With the growing maturity of internet services of all kinds, the necessity of a web shop for even smaller retailers is becoming more pronounced than ever. Where a decade ago, the suggestion of a push towards e-commerce and a move away from 'bricks and mortar' was undoubtedly ahead of its time, a lot has changed since then. Today, buying products and services online is, for many consumers, the epitome of convenience and value. It is also second-nature.
There are several factors that have combined to make it far easier, far cheaper and now also far more necessary for almost every retailer to consider an online sales presence.
From a technology point of view, the software and tools required to create a self-managed web store have advanced enormously. Where previously it was a complex, time consuming, clumsy and very expensive process to get your shop on the web, today it can be done in as little as three to five days. That includes full functionality to take credit card payments, and with integration of the web shop front, into the back-end ERP system.
Perhaps even more important is the ability for the retailer or their employees to manage the site, adding new products or items, introducing special deals, and so on. Combined with the low cost of establishing the web store, it is therefore possible to establish a new revenue stream with very little capital expenditure. Indeed, most web shops should fully repay the cost of their establishment within three to twelve months of commencing operations.
Of course, the web store has the 'traditional' advantages of an online marketplace, including a nationwide or even global reach, around-the-clock trade and reduced overheads as goods can be shipped straight from stock or even from suppliers.
With the runaway popularity of smartphones, combined with ever-faster and more affordable terrestrial internet connectivity, even if people aren't buying online, they certainly are searching to check prices, specifications and options. You want your store to be in those search results, so every web shop should be Google-optimised.
Retailers are compelled to consider online sales too, because the competition is increasingly moving online. Add to that the presence of new retailers like Groupon and ShopSavvy, which are competing for the same customers, the necessity to take action should be clear.
With internet shopping becoming standard practice for more consumers than ever before, the time has never been better for the retailer to consider a move into the online space. It may just be a move that assures the future of your retail operation.