrals to generate revenue. Many locally-owned retailers still use older forms of marketing and advertising like newspaper and magazine ads, coupons, billboards, and television ads, but nothing quite captures an audience like the internet. In fact, more than 97% of people under the age of 50 in the U.S. regularly use the internet and unlike billboards or tv ads, the internet isn’t regional. Internet ad campaigns aimed to drive people toward products can be based on numerous demographic and psychographic attributes – e.g., age, occupation, geographic location, browsing history, etc. – to target very specific customer segments.
An internet presence can efficiently build brand awareness by capturing those who may be interested in the product and steering clear of those who aren’t. Online advertisements not only help direct people to an online marketplace, but also can lead more people to nearby brick-and-mortar stores which sell the products they saw online.
3. Market Share
Anyone with access to the internet can purchase products online, but if a local retailer only sells products in their store, they’re limiting the size of their potential customer base. When products are made available to buy online, it allows anyone to purchase them. This allows a business to be seen by more of the market and captures more customers that they wouldn’t normally reach selling products at their physical store.
4. Inventory & Stocking Costs
Shipping a product to a storefront, receiving and unpacking it, organizing inventory, and placing products on shelves all takes time and adds to costs. This isn’t to say that there aren’t costs associated with setting up an online storefront; however, the costs are different and often lower than the costs of stocking product in a physical store. Shipping products directly to the customer can help significantly reduce costs. There are many warehouses and distribution centers that specialize in setting up e-commerce processes. Building partnerships with these warehouses and distribution centers is an effective way to cut costs and increase overall margins when selling products online.
5. Customer Feedback
Many online selling platforms offer (and sometimes require) areas where the customer can provide feedback. Getting feedback from the customer is necessary for building a strong business, so the more feedback, the better. Feedback provided through online platforms is stored so that the sellers can easily access it. This data can be processed, analyzed, and reported on to provide extremely valuable insights.
When a customer purchases something in a store, they must go out of there way to provide feedback to the seller. In these cases, the customer is usually either very satisfied or not. Empowering customers to review products with a user-friendly form on a website means that a higher percentage of customers will leave feedback, allowing the seller to improve their product to better meet the needs of the market.
Tough economic times offer smaller companies the chance to adapt their business model and respond to a changing market. Those who view this as an opportunity for change rather than an excuse for losses are often the type of organizations to make it through and flourish at the first sign of stability. Economic turbulence is never easy and is the cause of many headaches and much stress. To lead a business through this turmoil successfully, its leaders must learn to adapt to the rapidly changing market. And joining the world of e-commerce is great place to start.