It is an acknowledged and data-backed reality: while brick and mortar retail sales figures have been steadily declining throughout the years, online commerce has been escalating. From a common sense perspective, this was bound to happen, given that online retail was meant to inevitably surpass and render most offline storefronts and outlets obsolete.
This is the proverbial wave of the future, and there isn’t really any use in fighting back this trend. While Amazon.com continually expands its already expansive array of goods and thinks up faster and better ways to get the purchased merchandise to your doorstep, conventional retailers like Walmart are doing their best to pinch more pennies off their operating costs, resulting in disgruntled employees and subpar customer service.
With this knowledge of the current market trends in mind, how is an entrepreneur venturing into consumer goods going to respond? How will the businessperson tailor their strategy to take full advantage of what is going on in the marketplace?
Keep It (Mostly) Online
To be candid about this, the entrepreneurs of today had better not be dreaming up opening large superstores and mall-based retail boutiques, because they will probably be sorely disappointed at the results. The public has voted with their wallets; their preference to shop online is more than apparent.
Some products or services will definitely still need actual storefronts or showrooms; some products need to be experienced before a purchase is made. In this vein, I don’t think takeout or delivery food services will render restaurants obsolete.
Still, as more of the commerce happens over the Internet, a lean entrepreneur will definitely save a lot of money by having online storefronts. Sure, they will still need warehousing for their products (we don’t have the ability to store tangible goods as data yet), but not renting a space for the store is already a big boon to lowering operating costs.
Do Not Scrimp on Customer Experience
With most customers doing their own research and item browsing, it is still not an excuse to be lax on the quality of goods and services that your online store provides. Having a visually pleasing, ergonomic, and safe site for your potential customers to visit and browse is essential
This is especially important at the present time, with pervasive threats of hacking and personal information theft. Not even large stores like Target are safe from these electronic crimes, so this should prod the smaller players not to be lacking in their own security arrangements.
In the end, most people will not mind paying a little more money for the same product, for as long as they were able to purchase and receive it with no hassles, their credit information safe and known only to the vendor they transacted with.
Make the Necessary Investments
The online storefront relies heavily on modern information technologies, and more importantly, the right people with the right skill sets to make these technologies work to attain your business ends. The worst thing to do is to be miserly about acquiring the necessary equipment and paying qualified people to run various technical aspects of the business.
I’m not against outsourcing these tasks to save on money, but I am definitely against bottom dollar outsourcing solutions that put unqualified, skill-deficient contractors to work on your online storefront, making it worse off for the customers, and inevitably hurting your bottom line.
If you have to take a small business loan (small business loan lenders like eSmallBusinessLoan are more than happy to oblige) to purchase the proper equipment and hire the right people, do so. It doesn’t do anyone any favors to scrimp on what is needed to run the business smoothly.
Bravely march forward, online retail entrepreneurs!