Once you’ve got your products sorted, you’re going to need to sell them. Deciding whether to have your storefront online or offline can be difficult. However, it is one of the more important decisions you will have to make for your business, as it will affect many other decisions you make along the way.
Today, as e-commerce stores continue to rise in popularity, brick-and-mortar stores still remain a favourable choice amongst labels and their consumers. Which is the better option? Or is there even a need to decide between the two? If you’re wondering to start your clothing business online or offline, we explore the pros and cons of both options below to give you a better idea on what might suit your business best.
Pros of an Online Store
Lower Upfront Costs
Setting up an e-commerce store is essentially setting up a website. Therefore, the costs involved would fundamentally be just your website domain, e-commerce shop plan and web developer. Compared to a physical retail store where costs would include rent, furnishing, staff and utilities, setting up an e-commerce store helps start-up labels keep things financially manageable by avoiding such high upfront costs. It also allows them to get started quickly and sell their products right away and to a bigger audience.
Being able to shop at the comfort of your own home or anywhere you are and browse in your own time offers customers the luxury of convenience. With today’s fast paced lifestyle and long working hours, this convenience can make the process more enticing for some. On top of that, having delivery to your doorstep at preferred timings has made the shopping experience much more tailored to and streamlined for the customer.
Online retailers can monitor customer interactivity on their site and analyse what their shopping patterns are. This allows them to effectively tailor the experience suitably to their target market. Access to these data also allows labels to adapt and modify their inventory planning and marketing methods beyond what a traditional store can manage.
Cons of an Online Store
Larger Marketing Budget
Because online stores don’t have a physical location, it can be difficult for people to find out about your store. You will probably need to spend more on marketing to increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your online store.
The loss of personal interaction
It might be more challenging for online stores to build meaningful relationships with their customers as there is a lack of face-to-face interaction. With no sales staff to show standards of service, more effort has to be put in to make the store more inviting for customers to want to make a purchase.
Cost of Returns
Shopping in a virtual store also means you don’t get to see and feel the physical product. This increases the rate of customers returning items because they don’t fit or have discrepancies with the way they actually look and were displayed online.
Pros of an Offline Store
A physical storefront doubles up as advertising for your brand. With traffic passing by every day, customer visits to your store are likely to happen. Since your store is permanently there, it constantly serves as a reminder for customers to drop in whenever they pass by the store. This allows you to spend lesser on your marketing budget as your store already promotes brand visibility every day.
Brand Representation & Shopping Experience
Working within the confines of a digital screen can be limiting for some brands. With a physical space, you can decorate and furnish it extensively to better articulate the vision for your brand. From the racks to the flooring, to the scent of the store, to how the products are displayed, there are many ways for you to anchor your brand identity in a physical space. You can also control how your customers navigate around the store – what they see first when they enter and what they see right before they leave. Additionally, with sales staff on the ground, it injects a human touch and exemplifies the brand’s standards of service. All of these components make up an immersive shopping experience, which can make a real impression on your customers and keep them coming back for more.
What You See Is What You Get
Most shoppers will not reject the process of seeing-and-touching before making a purchase. It is a surefire and straightforward way of guaranteeing that a product is satisfactory. For this reason alone, brick-and-mortar stores hold a trump card and are still favoured by many.
Cons of an Offline Store
As mentioned above, the upfront costs in setting up a brick-and-mortar store are high. On top of this, the running costs are high too. Having to upkeep rent and utilities on a monthly basis can dry your funds up quickly if you’re not careful with your business decisions.
Location can be a double-edged sword. Competing brands might set up shop in the vicinity and make it tougher for your business to thrive. Other unforeseen circumstances such as the development of your area could also cause potential customers to move and affect traffic to your store.
The decision to set up an online or offline store even after evaluating the pros and cons of both isn’t straightforward. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution in this case. In a constantly changing landscape, there are many brands that are opting for an omnichannel approach to maximize their reach. Ultimately, what brands should ask themselves is how to meet the changing expectations of their consumers and to utilise a channel/s that can best serve that whilst ensuring that their business continues to grow.
Longer Working Hours
Having a physical store will mean that you have to keep your doors open for at least 8-10 hours a day. You will need to cater for customers who are shopping after work & on weekends, so the flexibility of your working hours will be catered these peak periods. Factoring in commute time, this often leaves you with limited personal time.