Choosing between a physical or online store

Will you prefer to sell online, through a brick-and-mortar store, or both?
29th Mar, 2023

Physical retail vs. online retail: what to consider

When it comes to choosing between an online vs. physical store, or choosing both, the best option can be different for every seller. So how can you find what’s right for you? Let’s look at the benefits of both online and physical stores and the benefits of each for business.

1. What is an online store?

An online store consists of a range of products made available to purchase over the internet. The customer can shop conveniently from their home, or anywhere they might be, and choose to have their order delivered directly to their address.

See a beginner’s guide to selling online >

2. What is a physical store?

A physical store is also known as a brick-and-mortar store – that is, a store that a customer can physically walk into to purchase products. The customer can pay and take their purchase with them in the same transaction.

Possible benefits of an online store

Customers love shopping online for the convenience, variety and value they can find. An online store can also provide some distinct advantages for sellers. When comparing online selling vs. a physical store, here are a few of the reasons a seller might choose to sell with an online store.

3. Selling with lower overheads

Listing products online can often cost less than running a physical storefront. Here are some of the costs to consider for each option.

Typical costs for a brick-and-mortar store

• Staffing costs
• Costs for electricity and utilities
• Commercial rent or purchase for the property
• Other expenditures as applicable

Typical costs for an online store

• Selling fees
• Referral fees
• Fulfilment fees or costs
• Other fees as applicable
In many cases, an online store could help sellers to start and build a retail business with likely lower overheads and a simpler setup.

Learn about Amazon seller fees >

4. Offering a wide variety

It’s possible to offer a vast range of products online. While physical stores may have limited capacity to store and display items, a seller who sells online could take advantage of a warehouse with a larger capacity or a fulfilment service like Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) to prepare and deliver orders. Brand owners can build compelling online stores displaying their full range of products, using immersive product detail pages to replicate the experience of shopping in person.

Learn to build an online store >

5. Selling globally

One of the key benefits of selling online is that it’s possible to reach a very wide range of customers across a vast geographical distance. In fact, when selling globally with Amazon you can take advantage of a sophisticated fulfilment and delivery network that already spans the world.

Sell globally with Amazon >

6. Delivering convenient customer experiences

What could be more convenient for customers than shopping at home and having their order delivered right to the doorstep? Online shopping is great for busy families, those with limited free time and people who can’t easily get to a physical store. An online store can also provide 24-hour shopping without the need for a shop assistant to be present at all times.

Just as with a physical store, shoppers have come to expect a great customer experience when shopping online. This can include factors like responsive and clear communications, prompt order fulfilment and premium delivery options.

Learn more with our selling guide >

Delivery methods made simple

Fulfilment by Amazon is one easy way to offer great delivery options to your customers. Amazon Prime members get free expedited shipping on Prime-eligible orders, and all customers enjoy free Australian shipping on eligible orders over $59. Customers can also combine your FBA orders with other products fulfilled by Amazon to qualify for free shipping.

Possible benefits of a physical store

Just as with an online store, a physical store can have its own benefits for customers and sellers. When comparing ecommerce vs. physical retail, here are a few reasons a seller might consider offering their products in a brick-and-mortar store.

7. Showing the product in person

Sometimes, customers might like to inspect a product up close so they can assess details like the materials and quality. An in-person demonstration can also be helpful if the product is complex to either assemble, install or use.

How can this experience be provided when selling online?
In many cases you can recreate the in-store experience online by ensuring you have detailed, compelling product descriptions on product pages. Include several clear photos from different angles including close-ups, and show the product in use.

8. Face-to-face interaction

A seller with a physical store can build a memorable brand presence through the use of signage, in-store branding and local advertising. The store is there for the local community to see, visit and recommend, and customers can return to make repeat purchases.

How can this experience be provided when selling online?
Sellers can build a far-reaching brand presence for their online store through advertising as well as product branding and packaging. Social media can also be a great way to share product details, drive repeat sales and launch exciting new products. Providing a consistently high standard in quality and service can make a brand memorable, wherever it happens to be based.

Can you run both a physical and online store?

Absolutely. You don’t necessarily need to choose between brick-and-mortar store vs. online selling, because you can do both if that’s the right thing for your business model. You could choose to start with an online store and build a physical presence once you’ve built up enough sales. You could plan to launch both an online and physical store at once. Another possibility is to arrange to stock products in someone else’s physical stores while running your online store. Or perhaps it suits best to simply sell with one method or the other.

Whether you’re selling online, in physical stores or a combination of both, it’s all about delivering satisfaction to customers through appealing products and responsive customer service.
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