The popularity of online shopping is on the rise; e-commerce and mail orders now account for 14.3% of total retail sales, demonstrating a shift in consumer behavior, particularly during the Covid-19 crisis. While online shopping was once considered to be a major challenger to brick-and-mortar establishments, more retail brands nowadays are seeing benefits from incorporating online elements to their fixed-location businesses.
If you’re a local business owner, e-commerce can help to reinvigorate your business and expand your customer base. Set up an online store to start experiencing these benefits:
1. Age verification integration
While many brick-and-mortar establishments may offer an e-commerce option without issue, retailers who sell age-restricted products may be discouraged due to the strict regulations by which they’re required to abide. As an example, selling cigars online can put a shop owner at a disadvantage, as some financial institutions automatically consider the e-commerce transactions to be ‘high risk’. This is due to the FDA requiring sellers to verify that anybody purchasing tobacco products is over 21—fairly easy to do in person, but a much more difficult regulation to confidently enforce online.
Fortunately, if a business owner would like to sell age-restricted products online, there are now age verification options available that can integrate with your payment gateway merchant. For an additional layer of security, some shipping partners allow you to require the signature of an adult on delivery. By utilizing these services, store owners can expand their customer access options without compromising on compliance.
2. More purchasing options for consumers
By offering shipping options on your e-commerce site, as well as physical pickup locations, you can provide your customers with more convenient ways to shop for and receive their products. According to studies, during the most recent holiday season almost one-third of consumers purchased goods online, and opted to pick their purchases up from a physical store. The recent pandemic has been instrumental in changing consumer behavior, with 79% of consumers indicating that a contactless pickup option is important to them, and 85% of consumers indicating that they’re choosing curbside pickup more frequently.
Aside from providing fast gratification for online shoppers, pickup options have the additional benefit of allowing a business owner to improve their bottom line. 69% of consumers who used click-and-collect options over the last holiday season reported buying extra items in the store as they picked up their order, indicating that retailers can take advantage of impulse purchases to boost their sales. There is also evidence that high shipping costs can cause a reduction of up to 63% in online sales; with a local pickup option, businesses could avoid losing these sales among consumers within their local community.
3. Wider range of product availability
94% of all US retail sales still occur in a physical location; however, one limitation of brick-and-mortar stores is the lack of product availability. If a product isn’t available in-store, consumers may decide to search for it online instead of placing an order. By setting up an e-commerce option for your store, you could take orders and have the items shipped directly from the supplier, providing your customers with a wider range of options than they’d typically find in-store. If you own a small chain of local stores, online sales can be shipped from whichever location has the item in stock, meaning that you won’t miss out on a sale if the item is out of stock in your flagship location. By allowing potential customers to see which stores have which items in stock, your e-commerce site could also be used to direct foot traffic to your physical location.
4. Expanded customer base opportunities
One of the clearest advantages to including an e-commerce element in your physical retail store is the opportunity to attract more patrons. Customers are increasingly turning to the internet to research and purchase products, with 22% of global sales expected to take place via e-commerce by 2023. By ensuring that your store has an online presence, you could attract customers from any location you’re willing to ship to.
While brick-and-mortar storefronts allow you to build personal relationships with customers and take advantage of foot traffic, the addition of an e-commerce store could allow you the best of both worlds. A well-functioning online shop can complement your existing operations by attracting new clients, making sales for you, and ensuring that your age-restricted products are sold according to local laws and regulations.
Consider using a hybrid online/physical location strategy for your business, and start reaping the benefits today.