The online retail market is absolutely booming. In fact, just over half of UK consumers prefer to shop online (Source: Empathy.co, 2018).
And we certainly can’t blame them. In our busy, modern lives, online shopping is a real luxury. If something exists, you can probably buy it online and get it delivered straight to your door.
So whether you want to set up a standalone e-commerce business or add an online retail element to an existing company, let’s take a look at 9 important benefits of running an online store.
9 Essential Benefits of an Online Store
1. Low Overheads
Generally speaking, running an online store cost far less to set up and operate than bricks-and-mortar locations. There are still costs involved of course: website hosting, web domains, digital marketing, and platform fees (if selling through a platform like Shopify or Etsy). You may also need to outsource things like website development, brand creation, marketing strategy, photography, and copywriting.
If your product is completely new to the market or this is your first foray into retail, starting out online is a great way to do some test trading in a relatively low-pressure environment.
2. Not Geographically Limited
A physical shop that doesn’t sell products online is very limited geographically. Even if they have a very desirable product and a large marketing budget, they’ll still only attract people within a certain physical radius. However, companies who sell online can benefit from supplying to as wide a geographical area as they like – reaching nationally or even globally!
If you do decide to sell outside of the UK, your online store will have to comply with international tax and import/export rules. Open to Export have a number of helpful resources for UK businesses looking to sell abroad. You may also be able to source help from professional groups like your local Chamber of Commerce.
3. Open for Business 24/7
The majority of online stores involve totally automated order and payment processing, enabling customers to shop when it suits them. Online shopping is the ultimate in convenience for both retailers and customers. Customers benefit from being able to browse and shop whenever they like, and the business owner doesn’t necessarily have to drop everything to process purchases immediately (as they’d have to do with a customer physically present). Neither you nor the customer are committed to – or restricted by – set opening hours.
By the way, research carried out by Retail Therapy Week in 2017 states that Mondays are the most popular days for online shopping, with peaks around 1pm and 8pm.
4. Flexible Updates & Offers
An online store can be updated as and when you like, at little to no expense. Things like adding new product lines, reorganising your catalogue, or setting up a flash sale can be implemented straight away. Social and search pay-per-click campaigns can also be switched on and off in real time with relative ease.
Compare this to a physical shop where you would most likely have to plan in advance for new product releases and sales events; sourcing in-store printed materials, making room on the shop floor to present your new or discounted wares, and advertising in local publications. There’s a lot of moving parts to manage with a bricks-and-mortar shop, but with a lean, online store, you’re totally in control.
5. Access to Analytics
Online stores (and indeed most websites) enable you to access a wealth of usage information such as:
- What times of the day/week/month your website is most popular
- Where your visits are coming from (e.g, search, social media, paid advertising, etc.)
- Geographically where your site is most popular
- Which products and pages are most popular
- What times of the day/week/month you receive the most enquiries/orders
- … and much more!
Understandably, this information can be used to enhance your marketing strategy, enabling you to target individuals with similar tastes and habits more efficiently. Free tools like Google Analytics are invaluable to any company with a website – e-commerce or otherwise!
6. You Can Sell Pretty Much Anything Online!
Regardless of your offering and your audience, you can sell online. Whether you sell physical products, ebooks, courses, services, or consultancy, chances are there’s a way you can process orders and payments electronically (even if you need to physically deliver the service being sold).
And if you sell something that can be automatically and digitally delivered like an ebook or online course, you can leave it to work in the background with minimal input!
7. Niche Product? No Problem
If your product is in some way unconventional or niche, selling online may be the most effective way to do business. When people are looking for something unusual or specific, they may be more likely to look online rather than on the high street.
Certain niche products may overlap nicely with the needs of certain communities which are already active online. Engaging with these groups may prove beneficial when done correctly.
8. Efficient Marketing Spend
Purely relying on digital advertising can be far more cost effective than print advertising. Pay-per-click advertising is built around efficiently targeting proven potential customers online, rather than relying on less targeted, blanket advertising like flyering or placing an ad in a print publication. It can also be much harder to directly extrapolate the direct results of a print campaign, such as working out its ROI. However, PPC campaigns are totally digital, giving you access to a wealth of usage data.
Provided you have a GDPR-friendly email subscriber list, you can send bulk marketing emails easily and inexpensively through tools like MailChimp. Sending a bulk email to 1,000 recipients is far cheaper than sending 1,000 marketing messages through the post. Email marketing enables you to analyse usage data too (such as open rates and click-throughs).
9. None of The Headaches of Customer-Facing Premises
Operating public-facing premises can be tricky at the best of times. Not only do you have to put your best foot forward and create a welcoming, on-brand experience for visitors, but you also have to prepare for potential vandals, shoplifters, and even possible violence. There’s also the matter of customer health and safety to consider too.
However, when you operate a purely online business, your premises can be completely off-limits to the general public. Naturally, you still need to provide a safe and welcoming environment for any staff, but the concerns that come with public-facing roles and premises are significantly reduced.Why is selling online so popular? We look at 9 reasons why an online store can benefit your biz. Click To Tweet
How can Yell help?
Whatever it is you sell, if you don’t have a website nowadays you may as well not exist! Potential customers are always on the lookout for what you offer online, and without an online store, you may be driving them towards your competitors.
But regardless of what you want your business to do online, Yell can help make it a reality. Our comprehensive website development services support businesses just like yours up and down the UK to get online and get noticed. We’ve even partnered with a handful of industry-leading providers to offer exclusive discounts for our clients as an added bonus.
Already have a website but feel there’s room for improvement? Check out our free website checking tool to access an online report on whether you need to improve your page speed, mobile optimisation, search engine visibility, security, and much more!
This article was originally published on 2 June 2017, and updated on 03 September 2020.