Many businesses are opting to create an e-commerce website before (or rather than) opening a physical location. We noticed this trend and wanted to discuss why it’s happening, and why it could be a smart idea for your business.
No Geographical Limitations
E-commerce sites are not limited to a specific location, and they’re accessible 24/7, unlike stores. With the right advertising tools and a well-built website, you have the potential to reach and connect with any customer in the world that has access to a computer or smartphone. By targeting your SEO or paid ads towards different demographics, you can easily gain customers and increase your search engine visibility.
Lower Operating Costs – a business owner’s dream!
The savings a business would make on real estate costs alone could be the reason why people are opting out of traditional retail spaces, especially if it’s in a city (ahem, Vancouver real estate prices, we’re looking at you).
There’s also no need to hire employees to help run a store and sell products. It takes a lot of time to train an employee to use the operating systems and give them product knowledge. On a website, all the specs are laid out for the customer to read. Remember, “Time is money, and money is power, and power is pizza” (April Ludgate, Parks and Recreation). Saving time works both ways, too: the customer saves on travel time and they can search directly for the products they’re looking for on the website.
Online advertising and marketing can also be more cost effective. With pay-per-click (PPC) ads, companies only have to pay when a user clicks on the ad. You can set a budget for the maximum you’re willing to spend on a PPC campaign, or cancel it and try another strategy whenever you need.
The beauty of e-commerce is that you get time to build your audience and following. Once you have reached some of your social goals, you can test your brand’s concept by opening a pop-up shop. You can test which locations work best and how much excitement a physical store garners. This allows you to create a fun event and a sense of community (sidenote: find a community that aligns with your brand!). Pop-up events are a great way to meet potential neighbours and actually see what kind of people are interested in your product, resulting in invaluable market insights.
The data you can gain from programs like Google Analytics is invaluable. You can track consumer behaviour, such as how long people typically spend on one page or product, what the most popular products are, common search terms, abandoned carts, etc. This information is crucial because it shows how well your site is perceived. An abandoned cart gives you an opportunity to determine why and when the customer changed their mind, and send them an email reminder or coupon code. Studies have shown that the average large-sized e-commerce site can recover about 35.26% of sales by analysing abandoned carts and re-optimizing the checkout process to make it quicker and easier for customers (source: Baymard Institute).
If you’re thinking about starting a business that sells a product or service, it may be a good idea to create an e-commerce site before moving forward with opening a physical location so you can gauge the demand for your product, the market’s size and demographics, and consumer behaviour.