Physical vs. ecommerce stores – what’s better?

Updated: June 22, 2021
Physical vs. ecommerce stores – what’s better?

In our increasingly digital world, businesses worldwide are making the shift from brick and mortar to ecommerce.

While some of the benefits to online retail are easily identifiable, such as increased global exposure and an expanded market profile, physical stores still bring certain value to the retail experience, for both customer and business owner.

Making the choice between the two is the challenge, though, and is dependent on your budget, industry and target audience.

Read on for our top tips to help you make the best decision for your business. Find out whether it’s time to make a decision on brick and mortar vs ecommerce for 2021.

The lowdown- the upside of physical stores

It’s 2021 and as we emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns, people are racing to leave their homes and re-emerge into the ‘real’ world. This behavioural preference demonstrates some of the key advantages of physical retail in the retail store vs online store debate, and we’re seeing huge shifts in the way retailers from all niches are doing business.

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The retail experience isn’t what it used to be

The first key difference between selling online and in-store is the overall experience.

While a well-designed website and attractive social media strategy can do wonders for business, it is still firmly believed that nothing can beat the first unforgettable impression that customer service offers.

As a business owner, the relationships you and your staff create face-to-face with prospects can be the make and break between customer loyalty and brand identity. In the online space, that’s a lot harder to replicate.

I need to see it in person!

While consumers might not have 100% trust in their online experience just yet, online stores can offer no-questions-asked return policies and other incentives to assuage potential buyers’ remorse. But while all this is good to roll out, there are still particular sectors that perform far better offline, particularly when dealing with items that have a high-profit margin (think luxury accessories, cars, antiques and design objects). There are just some things people won’t buy online.

The not-so-great details of physical retail stores

With evident benefits for certain categories and industries, physical stores are not for everyone. It’s important to consider whether having a dedicated space where shopping in person is critical to the success of your business.

Brick and mortar stores are expensive

The first – and most evident – drawback to opening a retail space is that there are greater overhead costs involved, including rental or mortgage payments for the shop floor and stock storage. In addition, more staff are required than the number required to run a business of equal size online. As such, it’s key to consider if you could make a higher percentage of online sales vs. brick and mortar profits with the same admin and staffing outlay. 

Your business is local by default

The unfortunate thing about a physical store vs online store is that you’re drastically restricted by geographical location. While ecommerce can be used to reach a clientele across the globe, brick and mortar stores will always be local, offering services to the immediate community.

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Will ecommerce replace physical stores?

While we’ve covered the benefits of brick and mortar for certain services and audiences, there’s a reason you’re reading this online — we’re all plugged into the web more than we like to realise…

The benefits of online store operations

Allow us to sing the praises of ecommerce and share with you the benefits of online stores.

Straight up – it’s cheaper

One of the key factors in deciding whether to go solely online s the matter of cost. Online stores are much cheaper to run, with little to no rental space needed and often, particularly with dropshipping businesses, services are able to be rendered without extensive storage space for stock.

While buying a domain name, setting up a website, and paying for tech support can mount up, it is almost universally less than running an in-person retail space.

There’s also greater flexibility with sales options, staff schedule and developing brand identity, all of which contribute to profit optimisation.

Taking it to the global stage

If you have a solid digital marketing strategy and offers in place, you’ll be able to develop a market accessible from anywhere in the world. This is likely the greatest advantage for brands considering going online. Although this approach is not without risk, as we go on to explain below.

There are still cons to ecommerce

As we mentioned above, the ecommerce vs retail question continues to be debated because even online retail is not without risk. Let’s help you get to optimise your business experience by bringing your attention to some of the difficulties you might run into during this journey.

You’ve got (global) competition

While attracting a global market is an attractor to the ecommerce space for many businesses today, this level of competition is not always a good thing.

Without a strong digital marketing plan, it is possible for your business and products to get lost in the depths of the internet. There’s also a whole range of businesses who have likely been online longer than you have, with their presence setting a high barrier to entry for new ventures. 

The answer? Hire a digital agency – like us – that can ensure your presence is always ahead of the competition.

Forging relationships online is time-consuming

It should come as no surprise that without that in-person element, cultivating brand loyalty via personalised client relationships is extremely challenging.

While engaging with your brand’s followers on Instagram, valuing customer feedback and providing high-quality customer service is essential to any online business, creating that personal touch is essential to differentiating your business from all of those other newsletters and ads customers consider spam. 

Customer Journey vs. Customer Experience Digital & Physical Consumer Touchpoints, e.g., Blog, Website, Brick & Mortar Store, Online Store, Newsletter - Blog - Creative Presentations Ideas

So what is the difference between online shopping and physical shopping?

Retail vs online shopping experiences are highly different for both potential clients and the business owner.

There are numerous contributing factors weighing in on both sides of the brick and mortar stores vs online stores discussion, with client experience and satisfaction being focal to any great business venture.

Need help launching your ecommerce brand? Get in touch with our Brisbane digital marketing team.


Andrew -

Head of Web

1300 558 659 -

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