E-comm or Bricks and Mortar? The Debate Continues

If you were to take a quick look at the business press, the message would be simple: the high street is becoming too difficult to succeed in, and your only option is to set up online.

Of course, there’s a far bigger picture to look at. Yes, there are arguments from bricks-and-mortar retailers that the landscape is anything but fair, with the likes of business rates often getting the brunt of the attention. At the same time, there are obvious rent and public liability insurance issues to fund.

However, there are pros and cons to each approach, and today, we’ll take a look at some of the key considerations you should consider if you’re currently on the fence about your next idea.

Is your USP your low price point?

Let’s firstly delve into the issue of price. If this is one of your key USPs, it goes without saying that the internet will play into your hands. After all, you’re immediately going to be thrust to the top of comparison-shopping websites and appeal to those users who research their products, trying to find the cheapest version of their desired brands.

We’re by no means suggesting that the high street isn’t price sensitive. After all, one would only have to look at the likes of Primark and other budget retailers that dominate it nowadays.

However, the high street can be more accommodating if you have a USP that doesn’t focus on low price points. Whether it’s your exquisite product knowledge through your highly trained workforce or your in-store experiences, which just can’t be replicated via the internet, the classic brick-and-mortar store could be your thing.

What’s your demographic?

This is a big consideration. If your target market is the older generation, you will have to consider whether or not they’re comfortable shopping online. It’s not just a case of buying the product on the internet but also navigating their way through the check-out process, inputting their card details or setting up an account, and so on.

There’s also a huge difference if you’re selling a high-value product. If you’re looking to sell a piece of furniture which costs a couple of thousand pounds, would you feel comfortable doing so online? For a lot of people, they want to see it and touch it before they part with that amount of money. Until VR progresses to an ‘acceptable’ level, we’re a long way from the internet being able to compete with this.

What’s your business model?

There’s a big difference in how you operate an online business vs a bricks-and-mortar one. With an online business, you’re able to have a much larger geographical reach, which means that you have the potential to sell to a lot more people.

You’re also not as restricted on the type of product that you can sell. Some items wouldn’t be viable to sell online, but you’re generally much less limited.

The downside is that you’ll have to invest much more to get to the same level as a brick-and-mortar business, particularly in marketing. You’ll also find it much harder to build a brand online, as people are far less likely to have heard of you.


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