For some small businesses, having a retail space is vital. A coffee house, for example, couldn’t exist without its core location. For many other types of businesses, however, an online presence is enough.
So how do you know? There may come a time when opening a physical location makes sense. Fifty-one percent of Americans prefer to shop online, while 49% like to shop in an actual store. That’s a pretty even split, and it’s unlikely that you’ll only seek an audience with one or the other. In this case, brick and click allows you to be there for everyone.
One of the biggest advantages of a brick-and-mortar location is the ability to engage and interact with customers — you literally come out from behind a screen and put a face with a business. It’s easier to get direct feedback when your customers are in your store, and you can form relationships that turn opportunistic shoppers into loyal customers.
Another advantage is the marketing achieved by a physical location. That presence puts your business name in front of people who drive or walk by, giving you an additional way to market your products to customers who may never have found you online. Since some customers prefer to touch and see products like clothing or jewelry in person, offering that experience may help to prompt purchases.
A physical location can also make your company look more professional and legitimate, and can even help drive traffic to your online store. According to Forbes, when a retailer opens a new store, it experiences a “halo” effect, often seeing a 37% increase in web traffic and an enhancement to its brand image.
Finally, if you’ve been running your online business from home, a storefront provides separation between your professional and personal lives, which can help improve your work-life balance.
A physical location also comes with some drawbacks that you need to consider before signing a lease. The first is increased overhead. A physical store will add expenses like rent and utilities, and you may find yourself needing to increase your marketing budget for additional advertising, or hiring employees to staff your store.
Inventory needs increase too, as you’ll have to properly stock your shelves and floor. A physical location also increases the potential for theft, either from shoplifters or even from store employees.
You’ll also need to invest time in a physical store, which means you’ll have less time to spend improving your online presence. Sales at a physical location can be impacted by circumstances outside of your control, like weather or infrastructure changes, road closures or illness. If your store isn’t open, or customers aren’t able to get to you, you have no sales.
If you weigh the pros and cons and decide a brick-and-click business is right for you, start shopping for your first location. First, look at your customer demographics to determine where they would be more likely to shop. Would it be in a downtown area? A mall? Near other retailers that complement your business?
When scouting storefronts, it’s important to do a detailed analysis of your preferred location. What is the neighborhood like? Will your store fill a need? How is the economy in the area? What is the current competition?
It might be helpful to try out a physical location by holding a pop-up shop. This temporary storefront will provide you with plenty of information that will help you gauge product success and customer interest. Finding a location can also help you plan your budget by filling in the costs of rent and utilities, so you know what you have leftover for other expenses.
Expanding from online to brick-and-click is a big decision, so take time to gather as much information as possible. If you have the time and resources, making the leap could be a great business move.
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