Online store benefits and why your business needs one – now!

What are the online store benefits for a small business? This post dives into why it’s worth setting one up and how you can earn more from online shoppers.

In this day and age, much of what we do is done online. It’s where we get our news, do our banking, and shop for everyday goods. These days it’s also where most of us ‘go to work’.

In other words, if you weren’t doing these chores and activities online before, you probably will be now—life, post-pandemic.

Image shows a couple using their laptop while out to eat.

Why is there an increase in online shopping?

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, online shopping was steadily increasing in popularity. The reason behind this can be attributed to several factors:

  • The prevalence and use of smartphones and mobile shopping
  • Social media as a driver of social commerce
  • The increase in reliable online market places
  • Advancements in technology like secure online payments and 24/7 chatbots
  • Generational shifts in perception and attitudes towards online shopping.

And more recently: behavioural changes – proactive and reactive – in response to the realities of life in a world with COVID-19.

You might also want to read: Business during COVID-19: prepare for the upturn

In terms of motivation, consumers have been taking their shopping online for very practical reasons. For example:

  • To save time
  • The freedom to shop at any time of the day
  • The ability to find products quickly
  • For a better selection of products
  • Not having to wait in queues at stores
  • Cheaper prices via online stores

In fact, over 75% of consumers are shopping online at least once a month – a result of convenience becoming more important for consumers.

These factors alone – together with the current state of our world – makes now an opportune time to think about taking your store online. But first, let’s take a look at some of the online store benefits your business can enjoy.

Image shows a reusable tote bag with various items laid out beside it

Advantages of having an online store

There are the obvious advantages – like lower costs and selling without borders – but today, we’ll take a look at some other positives worth weighing.

1. Consumers buy more when they buy online

This is especially true of clothes and shoes. Why does it happen? Well, many stores impose a minimum purchase requirement in order for the shopper to avail of free shipping. That leads to consumers willingly adding more items to their cart to qualify.

Another reason could be that it’s so much easier to add items you like to the basket. Compared to lugging a heavy basket around a store, it’s done in just one click online.

Finally, shoppers could end up succumbing to impulse wants, which leads them to end up purchasing more online than they had initially planned.

Related: The purchase journey – what small businesses need to know

Here’s a fun fact according to the HBR:

  • When a consumer’s shopping journey ends in online purchase, their baskets are 25% larger on average.
  • If the consumer first visited a brick-and-mortar store and then made their purchase online, their baskets are a whopping 64% larger.

2. Shoppers spend more in branded stores compared to multi-brand retailers

For some businesses, selling products online might mean listing their items on online market places like Amazon.

For others, it’s setting up a branded online store – either as an extension of their website or fully integrated into their website.

Either way, it’s worth noting that online shoppers spend more money on direct-to-consumer brand channels than they do on the same brands elsewhere. In fact, online purchases from a brand store or website can generate revenues 86% higher – and with better margins – than via a multi-brand retailer.

You might also want to read: Is there an ideal product description length?

In other words they’ll spend more money if they’re buying directly from you rather than through an intermediary or third-party site.

There’s an added bonus to having your own online store: You have total control over everything related to your brand. That is, everything from imagery through to messaging is entirely up to you to manage and maintain as you see fit.

Image shows a woman looking at her phone while standing outside a clothing shop

3. You can learn a lot about your customers

There’s no replacement for knowing your customer. Having an online store can really help with that.

Consider this: When a customer shops on your online store, there’s a wealth of data that you automatically receive. That includes what the shopper was looking at, their purchase history, demographic information (e.g. gender, where they live, marital status, etc.), and their tastes and preferences to name a few.

That information can help you plan out better campaigns, improve your targeting initiatives, and refine how you personalise messages. 

Sell more, sell now - just one of several online store benefits.

4. You can encourage repeat purchases or subscription service sign-ups

It might be hard to believe – considering everything we’ve been told in the past – but consumers aren’t always on the market for the latest and greatest. Sometimes, they’re just looking to buy more of the same.

In fact, the same HBR study mentioned above found that when it comes to fashion and athletic products, the aim of 83% to 87% of shopping journeys is for repeat purchases. Having an online store makes it easier to fulfill that need.

For example: A consumer’s previous purchase history opens up a prime opportunity to promote similar items the next time that shopper visits your online store.

5. Maximise revenue from impulse buyers

With an online store, you can capitalise on digital window shoppers and their impulse buying tendencies.

Similar to how someone might grab that last-minute chocolate bar or magazine at the checkout counter of a physical store, an online store – with its wide selection of products, recommendations, great deals, and convenient shipping & return policies – can entice browsers to add items or even purchase items they weren’t originally planning to.

Another fun fact: 67% of individuals admit to “window shopping for fun” on their smartphones with 77% of them making impulse buys!

You might also want to read: Small business e-commerce – why is no one buying from my online store?

