The Internet is a big part of the future of retailing, and to grow and prosper in most businesses, you need to have a presence there and conduct some business online. But just because you now sell through your website, that doesn’t mean you can or should abandon your office, mail-order, or brick-and-mortar store. The Internet marketing and sales you now do should likely be in addition to other ways of doing business, not in place of them.
So don’t close your physical store or office just yet and rely only on the Internet sales. Many local customers still enjoy browsing a store and handling the products they buy. They may visit your site to see what’s new but come to the store to buy it. Internet sales are growing all the time, but it will be a while before they begin to approach 100 percent of purchases. So get excited about your website, but don’t neglect the parts of your business that helped you get there. Personal contact with customers still offers a comfort level you can’t get on your computer screen.
Further, although the Internet opens doors for selling and marketing all over the world, can you really provide service outside the U.S.? Most small businesses can’t afford to. The longer your website is active, the more you’ll learn whether there is actually a profitable market across the ocean. Will foreign customers be willing to pay the necessary additional shipping charges to receive your products? And how will you communicate with people in time zones that are 5, 8, or 12 hours different from yours?