I have a pretty solid ability to predict which online stores will succeed and which will fail– largely based on one strong correlation.
To explain, it’s important to first look at what it’s like to launch a brick-and-mortar retail store.
What It Takes to Have a Brick-and-Mortar Store
Opening a brick-and-mortar store is an enormous investment for most people. Going into debt up-front is almost a given. Usually said debt comes in the form of bank loans. Sometimes investors are involved, in which case you know the store-owner-to-be did some SERIOUS hustling, not including all the time they spent slaving over a hot laptop writing/re-writing the golden business plan.
Opening a brick-and-mortar store also requires immediate recurring costs. You’ll need to retain real estate and keep shelves stocked. You need sleek-looking displays and window-dressings that change with the season. If you don’t have a family or outside obligations of any kind, you can probably man your store’s register all-day, every day. If you don’t mind working all hours of the night, you can process in-coming stock and keep house as well. If not, you’ll need to pay employees.
Brick-and-mortar stores need to have their act together legally before they ever open their doors. Any necessary paperwork is filed. Any required licenses have been obtained. This likely includes the guidance– or at minimum, the approval– of a lawyer.
What It Takes to Have an Online Store
Launching an online store is a different picture because the “minimum requirements” are much fewer.
If you have something to sell (not necessarily a stock on-hand, but at least the ability to obtain stock as you need it), a domain name, some kind of web real estate, and some kind of shopping cart software, you can, in theory, make online sales. For example:
If you have some tech knowledge (or several weeks with nothing to do), you can simply
- Buy your domain name (around $10/yr)
- Choose your web host (the real estate where your website files live online – around $10/mo if your price-conscious but want your website to be viewable all the time)
- Find and download free shopping cart software
- Find and follow step-by-step instructions online for how to get it up-and-running
- Install a free template and swap in your logo or business name
If you have no tech knowledge, nor loads of free time, you can simply
- Buy your domain name (around $10/yr)
- Choose a web host that comes with shopping cart software all ready to go ($15-50/mo)
- Choose a free template and swap in your logo or business name
Truthfully, these paths are not “wrong.” They can work fine for hobbyists and people just starting out. An ambitious online store owner will up their game as soon as they’re able, but that leads me straight to my ultimate point.
Why Online and Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Basically the Same Anyway
Successful online store owners are the ones who think of their online business as seriously as a brick-and-mortar one.
Even though the minimum start-up requirements are fewer for online stores, even though online selling can simply be “dabbled in” unlike physical-store selling, and casual test periods can be accommodated in ways too risky offline, the requirements for EXCELLENCE are basically the same.
Having great product. Being uniquely branded. Creating an ambiance that draws people in. Delivering an effortless shopping experience…
Just because anyone has the option of starting an online store, does not mean that they are bound to be successful. In fact, most are unlikely to be.
A quote I find continually relevant: “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it!” It’s not easy to create an amazing online store, just like it’s not easy to create a brick-and-mortar one, but with enough ambition, dedication, and the right help, beyond the shadow of a doubt, you can make it happen.
By: Stephanie Peterson for Fairground Media. Originally featured on Fairground Media. Republished with permission.