The retail business segment is primarily a B2C industry. This means the associated costs can pile up quite unexpectedly. However, online storefronts are rapidly becoming a highly valid alternative for sellers to solve this dilemma. Not only existing businesses consider it an attractive option, but even new entrants are willing to go completely digital in their approach because of how cost-effective it can be.
Setting up an online retail store is far easier today than you’d expect. Let’s dive deeper into why the virtual space is dominating the industry when it comes to shopping.
Accelerating sales through retail
Online shopping has gradually become a mainstay of modern life. As eCommerce giants like Amazon and Shopify have streamlined the entire process, the rapid rate at which the world wide web has grown has all contributed to this shift in online-heavy buying behavior. Even for aspiring solopreneurs, online selling offers a viable and minimal-risk option to test the waters and get a good gauge of the market.
How is online retail different from eCommerce?
It is very easy to confuse online retail with eCommerce as these two terms are often interchangeably used. An online retail store is basically a digitized version of a physical store, providing shoppers with a catalog they can browse through and a checkout gateway through which they can make their transactions.
Online retail involves shopping for products directly from the brand’s website or a shared platform, making orders, and conducting transactions entirely in the virtual space. It saves customers the hassle of physically visiting an actual store, and it allows sellers to directly ship and deliver their products without the hassle of setting up a third-party intermediary in unprofitable locations.
eCommerce involves a range of platforms that are geared toward businesses, providing hosting spaces and basically renting out a platform for businesses to promote, market, and sell their products using a widely popular and already established market.
Why sell online?
There are plenty of reasons why online selling is an attractive proposition to ambitious entrepreneurs.
This is one of the most compelling reasons why many business owners choose to establish virtual storefronts. Supply doesn’t necessarily always have to be ahead of demand in this case. Products may not necessarily be past production at a certain stage. Yet many business owners can ensure their products are manufactured to match the specifics and proportion of online demand.
Online store owners often share the convenience that customers experience when it comes to shopping. All the costs that come with hosting a conventional brick-and-mortar store to showcase products are reduced. Catalogues can be made readily available online, saving both business owners and shoppers the time-consuming process of physically going through multiple stores, aisles, and products to find what suits their preferences.
Ease of access
Sellers have access to a wider, globally spread out consumer market like never before, in addition to powerful tools that help target the right segments. Great strides in user data collection, analysis, and stitching also allow for effective ways to gauge and personalize customer journeys from the get-go. In essence, online retail has evolved drastically over the last few years, more than it ever has in a decade. Brands don’t limit themselves to simply showcasing products. The customer takes central priority. Each recommendation is eventually tailored to meet the shopper’s preference, based on an abundant source of data.
In the past, only the most profitable businesses could afford to expand rapidly and open up new store outlets city-wide. With the digital evolution of retail spaces, all of this has changed. By separating previously inseparable processes like storage, production and sales, brands are now able to grow well beyond their projections to outpace competitors.
We live in a world now where many storefronts exist solely in a virtual space. A lot of successful businesses are able to maximize sales online without ever having to worry about establishing more than a few physical retail outlets. Storage and delivery are often the only physical dimensions that many brands are even concerned about. A great deal of sales and marketing takes place online, especially in this post-pandemic era.
Attaining customer satisfaction
Many businesses are compelled to invest more in a well-performing website than a physical store. Online retailers have seen their priorities shift. They worry less about physical interactions and care more about online engagement. The need of the hour varies, from optimizing online platforms and apps for easy navigation to providing users with an effortless, seamless, and memorable shopping experience.
Adding more product features is no longer the end goal. Achieving customer satisfaction is.
Even local retail stores now have access to a global scale of consumers. No matter where you set up your business, whether it be in thriving urban centers or remote locations, the online world levels the playing field and offers equal opportunity to business owners as they compete for search ranking, brand recognition, and ease of access.
Customers no longer have to spend hours on busy streets searching for your storefront when they can easily access it on their mobile device at their own convenience.
Inventory matches demand
Overstocked inventory can be a problem for businesses that are uncertain about demand. With online retail, keeping low inventory levels and increasing production in accordance with rising order levels online is a great way to save costs. Business owners also have access to actionable metrics and are able to measure things like customer satisfaction, expectations, and preferences in a way that they previously wouldn’t have been able to.
Online retail: reshaping the way shopping is done
Most brick-and-mortar stores cannot afford to operate 24/7 without significantly draining expenses. Security and maintenance costs are two major concerns. However, online retailing allows sellers an alternative to staying active and running all the time without any additional costs.
Partnering with eCommerce leaders and recognized carriers allows online sellers to amp up sales without taking a hit in shipping and delivery expenses. In fact, with the way giants like Amazon, Shopify, and eBay have grown, the delivery has become the least problematic aspect of online retailing.
In other words, the logistics of getting a product from the warehouse to the doorstep is no longer even a minor issue. It has been replaced with an even bigger challenge: capturing customer attention in an online world where millions of other businesses compete with one another. Engaging customers, tailoring their journey to be smooth and seamless, and gathering data on what users love as well as what drives satisfaction rates are some of the key concerns major retailers are caught up with.
In the past decade, it would have been hard to imagine your local grocery store competing with big-shot retail chains, but this is precisely what’s happening in today’s world of online commerce. Even the newbies in the business get an opportunity to shine and a chance to scale with access to the same apparatus and online infrastructure.
Advertising has changed to meet evolving shifts in perception as well. With a majority of marketing efforts redirected towards gaining more traction on social media spaces and less on billboard and TV advertising, campaign success is very difficult to measure. Furthermore, online retailing thrives off of targeted marketing, which heavily utilizes customer data to enhance and improve the customer journey, from product discovery and purchase all the way to delivery.
Organic traffic is still the key driver behind sales success, which means growing your business online doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive if you know where to invest. It wouldn’t be wise to try to cut costs on the things that matter, such as your website, eCommerce platform expenses, and so on.
Omni-channel retail: an emerging model
While online retail is a successful model of business, it doesn’t have to be a standalone strategy. Leading sellers take full advantage of omni-channel retail in order to cater to a wider and more inclusive market, from tech-savvy youngsters to the more traditional-minded generation.
Omni-channel retail is an emerging form of hybrid B2C where the business sets up shop in all available channels, from physical brick-and-mortar stores to high-converting online websites. You’ll find brands that have an established presence everywhere, from social media to eCommerce platforms and select corners in every major city. This is where maintaining brand consistency in both messaging and customer experience becomes key to taking over the market successfully.
As brand experience becomes the central focus of most businesses across the B2C industry, virtual storefronts are a popular way to reach and acquire customers that can’t be accessed through physical storefronts. And as more and more brands are adopting the hybrid approach of omni-channel retail, we can expect to see more of this model in the near future.