Should You Go Digital?
With the evolution of technology in today’s world, many businesses are considering making the switch to digital storefronts. Should you follow suit and focus on building an online presence, or is it safer to stick to physical outlets?
An increasing number of companies are making online shopping available on their corporate websites. With easy widgets and software allowing customers to buy items online, creating a digital storefront is becoming a very popular option as it usually requires much less expenses and manpower than a physical store. Additionally, people are increasingly getting used to buying online, and now some people even buy their groceries online instead of heading down to the supermarket themselves.
Well, if you are thinking about going digital, one aspect you would have to consider is the products or services you offer. Depending on what your business specializes in, you may find it easier to go digital or stick to a physical store front. For example, a shop offering custom made clothes may prefer to have a physical store because it would be easier for them to serve their customers in person instead of online – their customers could look at the actual products and the staff can take their exact measurements. If the shop was instead exclusively online, the company may get complaints from customers who had ordered items that turned out to be the wrong size. On the other hand, a company selling graphic designs may have an easier time taking their business online, as their work can be easily sent on the web without the need for a physical representation.
You may also have to consider your target audience. Not everyone is digitally inclined and some groups of people still prefer to shop in person. Some people may not have access to computers or mobile phones, while others do not have reliable Internet connection. Others may just prefer not to use technology because they are not used to it. Yet others still like the atmosphere of walking into a physical store and do not want to confine themselves to online shopping. These demographics are definitely different in every region. If your company aims to reach these groups of people, it may be worth doing some research and perhaps carrying out surveys to see if your target audience would prefer digital stores or physical stores.
If you are delivering physical goods, you may prefer to set up a store in person, which will probably get your goods to a customer faster and cheaper than shipping it to them. This may be important if your customer needs an item urgently, or if it is a common item that can be found in other local stores and your customer would not need to turn to online sources for it.
That being said, there are a number of reasons why most companies are now taking to the digital world. For one, digital storefronts can be much more cost effective. Location plays a key role in making a physical store attractive, and most of these prime areas tend to put rental prices up fairly high. Of course, the price of maintaining an online store can also get expensive if you are expecting a lot of traffic, but if you are starting up a new company, the price of an online store tends to be cheaper than renting or buying a physical branch. You would probably also require less manpower to handle an online store than having to hire people in shifts to man a physical store, thus further reducing your company’s daily expenses.
Another reason why companies favor digital stores is their convenience. Have you ever wanted to work from home? That may not have been possible some decades ago, but now it definitely is. You may have needed to travel miles to your workplace in the past even if it was your own business. However, people no longer have to travel far these days if they can simply take their business online and work from home, saving both time and money on their commute. A considerable number of consumers are also increasingly preferring to shop online – visiting a website and making an order to be delivered to your home is much more convenient than physically going down to a store and finding what you need.
In addition, operating an online store allows businesses to reach a larger audience. Although it is true that you may be missing out on the groups of people that do not use technology, the potential gain can be far greater if you consider the ease of selling to people from countries all around the world. Before the rise of online shopping, most companies could only afford to open local branches. Nowadays, however, a website can be accessed by almost anyone in the world – no matter what country they live in. With advances in postage and shipping, goods can also be sent to almost any country in the world. This makes it much easier for a small business to reach a new crowd of customers that they would not have been able to before.
With all the advantages of an online store, it is no wonder both large and small companies opt for the digital world these days, even if it means that some people may inadvertently miss out on patronizing your company if they would still rather visit a physical store.
Obviously, some types of businesses cannot really take to the cloud. How would you operate an online food court, for instance? Well, you probably cannot keep it completely digital, but you could still digitize some aspects of it. For example, an increasing number of eateries are incorporating cashless payment methods, where you can pay for your food by scanning a code with your mobile phone and using an online payment method. There are also options for people to order food through an online menu and then either collect it in person or better yet, have it delivered right to your doorstep without having to set foot outside your house at all.
In that case, are physical-only businesses doomed? What is the future of new companies we create?
While there is still a need for physical stores to some extent, the general consumer populace seems to be in favor of online stores, with people’s habits changing to suit preference and convenience. Fortunately, you don’t have much to lose when setting up an online store. With cost-effective packages and saver deals at most web hosts today, you can get started on building an online business for much less than it would cost to open a physical storefront.
Of course, if both digital stores and physical stores have their advantages, what about having both – the best of two worlds?
Author: Kelly Felder