Sunday, September 2, 2012

Q&A: Online Sales

Anonymous question:

From a business students view. How come you haven't started up your own online store to try and enhance your demographic? Is it worth it or is it too much of a hassle? I'm not quite sure what it takes to make up an online store and that's why I ask. 

We primarily don't have an online store because it's not necessary. There's this implication when talking with a lot of business oriented folks that brick and mortar is essentially not viable. I think this is because most business education intends to teach entrepreneurs and not small business owners.

There's nothing sexy, flashy or lucrative about small business. So when I talk with an MBA or a Silicon Valley entrepreneur (it happens, mostly earlier when I still had IT roots), discussion about the store eventually leads to some confusion about its non-extraordinary qualities and finally quiet acceptance of my Luddite madness. Nothing to see here; move along.

Online stores are certainly viable, but as a component of a brick and mortar store, it's precarious. I spoke with a store owner recently who got himself in a lot of trouble when his small online presence pressured him to put his entire store online, complete with online prices. That's the big problem. You can only sell online at a discount, and if you discount in-store you'll fail, and if you have two tiered pricing, your customers will abandon you because they feel ripped off.

So although it would seem a natural fit to offer your brick and mortar store offerings online, and there are fancy packages to sync the two, in reality it's far more difficult. At best, you have an online store with a completely different name and web presence, which essentially means you're starting a new business and can't leverage the marketing power of your existing business. Online sales are fierce and the market is not new, so most half hearted efforts get half hearted results.

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