If you’re the owner of a small business, you may be incredibly worried about the future right now, and understandably so. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a massive and rapid shift in the American economy, and for that matter has made it difficult for even larger companies to keep all of their brick and mortar stores afloat. As states move in and out of quarantine, a number of non-essential businesses have been forced to temporarily close their doors, making it difficult for sales to progress. At the same time, the subsequent economic problems have caused these businesses to let go of employees, which in turn can make it more difficult for those businesses to run properly and restart when the time comes. While the government has taken steps to preserve small businesses, primarily through the Payroll Protection Plan, unfortunately, many of these measures have proved fruitless. The unemployment numbers are rising, and for many small business owners the cost of keeping a brick and mortar store open simply don’t correlate with the revenue stream. With that being said, the inability to operate a brick and mortar store does not have to equal the closing of the business altogether.
In recent years, many small businesses have not only been opening online stores to correspond with their brick and mortar stores but launching entirely online. While starting an online shop might be intimidating if you at first thought of your business as a brick and mortar business, it’s actually a great business move. Consumers are relying upon online shopping in order to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic; and even before then, a lot of consumers were moving increasingly online due to the fact that it’s not only more convenient but often more cost-effective. Running an online store also means that you’re able to reach a wider audience, perhaps even a global audience. Many products actually are more successful in online shops than they are in brick and mortar stores. Furthermore, it’s now easier for a wider range of products to be sold online. While even ten years ago selling frozen foods online may have seemed impossible, now it’s easy for consumers to buy groceries online and have them delivered to their doorstep. Of course, despite all of these factors it still might be intimidating to move from brick and mortar to e-commerce for the first time. With that being said, let’s look into some of the benefits of moving online, and what to consider when making that transition.
What Expenses Are Eliminated When Moving A Business Online?
As there always are when launching a new store, there are of course expenses associated with starting an online shop. However, there is also a great opportunity to eliminate a lot of costs associated with keeping a brick and mortar store open. For one thing, and online store often doesn’t require quite as many employees to operate, directly employed or otherwise. In the early days of a small business online, a lot of business owners take care of most of the operations themselves. However, understandably a lot of small business owners moving from a brick and mortar store to an online shop will want to maintain as many vital employees as possible. Nonetheless, with an online store, it will be easier to keep them working from home, which will also keep costs down. When employees can work entirely from home, the business owner doesn’t need to pay for the same safety measures that they legally must cover when running a brick and mortar store. There is no need to pay for different types of fire suppression systems, for example, when starting an online shop. This not only cuts down on expenses but also streamlines the process and makes it easier for you to begin selling online.
Nor does an online store need to be physically maintained the way that a brick and more store must be. Right now, every small business owner is trying to save as much money as possible in the face of the pandemic. Being able to cut down on water and electricity bills, as well as maintenance costs like those of commercial plumbing, is incredibly important. Starting an online shop means that you are essentially able to work in a manner that channels directly to the consumer.
Furthermore, there is less of a concern about certain legal costs that come with running a brick and mortar store. While there are of course legalities and tax issues to consider when it comes to running a business online, you don’t need to worry about adding real estate taxes on top of them. This also would mean consulting less with third parties like lawyers and accountants and simply keeping the store more insular. Furthermore, if you’re not sure about how to kick off a website and handle everything on your own, you can start small and then graduate to running a business entirely on your own. How you start off really depends on the type of business that you’re running.
Are There Benefits To Using Third Party E-Commerce Platforms?
Starting an online shop doesn’t mean that you have to jump straight into starting your own website. Again, if you run a certain type of business, your options may be more limited. If you offer specific services on a local level, you may want to start building a website sooner rather than later. But while you’re doing that, you can begin to advertise your services through local social media. If you run a custom banner printing business, for example, you could advertise on your local Facebook groups or even Craiglist while at the same time starting a website dedicated to your business. Many private chefs and others who offer services that are custom-ordered have recently been relying on Instagram to advertise their services. While many of these social media sites offer add-ons that cost money, their general usage is free. All of this being said, for business owners who are marketing specific products rather than services, it may be worth considering other platforms. Starting an online shop doesn’t have to be difficult, and it’s quite possible that you’ll already be familiar with some of the platforms discussed below.
