There is a problem with the original question about online vs. offline in that a rocking, well marketed web store will likely out sell a tired un-marketed bricks and mortar store, in any industry. I know a few retaillers moaning that online didn't work for them but that is because they did it wrong from the start and if they went about setting up a physical store in a cheap ad-hoc manner it would likely fail too. Having sold ecommerce websites for awhile there are a few common mistakes I noticed people kept making that I though some FS members might be interested in; 1. Function over Form
- put your money into function over form, pretty design looks nice but does not sell. Use a good CMS (content management system) that makes it easy to change stock and so forth 2. Use a professional
- ok so your nephew did a course at TAFE and will knock up a site for you for $200 - you will get what you pay for. If you want to sell you need a quality 'backend' (that's the 'mechanics' running underneath the site). 3. Build smart with sales in mind
- the whole purpose of your site should be to lead the visitor to purchase your goods so the layout, wording and so forth need to be produced with this in mind. Don't get hung up on presentation etc unless it will make more sales. 4. Go all out or not at all
- my opinion is do it properly from the start. Treat your web store as a 'real' store, commit to doing it well & making it work. So, give it a decent budget, set a time frame and have an opening that you are proud of. Don't have a 'we'll do a bit at a time and see what happens' attitude. You wouldn't open a physical store where things didn't work & were incomplete, you would make sure it was 100% then open (mostly) do the same with your estore or just do a couple of 'landing pages' that point to your physical store. 5. Market, Market Market
- marketing an estore requires a lot of money OR a lot of work. You can pay people to get your site ranked high in Google searches or you can do the work yourself which is unwise unless you know what you are doing and have time on your hands. You need to have blogs and do the stuff that makes Google stand up and take notice otherwise you won't get the traffic and won't get the sales- it is that simple (unless you just sell on eBay or similar). Don't spend a lot of money on your site and have nothing left to market it. Consider Facebook advertising rather than Google - personally I think it is more effective as it can target your customer profiles directly. Some people are being very clever and e-marketing themselves with a 1 page profile which links to their store - cheaper, easier and more manageable for the increasing number of people using handheld devices (iPhones etc) to do their searches.
So in summary, treat an estore like a real physical store. Don't try and develop it as a hobby, do it full on. If you have a really good site you can use it to do a lot of your admin and get a lot of metrics from it. There is a guy in New Zealand who can even integrate an Accountancy program (MoneyWorks) into your webstore for a very reasonable price so it does everything for you - tracks stock, sales, visits etc. Usually you need to enter web data into your accounts package seperately.
I appreciate there is a lot of information and detail left out of my points but you need to do your research and find people you trust to work with and can deliver sales results. There is a a lot of science in developing 'sites that sell' so don't just go with people who build pretty sites, go with someone who can show you businesses who have grown from thier websites. You can negotiate, a friend of my had an SEO
guy ring and said he could get his site at the top of page 1 of a Google organic search for his key words within a month. My friend engaged him on the basis that if he could do that he would pay an agreed fee for 12 months. He did, why wouldn't he? it was a win-win.
I don't sell sites or anything now but am happy to share my knowledge & experience if anyone has questions etc. Personally I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want to capture the rapidly increasing online market.
Good luck whatever your method of trade.