Retailers are an interesting breed… Just ask me. I was a retail manager for one of the flagship stores of a national brand in my neck of the woods. I love retail, I loved opening the store in the early mornings, dealing with the hustle and bustle of promotional events, managing my staff and putting up the decorations at Christmas. Each time of the year had its own “vibe.” Being on the retail front lines is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea but if you are doing it right you tend to develop a natural instinct for what people need and how to get it to them. It can be very rewarding in its own right. As a seller of products (and this applies to our services based cousins too) the similarities between my experience on the retail floor and in the Ecommerce arena has taught me a lot about entrepreneurship and business in general. It taught me that at the end of the day what we want, or should want, is to help, reach, or positively touch as many people as possible and in so doing sell more of what we offer. No matter what avenue you take, brick and mortar or digital store, all roads lead to Rome. Or do they?
Now that I work in the dynamic and exciting world of “Ecom” I realize more than ever that many of the same strategies that led to success behind the counter are the same as behind the keyboard. Why? Simple, human nature doesn’t change and when it comes to exchange… Money for goods or money for services… It’s all about providing value for the purchaser. The mode of transport may change but the destination stays the same. In the ever-evolving world of retail, two distinct approaches have emerged as dominant players: brick and mortar stores and online stores. Old school versus new school. Which is better? Well I have a unique perspective on both and I truly believe that going online is what allows retailers to remain relevant and will continue to provide an undeniable competitive advantage moving forward.
Technology has connected us in ways we could not even imagine a few years back. Whilst some of us hail from a time before social media and selfies we have to admit that current technological trends have shaped an entire generation – a generation that lives, interacts and most of all, purchases online. What does this mean for retailers? Two words: Global Reach! Online stores have a vast potential customer base since they can reach anyone with internet access. This global reach is growing daily as communities get connected and can significantly expand a business’s market and customer base. For those with an Ecommerce store and online presence… One that is being properly managed… This means an unlimited audience and endless potential to sell more stuff!
We’ve all heard the old adage, it takes money to make money and while there are exceptions to every rule, every business owner knows there are overhead costs in maintaining any kind of business operation. If there is no such thing as a free lunch, then even less so for business owners and entrepreneurs. Every dime needs to be accounted for. In my previous role that often came in the form of the dreaded stock take. In a store that size, it meant packing a good lunch and dinner because you (and your team) were going to be there all night. One of my key duties was to constantly be looking for ways to maximize profit while minimizing costs. Entrepreneurship 101 some would say. To this day I still help clients achieve the same and there is no doubt that operating an online store typically involves lower overhead costs compared to physical stores. There’s no need for physical retail space, and fewer employees may be required. The difference can be drastic.
Back on that retail floor I remember days that we got to the store before the sun was up to get the trucks offloaded and the stock packed before opening time. We were located inside a mall and so had longer trading hours than at other locations. With doors closing in the evening, that was it, time to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done and head on home. Everybody needs their downtime but the moment those doors were shut you know what that meant – no more sales! One of the biggest advantages of your Ecommerce store is its 24/7 accessibility. Online stores are open 24/7, allowing customers to shop at their convenience. This flexibility is a major advantage for people with busy schedules or those in different time zones. The support department may work a regular 9-5 but the shopping cart never sleeps! This is great news for business owners who want, and need to be constantly optimizing for maximum sales. Its a win-win for customers and business owners alike.
From friendly staff to well merchandised displays, my game was all about the customer experience, and guess what, Ecommerce stores are no different. Traditionally brick and mortar stores had certain advantages like offering a tangible experience to customers, allowing them to touch, feel and sample products before purchasing. They were able to entice with immediate gratification. Shoppers could walk in, buy what they needed, and walk out with their purchases in hand. This is usually appealing when customers need a product urgently or prefer not to wait for shipping. They were also able to provide personalized customer service with face-to-face interactions. Whilst all this remains true, ecommerce is fast conquering those strongholds and providing equivalent or an even better shopping experience. Fast shipping, responsive customer service and technological advancements such as Chatbots and AI allow for greater interaction with the brand. If done right Ecommerce Stores are fast, convenient and user friendly leading to a pleasurable shopping experience. Exactly what the modern consumer wants… and according to global trends, what they will be wanting more of in the future.
I still visit that old store from time to time. Just to see how things are going. You may even catch me helping someone on the floor or asking for a shelf to be remerchandised. People look at me weird, how does this customer know the store that well? What can I say, old habits die hard! In conclusion, the choice between brick and mortar stores and online stores depends on various factors, including the nature of the business, target audience, and resources available. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, and successful retailers often find ways to blend elements of both. Our ultimate aim remains the same, to create a seamless shopping experience that caters to the diverse needs of modern consumers. That being said, e-commerce is a fantastic approach that is not going to go away but rather growing from strength to strength and that allows business owners of all types to interact with markets only accessible to large corporations in years prior. It has heralded a very exciting time for all entrepreneurs and despite the competitive arena should be considered by all as an indispensable strategic tool to growing your business. As I would often say to my customers at the store; “Happy Shopping, see you soon!”
If you have any questions, or like to schedule a call with Claire, VP of Sales, click here