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Should Offline Businesses get an E-commerce Website?

Should Offline Businesses get an E-commerce Website?

Often when I have a conversation with local business owners, I find it surprising that a lot of them think they don’t need a website. So I was thinking about ways in which these offline businesses can benefit from getting an eCommerce website.

Should Offline Businesses get an E-commerce Website? Offline businesses should have an eCommerce website since it gives them a global presence, immensely more reach to potential customers, 24/7 availability, and lower operating costs. The only types of businesses that may not benefit immediately from an eCommerce website are businesses that do not deal with any customers, like some types of stock trading firms.

Are you not convinced yet and still think that your business is better off without an eCommerce site? Then you must read this article further to know what you are missing on.

Why should offline businesses go for an eCommerce store?

As per Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Nielsen(NYSE: NLSN), by the end of 2024, 70% of consumers will do grocery shopping online. Even if you were surviving without an online store so far, you need to rethink your strategy going forward. Other studies have shown that 7 out of 10 people around the world research online even before making an offline purchase. You might currently be selling to a handful of customers in your local area, but with an online store, 70% of all buyers in your industry can potentially buy directly from you.  

eCommerce gives you a global presence. The world wide web has its reach to the farthest corners of the planet and customers around the world from places that you might not even have heard of, can buy from you. Also, thousands of people can buy from you simultaneously and your website can process all those transactions in seconds. Imagine the cost you had to bear to cater to all those customers without an eCommerce store. You would need to set up your brick-and-mortar stores in all those different parts of the world and staff each of those stores. Even then, serving such large numbers of customers simultaneously would be impossible.

This brings me to my next point, your website is like an employee that works for you 24/7 at only a fraction of the cost that a real employee would charge. It is like an immensely efficient and multi-tasking employee. It can take your customers’ orders, answer their queries and advertise your brand to new customers all at once. Your customers can reach you, get to know you, and buy from you even when you are sleeping.  Its global presence makes it accessible to your customers round the clock, even when it’s midnight in your geography.

An eCommerce website is also a lot more cost-effective than your brick-and-mortar business. Many smaller offline businesses have resistance to going online because they feel it’s too complicated. They feel the need to learn about digital stuff that does not come naturally to them. They are also not sure of the costs involved and they think that only huge companies can afford to get an eCommerce site. Well, the truth is, although an eCommerce website has an upfront cost, in the long run, the cost it saves and the business it generates are comparatively huge.

How does an eCommerce website help your offline business grow?

As an offline business, if you build your eCommerce website and grow it to a point where it gets decent traffic, it increases your brand recognition drastically. Once your local customers start knowing your brand, they will visit your store more often. They will prefer you over your local competitors.

So many times I have ordered food from a restaurant through Uber Eats and if I like it, I start visiting that restaurant more often. That’s true for all types of businesses. Once you have more people who know you and trust you, you can focus on building long-term relationships with them and you can gain loyal customers for your offline business.

It also helps you with local SEO on Google my business listings. If your website is getting traffic and people are spending money buying from your eCommerce site, it sends signals to Google that you are trustworthy and that helps improve your ranking in Google maps as well, which means more footfall at your brick-and-mortar store.

Also, as already mentioned, having a successful eCommerce store gives you a lot more reach and a lot more customers, which can bring you a lot of revenue in turn. Once you have some capital in your hands, you can use it to grow your offline store as well through traditional marketing and grow your business in your local area. With some extra cash in your pocket, you can easily out-market your local competitors.

When should offline businesses not go for an eCommerce store?

There may be a lot of situations where an eCommerce site is not applicable to your business, at least not right now. Getting an eCommerce site needs an upfront investment. It can cost thousands of dollars if you hire a professional agency and get a properly developed site. Thus, if your offline business has not yet grown to a point where you have enough money to spare, you might not need to get your eCommerce store right now. You can grow your offline business for some time, save up some money and then get your eCommerce store built.

Some businesses have unique services that cannot be delivered online. For example, some traditional Indian massage therapies can only be given in person. So no point in having an online store, although I recommend they should still have a website to market their business.

There are also some types of businesses that do not involve a customer or can function without any sort of marketing. Some share trading firms that borrow money from institutional investors and trade it in the capital market do not need a platform where their customers can transact with them, thus getting an eCommerce store may not make sense, unless they are looking to diversify their business in other areas.

There may be more than one reason why you may not want to get an eCommerce website for your business, but still going online should always be a part of your long-term strategy. Also, if you are not looking to have an eCommerce store right now, you should still have at least a regular website for your business which can be critical for your future growth.

Are e-commerce businesses affecting offline businesses?

Well, eCommerce sites are definitely affecting offline and traditional businesses. On the one hand, customers have a more convenient option where they can buy what they need by clicking a few buttons. The suppliers also need to cater to these eCommerce businesses along with the brick-and-mortar stores.

The costs involved in running these eCommerce businesses are significantly lower, while many online startups are often backed by huge institutional investors. Thus they can burn cash that offline businesses can never imagine. So they give huge discounts on their products and it’s getting harder and harder for offline businesses to compete. If you have been selling offline for years and think that you can continue with the same business model, you may need to think again and get real with your strategies. 

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