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Going digital: Why now is the time to start an online store

Launching an online store seems to be the trendy thing to do nowadays – and it's not just big retailers that can benefit from selling their goods and services over the internet.

In 2014, the average consumer checked 10 online sources before committing to a purchase, while retailers with both a physical and online presence demonstrated more growth than their peers.


Here are eight reasons why creating an online store makes good business sense.


1. Lower costs


From rent and staff outlays to security costs and travel time, many of the overheads associated with a physical store don't apply to the e-commerce model. This, along with the availability of tools and resources required for set up, make an online store one of the best springboards for merchants looking for a low-cost, low-risk entry to the marketplace.


2. 24/7 revenue generation


Unlike bricks-and-mortar stores, which can only operate during regular business hours, e-commerce has the distinct advantage of being able to generate revenue around the clock. Trading laws and overtime rates don't affect automated online shopping carts, so it really is a 24/7 storefront.


3. Easy set up


To get started, it's important to select a suitable e-commerce platform. Some platforms are designed as all-in-one toolkits that can manage listings, customer service, order processing and marketing under one umbrella. Options include everything from hosted solutions, like Shopify and eBay, to highly customisable ones, such as WooCommerce for WordPress.


4. Cost-effective marketing


Because online advertising is based on clicks and visits rather than print and signage, it can be considerably cheaper. There’s an abundance of different methods to choose from, including search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click and targeted social media ads, giving you more control over who sees your marketing messages.


5. New revenue streams


Offline businesses usually cater to a local customer base. The global visibility of an online store, on the other hand, allows you to market to new locations and demographics by optimising for specific online searches and using targeted online ads. This can lead to diversified revenue streams, or even the opportunity to branch into lucrative new areas.


6. Fast and secure transactions


An online store streamlines the consumer experience by offering conveniences like one-click credit card payment and instant currency conversion. This enables SMEs to discard the overheads that come with manual order processing, such as trips to the bank, bad debts and paperwork.


7. Mobile targeting


According to Google, mobile shopping-related purchases increased 120 per cent in 2015. Also, search engines like Google are experimenting with using the performance of websites on mobile devices rather than desktop computers to calculate search rankings. Nowadays, it's easier than ever to optimise the online shopping experience for mobile enthusiasts by using location-based data and apps that connect consumers with your store.


8. Automated follow-up


When people window-shop, there's no guarantee they'll come back to make a purchase. The same is true of e-commerce, but with one important difference: they'll often leave a digital breadcrumb trail that can be used to recommend other products based on what they’ve previously viewed.


In terms of both branding and revenue, the payoff from an online store can be considerable. And with cashless transactions, mobile-based shopping and cloud-based e-commerce becoming the new norm in retail, it's also a wise business move.