Why don't small business retailers have e-commerce stores on their websites? How do I show small business owners the benefits of e-commerce?

There are so many brick and mortar businesses in my local area who don't take advantage of e-commerce to sell their products. What problems could e-commerce solve for their small retail shops?


I live in Brooklyn, NY, which is a really fertile ground for small business retailers. My experience speaking with a lot of the shop owners is that they simply don't have the resources to maintain an online presence. Just keeping the brick and mortar operation running consumes most, if not all of their time, especially if the are also creating and producing their own products. For many that I do see take a shot at e-commerce retailing, they may get Shopify/Squarespace site set-up, then just run out of steam to keep it going. One innovative, in-between approach that I've seen one of my favorite shops take, is to actually focus on using a single social media channel, Instagram, and maintain an e-commerce function through it. (See @peopleof2morrow on Instagram)

Answered 9 years ago

I've asked myself the same question and here's what I found out after asking many of them as well as working with some

1) Lack of technical knowledge & skilled employees
2) No inventory system or unable to connect system to online website with ease
3) No money to implement

The best way to start is to launch them on Shopify with a small subset of their inventory only to get them started. Let them get a tasted of the sales and then it will motivate them to invest more.

Answered 8 years ago

Based on my personal experience, it's a matter of education. They probably need to be onboarded to ecommerce and also be provided with solutions that help them establish that channel successfully. Fulfillment being on of the biggest nightmares for novice ecommerce owners.

I don't have much background information on your geographic area, but I'm assuming that your local folks have a defined market that they probably don't want to expand, but just to cater to the local community.

Now, on the other hand, what type of brick and mortar are those? Some of them might be eligible for an easy transition to the online world, but some others won't, and not because it's impossible, but because they probably won't meet demand based on their production scale. Or perhaps, they have products that are not easy to deliver and maintain fresh (like foods.)

You may show the benefits by presenting them with case studies on how similar businesses have made it big with ecommerce, and what steps they took to accomplish such project. Lay out sample business plan, operations model, revenue model, distribution, etc.

Answered 9 years ago

Ecommerce is increasingly becoming a means for brick and mortar businesses to target customers via a different channel (online or mobile). It provides better reach and access to different segment of customers.

At the same time it depends on the kind of product or services offered by these businesses. If they are predominantly localized services/products then ecommerce offers alternate channel but not always the case.

From a benefits Standpoint you can highlight
- Access to additional customer segments (online /mobile)
- Provide for an omni channel experience (order online & pickup in store)
- drive additional foot traffic into stores through online promotions / marketing / loyalty campaigns etc

Happy to give you further guidance based on your unique location/market. Feel free to reach out over a call. I have had the opportunity to build several ecommerce and mobile/omni channel experiences.

Answered 9 years ago

Excellent question and great responses so far. I'll just add this: the bottom line is that in addition to opening their goods/services up to an entirely new and non-local market, e-commerce primarily impacts three areas that are on small business owner's minds constantly - 1) Scalability (it is easier to grow from selling X units to Y units online than it is in-store due to shipping, payment processing, inventory control/tracking etc) 2) Cost Reduction/Profit-Driving - selling online is typically going to be exponentially cheaper given the significant reduction or elimination of overhead costs such as rental/property, taxes and salaried employees 3) Overall Risk mitigation: small business owners, more so than other types of ventures, feel the burden of various macro and micro-economic shifts first. From public policy adjustments (e.g. raising of minimum wages or new municipal ordinances) to the cost of materials for production (e.g. bakers struggling with whether or not to pass along the rising costs of eggs and milk directly to their customers). Selling online mitigates a small business owners exposure to changes in the market that represent risk (similar to portfolio diversification when investing in the stock market). Ultimately the reason why these people aren't investing is likely do to access to resources or overall education of how to seamlessly integrate ecommerce with their daily operations - what used to seem like a barrier to getting started now can take only a matter of days/weeks to get online purchasing up and running with the popularization of easy-to-use tools like Wordpress, Paypal and other 3rd party systems.

Answered 9 years ago

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