Growing Your Business Online vs. In-Store

Gen Z employee checking inventory in a store, representing Gen Z in the workplace

Shopping online used to be a novel experience. Over the years, it’s gained in popularity. The sheer convenience of online shopping was expected to be a driving force of wider acceptance by 2025. The shutdowns in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic sent online shopping into overdrive. When customers could no longer access in-store shopping, they turned online.

In-store shopping is still a valued option for many customers – but it’s important to understand the key differences between these two types of retail sales. For instance, in-store a customer can physically see the product while comparing prices, and online shopping doesn’t allow for tangible product interaction.

Both types of sales have their advantages and disadvantages. No matter which you choose – ultimately a mixture of both – you can grow your business. Growing your business online vs. in-store requires a different approach.

Benefits of In-Store Sales

In-store sales offer some advantages that are difficult to argue against. Your personal interactions with customers can sometimes make – or break – a sale. Consider the following:

Sales involve rapport and trust-building. It’s easy to cultivate loyal customers when you see them in person.

Sales take emotional intelligence. It’s much easier to gauge someone’s emotions when you’re speaking face-to-face. You can immediately pick up on whether they’re distracted, upset, or frustrated. You can respond if you know what they’re feeling. You can’t do the same with online sales.

You can grab attention in person without having to hook and reel within mere seconds as you do online.

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Benefits of Online Sales

Online sales are incredibly scalable. Beefing up in-store sales might mean hiring more people, training and managing them. That takes time and money.

A website does the selling for you. By merely directing traffic to your website, it’s like you’ve got an unlimited stable of sales personnel working round the clock.

Plus, stellar online content – blogs, videos, social posts – can keep your sales flywheel spinning for many years to come. Building up your audience leads to word-of-mouth, which then generates sales.

How is Selling Online Different from Selling In-Store?

Here are a few ways that online sales are different and how you and your customers approach the online sales process.

Potential customers are a lot more likely to buy from a business if they’ve researched that company online. It not only saves them time, but many people prefer this research on their own instead of speaking to in-store sales reps. This is a challenge for traditional stores – they must find knowledgeable support staff and sales reps who can offer advice and information that rivals what a customer can find online.

Visual information
Traditional in-store shopping lets customers view and hold products and gather information on the spot before they decide to spend their money. Some customers need to hear, touch or smell an item to know whether it’s what they’re looking for. An online shop can do just as well – or better than – a traditional store if a purchase decision relies on only visual information, such as a book cover. But if a purchase decision requires other sensory information, the traditional store has the upper hand.

Even if the price of a certain product is the same, whether bought in-store or online, your costs are usually lower if you sell the product online. This is partly due to eliminating some of the steps in the purchase journey behind the scenes. For instance, if a manufacturer markets direct-to-consumer (D2C), they don’t need wholesalers or middlemen. Inventory costs are also lower when you sell online. Physical stores need physical inventory – online shops don’t.

Fulfilling orders
Brick-and-mortar stores, because they have physical inventory, have a slight advantage over online shops when it comes to ordering fulfillment. A traditional store’s customer usually picks up the product in-store, pays, and brings it home. On the other hand, online shoppers can only see a picture of the product and, while they pay through an online checkout, they likely won’t see their product for a day or two – sometimes longer.

Growing Your Business Online

As you can see, there are definitive advantages to selling online vs. in-store, and growing your business online should be a focal point. One of the easiest and fastest ways to grow your online business is with an eCommerce website. eCommerce is fundamental in driving your sales.

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