Ecommerce isn’t optional for small businesses anymore. But it’s not all doom and gloom for traditional offline retail. As a matter of fact, offline retail is doing just fine, and viewing online and offline sales as two separate and opposing channels is a mistake.
The state of ecommerce
As a traditional offline retailer, it’s easy to view ecommerce (and major players like Amazon) as the boogeyman. Online sales are climbing year after year, and are projected to hit $55 billion (USD) within the next 5 years in Canada alone.
Global online sales neared $3 trillion last year, which, as per digitalcommerce360.com, puts ecommerce sales at around 15% of total retail sales.
While it’s tempting to view huge numbers like that as a negative, what they actually show is that the vast majority of retail sales are still happening offline.
“Why do I need ecommerce then?”
That’s a question you may be asking. After all, 15% of sales doesn’t sound like a lot. But it’s the wrong question.
The right question is, “How can I add ecommerce to my existing setup, to bring the two channels together, and provide my customers and potential customers a complete and holistic brand and commerce experience?”
Granted, there were more than a fair amount of buzzwords in that loaded question, but the point remains. Your best bet for long-term growth and success (or in some cases survival), is embracing ecommerce if you’re primarily offline, and figuring out a way to bring in a brick and mortar component if you’re all-in online.
These brands are killing it
The proof is in the pudding as they say. And here are some examples of brands with all kinds of pudding.
Warby Parker sells prescription eyewear and regular sunglasses direct to consumer, cutting out the middlemen and enabling them to sell quality pieces for substantially less than you’d likely be able to find with one of the traditional eyewear brands.
They found immediate success selling their products online, but since they didn’t have an offline storefront, they found that they also had a large number of potential customers asking to come into their company office to try on glasses before buying.
The problem with that was they didn’t have company offices. They ran everything out of one of the co-founder’s apartments. Because of that demand, they began opening shops with boutique retailers before eventually launching their own brick and mortar in SoHo in New York City.
The Vancouver-based Indochino offers made-to-measure menswear, that’s affordable and convenient.
The basic premise behind the company’s business model is that a customer visits Indochino’s website, selects his outfit, and adds in his measurements. He can choose to measure himself using their tutorial (usually requiring a second pair of hands), or visit a tailor to do it for him.
The order is then made to those measurements and shipped directly to the customer. Additional necessary alterations are typically covered to ensure the customer has a truly made-to-measure outfit.
While starting out as an online-only direct to consumer company, they experimented with pop-up locations, eventually opening their first brick and mortar showroom in 2014. They now have 38 brick and mortar locations, with plans to open even more this year.
Mattress retailer Casper followed a similar path to Warby Parker and Indochino, in that they started as an online-only business, transitioning to an integration of online and offline through pop-up stores, and eventually their own permanent brick and mortar locations.
It doesn’t have to be hard
I know, I know. Change can suck. Shifting your business workflows to incorporate a new way of doing things can seem like a challenge and possibly one that’s not worth it. But ignoring the new paradigm that is integrated/omni-channel/multi-channel commerce (I’m going all in on buzzwords now) isn’t going to make it go away.
Besides, it doesn’t have to be hard. There are all kinds of tools and software (and friendly neighbourhood digital freelancers) that can help you make the changes you need to make.
From ecommerce website platforms like Shopify, to email marketing platforms like Mailchimp and Klaviyo, and cloud accounting and ERPs like Quickbooks, it’s never been easier to digitize your workflows and make them more efficient and productive.
What’s stopping you?
Knowing where things are at in commerce today, and where things are going, what’s stopping you from embracing ecommerce? If you’re interested in having a conversation about how you can incorporate ecommerce into your business, reach out and I’d be happy to chat.