Brick & Mortar vs. E-Commerce

Image Credit: Winter Style Shoot Via Emily Mason CC

What is Brick & Mortar?

A brick and mortar store is a business or retail outlet that has at least one physical location. Traditional stores that you find in your local shopping mall are known as brick and mortar stores. The term “brick and mortar” is more commonly used today, in the digital landscape, as consumers need a way to differentiate between the retailers that work offline, and the ones they can access online. While Amazon is an “online” store, a brick and mortar store is one that you can physically visit in person.

What is E-Commerce?

E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the buying and selling of goods and services, or the transmitting of funds or data, over an electronic network, primarily the internet. These business transactions occur either as business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-to-consumer, or consumer-to-business (C2B).

Pros & Cons of Brick & Mortar

  • Pros

Like any store, brick and mortar locations are all about driving amazing customer experience and sales. It is possible for physical retailers to develop a closer in-person relationship with their customers.

With an in-person shopping experience, you can show your customers first-hand what your products are like. With shopping at a clothing boutique, consumers can feel the fabric, try things on, and see how they fit before making the purchase.

  • Cons

The actual cost of a brick and mortar store depends on the size of the store, the location, the kind of business you want to start, and other crucial factors. The Small Business Administration suggests that you can start a small store for as little as $3000, but there’s no one number for everyone.

Start Up Costs could include: rent, licensing and permit fees, store fixtures, initial inventory, equipment and tech, business insurance, advertising, cleaning and maintenance, webhosting and online assets, signage, décor, professional services.

Hiring and paying employees for their time is important. The larger your store gets, the more people you would need to hire. You might need employees for the front of house, back of house, inventory, warehouse employees, marketing/social media, etc.

Additional Costs like, security cameras, scheduling tools for employees, clocks, or even a graphic designer for a new logo.

Pros & Cons of E-Commerce

  • Pros

For an e-commerce store, startup costs are estimated at about  $418 and e-commerce stores only pay $3192 a year on Shopify at most for virtual ‘rent’. Shopify also includes an easy-to-use platform, hosting, free Shopify themes, great apps, and lots of other great perks. 

You may only need to hire employees when you grow to a certain level. As your online store is online, these employees can work remotely, making it easier to find staff that will suit your company

E-commerce benefits like displaying best-sellers make it easier to show off products to your customers. While you can design a brick-and-mortar store to sway people to buy certain products, compared to going through different aisles and shelves, it’s easier for a customer to find the best-sellers in an online store.

  • Cons

No one can buy from your store if your site crashes.  It is important to make sure your site is hosted on the right platform. if you’re paying the minimum hosting fee and get a surge in traffic from a high converting ad or a television shout-out like Shark Tank, your site will likely crash.

With a digital-only storefront, customers are unable to touch feel and try on your products before they purchase them. Customers will have to make the purchase, have the items shipped to their home, try them on, determine if they like the item and how it fits/feels, then go through the hassle of returning the items they didn’t like.

Image Credit: Winter Style Shoot Via Emily Mason CC

What have we learned during the transition?

The transition from a brick & mortar boutique to an e-commerce boutique is difficult. If you are not totally prepared, it can be extremely difficult. Here in Peoria, IL, there is not a ton to do, but one thing is for sure, everyone knows everyone. One of the ways we were able to get the word out about our new digital platform was from people who came into the brick & mortar store who told their friends, who told their friends in Indiana, and so on. Word of mouth was essential.
It is vital to utilize social media for all that you can. Really have a solid understanding of the different platforms and what they require to hit the algorithms so that you can get the most out of them. If you can maximize your social reach, sales will increase.
One thing I found extremely useful for our business was the Instagram shopping tab. I could post a picture to our feed, then tag the product with its pricing, information, and a link to our website. The customer would then be able to shop the dress that was in the photo directly from Instagram.
Success doesn’t happen over night. Sales will take a while to pour in, and even when they start, they come in waves.
Have a team that is working efficiently towards the same goal. It is important that every team member knows what the end goal is and what their role is to help the company get there. I was the one responsible for content curation and posting, but I tasked each associate with capturing specific content during their in-store shift. This way, we were all working together to grow our digital reach.