From Retail to eTail: Should You Build Your Own eCommerce Store or Use an Online Marketplace?

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The early days of the 21st century have witnessed a significant shift in the retail landscape, with established brick and mortar stores falling away and upstart eCommerce stores making significant inroads with customers around the world. For individual shoppers, this shift in commerce may be good news, but for the owners of brick and mortar retailers it is a whole different ballgame.

If you own a brick and mortar retail shop, even a highly successful one, it may be time to build out an online sales channel as well. The days when store owners could rely on brick and mortar sales alone are coming to an end, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the sooner you add an online operation the better.

When building out a new online sales channel, you have two basic options. You can set up the ecommerce operation on your own or you can sign up with an established online marketplace, like Lazada and Shopee. Each option has its own pros and cons, and it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks carefully before making a final decision.

There are a number of important benefits to building out your own online retail channel. Here are some compelling reasons to build out your own online store.

Flexible Store Design

When you build your own online store, you wish to customize your store any way you want. This will make it easier to incorporate your new online sales channel into your existing branding efforts.

Having a consistent look and feel across all brick and mortar and online channels can be very important, especially if you are just getting started in the etail world and relying on your existing customers to drive additional sales. This customization is one of the biggest benefits to building your own eCommerce operation from the ground up, especially when the eCommerce platform you used able to empower your team to easily customize the store any way they like even without strong coding knowledge.

Higher Margins

When you set up your own online store, you can enjoy higher margin of all sales you make, without the cut an online marketplace would take. That means higher profit margins for everything you sell and more money in your pocket.

The ability to control and maximize profit margins is particularly important in certain lines of business. Many business sectors operate on notoriously low margins, and that can make going online difficult. Maximizing your profit margins when selling online will also allow you to run more sales and promotions, and those offers can drive sales even higher.

Access to Customers Data

In the digital age, data is power – and profit. If you doubt the power of data, just think about all the data sharing that happens across social media channels and search engines.

The reason these sites are free is that the data users share is so incredibly valuable. This same value exists for the owners of eCommerce sites, including your brick and mortar operation.

When you build your own online store from the ground up, either on your own or with the help of a professional, you maintain total control over customer information and demographics. That is data you can use to customize product offers, improve the efficiency of your marketing budget, retain and develop your existing customers, and even use those data to reach out the lookalike audiences that are more likely becoming your top customers.

As you can see, building out your own eCommerce operation comes with a host of important benefits, these are all the key benefits that online marketplace, like Lazada and Shopee, normally won’t offer. Even so, there are some potential drawbacks to consider, and it is important to weigh the pluses and minuses carefully. Here are some factors to consider before setting up your own etail operation.

You will need to Build Your Own Customer Base

One of the main advantages of using an online marketplace like Lazada or Shopee is that it gives you access to millions of eager customers. Those buyers already use these sites, and they know how to search and find what they are looking for.

As long as you follow the suggested best practices and optimize your listings for online search, you could gain enormous visibility, something that is difficult to duplicate in a standalone ecommerce environment. If you choose the DIY route, you will need to build your own customer base from the ground up.

Building your own customer base from scratch will be easier if you already have an established clientele, but it will still require extensive marketing efforts on your part. You can do things like include brochures with every purchase in your offline stores or even include the discount voucher for purchasing on your online store to those new customers who purchased your products via online marketplace, but again, building out an online channel in this manner could be more difficult than you anticipate.

Building a Successful eTail Operation Takes Time and Effort

It is easy to design an ecommerce website, especially if you hire a pro to do the work, but making your etail operation successful will be much harder. It takes time and effort to build a successful ecommerce operation, and over-focusing on your online business could cause your brick and mortar store to suffer.

Before you take a DIY approach to etailing, you will want to ask yourself how much time you can realistically dedicate to the effort. Do you have the time necessary to optimize the site for online search, write hundreds of product descriptions and test shopping cart software to find the best fit? If the answer to these questions is no, you might want to sign on with an established online marketplace instead.

In the difficult world of retailing, standing still is not an option. If you fail to adapt to the changing times, your business could be left behind, and adding an ecommerce option is one of the best ways to compete in this new environment.

When it is time to get online, you will need to choose between building your ecommerce operations on your own or signing up with an established online presence. The information above can make your decision easier, so you can do what is best for your business.

If you are thinking to set up your own eCommerce store, probably you may check out another article featuring the comparison of top 3 eCommerce platforms being used by most of the Malaysian SMEs that may give you a clearer perspective in helping you to choose the right platform to start with.

Need any help to kick start your eCommerce journey? Feel free to contact us today to discuss on how we can assist in your online business needs.

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