The Pros and Cons of E-Commerce and Selling Online

Why Onmi Channel Retail Calls for Retailing Storefront Alternatives

Happy couple shopping online at laptop in kitchen
Sam Edwards/Caiaimage/Getty Images

E-commerce offers many ways retailers reach consumers and conduct business without the need of a storefront. It's almost economic suicide for any retailer not to sell online. Before you enter the world of e-commerce, be familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of selling online.

Advantages of E-Commerce

Online retailers can increase their sales and profits faster than a brick and mortar shop as selling online offers the advantage of having an open store, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Selling online also allows retailers to display their merchandise in any part of the world without additional expense. This advantage allows online retailers to expand their market to global proportions or target an extremely focused segment.

While the small retail store on Main Street may never dream of competing with a national chain retailer, it may find itself on a more level playing field with its competitors through the addition of online sales.

People can find your brand and interact with it when you have an online presence. You reach many new potential customers. Much of online traffic is organic, meaning that if you build your online store correctly, customers will find you without spending a dime. Traditional advertising can offer great headlines and ad copy, but advertising is costly. Why not try to benefit from online searches your customers are already making? 

Disadvantages of Selling Online

One of the biggest disadvantages of selling online is the continued battle with security.

Shoppers are becoming more relaxed with providing their personal and credit card information, but security concerns are still keeping many consumers offline.

Retailers that sell online only may have to work harder to build trust and a relationship with their customers. Personal interaction is limited with selling online and there is plenty of competition.

Store owners may find it very difficult to keep shoppers coming back.

As online retailers expand their customer base to include shoppers in other countries, they also increase the difficulties in delivering their goods. The shipping process takes control from the retailer, but leaves the burden on his/her shoulders. If the customer does not receive their products immediately, it is ultimately the retailer's responsibility to resolve the issue.

The Importance of Omni-Channel Retail

Retailers who sell online are dealing with a very different animal than traditional brick and mortar stores. The transition online is not as easy as you may think. But there is a growing emphasis placed on what is known as omni-channel retail, which refers to retailers who sell in multiple "channels." Today, a retailer might have an online store, a traditional brick and mortar store, and perhaps even a mail order or catalogue business. No matter how many channels you sell in, the customer experience needs to be equal; otherwise, you are setting yourself up for disaster. Your brand must be consistent among all channels. 

The bottom line is that while some would have you to believe that brick and mortar retail is dead, nothing could be further from the truth.

Even with the growth and prominence of e-commerce, consumers continue to frequent brick and mortar storefronts, and this doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. E-commerce and traditional storefront retail will continue to grow together, for better or worse.