In the past, a lot of business owners used eBay to sell items that were either homemade or used. But as time passed, it became more common for these business owners to sell their own original products on the website. Yet as the popularity of e-commerce grew, other websites superseded eBay in popularity due to their convenience. Etsy is perhaps one of the most popular platforms for people who are thinking about starting an online shop. A lot of artisans in particular use Etsy on a long-term basis, not launching a website until they’ve truly outgrown the platform. Etsy is well-known, and it’s easy for a wide range of products to be advertised on a single shop. Furthermore, its secure payment portals allow consumers to feel confident that they’re being protected. Etsy makes it easy for clients, as starting an online shop on the platform is free and at this time the listing fee is only .20 USD. From that point on, there are no fees until an item sells. While Etsy makes money through a small 5% transaction fee and a .25 USD processing fee, as well as a 15% offsite ads fee, the seller stands to make the vast majority of the profit. With that being said, whenever moving online you may need to adjust your prices up or down as your online competition may be different from the competition you faced when selling through a brick and mortar store. When you’re beginning this adjustment, using a third party site allows you to focus on keeping your business profitable. Etsy isn’t the only option, of course. More specific third parties may be right for your business, though they may not have as broad an audience. In time, however, a lot of businesses do tend to outgrow these platforms. While they’re great for those starting a new business online, eventually you may want to transition fully to your own website.
What Should I Consider When Transitioning Onto My Own Website And Independent Process?
There are a lot of factors to think about as you start your own website and move on to an entirely independent operation. If you already ran a brick and mortar store in the past, however, you’re already on the right track and have the type of experience that a lot of small business owners don’t when starting an online shop. You’ll still have the same concerns that any small business owners do; for example, whether or not to start an LLC. It’s important to consult with lawyers and accountants to ensure that your transition to an online store is being handled correctly both legally and financially. But from that point, what you should focus on next is your actual website.
The most important thing in this case is to work with a professional web designer. A good web designer can help you create a website that is both visually impressive and easy to use. While it’s expected that about 95% of all purchases will be made online by 2040, this doesn’t mean that every online business is going to succeed. After all, online consumers are notoriously fickle and will quickly leave a website if it’s confusing or boring. Therefore, you’ll want to allocate a good amount of your budget to working with a reputable web development firm. Fortunately, there are a lot of different options when it comes to website templates. One of the most popular for online stores is Shopify. Utilizing this type of platform makes the process much faster. It’s important that the website not only moves quickly and efficiently, but can also be altered easily if any corrections must be made.
Of course, this isn’t the only consideration to remember when moving your business online independently. If you’re marketing specific products rather than services, you’ll also need to independently ship those products. While those who move a large amount of product at once on a wholesale scale may need to contract professional trucking services, those selling individual products will likely be using mail services. The question here is whether or not to use USPS, which is often less expensive or to work with a private company like FedEx. While the latter option can be more expensive, the pandemic has made USPS services more inconsistent, and a slow shipping time isn’t ideal when you’re moving a business online.
When shipping your products, you may also want to have your products packaged professionally. While this may add parcel contract negotiations into factors to consider, you also won’t have to worry about your products being damaged. Remember that in cases like these, you’re investing not only in starting an online shop but in creating a professional reputation. Those familiar with your brick and mortar store may already trust you, but when working online you should ideally extended your client base and actually increase your overall revenue rather than simply maintaining it.
Again, there are clearly a lot of different advantages to moving online. While it may be intimidating at first, you won’t need to worry about paying rent for a building or maintaining it through everything from janitorial services to commercial roofing services. You’ll be able to maintain your staff remotely, thus abiding by even the strictest post-pandemic requirements. For that matter, you can potentially grow your business, and prepare for the future.
The fact is that the future is going to be very reliant on online business. While it might be difficult for some to adjust to this, by starting an online shop, even if you don’t completely give up your brick and mortar business, you’ll be well-prepared for the transition. Even if you start small, with a store on a third party platform, you should take this opportunity to get ahead of the game and introduce yourself to online shoppers. Don’t think of this as starting over; think of it as expanding!