Is an E-commerce Site Right for Your Retail Business?
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by Fiza Khan
As a retail business owner, you may be wondering whether an e-commerce site is the right move for your business. While an online store can open new opportunities for growth and sales, it also comes with its own set of challenges. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of e-commerce sites, the technology providers available, and why big off-price retailers like OFFPRICE don't offer e-commerce.
Pros of E-commerce Sites:
- Increased reach: With an e-commerce site, your business can reach customers beyond your physical store locations, allowing you to tap into new markets and expand your customer base.
- Convenience: Online shopping offers customers the convenience of shopping from anywhere, at any time, which can increase customer loyalty and repeat business.
- Data collection: E-commerce sites allow you to collect valuable data on customer behavior and preferences, which can inform your business decisions and marketing strategies.
Cons of E-commerce Sites:
- Implementation costs: Developing and maintaining an e-commerce site can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses.
- Logistics: Shipping and handling can be a challenge for off-price retailers, as the nature of their business involves constantly changing inventory.
- Brand dilution: There's a risk that your unique in-store experience may not translate to the digital space, potentially diluting your brand identity.
There are many e-commerce technology providers available to help retailers set up and manage their online store. Some popular options include Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce. These platforms offer a range of features and pricing plans to fit the needs and budget of any business.
Why Many Off-Price Retailers Don't Offer E-commerce:
Despite the advantages of having an e-commerce site, many big off-price retailers like OFFPRICE don't offer online sales. This is because their business model is focused on buying and selling large quantities of products at low prices. E-commerce would require them to break up these quantities, which would result in higher costs and lower profit margins. Additionally, the cost of setting up and maintaining an e-commerce platform can be prohibitive for smaller businesses.
Off-Price Retailers, Embracing E-Stores
Off-price retailers like Marshall's and T.J. Maxx have already changed their approach and now prioritize ecommerce. While they traditionally focused on in-store shopping experiences, the shift to online during the pandemic has made it clear that customers expect to be able to shop their favorite stores, on any channel, at any time. As a result, these retailers have had to increase their ecommerce presence to remain competitive and meet customer demand.
However, the concern has been whether the unique treasure-hunt like experience of off-price shopping can be replicated digitally. This fear has been debunked by successful ecommerce off-price retailers like “Rent-the-Runway" and “thredUp”.
The future of retail lies in the ability to seamlessly offer both physical and digital shopping options, and value retailers are now working to catch up and increase their online presence.
Rise of Luxury Off-Price Ecommerce
On the other hand, luxury off-price retailers like Saks Off 5TH have recognized the benefits of integrating online and in-store experiences to create a seamless customer journey. The goal is to make it easy and convenient for customers to find their favorite brands at a great price, regardless of the channel they choose to shop on.
Saks OFF 5TH President and CEO Paige Thomas shared her thoughts about this during a NRF Retail Real Talk podcast saying, “When we think of Saks OFF 5TH and the customer, we think of it through an omni lens. The customer journey—the pain points and barriers—is what we’re focused on to make it easy and convenient for them to find their most favorite brands at a great price.”
What Retailers Need to Watch Out For
One of the biggest hurdles is inventory management and forecasting. Off-price retailers typically source their products from overstock and closeout deals, which can make it difficult to predict which products will be available and when. This unpredictability can lead to issues with inventory management and make it challenging to keep online inventory up to date.