Should a Small Business Go Online?

. 7 min read
Should a Small Business Go Online?

Pros and Cons of Taking an Offline Business Online

Is an offline sale more profitable for a small business owner, or is it time to go online? A tricky question for many owners, how to take a business online, is the following doubt.

In the scope of this article, we take a look at the relative merits of the two modes of sales, how to grow an e-commerce business, and the reasons behind establishing an online presence and, of course, a guideline for going online.

But before that, let's find out why your business should go online? The obvious answer is, a company has to be in touch with its customers. If the preference is online, your choice is clear.

The present pandemic situation has forced many small business owners to start an online presence. No market surveys done or thoughtful decisions taken –just the fact that several customers have adapted the remote way of ordering.

But before that, let us understand these modes. A traditional brick and mortar business is the one with a physical location, selling products either in person, by phone or by mail. There may be walk-in customers or orders may be received through methods of communication.

A business that essentially sells online is an e-seller.

Advantages of Doing Business Online

  • The image of your business improves
  • Low startup cost with technical requirements outsourced
  • 24X7 presence
  • The owner/staff can work from anywhere
  • Low cost of operation
  • Extended market reach
  • Better customer support
  • Minimal staff requirement

How to Take Your Business Online: Pre-Issues

The following exercise will help you in your online journey:

  • Market research: An evidence-based research can identify the customer preferences of sales mode in your chosen category.
  • Market segment: Select a profitable market segment.
  • Competitor information: Research other sites doing similar online business and who's drawing more traffic.
  • Expertise: Your comfort level and competence to handle the requirements of online business.

How to Grow Your Business Online

The process in few simple steps:

1. Get your domain

A domain is part of your website address; it is the nameplate of your business on the web.

The first action is choosing a name. Tips for choosing a name:

  • Keep it short.
  • The name must be easy to type.
  • You can mention the city or state in the name to appeal to local customers.
  • Consider including keywords that customers may use while searching for your business category.
  • Must fill up all the business information fields like industry, service, product, location and more.
  • Check your selected name for copyright.
  • Register your domain (preferably for three years minimum).
Website development layout sketch drawing

2. Plan your website

  • Decide whether your website will be for product information and display or sell products - in that case, you need an entire e-commerce site.
  • Design your website.
  • Professionally designed or a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) set up.
  • For a DIY option, contact easy site builders like Go daddy, Wix, Weebly,
  • A professional website designer will deliver a better site but keep track of the cost, level of customisation, time, complexity and ongoing maintenance cost/time.

3. Creating web content

  • Tell the story of your business.
  • Design / write the five core pages carefully - Home, about us, products, services testimonials, contact us.
  • Make the page accessible for visitors to navigate.
  • Use more visuals/photographs to make it attractive.
  • Make website mobile friendly – should be designed for a positive mobile experience.

4. Finding your website

Having designed the site, you need to ensure that your customers can find it (the site) quickly.

  • Optimise your site – SEO.
  • Use online reviews, directories and maps –excellent tools for a new business; ensure correct listing in various review and directory sites like Google my business and others.

5. Social media

Use social media to connect with customers.

  • Choose the platform that suits your company best – different media appeals to different people.
  • Link your website with your social media profiles.

6. Generate traffic for your site

  • Send business emails to your customers.
  • Use compelling content in your posts (in social media) and on your website.
  • Get into marketplace sites (Amazon and others)) for promoting your products.
  • You can plan an online-only product promotion campaign on your site and your social media profiles.
  • If budget permits, then plan a paid campaign for your company on other websites and social media.
  • Use your business contact number on all modes (website plus social media).
  • Keep the website updated with up to date information, blogs and photos.
  • Remember a golden rule - you must answer customer queries on priority.

7. Evaluate your site

You can use web analytics for measurement and analysis.

Pros and Cons of Online and Offline Sales

Having understood how to expand a business online, let us evaluate the merits of online and offline sales based on a few business parameters:

1. Direct touch

  • Online: No face-to-face interaction between buyer and seller; customers have to decide based on the product's description, specifications, and image on the website. Real user benefits may differ.
  • Offline: Customer gets an opportunity to see and feel the product physically. One can also address the queries of the customer across the counter. Physical interaction makes the total sales experience enjoyable and faultless for both the seller and the customer.

2. Schemes and deals

Limited period special offers on products/services are a regular promotional exercise, both in online and offline stores. But the effectiveness can vary.

  • Online: It is easy and fast to convey information on deals to your customers. You can also keep track of people who frequently participate in your offer schemes. You can use the list of such customers for future deals. You may also launch a frequent buyer scheme to create a community of dedicated customers.
  • Offline: Brick and mortar stores also have several schemes. But one can get information only on visiting the store, which may not be immediate for some customers. Therefore, timely communication is coming in the way of benefits – the owner loses the additional business, and the customer cannot enjoy the advantage of the offer.

3. Customer convenience

  • Online: When you decide to go online, the business is open 24X7; a customer can select products at any time and place orders for delivery at a convenient slot.
  • Offline: You have to visit the store as per the timings and pick up stocks.

4. Reach

  • Online: If an owner decides to scale up the business, a simple change in the marketing strategy will be needed. Your brand identity and presence can quickly get expanded to global levels.
  • Offline: A brick and mortar store, on the other hand, is restricted to a specific geographic location. A new area or location can be covered only by the physical opening of another store.

5. Customisation

  • Online: An online platform can easily remember a customer's buying habit and supply the regular items against a confirmation. Some online stores are already dealing in medicines, groceries doing this with some of their regular customers.
  • Offline: Customisation is complex for offline stores. You have to buy from the available stocks on the day.

In the final analysis, it is the customers' prerogative to choose the more convenient one.

a man is writing a word Customize in green pages over a wooden table


Business is all about customers; your anticipated customer profile in future will decide which channel to focus on. If you understand the market's pulse and act based on the indicators, this article can provide a clear answer to your question, How to grow my business online.

Also read:

1) 10 Best Ways to Promote Your Small Business
2) How Many Social Media Sites Can I Promote My Online Business On?
3) Online Business Ideas You Can Start Quickly
4) 8 Online Business Ideas That Could Make You Hit Gold in 2020
5) OkCredit: Simple, Paperless & Secure solution for businesses

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Q. Which gives a better margin-online or offline business?

Ans. Sales margin is a function of several things like the competitive scenario, the brand equity of your setup, and your purchase cost. Online will have low overhead costs, but the level of competition with other platforms will be higher. You do not have the scope of convincing the customer. Margins will be more or less similar in both modes.

Q. How can I compete with established e-commerce platforms in pricing?

Ans. Your focus has to be on giving the customer a better sales experience. For example, when you are selling a mobile phone, you can plan a video chat with your prospective customer, explaining the phone's functions. Large business volumes of established online platforms will not permit so much time for one customer.

Q. What happens to online sales if the internet fails or electricity goes off?

Ans. Temporary issues may disrupt the functions, but infrastructure facilities are quite developed now. With the 5G rollout happening soon, the speed and stability of the net in India will improve further. Power backups are a standard requirement of online systems.