The desire to own and run an ecommerce website for business purposes is not going to stop anytime. If you’ve got a product—or rather, a big lineup of products—to sell, and possibly even a store to sell them in, then running an ecommerce website seems like the natural thing to do…isn’t it?
Whether you’re a new business starting out or you’re a seasoned pro at selling products, it’s worth exploring the pros and cons of running an ecommerce website for clarity’s sake. That way you can best determine if starting one up or continuing to run one has or will result in long-term success and profit.
Pro: Ecommerce sites are low cost to start up and run
One benefit of ecommerce websites is that it has a lower cost to start up and run compared to other costs. Physical stores have to pay thousands of dollars to rent any one of their store’s locations. There are other upfront costs to keep a physical store running such as buying inventory, buying signage, buying sales equipment, paying staff and security (depending on the product’s value at the store), and much, much more.
Compared to all of that, an ecommerce website only needs about a couple thousand dollars or more (depending on how many features you want) to run on a great hosting program and software. Some businesses won’t need to buy their inventory in bulk in order to run their shop online. If you have staff working for you, they can work remotely as opposed to having to come in in person every time. The logo for your ecommerce website is also more affordable than store signage.
Generally, your business expenses are lower in the ecommerce realm. This is one of the most attractive benefits for businesses who are starting up and want to keep their costs low.
Con: No one can buy if the site crashes
Even when a site is properly running, there is the potential for someone (usually who isn’t a website expert) to cause an accident and in turn cause the website to crash. The white screen of death is one example, usually occurring if and when a plugin is out of date or removed entirely by accident. Other times, the site may crash if there’s too much traffic and demand to access your website, but your site is running on older software and not enough data.
Whatever the reason, no one can buy from you if your ecommerce website crashes. If it’s your only means of running your store also (i.e. you run only the website, and don’t have a physical store location), then a site crash means a lot of potential income is gone too.
Pro: You can sell anywhere you want to
The beauty of the Internet is that if you want to access something or buy something on a local scale, you can. With ecommerce, if you want to sell items beyond your own neighbourhood, such as in another province or state or even another country, you can do that too. Obviously some limitations apply—for example, you may not be able to accept certain forms of currency—but if there is enough demand to ship your products to another country, then you can serve those customers too without having to open a physical location overseas. Be sure you make that service very clear on your website, however, and iron out your shipping and return policies first.
Con: Ecommerce is extremely competitive
B2B businesses have an easier time of standing apart from their competition because usually their services are so niche that they end up standing out naturally. With ecommerce, however, you’ve got massive competition to face right off the bat: Amazon and Wal-Mart. Trying to stand out compared to these two giants in the ecommerce industry is impossible. In addition to those two companies, you have to compete with many other ecommerce websites in your own neighbourhood—some who may be using the same website template you were eyeballing during development.
If your product is too similar to a competitor’s, the customers will not be able to tell the difference between you and company B. And usually, company B has a pretty solid website in place, with images and text optimized for Google to find them and rank them highly online and a solid marketing strategy in place. If you insist on running an ecommerce website, running one is not a problem, but standing out compared to the competition can be. Be prepared for an uphill struggle.
Pro: Shopping is flexible and fast
Another big advantage that ecommerce websites have over physical stores is there’s no need to line up behind a ton of other customers or worry about only being able to find out that what you’re looking for isn’t available in the store. Some people do prefer the in-store experience, and that’s totally fine too! It can be incredibly stressful around holidays though to need to go to the store at the same time everyone else is shopping.
With ecommerce websites, you are guaranteed a fast and flexible shopping experience as opposed to a slow and stressful one. So long as the site is properly optimized and organized with search bars and other helpful features, it’s an easier experience for the shopper to click on what they want and then make their own decisions on purchases. It’s also easy for the owner running the site to notify customers of any discounts or deals available as well as if certain items are out of stock and when to expect them to return.
Con: You can’t try before you buy
Some ecommerce stores such as for clothing are at a disadvantage compared to other shops because you aren’t able to try on the clothes before you buy them online. Trying clothes on may make the difference between a shopping experience gone wrong and a successful one, because sizes are incredibly difficult to gauge online compared to in person. Some brands will size their clothing options differently from everyone else, also, making for an extra difficult time trying to figure out what to shop for.
Fashion is not the only industry limited to this con of ecommerce websites. Housing and vehicles are also certain things that, while they’re easy to shop for, they are an incredibly expensive investment and you don’t want to end up with the wrong home or car after purchasing! Some things people need to shop for are better done in person than simply online; these are just a few examples.
You also can’t gauge a human being behind the other computer screen. They may sound pleasant on their about page, but meeting them in real life is a way different experience, one that you need to be prepared to find out isn’t what you expected it to be. This applies to any social interaction online, such as meeting a potential employer or employee.
These are only a small handful of the pros and cons of running an ecommerce website for your business. If, however, you still feel that having one is the best thing for your business, or you need a new ecommerce site to replace your older one (it’s for the best—less expensive in the long-term!), then give us a call at V3 Media. Building a secure site that you can call your own is our specialty!