Image shows a product description page of an online store

Tips to get the most out of your online store

Like your brick-and-mortar, your goals for an online store are to attract more shoppers, close more sales, and win larger orders. Admittedly, it won’t be easy—because for every online store benefit, there’s the hard work that goes into making it happen.

So what can you do to help make your online store a success? Here are a few ideas.

1. Offer exciting online store benefits

Give your customers a great reason to shop from your online store. That great reason could be access to a larger selection of products than would otherwise be available at your physical store. Or it could be the opportunity to customize a product. Maybe you want to offer internet-only designs, specialty bundles, or sizes?

Put simply: You want to seduce shoppers with benefits exclusive to your online store – remember that it must be worth making their way online for it.

PRO TIP: Encourage brick-and-mortar shoppers to visit your website for further purchases. Find an organic and cohesive way to connect the in-store experience with what awaits online.

2. Find a way to make free shipping an option

Keep these two points in mind: (1) free shipping can be a make-or-break prerequisite for online shoppers and (2) everyone loves fast shipping but without the hefty price tag.

In other words you need to offer the best shipping terms possible to keep shoppers firmly on your site.

If you can offer free shipping – or the very least make it attainable, e.g. by mandating a minimum spend – then online shoppers are more likely to make the purchase through your online store. Also, they’ll be persuaded to fill up their shopping baskets with items to satisfy that requirement.

3. Make your online store the best out of all alternatives

I’m sure you know this from personal experience: Shoppers love to compare and they sure do a lot of it!

They compare price points, read plenty of online reviews or testimonials, check out different website’s shipping and return policies, read FAQs and even evaluate customer service channels – just to name a few.

If you want to keep online shoppers on your website and, of course, close the sale then you want to eliminate any barriers that stand in the way of conversion.

  • Does your website look trustworthy?
  • Do you have secure payment options?
  • Is your shipping and returns policy attractive?
  • Is the checkout process quick and painless?
  • Are your product photos clear, detailed, and professional in quality?

You might also want to read: E-commerce Website Problems: Are You Making These Common Mistakes?

4. Actively reach out to undecided shoppers

It can be a challenge to get window shoppers into a physical store and just as hard to convince them to make a purchase once they’re actually inside.

You’re reliant on sales staff—how good they are at reading shoppers, understanding their needs, and at the art of persuasion.

On the internet, though, digital window shoppers almost certainly sought you or the type of items / products you’re selling out. All you have to do is keep them on your site long enough—or bring them back—to close the sale. With advancements in technology, there are non-intrusive ways to do so.

You can:

  • send out cart recovery emails;
  • create a loyalty program;
  • employ retargeting;
  • and deploy an exit popup.

5. It’s easier to inspire repeat purchases

When someone buys from you online, you gain valuable information like the shopper’s e-mail and mailing address that you can use – responsibly and with permission – to send out marketing messages that can encourage repeat purchases.

Whether it’s a subscription service, a product with a specific shelf-life, or items that tend to be consumed regularly and therefore need replenishing – online shoppers are easier to get in touch with.

Here are a few examples of what you could do:

  • Remind customers that a product they bought will most likely need replacement soon – then direct them to where they can repurchase it.
  • Send out an email with information on similar products the shopper might appreciate with a link to a targeted landing page.
  • Offer promotions or deploy tailored ads for upgrades or new versions of the product they bought in the past.

You might also want to read: Benefits of landing pages

These are just a few online store benefits your business can gain by going the e-commerce route.

Image shows a woman doing her groceries while wearing a surgical mask on

Online shopping during (and after) COVID-19

We can’t mention all this without addressing the elephant in the room: The impact (or effect) of COVID-19 on retail.

Inevitably, some retailers won’t survive this crisis. Others, on the other hand, will see a surge in online sales as consumers engage in fewer store visits.

We might even see a larger shift towards supporting local businesses – not just as an ideology or personal preference but out of necessity as global supply chains alter or re-calibrate.

Finally, there will of course be much thought about what is deemed a priority. How much do we really need and how much should or can we spend?

Consumers the world over will be re-evaluating needs and wants – choosing to buy essentials and only what is truly important – in a world that has been shaken by COVID-19.

Other changes we might continue to see post-pandemic include:

  • Increased spending on health and wellness products as we realize the true wealth of good health;
  • More people buying personal protective products like gloves, face masks, rubbing alcohol, sanitizer, and bleach;
  • Bulk buying of emergency pantry and household essentials;
  • Decreased spending on non-necessities or vanity goods;
  • And fewer trips to brick-and-mortars as consumers reel from anxiety and fear.

To conclude: One thing is certain – we can expect changes in consumer behaviour. In other words when, what, and how people buy won’t be the same.

How is your small business getting through this crisis? Have you started selling online? And if not, are you planning to?