These days it seems more and more new businesses pop up online every day. And e-commerce is, indeed, a growing field. From the previous year, e-commerce grew by 18% in 2019 and it is expected to double by 2023. Consequently, it feels that attention has shifted away from offline businesses to growing and establishing online businesses in recent years.
No matter how much e-commerce may develop though, some businesses are still much better suited to in-person interaction or simply require an offline platform. For example, childcare, elderlycare, and healthcare are rooted in personal interaction. They are reliant on a practitioner being able to physically look after a client and attend to their needs. Construction, renovation, and handyman services do work that most people lack the knowledge and skills to do themselves, and cleaning businesses provide services most people are unwilling to do themselves. And while other businesses can be adapted to online formats, the experiences aren’t quite the same. Food can be ordered through delivery apps, but eating at home doesn’t have the same atmosphere as a restaurant meal. Live shows can be livestreamed, but watching a small computer screen isn’t the same as sitting in a concert hall or theater. Shopping can be done on Amazon or other online retail websites, but nothing can replace being able to view and handle a product yourself before purchasing. And classes, whether they are for math, cooking, or dance, can be held over Zoom, but it’s always easiest to follow instruction when the teacher is right in front of you to help.
However, this doesn’t mean that offline businesses can’t benefit from having an online presence or front.
Online and offline businesses both have their merits. With offline businesses, customers feel a greater sense of trust as they are able to personally view products, a physical store reflects greater financial stability, and offline businesses have more chance, walk-in customers. On the other hand, online businesses have great visibility due to the broad reach of the internet, they are far cheaper, and they can be open 24/7. In combining offline and online together though, offline businesses can solidify their brands and find the best of both worlds by adopting aspects of an online store.
- Doing so allows offline businesses to match competition, whether it be solely online businesses or other offline businesses that already have an online platform.
- An online presence can also increase the number of customers a business has as people stumble upon their website while researching and browsing online. The internet can even help businesses grow from local audiences to global ones.
- In addition to increasing brand awareness, websites allow for greater customer interaction. Customers far away can see what is sold in store (encouraging them to later visit in-person or to order online) and easily communicate any question they may have.
- Digital sales save both time and labor as they don’t require any customer interaction.
- Conducting sales through an online platform allows business owners to track marketing and business analytics. If this information is utilized properly, it can promote even greater future growth.
As valuable as developing an online front can be, many small offline businesses still haven’t caught onto the trend. As of January 2019, less than ⅔ of small businesses had a website (the main reason cited being that their owners think their operations are too small for one) and 1 in 5 don’t use digital marketing. Not taking advantage of the internet, however, puts a business at a disadvantage. 37% of people use the internet to find a store at least once a month, and 91% of customers have visited a store in-person due to an online experience. And according to data from Google in 2016, 68% of customers go to a store within a day of doing a local search and close to half make a purchase that same day. Continuing to grow online presence continues to pay off too. Small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than those without, and the more frequently and consistently they post, the greater the reward.
Making a website though, is not something to be taken lightly. Considering it is the focal point of a businesses internet front, it has to be crafted carefully and attractively. First, it has to be well-made. If a website takes longer than three seconds to load, 53% of mobile visits are abandoned, and for each second delay in load time, conversions fall by 12%. Once on a website, a person’s first impression is dependent primarily on the design-related elements of the site. This first impression weighs heavily on how credibly they will view a business.
In the end, our commerce industry cannot survive with just online or offline businesses. The ideal is a balance somewhere in the middle, tailored to boths the strengths and needs of each individual business.