Brick and Mortar vs. Online Businesses: Pros and Cons To Keep In Mind

If you’re looking to start a business (or have already begun the process), you’ve probably been shocked by the massive number of decisions you’ve realized you have to make. Maybe you’ve even been overwhelmed. With the digital world developing at a rapid pace, there are now more options than ever for your business endeavors. The following will explore one decision in detail, weighing out the benefits and drawbacks of each option so that you have the information you need to make the right choice for your business (physical or online business); it will compare having an online business to having a physical store.

Upfront Costs

In almost every industry, an online business is going to cost less than a physical store to get started. This is because renting a digital space (known as domain hosting) can be done for next to nothing—sometimes as little as three dollars per month. A physical location can be quite costly to rent.

Beyond this, a physical location looks pretty empty when the store isn’t full of products or isn’t decked out for the purposes of your service. An online store simply needs images and/or videos. This means you can often get away with buying much less inventory upfront, saving you even more money.

Given the lower upfront cost of online businesses, the online option often works best for people who are looking to test out a business idea for viability before investing a ton of money. If you know how to set things up right, you can quickly figure out whether a business idea is worth your time and money. This also makes it easier to try out new products, services, or changes within your business.

Customer Relationship To The Product

In a physical store, your customers are often coming to you, pick up the product they want, and carry it home. An online store often requires shipping the product to those that have ordered it.

Foremost, this means that in a physical store, customers have a better sense of the details of a product. They can pick it up, feel the texture, examine the color, try it on, and otherwise engage with the product before buying. Online shoppers don’t have this option, so there will come times when people open their packages, decide they don’t want something, and try to send it back to you. The reimbursement process can take time and cost you some negative reviews if it isn’t handled well.

Secondly, shipping is complicated. It costs a lot of money and, occasionally, products will get damaged or lost in the process of delivery. Sometimes you’ll be able to track down missing packages or convince the delivery company to reimburse you for lost or damaged goods, but sometimes you won’t be this lucky. Lost or damaged packages will become part of your expenses. Free shipping is slowly becoming the norm, particularly free shipping after a certain dollar amount is spent (i.e. spend over $35 and get free shipping). Keeping the shipping costs down to stay competitive often requires lots of study of the logistics.

Beyond this, customers who shop online often consider the delivery experience as part of the overall buying experience. This means that if a shipment is delayed or slow, you might get some bad reviews. Just take a scroll through the internet, and you’ll find it’s rife with reviews that read something like: great product, but it took three weeks to get here. Two stars.

When it comes to shipping, it’s crucial that you take the time to learn about all your options and what shipping methods best suit your product and your customers; visit for compact online business to-do lists on various topics. You might also want to reach out to other online stores to ask them about their experiences with carriers.

Technical Skill

Of course, not everyone is digitally savvy. For those who struggle to work with technology, accepting orders online can be tricky. You’ll need a website or an account with a selling platform, and you’ll probably need some sort of content system that helps catch people’s attention online. You can learn how to do these things yourself or hire a professional to get you set up.

It is worth noting that there are a lot of programs that make it much easier than it used to be. Things like Shopify, Redbubble, and Etsy help people who aren’t too technical present the digital world with their products and services. It’s worth noting that growing a business, even on a user-friendly application, can still require some digital sense when it comes to marketing.

Marketing Differences

Physical locations often act as advertisements in and of themselves. People pass the building where your store or service is found and wonder what’s inside, especially if you have a creative window display. In addition to this, your marketing efforts often need to be focused on people within a given geographical location. If someone can’t drive to your store in a reasonable amount of time, they’re likely not a potential customer. This means you’re limited in how big your business can grow, but it also means you have a huge lead on who you’re marketing your work to.

When it comes to digital stores, you have the option of marketing to almost everyone, but your marketing efforts need to take place in the digital realm, where there are millions of things competing for people’s attention. It can also be harder to differentiate your business from online competitors as there are so many more businesses to contend with. It’s worth noting that in both cases, you can work with professional marketers to help draw people to your business.

Customer Preferences

Every business has its own customer profile. A big component of deciding whether to sell in-person or online is where your customers like shopping. Some consumers like physical storefronts where they can pursue your stock and ask questions to a living being in front of them. Some customers love the idea of shopping in their pajamas, in bed. Take the time to research your ideal customers before making the final decision.

The above should have outlined a few key elements of deciding whether your business should have a physical location or a digital one. Of course, you can always decide to go hybrid and have both!

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