Back to News

Is online the future for shopping?

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our world in many ways. One of the ways our habits have changed is through more consumers than ever shopping online, and doing so more often. According to new data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the pandemic has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by five years. As a result, physical stores are seeing a significant decline in sales.

Examples of brands who didn’t use e-commerce

We are seeing many high-street brands scrambling to make the transition to e-commerce in order to maximise sales. In early January, Boohoo signed a deal to buy the Debenhams brand and website for £55m. However, the price tag did not include any of the retailer's 118 remaining High Street stores or its significant workforce, resulting in up to 12,000 job losses. Is Boohoo just the latest in an ongoing trend? 

A well-known example of a brand not making the most of online sales, is a popular high-street clothes shop, Primark. Primark has made a conscious decision to remain a bricks-and-mortar retailer and only a bricks-and-mortar retailer, despite losing £100 million a month after it was forced to temporarily close its stores amid lockdowns in all its markets.

On the other hand, clothing retail competitor Zara said that online sales had skyrocketed by 95 per cent in April 2020, when stores remained closed. The latest Online Retail Index from IMRG and Capgemini found that overall online retail sales in June 2020 had surged by 33.9 per cent year-on-year – a new 12-year high since March 2008.

If you haven’t considered taking your retail business online, there are a couple of reasons why you might want to think again.

1. Convenience 

Your e-commerce shop would be available for customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. An online shop is a great convenience for customers: where else can you shop in your pyjamas at midnight but online? 

Modern ecommerce websites are also, as a rule, easy to navigate. Customers can browse through hundreds of products or use filters to narrow down to the exact item they want, with products that are accurately visualized and product details that are comprehensively written. Easy and secure payment methods make it easy to complete payments quickly.

2. No Need To Travel

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping has been a blessing for many during times of lockdown. With many vulnerable or ill people not able to leave their homes, being able to order food and other essentials online has proven extremely helpful.

Not having to travel is also convenient if you want to send gifts to family or friends who don’t live nearby. A couple of clicks on a website like Amazon, and you could have a parcel on its way to a loved one halfway across the world.

3. Easy comparisons

These days, customers hold so much power when it comes to deciding where to shop. Rather than having to travel from store to store or aisle to aisle, savvy online shoppers simply navigate from one website to the next, comparing the competing stores and their many wares.

They can also search for reviews of your products, and of your shop and service. Customers can compare price, quality and customer service — all with just a couple of mouse clicks.

Not only is an e-commerce shop convenient for your customers, but it can also be extremely beneficial to you as a business.

Taking your shop online can massively decrease costs for your business. Retail space is expensive, and access to premium retail units with high footfall, such as High Street units, costs even more. Once you’ve managed to find a retail space that is suitable for your business, you then have to fit it out, which is another immediate cost before you’ve even started trading. Not only that, but business rates are crippling for many businesses, adding insult to injury on top of falling numbers of high street shoppers, sky high rents and ever-increasing utility bills and refuse collection costs.

With a traditional bricks and mortar shop, it can be difficult to identify your customer's pain points - that is, the parts of the shopping experience they find difficult or off-putting. An e-commerce system provides you with real-time data about how your customers are using your site. You can see how people navigate around the website, which products interest them, what they left unpurchased in their cart, and so many other important metrics. Having a detailed insight means you can make adjustments where needed, to help your customers along the buying journey.

An e-commerce shop will also increase the number of customers you can reach, as you are not limited to just one or two retail spaces. If you do market research and find that there is a demand for your products in other countries, you can respond to that demand with targeted marketing. With great search engine rankings, and a strong digital marketing strategy in place, you can plan to scale up order fulfilment systems and boost sales growth nationally and globally.

Conclusion

If you are an established retail business, it could be very beneficial to your business to take your shop online. Opening an online store while continuing to maintain your brick-and-mortar shop gives your business more flexibility, as it helps you to satisfy the needs of a broader customer base. You will always have customers who prefer shopping online, and some who prefer shopping in person, or a mix of the two who like to shop according to their schedule. Having both helps to maximise revenue and helps with customer satisfaction.

In 2020, we saw so many small and large retail businesses suffer because they couldn’t operate in lockdown due to having little or no online presence. Having a website means you can ride the waves of uncertainty, as you are still able to reach and sell to your customers in their own home. The insights and data that your website provides will also allow you to tailor what you offer to your customers' exact needs, meaning happier and more satisfied customers. A website brings you the opportunity to expand your markets nationally or even globally, something which is extremely difficult to get right with traditional shops. The potential for increasing sales through e-commerce is massive, so why wouldn’t you consider it?

Taking your shop online can seem like a daunting task. However, with professional help it couldn’t be easier! Have a look at one of our case studies to see how we created a dual-purpose support and e-commerce website for a leading software company.

We have also created a simple guide to help you get your shop online, which you can find here.

Still unsure? A chat with our web design and development experts can set you off on the right foot – get in touch today.