Isn’t It Time for an E-commerce Business Website?

Originally published: June 4, 2021

Updated: March 30, 2022

It’s almost unbelievable in this day and age, but statistics show that about one-third of small businesses still didn’t have a website in 2020. Of that group, roughly 40% of those merchants said they didn’t need an e-commerce business website and 35% of them thought their operation was too small to warrant one. The pandemic showed that no business is too small to take advantage of retail technology that will help sales.  

When merchants were forced to close their brick-and-mortar stores, those with e-commerce websites were able to keep the cash registers ringing by selling online. Globally, according to a report from the Alignable Research Center, more than 97% of the 2.4 million merchants that closed for good last year were small, independent businesses – retailers, restaurants and hospitality operations with fewer than five locations. 

Apparently, the message that websites are now a requisite way to do business was delivered. Nearly one-third of stores that didn’t have an e-commerce website made plans to build one in 2021.  

Independent merchants cited several reasons for not investing in a website. Cost (26%), irrelevance to business operations (27%), and social media (21%) were the main reasons. Those arguments, however, no longer apply.  

If You’re Not Online, You’re Missing Out 

Statistics don’t lie. Numbers show that Americans spent roughly $183 billion more online from the start of the pandemic – March 2020 – through the end of the year than they did during the same period 12 months earlier. That boost pushed total e-commerce spending to $844 billion for the year. Need more? The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects online sales to grow between 18% and 23% this year and top $1 trillion.  

That’s a lot of sales to be missing out on. And stores without e-commerce websites aren’t just missing out on online sales, they’re missing out on shoppers. Approximately 80% of consumers research small businesses online before making in-store purchases and about half of them visit a business within a day of doing those local web searches.  

The pandemic also opened consumers up to trying new retailers and new ways of buying. 

56% of consumers have tried a new retailer during the pandemic. (Navar)

E-commerce sales are forecasted to have increased 32.4% in 2020 with brick-and-mortar forecasted to fall 3.2%. (eMarketer)

Those numbers could possibly mean your loyal shoppers are now looking elsewhere – stores that offer e-commerce options – for their goods and services.  

Mobility Matters 

When building an e-commerce website, it’s crucial today to build one that’s mobile-friendly. Last year, half of global e-commerce came from mobile devices. And because the world is still recuperating, that number is expected to reach 73% this year.  

Reaching mobile searchers is incredibly important to small independent businesses, too, because those searchers are likely driving right past their stores. Google searches including the term “near me” increased 250% between 2017 and 2019. More than 60% of those Google searches come from mobile devices.  

Here are some more reasons to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. 

U.S. consumers spent an average of 25 more minutes on mobile devices in 2020 than in 2019.

63% of global marketing revenue is attributed to mobile advertising.

50% of global e-commerce revenue is from mobile.

40% of users will not use a website that isn’t mobile-friendly.

16% of U.S. internet users only use their phones.

2% of all internet traffic is mobile.

Website Effectiveness not all Digital 

Having an effective business website isn’t just about building something that’s pretty and functional. Brick-and-mortar stores need to back up that site with effective and desirable in-store programs. Buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), or curbside pickup will encourage more people to shop your website and visit your store.  

“The buy online, pick up in-store business model enables e-commerce businesses and retailers to offer a seamless online shopping experience,” writes marketing guru Neil Patel. “At the same time, customers may be encouraged to drop by the physical store to make additional purchases or check out products of interest.”  

Here are some statistics that prove this model is becoming increasingly popular:  

68% of U.S. consumers have tried BOPIS.

50% of consumers have chosen retailers because the store offered in-store pickup.

A recent Adobe survey shows that 30% of online consumers would rather shop using buy online, pick up in-store, or curbside pickup over local delivery. That wasn’t just a holiday shopping trend, either. Use of BOPIS dropped following the 2020 holiday shopping period, but it remained 67% higher in February 2021 than the previous year.  

Linking it All Together 

Programs like BOPIS, curbside pickup, and online sales encourage merchants to align their online and in-store inventory management. But there’s nothing worse than spotting something online and going to the store only to find out it’s not in stock.  

When it’s done right, a business website and online store can even allow customers to confirm whether an item is in stock before journeying to the store. Customers can also be notified when an item is ready for pickup. This means they’re 100 percent guaranteed to receive their complete order when they arrive at the store unless stated otherwise. That also guarantees a happy customer and future sales.  

“You want to connect with your customers in line and online, so it’s extremely important to offer many ways to buy products,” says Charles Owen, Chief Experience Officer at Paladin Data Corporation. “You can connect with your customers better and more often. You cannot only reach new customers, you can connect with your existing customers with sales and offers. It also lets you sell while your store is closed. It’s 24/7 availability.”  

Paladin, through its many integration partners, is helping make e-commerce easy for its retail clients. The company has worked with e-commerce providers MOCE, Ignitiv, Spec98, Ez-Ad and New Media Retailer to provide its hardware stores an easy way to synchronize online and in-store sales data and inventory. 

This lets merchants stay on top of their stock on hand and keep their customers smiling. 

Getting Connected 

Building an e-commerce website and making it functional is a great start, but merchants also need to make sure their stores are visible on the worldwide web. Statistics show that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. As of February 2021, it’s no surprise that Google is the big dog in the business with better than 86% of that market. Bing (6.7%) and Yahoo (2.7%) round out the market.  

So, the best way to optimize an e-commerce website is to get friendly with Google. Utilizing Google My Business’s free listings can help point shoppers to a store. This service makes your business appear in local Google searches and Google Maps, which is crucial in today’s mobile business world.  

Pointy by Google is another way to post products online and show them what your store carries. It’s technically not an e-commerce website, but it gets your products out to a digital audience. 

Buck Electric Ace Hardware in Ocean Shores, Washington boosted its in-store sales by utilizing Pointy by Google. The store partnered with its technology provider, Paladin Data Corporation, to utilize Pointy to put its products online and reach its local customers.  

“It is very cool! Particularly for us because we live and work in a remote area, it seems like everybody today just clicks on to shop and there are a lot of items we have that are the same price. This gives us the chance to get that sale first,” explains Jody Cadle, the business’s bookkeeper and de facto marketing guru.  

Lesson Learned? 

While the pandemic was a global wake-up call for merchants to have an e-commerce website with integrated in-store and online capabilities, it’s not the only reason. Online sales had been steadily increasing for years before the explosion in 2020. In 2010, it accounted for 6.4% of all U.S. retail sales. That climbed by about 1% a year until 2019. When the pandemic hit and brick-and-mortar stores closed, e-commerce jumped year 6% reaching 21.3% of all sales.  

CommerceHub surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers to get a feel for future shopping patterns. The survey found that 67% feel it’s more convenient to shop online than in-store, and 89% plan to continue the practice.  

So, isn’t it about time for an e-commerce business website?  

brian bullock