Can Your Start-up Do Without an Online Shop?
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'Can your start-up do without an online shop?' The answer to this basic question is an emphatic 'no'. Irrespective of whether you are a start-up in the B2C or B2B space, an online shop is equally important. The online shop is the gateway to your products regardless of product portfolio or range. Even if it is high-end jewellery, which most prefer to buy only after physical verification, the online shop model works. B2B customers match, compare and purchase based on information and pricing available online. The start-up needs to be able to explain its uniqueness through a combination of images, videos, pricing and showcasing the ease of adoption. It goes without saying that the online presence has to be tweaked an enhanced as per the needs of your offering but you still cannot do away with.
Definition of Online Shop
It is important here to clarify what an online shop means. Previously, an online shop meant only a desktop website. Now, it means a responsive website, iOS or Android mobile applications, click to call buttons, in-store tablet apps, stores on social media and listings on aggregator websites. In the future, it will also include progressive web apps, actionable notifications and who even something else! In summary, an online Shop means being present wherever your customer chooses to discover, interact or buy from you via their digital interaction.
Freedom of Choice
An online shop is about giving the freedom of choice to your customer and letting him/her interact in the medium of choice, desktop or mobile. But your online shop has to be in sync across all these mediums at all times. It is not you who decides to have an offline only, website only or app only shop, it is your consumer who is asking for those choices. So you as a start-up you really have no choice but to be omnipresent in your digital avatars (omnipresence implies allowing the consumer to order from any medium and seamlessly conclude the transaction on the other medium. This requires a unified robust back-end that powers all front-end formats - be it responsive website, apps, in-store tablets, or orders coming in via calls.)
Breaks the Geographical Barriers
An online shop also means harnessing your physical shops and the related infrastructure better, thereby increasing your same-store sales! Expands your sales reach - you can work from an obscure location and still serve the world and you can be present with multiple outlets and serve the customers in specific geo-fenced locations for more localized offerings. Adding another physical store is a lot more costly in most cases than creating and operating an online shop.
Online presence provides a postbox where businesses can drop a newsletter with a one on one relationship. It is easy to observe consumer behavior, detect preferences, tailor the menu to their liking - by capturing navigation, purchase history etc. First-time users can be thrilled by the store layout, regular loyal users can be pampered by offering exclusive products, rewards, curated content etc. The treatment of a first-time user and a regular user needs to be carefully differentiated and crafted. Everything you do - launch new products, celebrate a season, run promotions, is possible only if you have the basic online presence to do that.
Regardless of the model, lack of an online shop heavily handicaps discovery and even purchases to a large degree. Feedback and references go out of the window. Simply put, if the customer does not find you when he is looking for you, through a medium he prefers, he will move on to your more easily discoverable competitor.