Online vs Brick & Mortar: The Real Facts of Your Online Business Fantasy
By Bradley Stockwell
Marketing Director Merchant Capital Source
Only ten years ago or so, when someone said they were starting a business you typically envisioned a “brick and mortar” business, or a business which requires an actual building. Today however that is no longer the case. Sales from online shopping have grown 300 percent in the last ten years and this has given rise to the online business. Of course most brick and mortar retailers also offer their products online and these businesses are called “click and brick” retailers. However in the last five years economic pressures have many new and existing businesses considering leaving brick and mortar models altogether. Online business have lower start-up and operating costs, you can work from home, there’s less risk… tempting right? But before you go running to start registering that domain name, think about the self-induced insanity you’re about to commit to. As an online business owner you need to be a marketer, web developer, copywriter, graphic designer, salesperson, press agent and of course also a business owner. Most likely it’s just you, or maybe a few others and this requires being able to wear many hats and wearing them well.
Because you don’t physically exist, there’s a greater investment in marketing, monetarily and mentally. Although marketing is a crucial part to any business, many traditional small business owners are either novices, or use a third party company to do the dirty work. Educating yourself on the latest marketing strategies is suggested for any business, but absolutely necessary for an online business. And you can’t get away with just familiarizing yourself, you must become your own in-house marketing agency. If any terms like SEO, social media, pay per click advertising, affiliate marketing, blogging, email marketing, online reputation management make you scratch your head it’s time to hit the books.
It’s also important to know how to write, graphic design and web develop. You’re going to need at least twice the digital material of a traditional business. These materials are literally what your business’s foundation will be built of. Websites, social media, press releases, blogs, marketing emails, newsletters all require these skills and the more you have to hire out the more it’s going to eat into your costs–and most likely you don’t have much to eat into. There are many great and free tutorials and advice on YouTube (I recommend Eli The Computer Guy), business blogs and other online resources to aid your transition into a marketing and business extraordinaire.
As a new online business you also lack legitimacy and visibility and somehow you have to create it without a physical building, or customers. Online businesses are heavily scrutinized on their website, online reviews, social media pages and their overall tech contemporariness. Why? Because it’s all you have to convince people you’re worth doing business with. Consumers can’t come into your store and communicate with you physically to build trust, so it must be found on the Internet. While these tasks seem overwhelming, the rise of the online business has made managing your online presence easier than ever. Tools like WordPress for your website and blog, Hootsuite for your social media and MailChimp for your email marketing are just three companies among many, but my personal recommendations.
Fortunately the advantages of owning an online business like no commuting, upkeep or your actual physical presence can give you the time you need to manage these things. Online businesses are great for people with big ideas and little budgets, but just remember you need to be as good of a marketer as you are a business owner. You need to be obsessively contemporary and tech savvy because the online world moves fast and you must keep up with or even better, stay ahead of the curve.